Home > Global city > ‘It’s more about Guinness than it is about religion’: St Patrick’s Day in Dublin

‘It’s more about Guinness than it is about religion’: St Patrick’s Day in Dublin

Guinness, parades and whiskey: your guide to St Patrick’s weekend in Dublin.

A woman waves an Irish flag during St Patrick's Day celebrations

People from all over join in the festivities for St Patrick’s Day. This woman from Bulgaria waves her flag walking across O’Connell’s Bridge.

“Ha’ priced scarfs an’ ’ats fer the parade! Ha’ priced scarfs an’ ’ats fer the parade!” calls the seller just outside my window.

In my half-awake state, it takes six or seven repetitions for me to fully understand, but once I peeked out the window and conferred with the other girls in the hostel room, it became much clearer.

“Should we do the face painting?” my travel partner, Aubrey Kohl, a fellow Cardiff student asks. Well, we’re in Ireland for St Patrick’s Day, and the face painting is free, so…

Yes, St Patrick’s Day. Originally a solemn observance of the man credited with bringing Catholicism to Ireland, the day is now celebrated worldwide with the wearing of green, shamrocks, parades and (occasionally) parties.


Aubrey and I left for Dublin on Saturday, 16 March, a quick and relatively painless flight from Cardiff into Dublin. What is open on a Saturday morning at nine?

The Guinness Storehouse.

A sign on a brick wall reading Guinness Storehouse, part of St Patrick's Day festivities

Wondering where to go? The arrow points the way.

Now, I’m not usually one to head straight to the pub, but on a windy rainy day in Ireland, well, why not?

A standard tour of the Guinness Storehouse costs €18.50 for students if you buy online, but you have to buy at least a day in advance. Tickets at the door are €23.00, and the line does build up quite quickly.

It would be worth buying the ticket ahead, especially if you aren’t planning to be there the moment the doors open, so as to avoid any line.

Your ticket includes a free tasting as well as a pint at the Gravity Bar, which is on the top floor and has 360° views of Dublin.

A foaming glass of dark beer against a window, part of the Guinness St Patrick's Day celebration

At the Gravity Bar, you can enjoy 360° views around Dublin while enjoying a pint of their world-famous brew.

You can also exchange your ticket for three samples in their Tasting Bar, but I would recommend waiting for the Gravity Bar, as it is quite the experience (not to mention there are some great shots for the ‘gram!).

As part of their St Patrick’s Day Festival, Guinness was offering an extra free tasting of a speciality beer crafted especially for this year’s festival, accompanied by some fun free entertainment.

After drinking before noon, Aubrey and I made our way to O’Sheas Merchant to watch the start of the Ireland-Wales rugby match.

A chance meeting with Irish Storyteller David Mangan in the pub gave us the chance to learn about the history of St Patrick’s Day, and the way it was once celebrated.

“About a generation ago, when I was very young, it had much more religious connotations,” said Mangan. “The first thing was to go to Mass. Then you go home and eat dinner and go to the parade and everything else.”

Mangan recalled that during his parents’ time, the day was still celebrated as a fast day, that is, no one would eat until after the St Patrick’s Mass.

“Now, today, it’s more about Guinness than it is religion, you know,” said Mangan, shrugging.

To make up for the brewery tour so early in the morning, Aubrey and I spent the afternoon tracing the path between Christ Church and St Patrick’s Cathedral.

The two churches are built on either side of an ancient medieval wall that used to mark the exterior of Dublin, Christ Church inside, St Patrick’s outside.

Both churches do cost to visit, €5.50 at Christ Church and €7.00 at St Patrick’s. Aubrey and I managed to catch an evening prayer service at Christ Church, which is free to attend, but unfortunately got to St Patrick’s after it had closed.

St Patrick’s Day

St Patrick’s Day is only the end of a five-day-long festival in Dublin, but the days of celebrating did not seem to lessen anyone’s enthusiasm for the day.

Sunday dawneing uncharacteristically bright and sunny, Aubrey and I headed out to stake our spots just after 10 am – though the parade begins at noon, we wanted to make sure we had a great spot.

Everyone was done up in their St Patrick’s best, from green shamrock suits to bright leprechaun hats and fake ginger beards, faces painted with the Irish flag and more green shamrocks.

And the parade…well, I’ll let the pictures do the talking.

To finish off our day, we headed over to the Irish Whiskey Museum, which I highly recommend whether you like whiskey or not.

Student tickets are €18 and include a whiskey tasting at the end, but along the way you learn about the history of Irish whiskey-making.

“Ireland and Scotland have long argued about what the proper whiskey technique is,” said our guide, Grace. “We [the Irish] sued them about it but we lost and were not supposed to make whiskey anymore.

“So you know what we did? Look at the spelling. The Scottish spell it w-h-i-s-k-y, but we spell it w-h-i-s-k-e-y. The extra ’e’? Because we are petty.”

Three bottles of whiskey, part of the St Patrick's Festival in Dublin

Three of the traditional Irish Whiskeys available for testing at the Irish Whiskey Museum.

While there were a few places I didn’t manage to see (National Print Museum and the Book of Kells to name a couple), I did get to “go green” for a whirlwind weekend in Ireland!

Until next time, slán go fóill, Dublin.

(Goodbye for now)

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