Destination: Dublin for St. Patrick’s Day 2014

Destination Dublin: Saint Patrick's Day Parade
My view of a traditional Irish bagpipe and drum band in the Saint Patrick’s Day Parade 2013. Photo Source: Katherine Mueller

For years, Ireland has been known for the natural beauty of their countryside and seaside cliffs. Dublin is the metropolitan heart on the Eastern coastline of Ireland, and has been quickly gaining a reputation as a major European city. It’s also the host of one of the most famous parades in the world: The Saint Patrick’s Day Parade. If you plan to be in the city for the holiday, here are a few of my ideas from my time living there of what to do:

If you’re in town for the festivities:

  • Make sure you get to the parade route early. Front line seats will fill up quickly along the route. Standing one or two rows back isn’t too bad, but along the most popular parts of the route you might be standing five or six people back. The parade starts at noon, so I would recommend getting there at least an hour early if you’re going.

  • Bundle up! It will be cold. Ireland is a country that’s perpetually rainy, so be prepared to brave cold temperatures and rain to watch the parade. You can also grab a cup of tea from an O’Brian’s or Insomnia along the route to both warm your hands while you wait and to get in on the Irish tradition of drinking gratuitous amounts of tea. If you’re more of a coffee person, they have coffee too, don’t worry.

  • There is more to the festivities than the parade. Dublin goes all out all weekend with a variety of different events and festivals to celebrate. Visit the official website of Celebration 2014 to figure out what you’d like to do. I recommend the Festival Ceílí, especially if you like to dance.

Destination Dublin: Trinity College
Trinity College lit up in green in celebration of the holiday. Photo source: stpatricksfestival.ie

What to eat and where to eat it:

Don’t let the variety of candies that don’t exist in America tempt you too much, Dublin has much more to offer than Malteesers and Jaffa Cakes. (Although those things are delicious and I highly recommend picking some up from a Tesco.)

  • My favorite café in all of Dublin is The Red Rose Café. It’s right across from St. Stephen’s Green, on a little street corner. It’s easy to miss sometimes, and it’s one of those places I stumbled across as a starving traveller looking for a cheap and good lunch. That being said, their chicken and goat cheese sandwich was divine (and they have great vegetarian options too). The real charm of the place, however, was the location. It’s the perfect spot to enjoy a sandwich or a cup of tea and watch people go by. Look across the street to St. Stephen’s Green, or watch travellers and locals alike rush toward Grafton street. It’s a fantastic place to observe the diversity that Dublin is quickly accumulating.

  • Tea is a huge part of Irish culture. I am not even joking when I say I had three or four mugs a day while I was there. My favorite spot for tea was at The Winding Stair bookshop, because it was a combination of my two favorite things: books and tea. Also the location was prime, right along the quays (pronounced keys), so it was another great spot to observe people going by. It’s important to take your tea with some milk, unless you’re a true champion of bitter beverage drinking.

    Destination Dublin: The Winding Stair
    The upstairs room of The Winding Stair on a rare sunny day. Photo source: tripadvisor.ie
  • For the fans of romantic movies, the pub that P.S. I Love You was filmed in stands on Wexford Street in the Temple Bar area. It’s called Whelan’s, and it’s more known among the locals for it’s variety of live music acts. There are two main stages inside, so there’s plenty of music to keep you entertained. They’ve played host to powerhouse acts like Kate Nash and The Arctic Monkeys, so it’s sure to be a good time. Try some traditional pub food while you’re there, it’s all part of the Irish experience.

Destination Dublin, Whelan's Pub.
Whelan’s Pub from the street, photo source: romalicious.com

What else to do while you’re there:

  • Ireland is known worldwide for its natural beauty, so take a day to get out of Dublin and explore the countryside. It’s also an extremely small island, smaller than the state of New York, so it’s possible to take day trips basically anywhere. I took a day trip to Cork and Cobh, which was fantastic. There are options to trip to The Cliffs of Moehr, Galway, and The Ring of Kerry so just do a little research to find out where you want to go!

  • If you’d like to stay a little closer to Dublin and still get a taste of Ireland’s natural beauty, take a trip to Howth. Just a short twenty minute train ride from Dublin’s city center, Howth is a small town on the East coast of Ireland. There are several hiking trails along the cliffs that surround the city, ranging from easy trails to trails for more experienced hikers. There are plenty of little offshoots from the marked paths to explore, so you can spend an entire afternoon exploring the seaside. Once you’re done, the town has a variety of little restaurants to recharge in after hiking around.

    Destination Dublin: Howth
    The cliffs of Howth. Photo source: dimascorner.com
  • For those less nature inclined, Dublin has a variety of free museums to tour. The National Gallery and The National Museum are both free to enter and feature art and relics from Ireland’s extensive history. For the literature inclined, I cannot recommend doing a fast walkthrough of the National Library enough. It can also serve a practical purpose, for those of you keen on exploring your Irish heritage. The National Library offers assistance tracing family histories and genealogies, so they can help you find where your Irish ancestors are from. Check out the sign in book to see how far Irish ancestry has spread.

    Destination Dublin: National Library
    The Reading Room of Dublin’s National Library. Photo Source: Katherine Mueller
  • The Guiness Factory is a must for anyone that enjoys a good pint. See how Ireland’s most prolific beer is created, and learn how to pour the perfect pint for yourself. Yes, there is a specific way to pour Guiness to ensure that it has the perfect head. Apparently there’s also a specific way to drink it so you don’t get the foam all over your face, but I was told Americans can’t master it. Don’t let that stop you from trying a pint.

  • The Temple Bar area is known for being touristy, but don’t let that stop you from checking it out. There are some gems hidden amongst the TGI Friday’s and Urban Outfitters. There’s an open air book market on the weekends that boasts some good finds, as well as a variety of thrift shops that sell Irish made goods. One cute thrift shop in the area is called May Fly. It’s easy to miss, but the main level sells Irish made goods, the basement is a thrift shop, and the third floor is an adorable vegetarian café. If you end up in the café, check the book swap shelves and the notebooks on the tables. Sign a message to future travelers (bonus points if you can find the one I wrote).

    Destination Dublin: Temple Bar
    The vibrant shopfront of Café Irie in Temple Bar. Photo Source: Sophie Kowalski

As far as where to stay, HostelWorld  has a variety of different hotel options. It’s not just hostels, they have bed and breakfasts, apartments, and hotels as well. The online deposit is small, so there’s minimal risk. You can look at location, ratings from other travelers, and what amenities the place offers. I recommend searching through to find what suits you! If you’re looking for some suggestions, the New York Times  gathered a poll of their readers of the best places to stay.

All of this being said, Dublin is a great city to just take a day to explore. I stumbled across most of these places by errant wandering, so if you’re really stuck for what to do take an hour or two to dive into the nooks and crannies of the city. The chances are high that you’ll find a gem.

Destination Dublin: Grafton Street
Grafton Street. Photo source: here

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