The American ideal for St. Patrick’s Day is a little different than that across the pond. While the holiday is synonymous with bar crawls and Guinness, the Irish celebrate a little different.
A stop in Dublin for a carnivalesque St. Patrick’s Day seems like the perfect bucket list getaway—except the kind of debauchery Americans have come to expect on March 17 is not quite the standard here. In Ireland, traditional celebrations are generally much more subdued, and focus more on Irish pride than shots and pints.
While raucous celebrations aren’t hard to stumble upon in Dublin on this particular day, most of the revelers are tourists or young teenagers who aren’t actually old enough to buy alcohol. The winding maze-like streets of central Dublin’s Temple Bar neighborhood—the epicenter of St. Patrick’s Day celebrations—are lined with pubs and bars that overflow with day drinkers in tall leprechaun hats, fake orange beards, and shamrock-green outfits, but you’d be hard-pressed to find any locals navigating these streets.
Most Dubliners make an appearance for the annual parade that cuts right through Temple Bar, but later disappear to quieter neighborhoods for a night of dinner, drinks, and live music.
Present-day festivities don’t stray too far from traditional celebrations, as St. Patrick’s Day, or the Feast of Saint Patrick, is a day of recognition for the patron saint of Ireland. Lentin restrictions on eating and drinking are lifted, allowing Christians to celebrate. (That freedom to let loose is what ultimately read to the drinking free-for-all it's developed into in the States.) In Dublin, locals will generally steer clear of the bar crawling in favor of live music, an evening with family and friends, or dining in a traditional pub.
So, while everyone is partying in Temple Bar, take the opportunity to check out the local landmarks that celebrate the history of Ireland—which would otherwise be packed on any other day. You can soak up the traditions of Ireland without fighting through crowds, and with your health and sanity fully intact the next day.
Landmarks like the Guinness Storehouse and the Old Jameson Distillery are great for celebrating Irish history with a traditional drink, but without the downfalls of a packed and noisy bar. You can learn about the mythology and folklore of Ireland at the National Leprechaun Museum, or grab an authentic Irish meal at the 218-year-old Johnnie Fox’s Pub on the outskirts of the city. Each night the pub hosts traditional Irish dancers with local musicians, making it a true Irish experience.
And like that, it's possible to embrace the true traditions of the country without the crippling hangover the next day.