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A Local’s Guide to Dublin’s Biggest Festival

The parade

The St Patrick’s Festival Parade on Friday is the main event for many. Starting at noon in Parnell Sq, it heads through O’Connell St and Dame St, ending at St Patrick’s Cathedral. Half-a-million people are expected, so aim to be there for 10am if you want a place at the front. If you arrive later, head towards the end of the parade route for a better chance of a prime viewing spot.

The parade lasts two hours from start to finish, but if you stay in the one spot you’ll see it all in about 45 minutes. As well as music and marching bands from all over the world, there’ll be plenty of colourful floats, dancers and costumes.

The floats aren’t always as classically Irish as many visitors expect; instead they’re colourful, carnival-style creations designed by groups from all over the country. You’ll get plenty of time to take it all in as the parade stops at various points for the marchers to show off their beats and tail feathers. When the last float finally waves goodbye, the crowd melts away, with many heading for the nearest pub.

On Sunday, there’s a free afternoon of family-friendly fun in Merrion Sq from noon with workshops, magic shows, carnival performances and music.

Let’s dance

It’s not St Patrick’s weekend without plenty of music and you’ll find plenty of spots playing traditional Irish tunes or whatever other genre takes your fancy.

The festivities kick off on Thursday 16 March at 4.30pm with an official céilí (stpatricksfestival.ie) where you can learn Irish dancing from professional dancers accompanied by traditional songs. You could carry on with a full day of dance and music in the Complex (thecomplex.ie) on Friday from 2.30pm. Brought to you by the best trad pub in Dublin, the Cobblestone, it’s a full day of lessons and music with food and drink also available. You’ll be doing the jig in no time!

Hit the pubs

Despite (or because of) its reputation, most Dubliners prefer to stay away from Temple Bar on Paddy’s Day. It’s expensive compared to other areas of the city and can get overcrowded. However, the sea of leprechaun hats is a sight to behold so why not stroll through Essex St East and soak up the atmosphere before exploring some of the best barselsewhere in the city.

Here you won’t have to battle to make your way to the bar and you’ll see a lot more of Dublin. Alternatively head to nearby Dame Ln off George’s St, where you can stroll between pubs with a pint in hand, ready to mingle.

Most Dubs leave the city centre by 6pm to retire to quieter locals or go to gigs, leaving mainly visitors to carry on the boisterous overindulgence until the bars close at 3am and the crowd spills out on the streets.

Gaelic sports and a Sunday road race

To get a glimpse into the exciting world of Gaelic games, make a date to watch the All-Ireland Club Championship finals. The All-Ireland Club Championship finals are the season’s climax, and are held in Croke Park on Friday at 2pm. Here you’ll see the most dedicated amateur athletes in the world battle it out in the ancient games of hurling and Gaelic football to bring pride to their local town. Limerick’s Na Piarsaigh won their first title last year after dominating their Antrim opponents in the first half, but since the reigning champions have already been knocked out, this year is anyone’s game.

Tickets are on sale from late February (gaa.tickets.ie) but they sell out fast so if you miss out, get close to the action and supporters inMulligan’s.

If you’d prefer not to be a spectator, dust off the cobwebs and join the 5km kilometre road race kicking off at noon from St Stephen’s Green on Sunday. You can register on the day at Mansion House or online prior to the event (msbac.ie).