With the season of leprechauns and green beer, you’re not alone in the temptation to take your St. Patrick’s Day party to the homeland. Though you’re likely to find more spirited crowds in New York City or Boston, there’s no match for Dublin in true Irish heritage.
First-timers will want to make a beeline for the city’s most famous sights, like St. Patrick’s Cathedral. Far from the snake-banishing figure of popular lore, the real Saint Patrick was simply a beloved missionary in the fifth century. Little is known about his true life, but his legacy as Ireland’s patron saint stands, making March 17, the purported date of his death, a sacred day in Dublin. The neo-Gothic church now standing in Dublin is the result of countless damages and alterations, but the building itself potentially dates back to 1191 and supposedly stands on the same land as the fifth century church where Saint Patrick performed baptisms.
Once you’ve paid your respects, take a stroll among the hallowed halls of Trinity College. Since its founding by Elizabeth I, this bucolic campus has seen its fair share of political controversy. You can’t turn an eye to any slice of Irish history without finding the Catholic vs. Protestant debate, and the country’s most prestigious university is no exception. Because Good Queen Bess was behind the institution, Trinity fell on the Protestant side and refused to admit Catholic students until the end of the eighteenth century. Even then, it wasn’t until 1970 when the Catholic Church stopped excommunicating those who enrolled. Serious history buffs will want to dive further into those issues on a guided tour, which departs from the Regent House entrance on College Green.
Trinity is also well known for its notable alumni, particularly writers Jonathan Swift, Oscar Wilde, and Samuel Beckett. If there’s one thing bonnie Dublin knows how to do, it’s how to churn out great literary minds. Add non-Trinity alums like James Joyce, W.B. Yeats, and George Bernard Shaw, and you’ve still got just the tip of the iceberg. You could brush up on your Irish literature by exploring the Dublin Writers Museum, the James Joyce Cultural Center, or one of the city’s gorgeous libraries, but hey, it’s a holiday. Inject a little extra fun in the equation with Dublin’s famous literary pub crawl. Local actors will guide you through pubs around the city as they recount the lives of Ireland’s literary sons.
Feeling even less educationally inclined? Both the Guinness Storehouse and the Old Jameson Distillery are within the city limits, and offer tours on a daily basis. Take care of your craving for the big brand names earlier in the day, so when you sally up to the bar in a real Irish pub, you can experiment with other authentic . Irish red ales and ciders are good places to start, as are any of the craft pale ales that have blossomed in recent years.