Seeing as how the rest of the world goes nuts for Paddy’s Day, you could be forgiven for believing that in Dublin we go all out – dying the River Liffey green, painting our bodies and running naked through the middle of town, a pint of Guinness clutched in each hand.
The reality? We leave all that for the tourists. The real Paddy’s Day is chilled out, seen as a day to catch up with friends, go on a big walk and make the most of a day off work. Usually, any drinking is done the night before, to make the most of the lie in the next day (though this year, Paddy’s Day falls on a Sunday, so all bets are off).
If you want to see the real Dublin, without falling victim to the touristy haunts, it’s easily done.
First stop? Brunch. Head to the cool little bistro Coppinger Row, where you’ll find dishes like brioche French toast with lemon curd and mascarpone, or a killer open meatball sandwich. And if you’re in the mood for a little indulgence, they’re doing two-for-one Bloody Marys all weekend, so it's easy to get into the spirit of things.
Afterwards, take your coffee to go and worm your way through the gathering crowds on Dame Street to catch a bit of the parade.
Now, you might think that the parade would fall into the tourist trap category... but you’d be wrong. The St Patrick’s Day Parade is a brilliant, energetic celebration, with kids in sweet little costumes as well as theatrical floats that defy gravity. But for me, the highlight is watching the visiting marching bands and mini-skirted cheerleaders from some high school in Kansas, shivering in the inevitable chill.
After the parade, you’ll want to escape the madness for a little while. The best news is that all of Dublin’s fantastic museums and galleries will be open, and they’re all free to visit. Start at the National Gallery of Ireland, a newly refurbished gallery that’s home to a stonking collection of art from Ireland and all around the world. Try to time your visit between 2-3pm, because it’s during this time that the delicate watercolour Hellelil and Hildebrand, the Meeting on the Turret Stairs, is on display – its cabinet is only unlocked for two hours a week, to protect it from the light.
Afterwards, wander around the corner to the National Museum of Ireland: Archaeology on Kildare Street. You can pay homage to the man himself by making a beeline for The Bell of St. Patrick, which you’ll find in the treasury. Then head on to the Kingship and Sacrifice exhibition, which is home to the ancient bog bodies, perfectly preserved in Ireland’s boglands and still with hair, eyelashes and fingernails intact after 4,000 years.
At this point (depending on what the weather is doing) you might want to get out and have a good stomp around, so you can earn a cosy afternoon pint. Make your way to the Phoenix Park and follow the footpaths that meander through the fields. You might even spot some of the resident deer, who roam the park in a gorgeous, rambling herd. Just don’t get too close – Dubliners know to leave them alone, and it’s always a little heartbreaking to see people going up for a selfie or, even worse, trying to feed them.
After all that, you deserve that pint. Now, while there are a few places in Temple Bar that are well worth a visit, don’t even bother trying on Paddy’s Day. The whole place is filled to the brim with infuriatingly riled up tourists screaming something indistinct about “Patty’s Day” and spilling their beer, tears or vomit all over you. I should know – I was on assignment there last year, and the flashbacks still haunt me to this day.
Instead, hit the neighbourhood pubs of the city – they’ll likely be lively, with everyone in good spirits and, trust me, no one will be dying their pints green (shudder). Try Drop Dead Twice on Francis Street, L Mulligan Grocer in Stoneybatter or 57 The Headline on Clanbrassil Street.
Unfortunately, a good few number of the city’s restaurants are closed on Sundays. But luckily, one of the best is open and ready for business – The Legal Eagle does a brilliant roast on Sundays with a twist on retro, Seventies dishes. Think prawn cocktail (but with plump Dublin Bay prawns and a delicate whisper of dressing) and slabs of pink, juicily tender roast beef topped with towering Yorkshire puddings.
If all goes to plan, you’ll end up leaving Dublin with a full belly and head full of fabulous memories, rather than a stinking hangover and a shamrock tattoo you’d don’t remember getting.
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