Ireland is set to mark St Patrick’s Day with a massive festival next month, with the country taking to the streets to celebrate for the first time since 2019, with parades, live music and dancing.  

The country has been gifted a fantastically long weekend from Thursday, March 17 to Sunday, March 20. St Patrick's Day is always a public holiday in Ireland, but this year the country has an additional one-off holiday on Friday, March 18; an acknowledgement of the tough times during the pandemic.

This year’s festival is set to be the biggest ever, with more than half a million visitors expected to experience the national holiday in Ireland. Arts, culture and heritage are set to feature strongly over the course of the five day festival, with  'Connections' as the theme for this year’s gathering.  Festival Director Anna McGowan explained: "The connection will be people coming into Dublin and being able to celebrate in person together, for the first time in three years."

Ireland, Dublin, St Patrick's day parade
People gather from early to get a prime spot along the St Patrick's Day parade route on O'Connell Street in Dublin © Cesary Zarebski /Getty Images

How to see the St Patrick’s Day Parade in Dublin

Amongst the festivities planned in Dublin will be the iconic St. Patrick’s Day Parade on March 17, down the main city centre streets. From early morning, crowds gather along the route (many locals bring step ladders for a bird’s eye view). If you don’t fancy packing a ladder, you could treat yourself to a grandstand ticket for €77, where you can sit with Ireland’s VIPs. The parade lasts two hours from start to finish. As well as music and marching bands from all over the world, there’ll be plenty of colourful floats, dancers and costumes, not always as classically Irish as many visitors expect. When the last float finally waves goodbye at lunchtime, the crowds disperse and the serious job of celebrating begins with a first pint of Guinness.  

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What to do on St Patrick’s Day in Ireland?

Every year thousands of visitors descend on Ireland for the national holiday. Many stay in Dublin, where the streets of the capital shut down with a carnival atmosphere.  This year a newly developed 'Festival Quarter' around the National Museum of Ireland at Collins Barracks is home to a food and craft village, a comedy tent, and a giant Spiegeltent. There some of the country’s top musicians, including Lyra and Dublin folk singer Damien Dempsey will perform, with tickets going on sale on February 11.  The quarter will also play host to a Céilí Mór, a massive traditional Irish music and dance session. The Georgian quarter of Merrion Square plays host to a large funfair, and wellness event called Breath will take place in the beautiful grounds of the Law Society.

St Patrick's Day 2021
Home owners across Ireland become very imaginative when marking St Patrick's Day, like  Marie Griffin at her home in Oriel Street in Dublin © Brian Lawless/ Getty Images

Anyone heading outside of the capital will be assured of catching a parade, as towns and villages around the county take pride in hosting their own events. This is where you can experience the true spirit of St Patrick’s Day in Ireland, with local community groups and Gaelic sporting teams proudly marching through their towns, with tractors pulling floats sponsored by local small businesses. Galway city’s parade is a particular favorite, as it is home to the Macnas performance and drumming group, known around the world for their radical parade creations.

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The bridges of the River Liffey, including the Samuel Beckett bridge, are flood lit in green to mark St Patrick's Day each year © AFP via Getty Images

COVID-19 requirements for entry to Ireland

Anyone entering Ireland currently needs to show proof of vaccination or proof of recovery from COVID-19 in the past six months. Since February 1, vaccine certificates are not accepted for travel if more than 270 days have passed since the final dose of the vaccine.  

Anyone without proof of vaccination, or proof of recovery from COVID-19 in the past six months, needs to show a negative  PCR test result taken within 72 hours prior to arriving in Ireland. 

Also, anyone traveling into Ireland must fill out a passenger locator form before their departure.

When in Ireland, prepare to mask up.  Ireland requires masks on public transport, taxis and inside venues, shops and restaurants (when moving around). Throughout the pandemic, locals have taken mask wearing seriously, so be prepared to follow their lead and mask up where required.

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