Singing, dancing, a parade and a pint or two - the Irish have always known how to party and celebrating St Patrick's Day in London is no exception. St Patrick’s Day in London is a chance for Irish London (and, of course, anyone and everyone who's Irish-at-heart) to hit the streets and show the city the true meaning of the word ‘craic’.
The official holiday lands annually on March 17 (a Friday in 2017), but the main London celebrations take place in Trafalgar Square on March 19.
There’ll be a lively parade of music, food and ceilidh dancing, plus plenty of things to do with the kids. If you can’t face the crowds, we've rounded up the best St Patrick’s Day happenings below. Or if you want more cultural inspiration, check our pick of the best London events in March. Get ready for a very green weekend.
When is St Patrick’s Day?
It’s always March 17, but in true Irish fashion, St Patrick’s Day sessions usually run throughout Paddy’s weekend.
What is St. Patrick's Day?
The date supposedly marks the death of this guy called (yep, you guessed it!) St Patrick, who travelled to Ireland in the fifth century to convince Irish pagans that Christianity is where it’s at. Do you associate Ireland with shamrocks? That’s down to him too: the story goes that St Patrick used the three-leaved clover to describe the Holy Trinity to non-believers. Oh, and legend says he banished snakes from the country by chasing them into the sea. Best mull that last part over with a Guinness.
Where is the London St. Patrick's Day Parade?
London’s St Patrick’s Day parade kicks off on March 19, when crowds line the streets from Piccadilly to Trafalgar Square and cheer on a stream of leprechaun floats, traditional musicians and squads of Irish dancers. The main stage at Trafalgar Square will be surrounded by a street food market and a ‘tea tent’, with a line-up of Irish bands. Basically it’s a big, rip-roaring one-day festival, only the pints are a shade of Gaelic green.
Join in the St Patrick's Day London fun
Taking its name from a line in the WB Yeats poem Easter 1916, the 'Terrible Beauty' walking tour will take you from Trafalgar Square to Whitehall, exploring the impact of the Irish rebellion of 1916 from the London perspective. Meet at the South Side of Nelson's Column in Trafalgar Square at 2pm March 17 to take part.
Yes, on the whole, Irish people are known to be fond of the sauce, but they’re equally selective about what goes in their glasses. Learn to pair Irish craft beers and whiskey (without getting a seriously dodgy stomach) and take part in the Great Irish Stout Off.
With the 2016 Oscar nominations for 'Brooklyn' and Lenny Abrahamson's 'Room', Irish filmmaking is finally getting a look-in on a global scale. Running from March 17-19, The St Patrick's Film Festival has a programme of Irish-made features and animation, held in association with the Mayor of London. Two highlights are a screening of award-winning Irish short films and the Song of the Sea and Shadow Animation Workshop at Regent Street Cinema.
Craggy Island is on its way to Clapham for the Father Ted-A-Thon St Patrick’s Day Special at The Grand. There will be screening of three select episodes (voted for by the public), a lovely girls competition and prizes for the best nun/priest costume. Can you booze dressed as a man of the cloth? That would be an ecumenical matter.
Get into the spirit of things at The London Cocktail Club’s ‘Nightcap with Teeling’ evening. There will be a sample tasting, plenty of expert whisky chat and a chance to make your own drinks. The masterclass finishes at 8.30pm, leaving plenty of time to pick up where you left off.
Watch Martin Scorsese’s bloody-knuckled portrayal of Irish immigration to America at the Boondocks Cinema Club screening of 'Gangs of New York' as part of the London Book and Screen Festival. Come for the food, stay for Daniel Day Lewis’s excellent moustache.
Things are going to get reel for Kila’s St Patrick’s Day gig at the London Irish Centre in Camden. The modern folk group play electric trad music filled with the thundering sound of bodhráns and tin whistles. The lyrics are all in Irish, so you might learn some Gaeilge beyond ‘póg mo thóin’.
Belfast’s OX restaurant is so popular it can takes months to secure a booking, so it’s pretty much a no-go on last minute weekend breaks. But you can try the food of its Head Chef Stephen Toman at the Ox St Patrick’s Day pop-up at Carousel in Mayfair. Forget bland boiled potatoes, Toman is more about the Chateaubriand followed by a dessert of Bushmills jelly.
With its collection of Union Jack souvenirs, this Camden Market isn't normally a bastion of Irishness, but on Saturday March 18, it will be overrun with shamrock hats for the Paddy's weekend celebrations. There's the 'Camden Culture Trail' from 12pm-6pm, with pop-up bands in Voodoo Ray's and the Ampitheatre, plus an augmentated reality showcase from Firstage, where you can enjoy VR performances from all over Ireland.
Line your stomach with something more than ‘soakage’ at The Water Poet, where they’ll be serving an all-Irish menu for a 5-day hooley in honour of St Patrick. Meet Irish craft beer brewers Bru in the garden barn on Wednesday March 15. And on Thursday March 16, join for an evening of whiskey and beer matched with Irish dishes for £25, starting with a welcome cocktail of a Poitin Sour. If you still have room by the March 17, there will be lines of Guinness on the bar, ready for supping.
Sink a Guinness at an Irish pub
The Adam & Eve
Tucked away behind Oxford Street, this modern pub and kitchen has long been a little retreat for shoppers in the know. Get the right table and you can even sit under the watchful gaze of Michael Caine and Twiggy, stuck to the wall in poster form. The food menu comprises plates of poshed-up pub grub. That means apple-glazed gammon with fried duck egg and hand-cut chips, macaroni cheese croquettes, courgette fries with a red leicester fondue, pork crackling with apple cider sauce and a decent looking cheeseburger with fries, pickles and relish. The drinks list ranges from jugs of Pimm's and bloody marys to craft beers from Pressure Drop and Kernel and a selection of wines that leans heavily on the old world.