8 of the best places to celebrate St Patrick's Day outside of Ireland

With a diaspora in the millions, Ireland’s national holiday has become an international phenomenon. 

People all over the world — Irish and not — take to the streets to celebrate St Patrick’s Day on March 17, as cities host colorful parades, traditional music sessions and raucous street parties in honor of the Irish patron saint. 

If you can’t make it to Dublin, these destinations are the next best thing for donning your green and joining in the festivities.

1. Montréal

While Québec is known for its French heritage, nearly 40% of the population are said to have Irish ancestry, and Canadians have long observed St Patrick’s Day with great enthusiasm. The earliest celebration in Montréal – a city with a shamrock as part of its flag – dates back to 1759. Today, it is marked with a vibrant three-hour procession of marching bands, elaborate floats and costumed revelers, helmed by a giant figure of St Patrick himself. The route down Sainte-Catherine St is surrounded by cozy Irish pubs to keep the party going long after the parade has wrapped up.

Munich’s St Patrick’s Day parade involves a variety of musical performances © Manuel Findeis / Shutterstock

2. Munich

Bavarians already have their own boozy celebration – Oktoberfest – so it’s hardly a surprise that they’ve readily embraced another one. Munich has observed Paddy’s Day for nearly three decades now, with three days of city-wide festivities culminating in an impressive procession and international street food festival in central Odeonsplatz. Munich prides itself on being a hive of musical activity, and the program is packed with live performances.

“There are ceilidh bands, rock bands, folk bands, classical Irish — there’s a whole variety of music, it really reflects the Irish population,” says Paul Daly, a Dubliner who co-founded the Munich event in 1996 and attends each year. “It’s not just a big drinking thing either. The parade is more of a family event and it appeals to all age groups. It’s a great time to come and enjoy the craic.”

The official Munich St Patrick’s Day celebrations sometimes kick off the weekend before March 17, so check ahead of time to ensure you don’t miss out on any of the revelry.

A crowd of people wearing green smile for the camera
New Yorkers have a long tradition of Patrick’s Day parades © Stuart Monk / Shutterstock

3. New York

It’s the granddaddy of all St Patrick’s Day parades: first held in 1762 — a full 14 years before the United States declared independence from Britain — the annual spectacle now draws around two million visitors. New York is home to more than half a million Irish-Americans, and the proud marchers have always been the stars of the event: no floats or cars are allowed along the route, which runs up Fifth Avenue past St Patrick’s Cathedral.

Dubliner Tadgh Bolger was one of the 150,000 who marched in the New York parade a few years ago, when Ireland’s national lacrosse team was invited to participate. “The scale and size of it was absolutely incredible; unlike anything I’ve seen pretty much anywhere else,” he says. “Anyone who wants to experience St Patrick’s Day should definitely consider New York.”

4. Buenos Aires  

Argentina has the fifth-largest Irish diaspora of any country, and is known for being the liveliest St Patrick’s Day parade in the non-English-speaking world. Better known as El Dia de San Patricio, Buenos Aires’ event is overseen by the country’s Irish Embassy and the Argentina–Ireland Association. An all-night street party in the city center means that visitors can enjoy drinking, dancing and local variations on traditional dishes.

“In March, we have a kind of green marathon, because there are many, many celebrations,” says Silvia Fleming, vice-president of the Hurling Club, an Irish diaspora association. Sport is a crucial part of the festivities, which include hurling workshops and Gaelic football exhibition matches for all ages.

“Everybody wears green, of course, and it’s very relaxed and informal,” Silvia adds, noting many of the events are family-friendly. “When we do Irish dancing, you can see grandmother and grandchild dancing, or mother and son — it’s shared by everybody.”

A green river runs through Chicago for the city's St Patrick's Day celebrations
Turning the river green is part of St Patrick’s Day tradition in Chicago © berni0004 / Shutterstock

5. Chicago

The Chicago River runs a luminous green every year on St Patrick’s Day, with officials dyeing it using a closely guarded formula. Many pubs and bars have in turn been inspired to dye their beer as well, so prepare for a colorful day of drinking if you decide on venturing to Chicago’s world-famous celebrations.

The Irish Taoiseach (Prime Minister) has personally participated in the procession in recent years, alongside a lineup of celebrities and thousands of punters donned in full leprechaun regalia. A word to the wise: stay away from the Chicago Guinness and drink a locally brewed beer instead.

6. Sydney 

Hundreds of thousands of Australians cite Irish heritage. This is probably why Sydney has developed such an affinity for St Patrick’s Day, which sees an enormous green cavalcade march through the city, as well as the famous Hyde Park. There are plenty of music and cultural events to boot, including lessons on how to speak Gaeilge (Ireland’s native language), play the tin whistle and ceilidh dancing.

Emily Kennedy is from Galway and has lived in Sydney since 2011, where she runs an Irish dancing school that joins the march each year. What makes the event remarkable, she observes, is the spectacular setting overlooking Sydney Harbour Bridge and the Sydney Opera House. “The entire festival is on the water with this iconic view as the backdrop. I’ve lived in Sydney for 13 years and still get excited every time I see that view,” she says. 

Despite the scale of the celebration, Emily adds: “It feels like one big street. I have such fond memories of St Patrick’s Day parades in Ireland and I’m pleased my own children can experience the same here in Sydney. We may be on the opposite side of the world but the connection to home is still very strong.”

People parade along a street carrying a green banner and a large inflatable pint of Guinness, a black stout with a white top
Tokyo hosts the largest St Patrick’s Day celebration in Asia © PrestonKaleMiller / Shutterstock

7. Tokyo

There are only a few thousand people from Ireland living in Japan, but that hasn’t stopped the land of the rising sun from loving Irish culture: Tokyo is home to the oldest, largest and most extravagant St Patrick’s celebration in all of Asia. Visitors are treated to a cultural festival at Yoyogi Park with Irish dancing, food and friendly rugby scrums, typically followed by an ornate procession along the tree-lined Omotesandō avenue the next day. The Japanese put on St Patrick’s Day with a real sense of pageantry: costumes, music and even traditional Japanese attire dyed green.

8. Montserrat

This Caribbean country does things a little bit differently than the rest of the places on our list. The people of Montserrat mark St Patrick’s Day as a way of commemorating their freedom from colonial rule. Many of the first European settlers to arrive on the island were of Irish descent and March 17 is the anniversary of a failed slave revolt that took place against them back in 1768.

“It’s the only place in the world other than Ireland where St Patrick’s Day is a national holiday. The celebrations actually run for a whole week,” says Carol Osborne, whose family hails from Cork and who has lived in Montserrat for decades. “Everybody on the island is celebrating. The atmosphere is very welcoming, very much like in Ireland where people will say ‘Hello, how are you?’ when you’re walking down the street.”

Festivities include a ceremonial torch lighting, freedom run and masquerade performances, as well as “jump-ups” (dance parties) and delicious servings of goat water, the Montserratian take on Irish stew.

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