In London on the 17th of March? Depending on where you’re originally from, you might be used to donning green and drinking pints of beer on St. Patrick’s Day. If you’re in England’s capital for it this year, here’s how you can celebrate St. Patrick’s Day in London.
What and when is St. Patrick’s Day?
St. Patrick’s Day is celebrated on the 17th of March in honour of Saint Patrick, the patron of Ireland. Every year people around the world put on our favourite green attire, draw four-leaf clovers and drink tons of Guinness.
But do you know how this all came about?
What’s the origin of St. Patrick’s Day?
The story dates back to the 4th century in Roman Britain where a 16-year-old boy was kidnapped and sent to Ireland as a slave. A few years later, a voice came to him that it was time to leave, so he returned to England where he joined religious studies, and after about fifteen years, he was ordained as a priest. His first mission was to go to Ireland to preach to the local Christians and to convert more of the Irish, which was a success due to his knowledge of the Irish culture. He used their native traditions and incorporated that into Christianity.
By the time of his death on 17th of March 460AD, he had established churches, monasteries and schools, and legends about him started circulating. While known as Saint Patrick he was actually never canonised by the Catholic church.
What were some of the legends?
The ones you’ve probably heard of are:
He drove the snakes out of Emerald Isle (Ireland) by giving a sermon, which drove them into the sea. The island is still snake-free to this day.
While green is hugely associated with this holiday, the Order of Saint Patrick actually wore blue. It wasn’t until the 18th century that the celebration colour turned to green, rumoured to be because supporters of Irish independence used this colour to represent their cause.
The walking stick that turned into a tree. The tale recounts the time when St. Patrick was returning from a visit to England, carrying a walking stick, and he would stop along the way and preach to the local villages, it’s said that in one of his stops he preached for so long that the stick grew roots and turned into a tree.
Where is St. Patrick’s Day celebrated?
It wasn’t until the 1700’s that St. Patrick’s Day started being celebrated across the world. Irish emigrants started settling all over, mostly in North America, and huge elaborate celebrations started happening in places like Boston (1737) and New York (1762).
New York is said to host the biggest St. Patrick’s Day parade with over two million attendees and 150,000 people marching. Chicago has dyed their river green for it every year since 1962 (don’t worry, it’s environmentally friendly). London also hosts a ton of events and an annual parade with over 50,000 spectators.
What to do on St. Patrick’s Day in London
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Attend the London St Patrick’s Day Parade
As mentioned above, London hosts a St. Patrick’s Day Parade, although it doesn’t fall on the actual day, but instead it’s on the Sunday closest. You can expect pageantry, marching bands, Irish dancing schools, concerts, choirs, live music etc.
The parade starts at Hyde Park Corner and makes a 2km route through Piccadilly, St James’s Street, Pall Mall, Cockspur Street and Whitehall.
St Patrick’s Day Parade | 12th of March 2023
Attend the St Patrick’s Day Festival
Another part of the Mayor of London’s celebrations is the St. Patrick’s Day Festival, which happens on the same day as the parade. Stop by Trafalgar Square to see some of the Irish acts, concerts, dances and much more. Take a moment to swing by the food market to try out some delicious Irish dishes too.
St Patrick’s Day Festival | 12th of March 2023
Image Courtesy of Rebel Tours
Book a St Patrick’s Day Walking Tour
Join a Rebel guide this St. Patrick’s Day to celebrate Ireland’s greatest contributions to our city! Rebels, radicals, writers, doctors – get to grips with London’s incredible Irish history and heritage!
Run by our partners, Rebel, the tour will start close to the British Parliament, where you’ll hear about political figures and leaders of the Easter Rising and Ireland’s War of Independence. Then you’ll head up towards the theatre district to learn of Ireland’s incredible contributions to literature and culture, and finish in Soho, a place where many Irish families settled following the Great Hunger of the 1840s. After this celebration of our awesomely Irish London and its protagonists, you can join your guide to carry on the craic at a Soho pub for a pint!
Image Courtesy of BoxPark
Attend a Shamrock Session at BoxPark
BoxPark is a venue filled with small independent street food vendors serving up cuisines from all over the world. On St Patrick’s Day, they’re hosting Shamrock Sessions at their Wembley location. Expect live music with artists like Shakeout, Blag and Barn Storm taking the stage with a repertoire of traditional Irish songs.
There’s also free face painting and plenty to eat and drink.
BoxPark Wembley: Shamrock Sessions | 17th of March 2023
Image Courtesy of London Kilt Run
Join a St Patrick’s Day 5k Run at Hyde Park
For a super healthy and active way to celebrate, why not head out for a fun run at Hyde Park? This is the second year of this event after it started in 2020. Tickets are only £11 and the race starts at around 11 am.
St Patrick’s Day Run | 18th of March 2023
Image Courtesy of Tea House Theatre
Enjoy an Irish poetry session
Head to Tea House Theatre to watch their literary resident artist Alain English as he hosts For The Love of the Irish. In it, he’ll give the audience a literary whistle-stop tour through some of the best of Irish poetry.
For the Love of the Irish: Poetry Session | (2023 date not yet announced)
Image Courtesy of St Patrick’s Church
Visit St Patrick’s Church
Head to Soho Square to visit St Patrick’s Church, which is considered to be the first Irish Roman Catholic church in Britain. As you head inside, look up to find the following inscription: VT CHRISTIANI ITA ET ROMANI SITIS (“Ut Christiani ita et Romani sitis”, i.e. “Be ye Christians as those of the Roman Church”), a quote taken from the writings of St Patrick.
Alternatively, you can attend their St Patrick’s Day Vigil Mass on the 6th or the Feast Day Mass on the 17th.
St. Patrick’s Church | Visit all year
Image Courtesy of Howl at the Moon
Hit one of London’s Irish pubs/bars
To wrap the celebrations (or start them, we won’t judge) head to an Irish pub or bar and order yourself a Guinness. Here are a few options for you:
- The Toucan in Soho
- The Porterhouse in Covent Garden
- The Sheephaven Bay in Camden
- Howl at the Moon in Hoxton
No matter how you choose to celebrate, if you want to get involved on the 17th of March, there are plenty of ways to have a super fun St. Patrick’s Day in London.
And for more things to do in London in the month of March, check out this article next.