You don’t have to be Irish or even partial to a pint of Guinness to enjoy London’s annual St Patrick’s Day festivities, as the party is open to all. Here’s our guide to joining in the festivities
The celebrations start early on Sunday 12 March, when the West End turns into a sea of green as a procession of marching bands and dance troupes weave their way from Hyde Park Corner to Trafalgar Square. Passing Piccadilly, St James’s Street, Pall Mall, Cockspur Street and Whitehall, more than 50,000 people are expected at the St Patrick’s Festival, so be prepared for crowds and enjoy the craic. Trafalgar Square will be the centre of the action with live music, dancing, films, youth performances and cookery demonstrations all afternoon until 6pm, as well as street food and drink stalls.
The party continues all week and beyond St Patrick’s Day (Friday 17 March), so you can enjoy everything from comedy and ceilidhs to traditional drinks and dining.
A taste of culture
You’ll get a real sense of Ireland’s history and influence on London on a Rebel Tours Irish Walk. Meet at Parliament Square to learn about the Easter Rising and Ireland’s War of Independence, then head to the West End to discover Ireland’s cultural contributions from literary legends including Bram Stoker and Oscar Wilde. The tour ends with a pint of Guinness in Soho, where many Irish families settled following the Great Hunger of the 1840s (16-17 Mar, 11am-1pm; £15 per person).
For true Irish culture, head to the London Irish Centre, an arts and community space in Camden with a year-round calendar of events. Catch The Six Marys, a laugh-one-minute, cry-the-next play spanning the 1950s to the present day (13 Mar, 7.30pm and 14 Mar 2pm & 7.30pm; £15). For a good laugh, there are monthly comedy nights in the centre’s atmospheric Old Chapel (29 Mar, 7.30pm; £10), as well as live music on Fridays and raucous ceilidhs, where there’s even a dance instructor to teach you the steps (17 Mar, 7pm; £20).
After dancing a ceilidh, you’ll likely be hungry. The 108 Brasserie in Marylebone is celebrating St Patrick’s Day with a traditional Irish set menu that includes boxty (a moreish potato pancake) and beetroot, Irish stew with colcannon and black pudding, and Guinness and brown bread ice cream (13-19 Mar; £49 for three courses).
Equally smart is Myrtle, Anna Haugh’s acclaimed restaurant, off the King’s Road. Here, traditional Irish food gets the Chelsea treatment and is elevated into a fine dining experience. Savour her seven-course tasting menu which features delights such as Irish Carlingford oysters and Gubbeen cheese mousse from West Cork (from £85). Look out for regular Taste & Sound of Ireland evenings, where you can eat, drink and be merry while musicians play traditional jigs, reels and contemporary tunes around you.
A pint of the black stuff
If you just fancy a Guinness or a tot of whiskey, visit Waxy O’Connor’s in Rupert Street, a maze of four bars over six levels where you’re sure to find room to join in the celebrations (16-19 Mar). There’s live music (Wed-Sun) and big screens scattered around showing everything from the Six Nations rugby to horse racing (www.waxyoconnorslondon.co.uk).
For another authentic Irish pub with traditional live music and a warm atmosphere, Mc & Sons off Blackfriars Road in Borough is well worth a visit. You’ll be transported through time in this wood-panelled treasure, and that’s before you’ve even had a tipple. The old-fashioned snug, with sepia photographs and its own parlour game, is beautiful. But don’t expect a plate of Irish stew here as the pub serves Thai food – a bit unexpected but still absolutely delicious.