First, you will want to get an early start to the day, plan for a 9 o’clock breakfast in Cathedral Quarter, where you can sit down to a great meal at one of Belfast’s new hip restaurants. You’ll want to take your tea sitting by the window of the restaurant, to watch as the parade organizers begin marshaling their massive floats. After indulging in a light breakfast and friendly banter with the staff, bundle up and brace for the cold.
Walk to St. Georges market where you can shop the stalls for festive attire. Paddy caps, Aran sweaters, green scarfs, and gloves are all appropriate but don’t forget the jovial items of flair (these will be essential later). As you enjoy the market and make conversation with the stall keepers, you’ll be serenaded by live traditional Irish music (trad for short). Here you might stop to enjoy some sweets or a Belfast Bap, certainly a tea, as you tap along to the songs and watch the people dance.
Around a quarter to noon, make your way to city hall at the city center where the parade makes its loop. Here you’ll soak up the culture of the city as floats begin to ferry by, marveling at gigantic mythical St. Patrick and the ironic Titanic float, accompanied by more trad music and river dancers. After the parade finishes and you’re thoroughly frozen, it’s time to head into a pub for warmth and preliminary drinks. Find a decent snug to sit with your friends in the Garrick, and chat away while you thaw. Following a pint or two, it’s time to find another pub as the crowds begin to swell. Head down to get a proper meal in the Cathedral Quarter and stake out a table to watch the Ireland England rugby match.
After a proper feed, steel yourself for the cheer as the 3 o’clock match kicks off. This is where your newly acquired flair will come in handy for making new friends, as you cheer the all-Ireland team on against the pompous English. Strangers of all shapes and sizes become acquaintances, and then fast friends as Ireland carries the day and wins the rugby grand slam. Join the crowd in singing songs of victory as you partake in a now slightly drunken revelry.
Now as the day turns into evening, the celebration gets into full swing. Venture to Madden’s, Kelly’s Cellars, and then Hudson Yard (now Peaky Blinders) for the best wings in Belfast. After some good bar food, the pub crawl continues as you go from bar to bar, band to band, finally getting a booth at The John Hewitt. While the band plays yet more trad music, you join in the choruses and singing. End the night at the harp bar, where everyone begins to funnel as the rest of the bars close.
Head back to your Airbnb overlooking St. Anne’s Cathedral for rest from a St. Patrick’s Day you won’t forget.