St Patricks Day Sydney has traditionally had the biggest parade in the world after New York. But that’s changing.
The wearing of the green was a sign of rebellion in Ireland in 1798. Green was the colour of the republican revolutionary movement and hanging the punishment for wearing it. Today it’s a celebration of all things Irish when worn on St Patrick’s Day in Sydney.
And you wouldn’t know it started out as a religious celebration. St Patricks Day Sydney is today wholly secular. It’s about a big parade, foot-tapping music, story-telling and drinking.
Australia has a long history of Irish convicts and immigrants and Sydney throws itself headlong into St Patricks Day activities. From outlandish clothes through to free Irish music you’ll find it in Sydney on St Patricks Day.
When is St Patricks Day?
St Patricks Day itself is always on 17 March. But the main St Patricks Day activities are held on the Sunday of the third weekend of March in Sydney Australia. (The Sydney mardi gras parade is on the first weekend of the month and we need time off to recover).
Official St Patricks Day Sydney activities are all on the Sunday. They’re strongly family-oriented, well organised and strictly controlled.
Away from this you can expect to see leaping leprechauns and other strange green costumed characters from Friday night onwards, especially around Irish pubs and bar precincts.
They’ll get ever more numerous through Saturday and Sunday.
There’s no doubt that there’s a strong alcohol-fuelled element to this celebration in Sydney. Be selective in which Irish pubs you enter – there’s a list below of good places to listen to Irish music and drink Guinness.
St Patricks Day Sydney Parade
In 2016, for the first time, there was no parade. Whether that’s the way it will be in future or not we don’t know yet. Soo this is how it has been up till now.
The St Patricks Day Sydney Parade and Family Day entertainment would start from 1030 with street entertainment for the crowds who collected to watch the first of the official St Patricks Day events.
The parade started at 12 noon at the Town Hall, on the corner of Bathurst and George Streets.
From there it went up Park Street, along Elizabeth Street as far as Hyde Park, where it ended by St James Station.
There’s not really any one best spot to watch. You got more of the pre-parade entertainment if you were within sight of the Town Hall. If you were closer to Hyde Park you could nab the best spots there for the family entertainment that followed the parade.
Free Irish Music
From 1300 to 1830 (1pm – 6.30pm) there’s usually a Family Day celebration at Hyde Park. With Irish songs and music, St Patricks Day Sydney food stalls, a bar with Guinness and a few other bits and pieces, the craic is good.
Expect modern Irish music, Irish dance performances and various interactive St Patricks Day activities for children.
Here’s a short-list of Irish pubs for St Patricks Day Sydney drinks, food, dancing and music. They’re definitely all still operating strongly, no matter what happens to the parade.
- The Harp, 900 Princes Highway, TempeTop Irish folk music, live bands, food, Irish karaoke, kids’ entertainment areas
- PJ O’Briens, The Grace Building, 57 King St, SydneyPaddys Day traditional hot Irish breakfast (including black pudding, fried eggs etc) 0800 to 1100 (8am – 11am) or lunch 1200 to 1500 (12 noon – 3pm), includes a Guinness or wine, bookings essential, Tel: +61 2 9290 1811
- Durty Nelly’s, 9-11 Glenmore Road, Paddington1000 to 1300 (10am – 1pm): Traditional Irish music with Irish set dancers. (Sunday often sees Irish fiddle music, or tin whistle/Irish flute music here). Full Irish breakfast (including Guinness/Irish coffee from 0900 (9am) St Patricks Day menu in restaurant upstairs from 1200 to 2130 (12 noon – 9.30pm), reservations essential, Tel: +61 2 9360 4467
- The Mercantile, 25 George St, The RocksAll day breakfast, live bands, including Irish rock music, all-wood bar, NOISY
- Scruffy Murphys 43-49 Goulburn St, SydneyThe quintessential backpackers bar. Irish breakfast, non-stop music, huge screens everywhere, St Patricks Day games (cockroach races anyone?). Open till all hours.
You’ll find plenty more pubs all around Sydney with everything from Irish country music to bawdy pub songs. Just assess them from the outside – you’ll be pretty clear about which ones you’d like to go into.
St Patricks Day for Kids
Children have traditionally been well catered for by St Patricks Day activities. Most people are happy to let them move to the front of the parade crowd. If your child is behind a taller person, just ask.
There has been a designated children’s area in Hyde Park as part of the Saint Pat’s Family Day, complete with its own stage for musical performances and other acts.
Animal rides, face painting, clowns and a bouncing castle also feature.
St Patricks Day Costumes
You won’t go wrong wearing anything green, especially not if it’s a shamrock, that well known St Patricks Day clover. It’s said that the clover was used by St Patrick to illustrate the concept of the holy trinity in the course of converting Ireland to Christianity.
If you feel like getting into the swing of things, a hat is easy to come by at any Two Dollar shop. Top hat, bowler hat, leprechaun hat – in plastic, glitter or felt – it’s hard to overdo it on St Patricks Day Sydney.
More March Madness & Mayhem
There’s so much on in March, even if there’s no St Patrick’s Day parade. Tickle your palate at the food and wine festival, work out those synapses at art month and, if you’re here in an ‘even’ year you can catch the Sydney biennale.