St. Patrick’s Day is March 17th and the best places to honor Ireland’s culture are well known. Dublin, Boston and New York all top the list of great locales to drink green beer and to celebrate all things Irish. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t other places around the world where you can celebrate this auspicious day in the way God intended, eating corned beef and lifting a pint of Guinness. Thanks to the diaspora of Irish pubs around the world, it’s never been easier to recognize Irish heritage, even in some of these somewhat unlikely destinations.
1. Istanbul – Many people perhaps wouldn’t think of Istanbul as a great Paddy’s day spot because Turkey is a Muslim country. What many people may not know though is that while Turkey is indeed predominately Muslim, it features a secular, democratic, constitutional government and Istanbul in particular has a long history of multiculturalism. While the holiday won’t consume the city as it will in Boston, there are enough foreigners in town to ensure a lively evening. Not only are there some great places to explore and enjoy a fun night out, there’s a large expat community which of course means Irish pubs. The James Joyce Irish Pub, located in the Beyoğlu district, does more than just offer beer, they showcase Ireland through an Irish culture festival every March that highlights Irish music, literature, dance and more. It’s a great way to get into the spirit of the holiday in a somewhat unlikely locale.
2. Franz Josef – What makes Franz Josef an unusual place to spend St. Patrick’s Day has nothing to do with the culture and everything to do with its size. Located on New Zealand’s South Island, the hamlet of Franz Josef is the launch pad for exploring the famous Franz Josef glacier. Almost everything in town is devoted to this mission and there are many more tourists than actual residents in this mountain village. That doesn’t mean there aren’t great places to enjoy a pint or two, and due to its isolated location Franz Josef may be one of the most fun places to usher in St. Patrick’s Day. There are a few choices in town, but the most popular restaurant and pub always seems to be Speights Landing Bar & Restaurant. Almost any night of the week you can expect to find this place teeming with a mix of mountain adventurers, mild mannered vacationers and young backpackers, making the experience fun and never the same twice. This is only amplified on St. Patrick’s Day when these sometimes disparate groups of travelers all unify into one Irish mob.
3. San Juan – Not your average Caribbean town, San Juan’s attitude has evolved over time to include rich influences from the Caribbean, Spain and the US amongst others. Latin culture prevails here and you’re much more likely to find a Pina Colada than a beer when out on the town. Spending St. Patrick’s Day here isn’t necessarily about getting closer to your Irish roots; it’s about celebrating the day with a fun island twist. Forget the céilidh and shamrock beads, first start out by visiting one of the many salsa bars in Old San Juan. Even if you can’t dance, watching the couples intent on giving a master class in the art of salsa is a great way to spend a few hours. Rum is king in San Juan, so just this one time forgo the Harp and accept the fact that Puerto Ricans may enjoy the holiday in a different way, but they still enjoy it. After the salsa lesson, walk around the gorgeous Old San Juan area until you find a pub that appeals to you. Many feature rooftop decks that provide fabulous breezes and prime people watching venues.
4. Reykjavik – Iceland is great, but it’s a very homogenous population. Just about all of the residents can trace back their Icelandic heritage for generations, but ultimately everyone was an immigrant at some point. Icelandic heritage points to a number of origins including Viking and yes, even some Irish. While Iceland hasn’t really embraced the holiday just yet, there are several places to enjoy the day. Sometimes communities in the Westfjords have commemorated the holiday, but most of the action will be in Reykjavik itself. There are two Irish pubs in downtown Reykjavik, The Dubliner and the Celtic Cross. Admittedly, the Celtic Cross is a little Scottish in design, so for the full Irish effect, stake your claim in the Dubliner. Icelanders haven’t gone crazy about this holiday yet, so expect to find yourself accompanied by a lot of expats and tourists.
5. Singapore – At first celebrating St. Patrick’s Day in the steamy city-state of Singapore may seem a bit odd. But if you know about the country’s history as a former British colony, then the pieces start to fall into place. Not only does Singapore reflect its colonial past, but as one of the major business centers in the world it draws people from all backgrounds, most of who like to celebrate the day of the Irish. This influence is so strong that there is actually a St. Patrick’s Society in Singapore, whose mission is to promote Ireland and Irish culture. Their big annual events of the year are a St. Patrick’s Ball and Parade. For the ultimate in Irish immersion in Asia, attend the fashionable ball on St. Patrick’s Day eve that features Irish cuisine, drink and music. Then rouse yourself on the big day itself to watch as the parade marches past. Later that evening you have your choice of Irish pubs around town, my favorite though is Molly Malone’s Irish Pub, the oldest in Singapore. Designed and built in Ireland, the pub was shipped to Singapore and reassembled at Circular Road located along Singapore’s famous Boat Quay area and promises a fun night out any night, but especially on St. Patrick’s Day.
What are some of your favorite unusual locations to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day?