12 Amazing Irish Festivals to Attend

One thing about Ireland is for sure, and that’s that any Irish festival is sure to be a party. There’s no denying that Ireland can sometimes seem a sleepy, quaint country. But alongside the miles of rolling green hillsides, sheep-laden fields, and beautiful coastlines, there is an underbelly of liveliness, adventure, and once-in-a-lifetime experiences.

One thing for which there is no short supply in this incredible country is festivals; Ireland is chock full of beautiful places, events, festivals, and fairs to suit various interests. From arts and traditional music to some of the best local food you’ll ever taste, there’s something for everyone. And bonus, the fun doesn’t stop in the chilly months! Here is a list of some of the most popular Irish festivals…for every month of the year!

Irish Festivals Worthy of Attending

The Top Irish Festival in January – Temple Bar TradFest 

Irish Festivals to Attend
January 25-29, 2023

The Temple Bar TradFest (say that ten times fast) runs for five days in the last half of January every year, at the tail end of winter and to celebrate the imminent arrival of spring. This festival is growing in popularity every single year. The festival’s genre is in the name; this is a niche celebration of traditional Irish tunes.

At least, that’s how it started out; now, the festival has expanded so that there is a widespread of musical genres to appeal both to the stubbornly traditional and the musical generalist. TradFest’s roots are firmly planted in traditional Irish music, but folk and even rock and roll have a place there. 

The festival showcases national talent in several different venues (including City Hall) so that you can see more of the city while you attend.

Location: Dublin

The Top Irish Festival in February – The Gathering

Over two decades of this festival in Ireland has culminated in something extraordinary. The Gathering is a widely-loved festival for Irish tradition in its richest forms – including music, jig, storytelling, and ceilidhs.

There are even masterclasses from musicians to teach the art of instrument craft. Whether your interest lies with the fiddle, accordion, flute, or another instrument, there are workshops and experts to show you the tricks of their trade.

The sheer size of the festival means that events, shows, and workshops will take place in several venues located around town – from trendy bars and swanky hotels to classic ballrooms – but it is headquartered at the Gleneagle Hotel. If you can get a room there, you’ll be close to the action!

Location: Killarney, County Kerry

The Top Irish Festival in March – St Patrick’s Day Festival (Obviously)

Irish Festivals

St Patrick’s Day, on March 17th every year, is the biggest and most extravagant of the Irish festivals. Obviously, you knew this would be listed on this list of the best festivals in Ireland.

Every city will, of course, have its own festival, parade, or other fun show, but the largest of them is undoubtedly the annual St Patrick’s Day Festival in Dublin City. This celebration spans a full five days in mid-March and is geared towards those with an inner party animal. Think Mardi Gras, but for nearly a week and with a lot more beer.

The events offered across the five days cover a lot of ground: you can tour the 300-year-old Marsh’s Library, take a city walk to retrace the steps of St. Patrick himself, fill your stomach at a craft beer & food festival, listen to live music left right and center, and the cherry on top: a huge parade that works for hand in glove with theatre and pageantry companies to put on a show, unlike anything you’ve ever seen.

Location: Dublin and around Ireland

The Top Irish Festival in April – Cork VegFest

If you have any interest in veganism, sustainability, animal rights issues, or just a general appreciation for food, you’ll want to add the Cork VegFest to your itinerary. This isn’t just about plant-based dishes; VegFest is a celebration of veganism and vegan cuisine and puts a spotlight on local vegan-friendly businesses.

You can find everything here, including demonstrations, product and dish sampling, information booths, and many more. As the vegan industry & lifestyle grows in popularity, so do the options for plant-based food substitutes (and their quality has skyrocketed in recent years, so even if you aren’t vegan, we can promise that you are in for some very fine dining!).

Veganism is growing, and this popular Irish festival shows that the plant-based food movement is starting to reach more and more communities in many countries. Every April, there’s a roster of panel speakers, performers, and educators to add something new to your vegan knowledge. But in addition to the educational aspects, there are fun events such as a vegan (temporary) tattoo station and even a hot sauce competition!

Location: Cork, County Cork

The Top Irish Festival in May – The Burren Slow Food Festival

Festivals in Ireland
Happening May 19 – 21, 2023

For anyone who hasn’t yet come across the term, ‘slow food’ is, in short, a movement: it is a celebration of food that is made and eaten slowly, intentionally, and mindfully. There is also a heavy emphasis on a production process with a small footprint; if it is actively fighting against harming the environment, chances are it qualifies as slow food.

The Burren Slow Food Festival is one celebration dedicated to knowing and understanding where your food comes from and the economic, political, and agricultural aspects of the entire culture of the food processing industry. This May festival offers food and cooking demonstrations, meet and greets with local food producers who keep their farming local, and sampling of some of the freshest, Ireland-produced food around.

You might never have thought of food as ‘endangered,’ but that’s just the kind of eye-opening information you’ll learn if you attend!

Location: The Burren, County Clare

The Top Irish Festival in June – Taste of Dublin

Festivals in Ireland
Taste of Dublin Opening session. Photo; Allen Kiely

Four days in June (5th – 18th June 2023) are home to another festival entirely dedicated to food (we know these are numerous, but how could anyone get bored of a food festival?). While this festival has similarities to other culinary-related events in the country (engaging with industry suppliers, chefs, and other professionals), the key feature of the Taste of Dublin is undoubtedly its masterclasses on offer. Always wanted to learn how to make cocktails? No problem.

Spend time in the taste marketplace to connect with artisan culinary producers to find the best of the best when it comes to ingredients & supplies – these vendors stock only the best when it comes to food and drink. This is a ticketed event (€28 for a standard entrance), but it’s worth the investment.

Location: Dublin City

The Top Irish Festival in July – Galway International Arts Festival

Festivals in Ireland
2023 Dates: 17-30 July

The GIAF (Galway International Arts Festival) happens in July each year. Now in its 43rd year, the festival sees installations and contributions by musicians, dance companies, theater productions, and more. The festival has grown to such a size that it overtakes several venues within the city, many with extra accessibility and sustainability initiatives. 

Think anything and everything, including street dancing performances, giant puppeteering, and on-the-spot live music jam sessions. Whether your particular arts interests lie in the theater, music, dance, visual arts, or comedy, there are sure to be dozens of shows you’ll be ecstatic to see.

The annual recorded talks are also on display, where people ranging from red carpet stars and playwrights to CEOs are interviewed to talk about their perception of issues faced by our world today.

Location: Galway City, County Galway

The Top Irish Festival in August – Fleadh Cheoil

2023 Festival Dates: August 6th-14th

One of the nicest months of the year, some of the best traditional music Ireland as a whole has to offer, and five straight days of musical and artistic indulgence. The Fleadh Cheoil na hÉireann festival takes place in Drogheda every year, having started with its founders dreaming of bringing Ireland’s top musical talent to their small town for five days a year.

In a time when traditional musicians were not held in high esteem, the goal was to bring morale to an all-time high and reinvigorate the pride and joy taken in the country’s traditional sound. 

Nearly 70 years later, the festival is only growing in size with each passing year. Nearly 400,000 attendees come from all over the country, with around one-third of visitors arriving overseas. Local orchestras, live street music & dance, walking tours of the historic city, and organized concerts held in various venues around town are just a sliver of what’s on offer at this renowned festival. Note that most of the events are ticketed, so be sure to obtain them beforehand on the festival website.

Location: Drogheda, County Meath

The Top Irish Festival in September – National Ploughing Festival

Festivals in Ireland
2023 Dates: September 19th, 20th & 21st

You can add this to your list of unique festivals in Ireland. While not focusing on traditional Irish tunes or the finest dining the country has to offer, the National Ploughing Festival is still a significant cultural event in the country.

This festival is an outdoor agricultural event focusing on – as the name would suggest – the main event consisting of a plowing competition, where the neatness and linearity of the plowing strip are judged against other competitors. 

Ireland’s festival is the largest in the world, and the festival lasts a full three days, with an astonishing attendance of almost 300,000. The perfect combination of participation (this is something of a farmer’s party!) and uniqueness makes it an ideal candidate for the list of popular festivals in Ireland.

Location: Ballintrane, County Carlow

Other Option – Galway Oyster Fest

Oyster Festival
2023 Dates: Saturday 22-24

The native Galway Flat Oyster comes into season every September through April and is one of the best festivals in Ireland we’ve ever attended. There’s no better or Irish way to celebrate this wild Atlantic and salty oyster than with a giant festival, a few pints of Guinness, and live Irish music in Galway Bay Harbour.

In celebration of the season, the Galway Oyster and Seafood festival happens on the last weekend of September every year and has over the previous 64 years.

It may have started as a little gathering of a couple of dozen people, but it has grown to include several thousand people and truckfuls of oysters. While you can enjoy oysters all year, like Oyster Pacific Oyster or Giga, the festival highlights the native flat and is quite the party!

Location: Downtown Galway

The Top Irish Festival in October – Cork Folk Festival

Irish Festivals to Attend
2023 Dates: Sept 28th- October 1st

If there’s one thing Ireland knows how to do, it’s music. This year, Cork is hosting the annual folk festival for the 40th year in a row, and it promises to be a seriously good time. This isn’t your average folk festival where indie singers and bands come from all over the world; instead, this is a homage to Irish folk music. 

The venues involved are bars and pubs, among the city’s oldest or most popular venues, including An Spailpin Fanach (founded in 1779) and Oliver Plunkett Bar. So not only will you get to hear some of the best regional folk music the country has to offer, but the ambiance and setting will complement the tunes just as nicely. (Plus, we know from personal experience that a Guinness goes perfectly with Irish folk music, especially when it’s live.)

Location: Cork, County Cork

Other October Option – Halloween Festival

Festivals in Ireland

The city of Galway has been dubbed “Festival City” and is well known as the festival capital of Ireland.

Throughout the year, the city draws in visitors from all over the world for world-class events, like St. Patrick’s Day in March, the Galway Races in the summer, Galway Jazz Festival, the Comedy Festival, and Galway International Arts Festival in October.

Besides the Galway Oyster Fest, we could visit the Halloween Festival and see one of the best Halloween Parades on this planet! The whole city lights up in spookiness. Fall is in the air, people drink beer at the Galway pubs and their scary costumes, and the night ends with an epic Halloween parade.

Location: Galway City

The Top Irish Festival in November – Cork Chocolate Festival And Baking World

2023: November 27th – 29th

We’ve all had our weekends where we overindulge in sweets a little more than we’d have liked, but when there’s an entire weekend festival dedicated to chocolate and baked goods, you’d be crazy not to partake.

Another festival in Cork, the Baking and Chocolate Weekend, happens over a weekend in the last half of November. So it’s a perfect way to start feeling festive in time for the arrival of December. The decadence and immediate interest with which most greet this festival landed it pretty quickly on our list of popular festivals in Ireland.

Over the two-day festival, top chocolatiers and bakers from Ireland and abroad will host demonstrations, and attendees can partake in 30-minute tasting sessions (because what good is a chocolate festival if you don’t get to eat any?). If you’re traveling with children, there are even workshops available for both samplings of the goods and for any kids with an interest in baking themselves!

Location: Cork, County Cork

The Top Irish Festival in December – Viennese Christmas by Candlelight

Dates 2023: December 10th

With the arrival of December, the Irish festivals around the country take a turn towards the Christmassy. With the holidays fast approaching, festive events pop up left and right, such as Bavarian-inspired Christmas markets, holiday music events, and city-wide decorating. 

Happening annually in St Patrick’s Cathedral in Dublin City, the Viennese Christmas by Candlelight is a one-night affair where the London Concertante arrives to play through their festive orchestra list of pieces, from Tchaikovsky and Brahms to Strauss.

Regardless of your level of knowledge or involvement with classical music, this is something that even the most novice of orchestra-goers can enjoy and is sure to get you in the mood for the holidays.

Occurring only two weeks before Christmas, it’s the perfect evening out.

Location: St Patrick’s Cathedral, Dublin

Quick Ireland Travel Tips

Best Places to Visit in Ireland
  • ‘Hello’ and ‘Thank You’ in Gaelic: “Dia dhuit” and “Go raibh maith agat”
  • Currency: Euro – (EUR) – €
  • Visa: The Republic of Ireland & Northern Ireland are separate countries on the island of Ireland. The Republic of Ireland, known as ‘Ireland,’ grants 90-day visas. Northern Ireland, a part of the United Kingdom, also grants 90 days.
  • Weather: Expect lots of weather! Ireland is known for having rapid shifts and lots of rain the only reason a country like Ireland remains so green and fertile. See our full packing list here.
  • When is the best time to visit Dublin? Ireland is a fantastic country to visit year-round. However, you’ll find crowds during the summer. My favorite time to visit Ireland is in September when the weather is cool and the low crowds. Plus, it’s when the famous Galway Oyster Festival happens!
Best Places To Visit In Ireland (Beautiful Travel Destinations)

When is the Best Time to Travel to Ireland for Good Weather?

Best Places to Visit in Ireland

If you are wondering when the best time to visit Ireland for good weather is – it’s summer. You stand your best chance of good weather in Ireland between July and early September. Temperatures range from 15°C-21°C.

However, September is a great time to visit the best festivals in Ireland. Of course, St. Patricks Day is the most famous Irish festival, so you’ll have to deal with Irish march weather if you want to experience that.

Locals enjoy the sunny weather and festivals in the countryside and the city. It’s the perfect time to enjoy a pint of Guinness outside and watch life go by! Read more about the best time to visit Ireland.

Money-Saving Tips For Ireland

Two Currencies

Keep in mind that Ireland is actually two countries! The Republic of Ireland, which takes up most of the island of Ireland, and Northern Ireland, which is part of the United Kingdom, occupy the Northeast. The Republic of Ireland uses the Euro (€), and the United Kingdom uses the British Pound (£). You can learn more about travel in Ireland here.

Cook Your Own Food

If your accommodation has a kitchen, it’s best to use it. We save money this way when traveling around Ireland. Grocery stores in Ireland are excellent and well-stocked, and one can easily cook a fantastic meal with delicious Italian red wine for cheap.

The grocery store provides excellent value, especially on Italian food like pasta, prosciutto, and grapes. Don’t worry about eating local, as they’re often stocked with many beautiful Italian products.

Drink Tap Water

The tap water in Ireland is lovely to drink, so best not to waste money or plastic on one-time-use water bottles. Get yourself a travel water bottle and keep refilling it!

Travel During the Offseason

Ireland, particularly shrines, in the offseason. I’m not too fond of crowds or high prices, so I love traveling between September and May. We highlight the best time to visit Ireland in this post.

Plan For Your Trip

About Natasha Alden

Natasha is the co-founder of The World Pursuit. She is an expert in travel, budgeting, and finding unique experiences. She loves to be outside, hiking in the mountains, playing in the snow on her snowboard, and biking. She has been traveling for over 10 years, across 7 continents, experiencing unique cultures, new food, and meeting fantastic people. She strives to make travel planning and traveling easier for all. Her advice about international travel, outdoor sports, and African safari has been featured on Lonely Planet, Business Insider, and Reader’s Digest.

Learn more about Natasha Alden on The World Pursuit About Us Page.

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