March 17th is St Patrick’s Day, a National Holiday and celebration of all things Irish, from the Shamrock to the Leprechaun. The patron saint of Ireland, St Patrick was a fifth-century Christian missionary, who became an emblem of Ireland’s rich heritage when the Church declared a ‘feast day’, in his honour.
But this Celtic holiday isn’t only celebrated on the Emerald Isle. St. Patrick's Day parades were first held by Irish immigrants in New York in 1762, and since then, the raucous parties and traditions have spread across the world. Today revelers wear green or orange, eat Irish foods, drink Whisky, Baileys and Beer in Irish pubs and generally let loose with parades and performances of Celtic music and dancing.
Russia may seem like the least likely place for a ‘Paddy’s Day’ knees-up, but in 1992 Moscow held its own St Patrick’s Day Parade, which has blossomed from a few Cossacks on horseback waving Irish Flags, to a vibrant procession of floats and citizens in Celtic costume. Events end in the city’s pubs and clubs, with theatrical performances, bagpipe music and an all-round party atmosphere, with Russian revelers adding their own twist on Celtic traditions.
With all this going on, March in Moscow is not to be missed; whether you’re an Irish traveler looking for a home away from home, or want to play at being Irish for a day.
Discover the rest of Russia
Russia is a vast country with its own unique heritage; this is the land that inspired some of the greatest works of literature, from War and Peace to Crime and Punishment, the home of Vodka and the cradle of Communism. Once you’ve partied on Paddy’s Day, why not discover the rest of modern Moscow, before heading on to St Petersburg, the imperial home of the Russian Tsars? It would be impossible to see the world’s largest country in one trip, so a visit to the two main cities is a great way to sample Russian culture old and new.
More of Moscow
It’s no surprise Moscow has become the place to party – after decades of grey communist rule, an explosion of oil money and rapid modernisation has brought the city to life. But there’s far more to Moscow than oil and oligarchs. For more cultured pursuits after your Irish festivities, catch a performance of the Helikon Opera or the Bolshoi ballet, and wander through the Red Square and past the Kremlin, the historic centre of the city.
And on to St Petersburg…
St Petersburg may have surrendered its capital status, but it is packed with iconic architecture and some of the world’s greatest art. The Winter Palace is a must-see, but once you’ve been dazzled by its grand exterior be sure to venture inside for the Hermitage Museum, an extensive collection of Western European art, housed in 1057 rooms. For a real glimpse of Russian life, visit the Kuznechyy Market (open from Monday-Saturday), and regimented like a supermarket, with aisles of stalls devoted to certain products, from caviar to plates of tripe.
Russia on a budget
Russia has garnered a reputation as an expensive holiday destination, but whether you’re backpacking or on a budget, you can do Russian cities on a shoestring.
With its super-rich residents, Moscow is known as the world’s most expensive city to sleep in, but luckily there are still plenty of low-cost apartments and hostels in the city centre. There’s also a wide range of St Petersburg hostels near the main sites of Hermitage and Palace Square.
March is also a better time for bargain-hunters as it is out of high-season, and one of the cheapest times to visit – flight costs skyrocket and rooms are booked up during the winter, with its idyllic snowy scenery and in June, when St Petersburg’s ‘White Nights’ (a series of music festivals and cultural events) take place.