There’s no question, Dublin is a fantastic city for shopping. Independent shops and boutiques line up alongside their chain store rivals, and you can often find excellent craftsmanship in the form of hand-woven wool blankets and clothes, high-quality crafts and antiques, and chic fashions from the seemingly limitless line of Dublin designers.
The hub of mainstream shopping south of the Liffey is indisputably Grafton Street, with its mix of big chains, chi-chi department stores, and little shops. It’s also a popular site for street performers, where you’re almost guaranteed an impromptu show, rain or shine. Grafton Street is crowned by the city’s most fashionable department store, Brown Thomas (known as BT), and the jeweler Weir & Sons, but much better shopping is on the smaller streets radiating out from Grafton, such as Duke, Dawson, Nassau, and Wicklow streets, where you’ll find shops that specialize in books, handicrafts, jewelry, gifts, and clothing. For clothes, look out for tiny Cow’s Lane, off Lord Edward Street—it’s popular with those in the know for its excellent clothing boutiques selling the works of local designers. Also in Grafton’s penumbra are William Street South, Castle Market, and Drury Street, all of which have smart boutiques and irresistible tiny shops. On William Street South, check out the Powerscourt Townhouse Centre, a small, elegant shopping center in a grand Georgian town house. Not far away, the George’s Street Arcade is a marvelous clutter of bohemian jewelry, used books, vintage clothes, and other things appealing to the alternative crowd (they even have a resident fortune teller).
Generally, Dublin shops are open from 9am to 6pm Monday to Saturday, and Thursday until 9pm. Most shops have Sunday hours, although they vary; some open at 9am, but most are open 11am to 6 or 7pm.
Dublin has several clusters of shops in multistory malls or ground-level arcades, ideal for indoor shopping on rainy days. On the Northside, these include the ILAC Centre, off Henry Street (www.ilac.ie; [tel] 01/828-8900), and the Jervis Shopping Centre (www.jervis.ie; [tel] 01/878-1323), at 125 Abbey Street. On the south side, there’s the small Royal Hibernian Way, 49–50 Dawson Street ([tel] 01/679-5919); the gleaming wrought-iron-and-glass St. Stephen’s Green Centre at the top of Grafton Street (www.stephensgreen.com; [tel] 01/478-0888); and the Powerscourt Townhouse Centre, 59 William Street South (www.powerscourtcentre.com; [tel] 01/679-4144). In the southern suburbs, about 8km (5 miles) south of the city center, the large Dundrum Town Centre on Sandyford Road ([tel] 01/229-1700; www.dundrum.ie) has several major fashion outlets.
Five Cool Souvenirs for €5 (or Less!) in Dublin
Sure, you can stop by any of the multitude of souvenir stores in Dublin for a keychain shaped like a shamrock, or a t-shirt with an “amusing” slogan (“Irish I were drunk!” “Fifty Shades of Green!"). But unless your friends really do want a hat shaped like a pint of Guinness, you’ll score better points back home with one of these more authentic mementos.
- A pennywhistle. At Waltons, which has been in the music business since the 1920s, you’ll find instruments both traditional and modern, ranging from an authentic bodhrán (drum) for about €50, to an “absolute beginners” Dublin tin whistle set, complete with DVD tutorial and songbook, for €17.
- Hedgerow jam. Known for its soft-as-silk hand-woven wool items, Avoca Handweavers offers more than just lovely clothing. You can also pick up a jar of their traditional Irish breakfast marmalade or the delightfully named hedgerow jam—each an Avoca specialty costing €5. (Meanwhile, buy yourself a luxurious Avoca blanket, dyed with traditional methods in vibrant shades of blue, green, or pink—a relative bargain, given their quality, starting at around €50)
- A chic shopping bag. They don't ask "paper or plastic" at Irish supermarkets; indeed, by law, they can't be given away for free. You're expected to bring your own, and if you don't, you can find sturdy, reusable bags near the checkout for €1 and up. Tesco's basic black bags are good-looking and useful for hauling all your stuff around town, in Dublin and at home. You might also find a designer bag with a cool pattern that costs a bit more (say €3.50), with the proceeds going to charity.
- Flapjacks. Flapjacks. If you ask for a flapjack in Ireland, you won’t get a pancake, but a sweet biscuit (cookie to North Americans) made from rolled oats, butter, brown sugar, and honey, often with fruit, nuts, or yogurt added. These traditional treats can be bought in boxes at food stores, or grab one in a coffee shop for a euro or two. They stay fresh for a few days, and are sturdy enough to survive the trip home.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.