Designers, artisans and antique traders alike will tell you Dublin is renowned as a hub of creativity. And that extends to the wares you’ll find in shops all over the city. Tourists might make a beeline to the Irish capital’s two main drags, Grafton Street on the southside and Henry Street on the north. Both are filled with international high street chains and the all-encompassing Dunnes, Ireland’s budget department store. But moments away, there’s a host of independent shops, markets and commercial complexes that add to the Dublin experience just as much as its novel bars, contemporary restaurants and one-of-a-kind hotels.
With its abundance of fine raw materials – from Aran wool to reclaimed wood – and creatives who know how to fashion them into alluring forms, you’ll find that independently-made products rival the high-end designer brands (and there’s plenty of them here, too). For those with cash to flash, here’s the lowdown on where to go and what to buy.
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Best places to go shopping in Dublin
Opened in 1849, Brown Thomas is the chicest department store in Ireland and the first port of call for Prada, Gucci and Chanel fiends. Make your way past the uniformed doormen greeting customers on Grafton Street, and spread across four floors, you’ll find a designer jewellery, homeware and clothing paradise. There’s a restaurant and café, an extensive lingerie section, and a make-up bar for those readying themselves for a night out.
Famed for their Irish homeware and food, the multi-storey Suffolk Street branch of Avoca is crammed full with all manner of (quite pricey) products with a modern country aesthetic – think pastel blues and pinks, and stylish floral prints. Avoca’s range extends to candles, soaps, bohemian-tinged clothing – and some signature eye-catching blankets.
The streets of the Liberties overflow with history, and Liberty Market is a microcosm of all that. Inside, stallholders sell everything from toys to trainers, make-up to meat – just as they have done for decades. Locals jest with each other, adding to the market’s atmospheric buzz. The quality might not always be top-notch, but it’s cheap and most definitely cheerful.
Hodges Figgis is Ireland’s oldest bookshop. Founded in 1768, it’s since evolved into an expansive four-floor literary utopia (now under the stewardship of Waterstones). It’s stacked full of academic books, partly because of its location bang opposite Trinity College, but the renowned Irish section covers photography, travel, nature, folklore, cookery and literature, too. There’s a sizeable bestsellers section, and it hosts regular events with visiting authors.
It’s not only the well-maintained Victorian-era building that’s impressive – inside this city-centre arcade, a host of regularly changing stalls and shops offer plenty to keep the credit card busy. For all sorts of quirky gifts, the standout store must be Abode. Elsewhere, there’s a tarot reader for all your prediction needs, and if you need a break, no-frills café Simon’s Place is a proper institution.
Ideal for rainy days, Dundrum Shopping Centre is the largest mall in Ireland. It’s mostly filled with international chains, so expect to amble past Hollister, Harvey Nicks, Marks and Spencer, House of Fraser, H&M and Penneys (aka Primark). All the usual extras are here, too: bars and restaurants, a playground and crèche for kids, and a 12-screen cinema complex that often hosts preview screenings. It’s south of the city, but easily accessible by tram.
On Saturdays, Cow’s Lane transforms from a spacious pedestrianised thoroughfare bordered by offbeat stores like the Gutter Bookshop and Find, full of art and design knick-knacks, into a busy design market. On the quieter west end of Temple Bar, you’ll find embroidered pictures, hand-forged jewellery, bog-oak ornaments and other neat potential souvenirs (or gifts). Here, more than anywhere else, you get the sense you’re supporting local craftspeople – as often they’re the ones selling the goods, too. Win-win.
Bringing together Irish and international makers, Designist offers a decent selection of refined gifts that give equal primacy to form and function. They’re particularly strong on baby presents, stylish kitchenware and Dublin-related art and books. Their cards are designed by Irish illustrators so blow-ins might not get all the references, especially when they’re in Gaelic, but that makes them all the more fun to riffle through.
The relaxed fishing village of Howth is a popular day trip, and this small weekend market only adds to its charm. Much of the area is given over to food trucks so it’s a handy place to stop and refuel before tackling the Howth Head coastal walk. But you’ll also find stalls brimming with foodie gifts – think homemade jams, juices and oils – plus handicrafts, jewellery, art and lotions. It gets busy at peak times on sunny days, so be prepared to jostle for space.
On the first Saturday of every month, the George Bar on Great George’s Street turns into a hip flea market with all manner of curios for purchase. It’s the place to get your statement jewellery, skincare products and vinyl. Prices are perfect for the thrifty and, even if you’re short on cash, the cool vibe and live music are enough of a draw for an afternoon outing.
This Georgian townhouse-turned-quirky shopping mall is lined with all manner of excellent high-end boutiques, specialising in everything from plants to pendants. In the atrium, you’ll find three levels of winning stores like Article (for sophisticated homeware) and MoMuse (for minimalist jewellery). On the top floor, Atrium showcases an ever-changing mix of Irish and international sustainable designers. It’s also home to Chupi, a much-revered handmade jewellery brand.
Parallel to Grafton Street, you’ll find a cluster of independent shops packed with high-quality products you’d be hard-pressed to find elsewhere. Drury Street is home to Om Diva, your first stop for contemporary Irish design and vintage fashion for women, and Industry & Co, which sells plush homeware and furniture. Its nextdoor neighbour, Irish Design Shop, is also decent for gifts, and Carousel, on the corner, is where to find cute dresses and accessories. Don’t miss Jenny Vander, a glamorous vintage clothing store, and Fresh Cuts if you’re into your ethical fashion.
Looking for somewhere to cool off?
There’s a reason green is the national colour of Ireland. The whole island is defined by its lush fields, verdant woodland and gorgeous gardens – and the capital city is no different. It’s home to Phoenix Park, the largest urban park in Europe, and elsewhere it brims with luxuriant public spaces.