Shopping in Dublin: Four Key Areas

by ykmedia

Read this guide to make sure you don't pass Dublin's best shops and I tell you where to find them - it's easy when you know how!

Grafton Street - upmarket shops

Found between Trinity College Dublin and St Stephen’s Green, this shopping area attracts upmarket shoppers who favour designer labels and have a budget to stretch. Brown Thomas (88 Grafton Street, Dublin 2; +353 6056666; www.brownthomas.com) is the Holy Grail for slaves to catwalk trends, local and international, and while the store (known locally as BTs) is a beautifully laid out and glamorous hang out, only fashionistas and socialites are regular faces here. BT’s Christmas window display is a tourist attraction in itself. The younger offspring of BT, catering to a trendy market, BT2 (28/29 Grafton Street, Dublin 2; +353 6056666; www.bt2.ie) is found almost opposite. There are cafés upstairs in both stores. Classy Grafton Street is well worth a browse but check out quirky stores on side streets before you spend your hard earned pennies. 

Arcades and malls - explore Grafton street surrounds

My personal spending preferences are the cafés and boutiques along Wicklow Street, leading from Grafton Street to South Great George’s Street (parallel). You’ll find more affordable stores along Wicklow Street, and delicious eateries, as well as the alternative music store Tower Records (6-8 Wicklow Street, Dublin 2; www.towerrecords.ie) with an in-store café. Behind Grafton Street are upmarket Westbury and Powerscourt Malls (59 William St, Dublin 2; +353 6794144; www.powerscourtcentre.com). Powerscourt Centre is set in one of the finest Georgian town mansions in Dublin, housing speciality shops, antiques, jewellery and art as well as vintage, ethical and Irish designs on the second floor in the original and funky The Loft Market, open Fri-Sun. It’s a beautiful spot for a relaxing coffee. George’s Street Arcade (S Great Georges St, Dublin; +353 283 6077; www.georgesstreetarcade.ie) in this area grants an entirely different shopping experience, where 40 individual stores sell , alternative, vintage and second-hand wares. 

For Irish souvenirs, if expensive ones, head to Avoca Handweavers (11-13 Suffolk Street, Dublin 2; +353 677 4215; www.avoca.ie) for three floors of leading Irish fashion and crafts or nearby Kilkenny Design Centre (6-15 Nassau Street, Dublin 2; +353 677 7066; www.kilkennyshop.com) also specialises in Irish design. Grafton Street's legendary tea and coffee house, in an oriental inspired building, Bewley’s Cafe (78/79 Grafton Street, Dublin 2, +353 (1) 672 7720, www.bewleys.com) is the ideal stop for a snack en route to St Stephen’s Green Shopping Centre (Stephens Green West, Dublin 2; +353 4780888; www.stephensgreen.com). This is a major landmark where you’ll find more affordable shopping and eating than along Grafton Street - adjacent to the centre are popular fashion stores H&M, Zara and Topshop.

Henry Street - affordable city centre shopping

Henry Street on the north side, off O’Connell Street, offers more affordable city centre shopping. Head to Arnotts Department Store (12 Henry St, Dublin 1; +353 805 0400; www.arnotts.ie) for popular high street clothing, footwear and homeware labels or similarly, nearby ILAC and Jervis Street Shopping Centres (125 Abbey Street Upper, Dublin 1; www.jervis.ie). Moore Street off Henry Street is one of Dublin’s most historical shopping strips where local fishermen and food growers sold their wares from modest pop up stalls. You'll find bargains but the quality these days is poor.

O'Connell Street is a busy traffic thoroughfare, home to Dublin's oldest department store Clery's (27 O'Connell Street Lower Dublin 1; +353 8786000; www.clerys.ie) -- stocking designer and well known high street labels today.  Directly opposite, you'll find the gargantuan one stop shop for all manner of reading and writing material, plus a cute cafe, Easons Book Shop (40 Lower O’Connell Street, Dublin 1; +353 8583800; www.easons.ie). The Spire marks the street end, as does the Gresham Hotel, a good choice for lunch.

Dundrum - a fantastic suburban shopping complex

Dundrum Town Centre (Sandyford Road, Dundrum, Dublin 16; +353 2991700; www.dundrum.ie) is a fantastic suburban shopping complex 10 minutes south from St Stephen’s Green (city centre) on the Luas. Head here if you're in the mood to shop ‘til you drop for high-street and international labels. Opening hours are extended in Dundrum from 9am-10pm Mon-Fri, or 9am-7pm Saturday and 10am-7pm on Sunday.

International department stores such as House of Fraser are in here, alongside trendy shops such as Urban Outfitters and excellent cafés and restaurants framing a carefully landscaped central space with fountains and a walkway. The area even has a cinema and theatre, and bars that are at their liveliest on Thursday and Friday nights. This is shopping at its easiest, and you’ll be spoiled for choice – there are even milk bottle warming stations in the main complex for mothers with infants in tow.

Where to stay

Any of my recommended city centre Dublin Hotels – Award winning expert hotel reviews, from cheap to luxury hotels in Dublin are an excellent choice for these main shopping districts, especially The Fitzwilliam Hotel, The Shelbourne, The Cliff Town House , Buswells Hotel and The Merrion all within a short stroll of the Luas and also Grafton Street. The Hilton Dublin is close to the Luas for Dundrum Town Centre. Closer to Henry and Jervis Streets, Gresham Hotel Dublin, Trinity Capital Hotel and The Clarence are handy.

More expert advice on Dublin

Read my shopping overview on my Shopping in Dublin page.

ykmedia

I've sponsored terminally itchy feet as a journalist and travel writer for 10 years. Living in Chicago, San Francisco and San Diego before taking time to soak up Asia and Australia on my travels to New Zealand, I landed my first journalism job with Mountain Scene in Queenstown, NZ (2003) where I lingered for five years as a freelancer for the Herald on Sunday, New Zealand Herald and Insight Guides, magazines B-Guided, Ski & Snow, Fitness Life, and columnist for Avenues. I also wrote travel pieces for Backpacker and Food & Wine magazines in Ireland.  Home to roost in 2008, these days I work as Deputy Editor for Irish Country Magazine and freelance for Women Mean Business magazine and various websites. I also run my own eco-fashion agency YK Styles, which I set up in 2009.  

I've come full circle. Dublin is home for me once again. Time away allowed me to develop a new appreciation of the grey (and often wet) cobbled streets between Dublin's Victorian and Georgian walls. Dramatic bridges and luminous lights in the rejuvenated Docklands area now complement a medieval aesthetic. The excesses of the Celtic Tiger years have bowed to a more sincere, affordable and friendly city. One thing stays the same: the joy of cosying into a serene,darkened Dublin pub, distant music floating in from a street busker, while waiting for a creamy pint of Guinness to settle...bliss. 

My Dublin

 

Where I always grab a coffee/tea/hot chocolate: Bewleys Café on Grafton Street in a C18th building, refurbished in the 1920s to resemble cafes in Paris and Vienna, oriental tearooms and Egyptian architecture – yes, really. Admire six imposing stained glass windows, and two floors up, gaze down onto the buzz of Grafton Street from the theatre café balcony. Immortalised by James Joyce in ‘Dubliners', it's the biggest café in Ireland, and in this case at least, biggest is best.

My favourite stroll: Through the grounds of Trinity College, along Dame Street, weaving the cobbled lanes of Temple Bar, past Dublin Castle, to reach Christchurch Cathedral at the top of the hill, making sure to look up, photograph and marvel the medieval sites all around. A less sober alternative is Dublin's literary pub crawl, voted one of the world's best 50 walks by the Sunday Times, proving you can justify any bar crawl by throwing in some history, a bit of walking and a lot of laughs.

Fiction for inspiration: Dubliners is a collection of 15 short stories by the genius of James Joyce or throw yourself in the deep end with his legendary book Ulysses. Delve into 1950s Dublin with classic crime novel Christine Falls by Benjamin Black (pen name for John Banville) or laugh your way through Roddy Doyle's modern classics The Commitments, The Snapper (also hilarious films) and Paddy Clarke Ha Ha Ha.

Great Dublin films: If you don't shed at least one tear (yes guys, you too) at Once you're missing a heart string or two. Glen Hansard of Irish band The Frames, who stars in the movie, since won an Oscar for his co-written song Falling Slowly from the soundtrack.  The opening scene is pure Dublin.

Where to be seen this year:  It's all happening in the Docklands area where you can browse the Point Village Market on Sat/Sun from 9am-5pm, go for a spin on The Wheel of Dublin, our giant Ferris Wheel, for 60m views of the city and Wicklow mountains, glass of wine in hand on the deck of the Gibson Hotel.

The most breathtaking view:   Choose from three: 60m high views from a capsule in The Wheel of Dublin, or the Gravity Bar on the 7th floor of the Guinness Storehouse for a 360 view, or 5th floor balconies of the Gibson hotel in the Point Village look across the River Liffey to the rolling glass fascade of Aviva stadium.

Best spot for some peace and quiet:  Any of Dublin's art or photography galleries and National Museums (all free entry) or marvel at 5 million books in silence in Trinity College Library.

Shopaholics beware:  Grafton Street, especially Brown Thomas where slaves of designer labels need to hold onto their hats. I prefer side roads off Grafton Street and Temple Bar for quirky boutiques, weekend markets The Loft (second floor of Powerscourt Shopping Centre, off Grafton Street) and Cows Lane (off Dame Street) for emerging fashion and jewellery, or Georges St Arcade for affordable vintage.

City soundtrack:  So much music, so little space. Imelda May's album Love Tattoo for kick ass rockabilly, jazz and blues. Traditional - The Dubliners; Rock - U2, The Frames; The Pogues for ballads and a bronze statue of Phil Lynott outside Bruxelles on Harry Street evokes classic Thin Lizzy hits The Boys are Back in Town, Jailbreak and Whiskey in the Jar.   The Commitments soundtrack is another must listen. Whelans pub is a Dublin institution if it's live music you're after.

Don't leave without:  Meandering the medieval, cobbled lanes of Temple Bar (beware of overpriced restaurants) by foot or the best fun you can have on two wheels - take a bike tour to exploit 120kms of new cycle lanes so you can pedal Dublin's leafy Georgian strips at your leisure.