Shopping in Dublin: quirky villages and vibrant markets

by ykmedia

Dublin's creative genius shines at weekend markets and in suburban villages where you'll uncover funky designs, vintage gems and gourmet stalls

If, like me, you get bored and frustrated by crowds in large shopping centres, or maybe you'd just prefer to take in some fresh air when you have some precious shopping time to yourself, this is the guide for you.

Dublin is a creative hub so markets and weekend stalls are where you’ll find interesting fashions and quality local gourmet foods. The Point Village Market (1 N Wall Quay, Dublin 1; +353 86 827 4839;; closed until Spring 2011) is the place to be seen at weekends and well worth a browse in the shadow of The Wheel of Dublin, a giant Ferris Wheel offering great city views.   

Temple Bar Square (Temple Bar Cultural Trust, 12 East Essex Street, Temple Bar, Dublin 2; +353 1 6772255; is home to a thriving gourmet food and drink market every Saturday from 11am-5pm in Meeting House Square, now with a retractable canopy to protext foodies from the Irish elements, while George's Street Arcade (S Great George's St, Dublin; +353 283 6077; is a trendy landmark with 40 shops and stalls, a fortune teller, a specialist second-hand bookshop, tasty treats and collectables. Stop here for a tasty lunch and some chill out time.

Vintage shops are dotted around this corner – Jenny Vander (Drury Street, Dublin 2; +353 1 677 0406) and Harlequin (13 Castle Market, Dublin 2; +353 671 0202) are two of my firm favourites and A Store is Born (34 Clarendon St, Dublin 2, +353(1) 2857627) opens on Saturday from 11am-6pm . You’re sure to find a bargain in one of these treasure troves. Head to The Loft Market (Top Floor, The Powerscourt Townhouse, 59 South William Street Dublin 2) for a cool blend of vintage, contemporary, ethical and original Irish designs from 12-6pm every Friday and Sunday and 11-6pm on Saturdays.

Temple Bar - alternative shops and vintage haunts

Stroll by Trinity College Dublin and head towards the cobbled Temple Bar streets that meet Dame Street and flow down to the Liffey. This area is well worth browsing as the side streets and lanes are narrow and winding, offering alternative shops, eccentric fashions, pokey second-hand and vintage haunts on every corner.

Crown Alley is the main strip, usually hosting buskers to break the urban noise, especially on festival weekends. There are great bars here but they can be quite rowdy as it’s a pure tourist trap, and prices are also the most inflated in the city. Design Mart at Cow's Lane (Cow's Lane, Old City Temple Bar, Dublin 2; +353 677 2255; offers delights from emerging designers to suit everyone’s budget every Saturday from 10am-5pm. Weather permitting, this is a must for lovers of fashion and quirky creatives.

Ranelagh - the place to be seen outside the city centre

Five minutes on the Luas from Stephen’s Green is Ranelagh, an upmarket and trendy village of red-bricked Victorian buildings - the place to be seen, shop, eat and drink outside Dublin city centre. I live in Ranelagh (lucky me) and I’m amazed by the creative initiatives. An excellent indoor market now takes place at weekends (opposite the Luas stop). Ranelagh is one of the oldest villages in Dublin and it’s beaten the recession by opening excellent boutiques such as Bow & Pearl (13 Ranelagh Village, Dublin 6; +353 4967408; and Kelli (45 Ranelagh Village, Ranelagh, Dublin 6; +353 4970077); restaurants such as Eatery 120 , Dillinger’s, Tribeca, The Wild Goose; vibrant bars Smyth’s, Humphrey’s, Mcsorley’s; and cafés. If you want a break from the city centre bustle, jump on the Luas (or in a taxi, only five minutes) and spend a relaxing day eating, drinking and shopping your way up and down Ranelagh Road.

Rathgar - quaint shops, boutiques and restaurants

Rathgar Village is another distinctive old village that's home to quaint shops, boutiques and restaurants, offering a timeless feeling of village life in Dublin with a 150 year old church and a wonderful bookshop/café, two traditional butchers, old pubs Comans (2 Terenure Road East, Dublin 6, +353 (1) 490 3501) and The Rathgar (formerly the 108, Terenure Road East, Rathgar, Dublin 6), wine shops, 69 Bistro (69 Orwell Road, Rathgar, Dublin 6, +353 (1) 4922 444) and Bijou restaurant (7 Highfield Road, Rathgar, _353 (1) 4961518). Beuys & Beuys (99 Rathgar Road, Rathgar, Dublin 6; is a fantastic boutique offering designer labels in a homely space; all ten minutes in a taxi from Dublin city centre.

Exquisite boutiques, independent stores and thrilling weekend markets are waiting to be discovered throughout the towns and villages outside Dublin. Malahide, Dun Laoghaire, Blackrock and Dalkey are just some of the places that offer you a more relaxed, more scenic and alternative shopping experience where you’ll meet interesting and genuine locals to make your stay more memorable.

More expert advice on Dublin

For suggestions on where to stay in Dublin, see my Dublin Hotels – Award winning expert hotel reviews, from cheap to luxury hotels in Dublin page.

Read my shopping overview on my Shopping in Dublin page.


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.