Last summer, Charlotte and I spent a lot of time traveling around Ireland. While making our rounds, Charlotte developed a guide for shopping on the Emerald Isle.
CHARLOTTE’S ESSENTIAL IRELAND SHOPPING SUGGESTIONS
For those of you that know me, you know I enjoy to shop! I’m often asked, what should I buy or where should I shop? I’ve put together this short guide of shops I’ve found and things to buy. By no means do I list every shopping venue! In fact, I only have a limited amount of time to devote to one of my favorite pastimes and I certainly don’t want to miss out on the cultural and historical aspects of visiting any city. Hopefully, this brief guide will give you some idea of what to expect when shopping in some of the spots you will visit while on your tour of Ireland. If you get a chance, send me a note to let me know what you found at email@example.com.
Before I share my shopping suggestions, here are a few tips for shopping that I have found out the hard way!
• If you are going to charge your purchase, ask the sales person to charge your card in Euros, not in US dollars. Why? Generally, your credit card company is going to convert the Euros using a better exchange rate than what you will be charged by the vendor. Find out what your bank charges. When I use my debit card, the credit union only charges me .1%. That’s only 1 cent for every dollar spent and they use the exchange rate on the day I make the purchase. If you don’t tell them up front, the vendor is most likely going to convert the charge to US dollars as they are making money off of the exchange. I had one vendor tell me that their machine only allowed the US dollars exchange and I didn’t have any cash. I was stuck with paying 3.5 %!
• Always ask for a tax free receipt if you are spending at least 30 Euros (I think that is the minimum purchase price in Ireland.) There are various ways for you to get the Value Added Tax (VAT) back and the vendor will be able to tell you how to conduct the transactions. The new way is to use a card called the FEXCO Horizon card, but not all vendors will use this method. Just make sure to ask when you make the purchase. Otherwise, they may not offer the receipts that you will need to claim the tax when you leave the country.
• Make a list of what you are buying and what it costs. It will make filling out your US Customs form much easier on the day you return to the US when you can’t remember everything you bought!
Galway has great shopping. You will find most of the local crafts and souvenir shopping in the pedestrian only streets. The main street changes names and there are several cross streets, but David can get you there. There are several shops with wonderful wool items and hand knit sweaters actually made in Ireland. I particularly like a shop called Magee’s which has high end hats, sweaters, scarves, etc. It’s a little more expensive but is higher quality. There are quite a few of these types of shops around, and sometimes you can get a really good deal when they put things on clearance.
For Pandora bracelets, you will find the Pandora shop on Williams Gate close to Eyre Square. All you need to do is continue past the pedestrian only area main street and it is on your left.
If you are lucky enough to be in Galway on Saturday, there is an open air market on the streets surrounding St. Nicholas church. There you will find local craftsmen and vendors with jewelry, hand knit items, and great food, just to name a few of the items! It is supposedly open in the summer on Sunday as well, but I haven’t verified that.
There is also a mall of sorts that has various shops (more for the locals to shop in, less touristy items) which ends with a two-story Dunnes, the Irish version of Wal-Mart. The basement floor has a grocery store where you can purchase a snack or picnic lunch. If you are walking towards Eyre Square, the entrance is on your right. It is called the Eyre Square Shopping Center on Williams Gate.
Dublin is a huge city and there are a lot of places to shop. I certainly haven’t been to them all, but these are just a few of my favorite stops:
Grafton Street – This is a pedestrian only street and is where most of the high end shopping in Dublin can be found. The stores on this street are mostly where the locals would shop. There is also a mall located at the end of Grafton Street near St. Stephens Green. I didn’t have an opportunity to check it out, so I don’t know what it has to offer.
The Pandora shop can be found right on Grafton Street. It is on the left hand side as you are walking away from Molly Malone towards St. Stephens Green. There is even a Disney Store on the right.
If you are looking for Irish crafts, you will want to walk a few blocks over from Grafton Street. Instead of going to Grafton Street from Trinity College, keep walking down the street that lines Trinity College, which is Nassau Street. There are several shops on that street that I enjoyed. A few of them are: House of Ireland, Kilkenny Crafts Center and Trinity Sweaters. You can also get a bite to eat at the Kilkenny Crafts Center on the second floor. The soup and brown bread are a really good choice!
If you are looking for all things Irish in the way of souvenirs, head to O’Connell street to a shop called Carroll’s. There are several Carroll’s around town but this one must be their biggest location. It is near the big General Post Office near the tall spire.
Also located on O’Connell’s is a store called Clery’s. It reminds me a lot of Macy’s and Dillards. It is a big department store. I enjoyed browsing just to see the different styles.
Marcs and Spencers (M&S) is another big department store. You can find one on Grafton Street. It reminds me of a Penney’s or Sears. There is another department store called Pennys but I did not get a chance to check it out. It is on O’Connell street across from Clery’s.
Kilkenny shopping has mostly shops that cater to the locals, rather than tourists, although they do have the Kilkenny Crafts Center. There are two snack shops there, one on the second floor and the other on the main street level, both of which have free Wi-Fi. This shop tends to be a little pricey but they have some beautiful items. It is right across from the Castle. I also saw quite a few antique shops, if you like to shop for that sort of thing.
Kilkenny also has a Dunne’s.
Dingle is one of my all time favorite Irish towns to visit! And not just for the shopping, although it seems to have some of the best! There are quite a few art galleries, as well as shops that handle hand made knit items, woolen clothing, hats, scarves, and beautiful jewelry. You will also find a lot of shops that carry Ireland souvenirs. All you have to do is walk the three main streets in town to have a great time!
I didn’t find any Pandora beads here, but I did find the Irish equivalent! They are called Tara something (sorry! I’m having a senior moment and can’t remember the rest of the name) but they will fit Pandora bracelets and are sterling silver. All of the beads are Irish themed. I bought one that represents the Blasket Islands – it’s a charm in the shape of a heart with the round scroll on it, along with a dangle of the three men carrying the traditional boat. I bought it in a shop called John Weldon Jewellers. I saw these in Kilkenny and Dublin as well.
One shop on the harbor street has fine Irish linens. They have some beautiful sachets, table cloths, pillow cases, Christening gowns, etc. I always love to go in this shop and browse.
Doolin is tiny but has several fun shops. There are two shopping areas, both of which are all in about a one block area. The shops in the low part of town carry the traditional Irish sweaters, scarves, hats, souvenirs, etc. I found a sweater for 18 Euro less than what I paid for it in Dublin in these shops!
The other little shopping area in the high part of town appears to have some fun shops. I haven’t had a chance to check them out. They look nice but I can’t vouch for them. I always run out of time before I can get to them!
Cliffs of Moher
Even though this is just an attraction, there is a great gift shop inside of the exhibits. They also have several shops located near the parking area which carry more souvenirs, crafts and jewelry. Don’t let shopping get in the way of seeing the Cliffs! While the shopping is good, you don’t want to miss the breathtaking views. Save the shopping for last.