Shopping in Ireland is a curious endeavor. On one hand, there are things you’d never buy here, given a choice: off-the-shelf alcohol and cigarettes, for example, are astonishingly expensive as labels tend to be at least as pricey as anywhere else – even supermarkets are generally expensive by European standards. That said, there are some great bargains to be had, largely in the charity shopping scene. In popular local markets and famously great vintage shops, Galway has some of its own great spots to explore. Here are our favourite flea markets and thrift stores in and around Galway.
Something of a self-confessed hipster haven, Galway’s Flea Style Market is a once-monthly event (the afternoon of the final Sunday) that is well worth tracking down. It indulges in pre-loved, adapted and artsy clothing creations, artisan foods, vinyl records and the odd bits of furniture. Its core role as a pop-up shop in the beautiful Dominican Hall, but it’s also very much a meeting ground for local arty types as well as left-leaning political gatherings here and there. HOURS: last Sunday of the month, 1–6pm
On a good day, the petite offering at Clifden’s (a small Friday market in this broadly Irish-speaking corner of gorgeous Connemara) is home to some of the best bargain clothes on offer, particularly if rural Irish chic is your preferred style. That’s not a joke at the local’s expense – big woolen jumpers and patched leather jackets are absolutely top class here and, in many cases, more than worth an export. There’s usually room for a bit of bargaining, too. Find the stores tucked amongst farm stands flaunting local veg. HOURS: Fridays
Much more plush than its older incarnations – which focused largely on fruit, vegetables and local cuisine – Galway Market might now be a place for pancakes, curry and all things involving avocados, but it still has a really thrifty, jumble-style feel around its fringes. Adapted old bags, funky hippie offerings and plenty of books are typical of the Church Lane spot, which varies in content depending on the day. HOURS: Sat, 8am–6pm, year round; Jul–Aug, Fri, 12am–6pm
The international charity has a string of fantastic stores throughout Ireland, and since the locals are known to be a particularly charitable bunch, there’s usually plenty of bric-a-brac to rummage around. While the very best of the lot is on Dublin’s Francis Street, Oxfam Galway‘s central offering has more than its small storefront would suggest: dive in for clothes, local and international literature and – best of all – regular vintage evenings, when the very best of donations hit the market priced to sell. HOURS: Mon–Sat, 10am–6pm
Galway shopping icon Charlie Byrne’s might take issue with being described as a ‘thrift shop’. It does provide a huge range of new, high-end books, but being home to the best literary shopping in a town that’s in love with the written word, it can’t be left out. The extraordinary selection of secondhand books is great any day of the week, but it’s beyond belief when also offered access to the shop’s expansive warehouse (Saturdays only). While stocks vary, Charlie Byrne’s confidently claims it has at least 100,000 books to choose from at any given time. HOURS: Mon–Sat, 9am–6pm; Sun, 12–6pm
Worth a trip to one of Galway’s less than flush industrial parks, the larger Galway branch of this popular homeless charity (there’s another in town) is just one part of a hugely successful network involved in everything from supporting those at risk of homelessness to providing various houses around the island. It’s also a bargain, and patrons can usually count on some quality clothing brands and a selection of rustic, varied furniture to explore in this keenly priced, volunteer-run corner of the city. HOURS: Mon–Sat, 9am–5pm
Halfway between a boutique specialist vintage store and a thrifty fashion offering, tucked away from Galway’s main shopping streets, this little vintage shop has a big local reputation. Patrons could easily blow a small fortune here if they’re not careful, but they could also find themselves in a sale where everything is priced by the kilogram (perfect when airlines have weight allowances). While there is some new stuff, most of what’s sold here is charmingly dated, rather than simply aged, and impossible to buy anywhere else. HOURS: Mon–Wed, 10:30am–6pm; Thurs–Fri, 10:30am–7pm; Sat, 10:30am–6pm; Sun, 1:30–5:30