Here is one of the burning questions for every visitor to Ireland – during which times can you actually expect the country to be “open for business”? When do shops open in Ireland, and do they sell everything during these times? When do Irish museums close for the day? Is there anything to do on Sundays, or is everyone at church? The good news: if you want to go shopping in Ireland, or visit an attraction, you can do so at nearly any civilized time - but it helps to know the basic rules of when to venture out.
Especially if you have to deal with state bodies.
Obviously, there are a number of special exceptions in Ireland (public holidays in the Republic of Ireland are not always identical to public holidays in Northern Ireland), but you can discern some basic rules. They might vary locally, though.
Here are some general hints on when you should find doors not firmly locked:
High Street Shops
Most High Street Shops (shops in the main shopping districts or malls in central urban areas) will usually open between 9 and 10 am, then close between 5 and 6 pm, Monday to Saturday. Lunch breaks are rare, in large cities almost unknown, but some county towns may have early closing days. Some large county towns and all the major cities will have Sunday opening for many stores between noon and around 6 pm. The same rule applies for opening on public holidays.
Malls and Shopping Centres
Most malls and shopping centers open around 9 am and close at different times - expect 6 pm from Monday to Wednesday and on Saturday, 8 pm on Thursday and Friday.
Sunday and public holidays opening times would be between noon and 6 pm. These would be the general opening times for the whole mall, individual shops may open later and close earlier.
Generally, open along the same lines as High Street Shops, but with some supermarkets staying open until midnight and a few large ones even open 24 hours.
This might, however, be a misnomer, as “24 hours” might often exclude Saturday and Sunday nights.
These small shops usually cater for the commuter and working professionals - which means they open around 7 am and close around 9 to 10 pm from Monday to Saturday, noon to 6 pm on Sundays.
Note that alcohol sales are not available at all times during opening hours - and only permitted between 10.30 am and 10.00 pm on weekdays and 12.30 pm to 10.00 pm on Sundays (and public holidays). This goes for the Republic, sales times in Northern Ireland are subject to local licenses, and thus of a far wider variety.
You will find some gas stations with 24/7 service in the larger urban areas and along major routes, otherwise, opening hours similar to convenience stores apply. Bear in mind that motorway service stations are still few and far between.
Banks are generally open from 10 am to 4 pm Monday to Friday and will definitely be closed on public holidays. There may be an extended lunch break in-between. Note that many Irish banks are doing their utmost to keep the customer from the door … “cashless” branches are all the rage, for instance.
Most post offices are open 9 am to 5 or 6 pm from Monday to Friday, occasionally with a lunch hour around 1 pm in rural areas.
Larger post offices are open on Saturday (mornings in most cases), but all will usually be closed on public holidays.
Expect most museums to be open between 10 am (noon on Sundays) and 5 or 6 pm. Some museums are closed on Mondays and some on public holidays (especially the National Museums in Dublin).
Expect most attractions to be open between 10 am (noon on Sundays) and 5 or 6 pm. Some attractions are closed outside the season (late March to October) or operate limited opening hours, especially those in rural areas. Check before traveling ...
Pubs in Dublin and the provinces should be open between noon and midnight as a rule of thumb - expect some pubs to be closed on Sundays, especially in Northern Ireland.
Public Transport during the week generally kicks in at 6 am for commuters, at 7 am in the urban areas and then starts to wind down from 7 pm.
Only a few selected services are running after 11 pm. Saturday services start later and Sunday services are severely less frequent. On public holidays Sunday timetables apply.
As always it is advised to check opening times before traveling longer distances to avoid disappointment!