One of the burning questions for every visitor to Ireland is what time they can expect the country to be “open for business”? When do shops open in Ireland and are all things available at all times? When do Irish museums close for the day? Is there anything to do on Sundays, or is everyone at church?
The good news is that if you want to go shopping or visit an attraction, you can do so at nearly any civilized time. However, as with any locale, it helps to know the basic rules of when to venture out. If you need to utilize government services, it is all the more important to know what to expect.
Here are some general hints on when you should find doors not firmly locked, though there are a number of special exceptions to these rules. For one thing, opening times may vary locally—public holidays in the Republic of Ireland are not always identical to public holidays in Northern Ireland, for example.
High Street Shops and Large 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 are open Sunday from around Noon to 6 pm; the same rule applies for hours on public holidays.
Most malls and shopping centers open around 9 am, but closing times vary. It is safe to expect a closing around 6 pm from Monday to Wednesday and on Saturday and 8 pm on Thursday and Friday. On Sunday and public holidays, opening times are likely to be between noon and 6 pm. Take note: These would be the general opening times for the whole mall; individual shops may open later and close earlier.
Supermarkets generally keep the same working hours as High Street Shops, though some supermarkets stay open until midnight and a few large ones are even open 24 hours. However, this may be a misnomer, as “24 hours” might often exclude Saturday and Sunday nights.
Convenience Stores and Service Stations
Convenience stores usually cater to 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.
Only licensed stores sell alcohol and alcohol sales are not available at all times during opening hours. Alcohol sales are only permitted between 10.30am and 10 pm on weekdays and 12.30pm to 10 pm on Sundays (and public holidays). These are times only for the Republic; sales times in Northern Ireland are subject to local licenses, and thus of a far wider variety.
Gas stations with 24/7 service can be found 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 and Post Offices
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 and you may find that “cashless” branches are all the rage.
Most post offices are open from 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.
Museums and Attractions
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. As always, 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!