The Georges Street Arcade: Over 140 years and still going strong

This quaint little picturesque shopping market, was originally, in 1881, Dublin City’s first purpose built Victorian shopping centre.

The George’s Street Arcade. Photo: Derek Price

The George’s Street Arcade has been around and serving the shoppers of Dublin for over 140 years – and is one of Europe and Ireland’s oldest shopping centres.

It was designed by the British architects Lockwood and Mawson, and the South City Market (the name the surrounding area was known by back then) was formally opened by the then Lord Mayor, Sir George Moyers.

The site was built on what had once been a large unused and derelict abattoir and slaughterhouse.

The George’s Street Arcade entrance on Drury Street. Photo: Derek Price

The market originally had 46 shops and 112 stalls.

The market was not popular with working-class Dubliners at the beginning – this was probably because of its English architects and builders.

Unfortunately, 10 years into its existence, a huge fire engulfed and destroyed the market building on August 27, 1892.

Thankfully, no one was killed, but all of the shopkeepers lost their premises and homes – which were situated on the upper floors, over the market.

The stallholder’s situation fared even worse, because they did not financially insure their own merchandise and property.

The arcade back in the 19th century. Photo: Courtesy of

The building was then re-built in the same style, this time using local labour and craftsmen, and was then re-opened on September 13, 1894.

The renovation cost around £30,000, a tidy sum in those days. The then Lord Mayor of Dublin, Valentine Dillon, officially reopened the market.

Subsequent renovations over the years were implemented on the Arcade, first in the late 1970s and then in the 1990s – the latter after the Layden family group took over its ownership.

In 1981, the George’s Street Arcade seemed to become a preferred replacement of sorts, for many shoppers that used to frequent the Dandelion Market, which closed down that same year.

The arcade these days, is a haven for 42 (mainly small) businesses, 21 of which are stalls. It is always bustling and busy, not only on weekends, but all week long.

Some of these include Stokes Books, Spindizzy Records, New Moon, Retro, Lolly & Cooks, Simon’s Place Coffee Shop, Flip, Blindeye Barbers and Loose Canon.

Spindizzy Records. Photo: Derek Price

The businesses in the arcade deal in items such as fashion accessories, trendy clothes, silver and costume jewellery, hairstyling, music CDs and vinyl, art, books, ornaments, memorabilia, stamps and coin collections, cafés, food, and also fortune telling and body piercing.

The jewellery and piercing stall, Body, has been in business for 50 years now and shows no sign of petering out. It was started in 1973 and was clearly ahead of its time when it started out – and is still going strong. It specialises in silver and gold earrings, and silver pendants, which include various Celtic designs.

Simon’s Place Café, which is situated at the George’s Street entrance, used to be further down the street towards Dame Street. It was started back in the 1980s, and at that time was called, Marx Bros.

It used to attract all types of clientele – from various bohemian types, punks, indie goth rockers, crusties, hippies, struggling and successful music business workers and musicians, curious passers-by of all types, and indeed, George’s Street Arcade workers.

Times have changed, and since then, Simon McWilliams closed his business, emigrated, returned, and reopened it – with most of his loyal old punters having happily returned to stick by him.

While it is now a lot smaller than the original location, it has two floors of seating, and has a warmer, more compact and unique atmosphere and menu.

Doni Doni stall. Photo: Derek Price

Back in 2019, the arcade unfortunately suffered another massive threat to its existence, a threat whose dark shadow loomed over not just Dublin, but the whole of Ireland, and most of the rest of the world.

This threat was of course called COVID-19.

Shops all over Ireland were forced to close, and George’s Street Arcade was no different. Businesses and livelihoods were in jeopardy, and things looked very bleak for a long time.

Rent for the businesses would have to be paid, whether the shops were open to trade to the public, or not.

Luckily, for the arcade, the owners were very understanding of the problems their traders were facing, and did not turn their backs on them.

The owners didn’t take rent from their 42 traders, and after the COVID-19 restrictions were lifted, rents were adjusted at a reduced rate, and over time, eventually, returned to previous levels.

This cost the arcade owners, the Layden family, almost €500,000, which they funded themselves.

The public, on social media and beyond, quite rightly complimented and celebrated the Layden family for their kindness and their actions.

A book shop and stall. Photo: Derek Price

Dee Brady, 48, from Raheny, Dublin, has been shopping at the arcade for over 30 years and said, “I always try to make a point of shopping here when I’m on the southside of town. There are so many shops here that sell stuff that you can’t get anywhere else, so it’s great for picking up odd and quirky birthday presents that surprise my friends. I really missed it when it wasn’t open a couple of years ago. It’s great that it’s back in business.” Dee said.

Carol Porter, 39, from Drimnagh, another avid shopper of the arcade said, “Lovely little place. I usually grab an egg or cheese sandwich and a cup of tea from the coffee shop on the George’s Street side, before I browse around the arcade. Then I potter around for ages on the stalls and in the shops. I have to be careful sometimes, cos I lose the track of time, and me auld fella rings me up wondering where I am. But there’s so many things to look at, I just get lost,” she said.

Short ‘walk-around’ video of the arcade.

The arcade has stood the test of time, and is a unique place in Dublin and Ireland to experience.

It has been open, and in business, for the best part of a century and a half so far.

Long may it last, survive, thrive, and prosper!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *