The best Irish cities for independent businesses

Across Ireland, there’s a lively, thriving, and varied independent shopping scene. Shopping independently not only allows you to provide much needed support to local businesses, but it also means you’ll be able to purchase exclusive, one-off products. With this in mind, we wanted to see which Irish cities are best for small businesses. 

By looking at the top ten industries for independent businesses and assessing how many there are in each city, we’ve created a list of the top five locations in Ireland. Each city was assigned a final index score and ranked accordingly.

The leading cities for independent businesses in Ireland 

So, let’s take a look at Ireland’s best cities for independent businesses. First on our list is Dublin, which takes the top spot with a score of 11.5. Dublin is also a haven of independent coffee shops, with as many as 102 in the city. While this means there’s evidently great conditions for smaller coffee shops to thrive, it also means more competition if you’re hoping to establish your own there. The city is also home to a mix of local retailers who sell one-of-a-kind pieces. 

Cork is the next Irish city on our list, with a score of 9.5. Despite being the second largest city in Ireland, Cork refuses to succumb to the influx of high street chains. Cork boasts some of Ireland’s finest independent stores, and its narrow streets and market arcades are packed to the brim. Whether you’re after retro clothing or handcrafted items, Cork’s independent retail scene will provide you with what you’re looking for. Interestingly, Cork also appears to have a high demand for barbers, and there are 108 in the city. 

Third on our list of Irish cities for independent businesses is Waterford, with a score of 8.2. Shopping in Waterford is a unique experience, and with an array of characterful independent stores, you’re guaranteed to find a unique gem. There are 57 beauty salons in Waterford, meaning that demand is high and it’s a great place to set up your own. 

Galway is another fantastic city for independent shopping, and it claims the fourth spot on our list with a score of 7.4. Shoppers flock to the city for its markets and vintage stores, and they seem to understand the importance of supporting small, local businesses. There are 13 convenience stores in Galway, therefore although it’s made it onto our list, there’s plenty of space to establish your name if you’re hoping to open your own. 

Last but not least for independent shopping in Ireland is Limerick, which has a total score of 7.25. Limerick is the place to go if you’re looking for independent boutiques or vintage clothing sellers. From the Fashion Quarter to the Crescent Shopping Centre, you’ll find a wide range of unique products in Limerick. The city also has 39 independent supermarkets, therefore although there’s evident demand, the market isn’t oversaturated. 

So, there we have it, the best cities for independent businesses in Ireland. Independent shopping is well-loved in these cities, and each one has a vibrant and diverse retail scene. They have the ideal conditions for independent businesses to thrive, and shoppers seem enthusiastic to both support and reap the benefits from smaller retailers. 

If you’re interested in taking the leap into entrepreneurship, you might want to consider one of the above cities – and don’t forget to delve into our guides which have tips and tricks for those starting a business


The data was pulled from Google Maps in January 2024. Please note, “independent” refers to three or fewer of the same independent stores across Ireland/ each city. Chains and franchises have not been included in the ranking. 

The methodology involves ranking 6 cities in Ireland based on their suitability for independent businesses by gathering data on 18 factors per location, normalizing these factors to scores between 0 and 1, summing the normalized values, and subsequently ranking the locations from high to low based on their total score. Factors such as the number of businesses and their average reviews are considered, with higher numbers garnering higher scores and lower numbers receiving lower scores in each category.

SumUp Team