By Briana Seftel
Want to visit the most "Irish" city in Ireland? Look no further than Galway. Situated on the rugged west coast, Galway thrives on its proximity to the Atlantic, its cultural festivals throughout the year and large student population. Colorful, friendly and compact, Galway is the perfect city to feel like a local.
What to Know
Located where the River Corrib meets the Atlantic Ocean, Galway is a vibrant waterside city and the historic center of Ireland’s west coast. Dating back to the 12th century, Galway was a major trading town in the Middle Ages until the English invaded and claimed it as their own. Evidence of its history can be seen throughout its narrow cobbled streets and harbor.
Galway is considered the cultural heart of Ireland and is home to a slew of music, arts and food festivals. In fact, it will be a European Capital of Culture in 2020. Its large student population makes it one of the youngest cities in the country.
When to Go
You could say Galway is the festival capital of Ireland. All year round, the city hosts a range of festivals for every kind of traveler. Some of the most well-known festivals include the Galway Food Festival in March, the Galway International Arts Festival in July and the Galway Oyster & Seafood Festival in September. Around Christmas, the city hosts a wonderful Christmas Market.
How to Get Around
Galway is a compact city with narrow, pedestrian-only streets, so walking is your best bet. Biking is another great way to get around with 16 Coca-Cola Zero stations scattered around the city center. If you plan on taking day trips, it is recommended to have a car.
Where to Eat
Galway rivals Cork when it comes to its thriving food scene. With two Michelin-starred restaurants and some of best pubs in Ireland, dining in Galway can be both casual and upscale. Below are some of our top picks for eating and drinking in the city.
- Ard Bia at Nimmos Spanish Arch, Long Walk Phone: +353 91 561 114
- Oscar’s Dominick Street Lower Phone: +353 91 582 180
- McDonagh’s 22 Quay St Phone: +353 91 565 001
- Tigh Neachtain 17 Cross Street Phone: +353 91 568 820
- Kai Restaurant 22 Sea Rd Phone: +353 91 526 003
- O’Connell’s 8 Eyre Square Phone: +353 91 563 634
- The Pie Maker 10 Cross Street Upper Phone: +353 91 513 151
- Quay Street Kitchen Unit B The Halls, Quay Street Phone: +353 91 865 680
- Tig Coili Mainguard St, The Latin Quarter *Phone: * +353 91 561 294
What to See
This popular hangout in Galway’s city center is a good place to begin your sightseeing. Named in 1710 after Mayor Edward Eyre, the square is now officially known as the John F. Kennedy Memorial Park, in honor of the president who visited Galway in 1963.
Showcasing the city’s medieval heritage, the Latin Quarter is the historic heart of Galway. See the Spanish Arch, where Spanish ships would unload their cargo, Kirwan’s lane and St Nicholas’ Church. Or just simply stroll the area and keep your eyes peeled for Instagram worthy shots.
Galway City Museum
Located behind the Spanish Arch, Galway City Museum houses three floors of exhibitions exploring the history and heritage of Galway City.
A suburb just minutes outside of the city center, Salthill is beloved for its quaint coastal charm and idyllic promenade that's perfect for a leisurely stroll. It’s also a popular place to dine on delicious Irish seafood including Galway’s famous oysters.
Tips & Tricks
Try Galway Hooker Irish Pale Ale, a local beer named after the sailing boats used to navigate the North Atlantic Ocean.
A popular souvenir in Galway is the Claddagh ring representing love, loyalty and friendship.
Sample tasty treats at the Galway Market, which takes place every Saturday and Sunday by St Nicholas’ Church.
Cliffs of Moher
Spanning five miles down the rugged western coast and soaring to 702 feet, the Cliffs of Moher are arguably the most iconic sight in all of Ireland. Just 90 minutes down the Wild Atlantic Way from Galway, the cliffs are an unforgettable natural wonder to see in person. Also worth exploring in County Clare is the Burren and the towns of Ballyvaughan, Doolin and Lahinch.
The remote Aran Islands are literally on the edge of Europe. Located approximately 40 minutes by ferry from Rossaveal, the islands are home to some of the oldest surviving civilizations in Ireland. The largest and most popular island to visit is Inishmore, home to a 2,000 year old fortress known as Dun Aengus.
Raw untamed landscapes and glorious white sand beaches - the Connemara is County Galway's prized natural treasure and the perfect counterpoint to cultural Galway city. Hike the trails of Connemara National Park, gaze in wonder at Killary Fjord, see the Roundstone bogs, tour the historic Kylemore Abbey or take a boat to the small island of Inishbofin.
A charming town in County Mayo about 90 minutes from Galway, Westport entices visitors for its elegant Georgian architecture, scenic bay and proximity to Croagh Patrick mountain.