It’s not often you get to describe a city as ‘charming’ – that’s usually reserved for little towns and villages – but Galway just is. Galway is special. We’re not even sure how to describe it’s special-ness because it’s sort of intangible, something you just feel when you’re there. But to help you get an idea of it, we’ve put together a little list for you… here are eight excellent reasons to fall head over heels in love with the City of Tribes!
Galway and music have had a long and very loving relationship, with some of Ireland’s best known and best loved musicians hailing from the City of Tribes. The traditional music scene in the county is absolutely hopping, as will you be after a few tunes and a few pints in one of its more famous pubs. Here’s how to do it properly:
1. Go to one of Galway’s renowned trad pubs (Taaffe’s Bar, Monroe’s, Tig Coili, The Crane Bar, or Tigh Fox shouldn’t disappoint).
2. Get a pint of Guinness.
3. Find a spot to drink it while the musicians play up a storm.
That’s pretty much it.
The foodie scene all over Ireland has absolutely snowballed over the last couple of decades, with Irish ingredients and ingenuity proving the perfect ingredients for awesome eating. If Irish cuisine had a reputation in the past, it was for being a little bland and a lot potato-based. Fair enough, we were divils in the past for boiling the arse off every vegetable that got near us, and we do love a spud… but things have changed a lot here, and nowhere more so than in Galway. Chefs in the city are doing beautiful things with local, seasonal produce – and there’s a whole lot of that available in the west of Ireland.
The city is now home to two Michelin starred restaurants, with thirteen more included in their latest guide, and there’s lots more besides that too. Order seafood at least once when you’re there (if not for every meal).
Galway loves a good festival, and happily for all involved, the festivals seem to love Galway too. The city has a few mainstays that return year after year and attract both locals and visitors in their thousands from Cuirt Literary Festival in April every year, to the famous Arts Festival or the Galway Races in the summer, and of course the famously delicious Galway Oyster and Seafood Festival in September of each year. But there are smaller festivals too, where you have all the craic without the crowds – if that sounds like your thing try the Jazz Festival in October, or the Oyster Festival’s little sister in Clarenbridge at the beginning of September.
And not just the ones in the city, although there are plenty of those. Eyre Square, the National Aquarium, the Spanish Arch and the Cathedral are all definite boxes to tick, but you don’t have to travel far from the city to see some of Ireland’s most incredible sights and scenery. The massive, mystical, unmissable Cliffs of Moher are just an hour and a half away from the city by car. If you choose to drive there you’ll be driving through the Burren too, so stop and visit the Ailwee Caves and the Poulnabrone Dolmen too if you can. It’s an incredible day trip with some incredible sights to see, and if you leave Galway without visiting at least some of them, you’ll regret it. That’s not a threat, they’re just really cool things to see.
Well we’ve told you a bit about the pubs already, but there’s more to them than just the traditional music… as if you needed more than that. The other thing they do exceptionally well is serve good Guinness. You’ll get a great pint at all the pubs we mentioned earlier, but places like O’Connell’s on Eyre Square deserves its own mention too.
If you’ve had your fill of trad music and want to get your twerk on (or the shmoney dance, or whatever the kids are doing these days), there are lots of trendy bars and pubs in the city that are absolutely buzzing most evenings. For great craft beers go to Bierhaus, and for live music (but not necessarily the traditional kind), try the famous Róisín Dubh.
The closest one to the city is Salthill Beach. Which you can walk to in minutes from the city centre. Actually, Salthill beach is technically Salthill beaches – several smaller beaches that are separated by outcrops. It’s a big, beautiful, clean Blue Flag beach with lifeguards on duty daily from May through to the end of September (which is when most sane people will have stopped swimming anyway).
A little further from the city, but not far enough for it to matter, you’ll find Silverstrand, Grattan, and Ballyloughlane beaches, so even on the sunniest day in Galway you’ll find a little sandy spot of your own to enjoy.
The place goes absolutely bananas once a year during the summer when the Galway races are on, and it’s a great week to be in the city. The streets, pubs and restaurants are absolutely jam-packed with people and the air is electric… But that’s only one week a year. If you want a little equine adventure any other week of the year, go and see some Connemara ponies. You won’t catch them running wild on the beaches these days, but you what you can do is go for a little trek on one yourself. There are lots of places to do it, but if you have time to drive an hour and a half to Ballyconneely Beach, do it there. It’s a white sand, crystal blue sea, pure paradise beach, and a trek along there with the Point Pony Trekking is about as beautiful an experience as you could hope for.
Galway is notoriously good craic. This probably has a lot to do with everything else that appears in this article – the music, food, pubs, beaches, and beauty – but more than anything else it can be attributed to the people. It’s a bit of a bohemian place with a definite live-and-let-live vibe to it; the sort of place that attracts writers, artists and musicians in their droves – like the Brighton or San Francisco of Ireland, but with way more rain, Guinness and Aran jumpers. The result is a colourful and creative city full of colourful and creative people, with the nightlife to match. It’s impossible to have a bad time here.
- Dee Murray