Galway was everything I hoped Ireland would be that Dublin never delivered. Dublin is an impressive city in its own right, but Galway has a reputation for being “the most Irish of Irish cities.”
Galway is small but charming. You can conquer all the sights by foot in a matter of hours but still spend several days there without getting bored. This tiny city is unique in that it maintains its traditional Irish charm while possessing a cosmopolitan flare.
Galway’s avant-garde attitude can partially be attributed to the fact that it is a college town. The city maintains a hip music, bar, and restaurant scene that attracts thousands of visitors and keeps the locals busy.
Galway hosts many festivals every year, most notably the Oscar Wilde Festival, along with many open air markets and theater festivals. During my visit, the Galway Theatre Festival was taking place. It’s likely that no matter when you schedule your visit, some sort of festivity will be going on. If you consider yourself a patron of the arts, you will be in good company in Galway.
Aside from the city’s vibrant arts and culture scene, these were my favorite things about Galway:
This beautiful walkway hugs the inner shores of the Galway Bay and is popular among tourists and locals alike.
If the weather is cooperative, the Aran Islands can be seen to the right while Galway city is visible to the left. If you walk west on a clear day, you can see as far as the mountains of Connemara
Since it’s right on the coastline, it gets a bit windy. I ended up getting splashed several times by incoming waves. It’s well worth it though for the views and the wind felt surprisingly refreshing on a warm summer day.
On my last day in Ireland, I rented a bike to explore the city surroundings a bit deeper. To be honest, I wasn’t expecting much but riding along the pathway ended up being one of my favorite experiences.
Kenny’s Bookshop and Art Gallery
If you’re a bookworm like me, you will feel quite at home in Galway. Statues of Ireland’s literary greats can be found all over the city. There are tons of bookstores, but I especially enjoyed Kenny’s bookshop. If you’re into rare books – including antiquities, signed, and out-of-print books – you will enjoy browsing through Kenny’s selection.
Cliffs of Moher
I feel like I’m stating the obvious here, but the Cliffs of Moher deserve their spot among Ireland’s best popular tourist attractions! The cliffs are absolutely stunning, and quite dramatic in person.
Galway is only 1.5 hours away from the Cliffs of Moher and are a must-see if you’re in the region. Make sure you bring a windbreaker, though! The weather was horrible during my visit, and the winds are rough even in more agreeable weather conditions.
I took the Cliffs of Moher Express Tour via Lally’s Tours for only 15 Euro. Lally’s offers additional tours, including combination trips to The Cliffs of Moher and Aran Islands, as well as excursions to Connemara. I regret that I wasn’t able to see the Aran Islands, but on the day of my tour inclement weather canceled all boat trips.
Connemara was also on my list as per a friend’s suggestion. The ride to the cliffs left me feeling rather carsick though, and I wasn’t sure if I would be able to handle more winding Irish roads. The bad weather forecast for the next day ultimately finalized my decision not to go. That day ended up being beautiful weather despite the forecast, and I spent all day kicking myself over my choice.
Some pictures from my Irish-American friend Sean’s trip to Connemara are included below. His awesome photos only make me feel worse about deciding not to go. Don’t make the same mistake as me – if you have the chance, visit Connemara!
After my Cliffs of Moher tour, I wasn’t feeling so hot. The last thing I wanted to do upon returning to my room was go out and party. I ended up forcing myself to go, not expecting to have a great time or to stay long. It ended up being a great night, especially for a Sunday! I met a lot of other backpackers from all over the world, including an old classmate from my university!
For 15 Euro, you receive a free drink at every bar – including baby guinness shots. They encourage you to reuse the wristband, and to join in for multiple nights without paying extra. On the tour, we stopped at several packed Irish bars, and along popular Quay Street. All of the bars had live music, and plenty of craic!
I was not able to find any up-to-date info on the pub crawl online at the time of this posting, but your hostel or hotel should be able to point in you in the right direction.
Irish Breakfast and Fresh Seafood
You can’t visit Ireland without indulging in a full Irish breakfast. The traditional Irish Breakfast includes eggs, bacon, sausage, black and white (blood) pudding, mushrooms, tomatoes, and potatoes – all slathered in butter.
Riordan’s and The Quay Street Kitchen both offered tasty breakfast options. TripAdvisor was my sole influence in deciding to check these two places out though, and I regret not exploring more places on my own. Surprisingly, my favorite Irish breakfast came from Mocha Beans, a small coffee shop next to my hostel.
Galway and Ireland both offer so much that deserve to be fully explored! These were just my personal favorites, but I do wish I had had more time in Galway. What are your favorite things about Galway?