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.”
My favorite things about Galway are its size and charm. You can conquer all the most important sights by foot in a matter of hours but still spend several days without running out of things to do in Galway. This tiny city is unique in that it maintains its traditional Irish charm while possessing a cosmopolitan flare. There’s so many things to do in Galway, but these were my favorite!
This beautiful walkway hugs the inner shores of the Galway Bay and is popular among tourists and locals alike. When the weather cooperates, the Aran Islands can be seen to the right and 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 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 things to do in Galway.
Kenny’s Bookshop and Art Gallery
If you’re a bookworm like me, you will feel 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 is one of the best things to do in Galway and all of Ireland! You absolutely can not go to Galway without visiting the Cliffs of Moher.
Galway is only 1.5 hours away from the Cliffs of Moher. They are an absolute must-see if you’re in the area. 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. Sadly, I didn’t make it to the Aran Islands due to rough weather conditions.
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’re a theatre buff, you won’t run out of things to do in Galway!
Connemara was also on my list thanks to a friend’s suggestion. The ride to the Cliffs of Moher made me feel really carsick. So, I wasn’t sure if I would be able to handle more winding Irish roads. The weather was also supposed to bad that day. It ended up being a beautiful day despite the forecast, and I spent all day kicking myself for not going.
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. I wanted to curl up in bed but knew I would regret not going out at least once. I ended up forcing myself to go, not expecting to stay long at all. 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 your wristband, and join in for multiple nights without paying extra. On the tour, we stopped at several packed Irish pubs along Quay Street. All of the bars had live music, and plenty of craic!
If you’re interested in the pub tour, check with your hostel or hotel for the up to date info!
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.
If you’re planning on touring Europe, you might want to consider flying into Ireland first. Thanks to airport departure taxes, Ireland is among the cheapest countries to fly in and out of in Europe.
Check out my post explaining why starting a European vacation in Ireland is a great idea, especially for travelers flying in from North America. If you’re looking for a laugh, you might also want to read about my funny experience flying into Shannon, Ireland from Philadelphia! Cheers and enjoy Galway!
What are your favorite things to do in Galway?