The first time I arrived in Galway, I did so by train from Dublin. Most people know how I feel about Dublin based on my recent post, Dublin: A Local vs. Tourist’s Perspective. So, needless to say, I did not know what to expect in Galway. Was it as busy as Dublin? As touristy?
Within seconds of stepping out of the train station, I quickly realized that Galway was nothing like Dublin. The first sign of this was the astonishingly small amount of taxis in the (nonexistent) taxi line. My mother, sister, and I walked out of the train center to get a ride to our hotel (which, it turns out, was just around the corner).
There is a common theme among people who have moved to Galway. They usually plan on staying in the city for a year, maybe two tops. Then they fall in love with the relaxed seaside style, energetic nightlife, and up-and-coming food scene. Suddenly two years turn into three, then five, and then seven… and without even being aware of it, Galway becomes home.
It is easy to fall in love with Galway.
And once you fall in love with an Irish city, it is easy to love the whole country as well.
Here are 10 gems in Galway that will make you love Ireland:
Arguably, Galway has some of the most entertaining street music in Ireland. Performers line up on every few blocks and play everything from their original songs to traditional Irish music. These musicians are especially abundant during the busier summer season.
Galway City Museum
When traveling a lot, it is easy to feel like some museums ‘blend’. Galway City Museum, on the other hand, is a distinguishable must-see in the center of town. Close to the Spanish Arch, this is a great stop for learning about the history of Galway during the Irish Revolution and the famine. You can also learn about local oceanography and catch a few glimpses at Celtic artifacts.
Galway is well known for having ‘good craic’ as the Irish call it (and pronounce as ‘good crack’). Translated to American English, this essentially means fun parties, particularly where beer or whiskey is involved. Galway offers many of the best nightclubs and pubs on the west coast of Ireland.
Saturday Farmers Market
The Galway Street Market has been running for centuries. It is bustling with cheese stalls, produce boxes, and juice stands that would make any foodie happy. Butchers and seafood sellers provide locally sourced proteins. There is sushi, Indian food, and vegetarian food stalls as well. Aside from food, there are a few clothing, jewelry, and handmade skincare stalls.
The market is located on Church lane by St Nicholas’ Church in the city center.
Directly across the street from the Saturday farmer’s market is Sheridan’s Cheesemongers. The downstairs section displays an impressive cheese shop in traditional take-away fashion. However, the real gem of Sheridan’s is the upstairs area. Follow the staircase to the left of the shop and go up to a lovely cheese and wine bar. There is a beautiful view of the neighboring church from the window, as well as wonderful charcuterie and wine options. With many communal tables, it is easy to strike up a conversation with other guests- a majority of which are locals.
Coffeewerk + Press
This impressively curated shop serves made-to-order coffee. Coffeewerk is eclectically designed to make hipsters, coffee lovers, and travelers alike all feel welcome. Three levels divide the store into a coffee shop, design studio, and gallery. This is a must see for both coffee and art lovers.
Rumor has it that Galway is privileged to several popup restaurants throughout the year. This may be to a faster restaurant turnover rate, but according to locals “all the good ones stay.” The Dough Bros is a recent popup pizza bar serving handmade wood-fired pizza in a rustic setting.
This is one of the main streets in the city center leading down to the river. It has tons of great pubs, brightly colored walls, and there is always some form of entertainment.
River Corrib + Galway Bay
The River Corrib flows all the way from the sea, through the city, and into Galway Bay. This stunning river provides perfect picnic views as well as the seaside-town vibe that runs through the city. You can expect to see several swans swimming throughout the bay, especially near the Spanish Arch. During mackerel season, you can spot sea otters as well 🙂
Galway City Events
The city of Galway is notorious for holding large city-wide events. Examples of this can be seen with the Arts Festival and Horse Races. When I was visiting, there was a triathlon event. Watching some of the athletes run and bike was fun in itself, but there was also live music blasting through the city. At the end of the event they even put on a firework show- ironically- over a cemetery.
Ard Bia at Nimmo’s
I rarely find food gems on accident. Ard Bia at Nimmo’s was an exception to this, as my mother, sister, and I stumbled in on a Sunday night with zero reservation and hopes for non-pub food. Fortunately for us, there was a triathlon event in Galway blocking many of the roads, leading to rare no shows at Nimmo’s. The incredible host found us a table and we proceeded to have one of the best meals of any of our lives. Everything was fresh, seasonal, locally sourced, and brilliantly executed. Highlights were the pea and wild garlic risotto, pan roasted hake with beetroot and braised fennel, and the beetroot ice cream with grappa meringue.
I would not be surprised to return in a year and find a Michelin star at the door.