Galway Travel: A Guide To Visiting The City
Galway is one of the most culturally-rich destinations in Ireland. It was named the European Capital of Culture for 2020 by Creative Europe.
This amazing city is packed with fun things to do, a wonderful vibe and a rich history. While I was living in Dublin, I visited Galway numerous times. It’s one of my favourite places in Ireland.
It’s less travelled than Dublin, so visiting Galway feels like a more local experience. If you visit in the off-season, you may even find that you’re one of the only tourists around.
Let this Galway travel guide inspire you and help you plan your next trip to the Emerald Isle!
BEST TIME TO VISIT
Unlike Ireland’s east coast, the west coast is commonly known for its dreary weather. However, most people are quick to judge this area and assume that the weather is worse than it actually is.
Don’t worry! There are bright and sunny days, and it doesn’t rain as much as everyone assumes it does — even though it may rain for a few minutes every day.
Most tourists will visit Galway in March, July, and August. This is when the city is at its busiest, so keep this in mind when you’re planning your Galway travel experience.
During winter, there are fewer tourists because it’s a lot colder and some tourist attractions may be closed.
Spring and autumn both have pretty great weather and if you plan your trip right, Galway won’t be overrun by travellers.
Galway’s peak season is summer (mid-June to August) since this is when the weather is nicest and most people have the time off. March is another popular and overly busy time to visit due to St. Patrick’s Day.
The prices during this season are at an all-time high because everyone is visiting and hotels can charge more. Travellers can expect that the city will be at its busiest during these months.
Avoid visiting during this time if you can, unless you really want to attend the St. Patrick’s Day Festival in Galway. The bright side is that Galway’s festival is less busy than Dublin’s.
The shoulder season in Galway is both the springtime (besides the few days surrounding St. Patrick’s Day) and autumn. The weather is great during these months, despite the rain every once in a while!
Prices during this time are more levelled-off, especially for hotels. Accommodations have no reason to raise prices since not as many people are trying to visit during this time.
Travelling in Galway during the shoulder season isn’t crazy-busy and the weather averages 10°C so you don’t need to wear a jacket in the middle of the day.
Galway’s off-season is the winter, as is the same with most places in Ireland. Wintertime in Galway isn’t the most pleasant and days are pretty short with the sun starting to set as early as 3:30 p.m.
The temperature during this time isn’t the best for city exploring because it averages 5°C. The only good news is that Galway doesn’t experience any snow whatsoever!
If you’d like to experience visiting Galway with the least amount of tourists possible, then you’re welcome to visit in the winter. There are a lot of cosy pubs that could warm you up with some nice Irish Stew.
WHERE TO STAY
Luckily, there is a multitude of great areas to stay in Galway. You pretty much can’t go wrong — there really isn’t a bad neighbourhood. If you’re just spending a weekend in Galway, you may want to consider being more central, but if you have longer, anywhere will do!
Every neighbourhood listed below offers a mix of either bed and breakfasts, Airbnbs, hotels, and hostels. There’s accommodation for every type of traveller.
This is the area where the traditional Irish ring got its name!
The Claddaugh is one of the neighbourhoods in Galway with the most history. If you’re a history buff, that’s an automatic win for you.
This area used to be a fishing village and it dates back hundreds of years ago.
This Claddagh, in particular, is extremely pretty because it’s located right on Galway Harbour, which is one of the must-see sites in the city.
No matter where you stay in this area, you’re sure to look out your window and see a wonderful view.
Most hotels here are upper mid-range, as they cost around €90. There are also some local bed and breakfast options if you prefer a more homey feel during your stay in Galway city.
Click here for hotels in the Claddagh area.
Though slightly farther outside of the city than The Claddagh, Salthill is still worth considering when booking a place to stay. It’s also located right next to the water and therefore offers some pretty nice coastal views.
What makes Salthill so great is that there are quite a few beaches in the area that you could easily visit.
If you’re lucky enough to not be visiting in peak season, you may even find that you have a beach to yourself.
This is a more affordable area to stay with most accommodations costing around €65 on average. You won’t be short on places to eat since there are a lot of restaurants, pubs, and bars nearby.
Click here for hotels in the Salthill area.
Galway City Centre
If you want to stay right in the middle of the hustle and bustle when visiting Galway, then stay in the city centre. Most places to stay in this area will cost around €100 unless you opt to stay in a hostel, or an Airbnb.
From the city centre, you could easily walk to almost any Galway attraction, including busy Quay Street or Eyre Square.
You also won’t have to spend as much on public transportation if you stay here, and you’ll be just a short walk away from pubs and nightlife.
Click here for hotels in Galway City Centre.
This neighbourhood is the farthest away from the city centre, but is close enough that you can still easily get to and from — by bike, bus or car.
Oranmore is a good option if you’re looking for a quieter, authentic western Ireland experience, and it’s a top option for families visiting Galway.
Oranmore is home to a picturesque castle, a large park, and hiking trails in the forest of Merlin Woods Park. Plus, lots of livestock, wheat fields and sports clubs.
Click here for hotels in Oranmore.
What To Do
THINGS TO SEE AND DO
There is a multitude of fun things to do and see in Galway. No matter what kind of traveller you are, you’ll find something that interests you.
Since Galway is a city, there are lots of fun shopping streets to explore, but as it’s also on the coast, you’ll find lots of outdoor activities as well. Here are three must-sees in Galway:
This beautiful harbour is one of the most picturesque areas of Galway city. A vibrant array of colourful houses line the harbour and boats come in and out of the area.
If you find that you have amazing weather during your trip to Galway, then be sure to pack yourself a picnic and sit by the harbour to fully soak up the views.
You’re missing out if you don’t add this into your Galway travel itinerary, even if you’re only going to be there for a day!
Quay Street is a bit like Galway’s own version of Grafton Street in Dublin, but it’s lined with an abundance of pubs, restaurants, and shops.
If you’re lucky, you may even witness some of Galway’s local street performers (buskers) for free on the street!
Some of the best street performers in Ireland can be found here.
This huge square, also known as John F. Kennedy Memorial Park, is often considered one of the city’s main hubs. There may even be a market during your visit to Eyre Square!
It’s completely free to explore the relaxing square, which is filled with stores, fountains, and a playground for young ones.
TOP TOURS IN GALWAY
There are numerous fun tours in Galway city, and there’s a tour for everyone — no matter what kind of traveller you are.
Whether you’re a foodie or a history buff, there’s a tour for you! Below are a few of the top-rated tours in Galway.
Irish Food Trail Galway
If you consider yourself a foodie, you have to do this tour in Galway city!
The tour is hosted by a local and he will spend 3 hours bringing you around Galway to some of the best hidden pubs and restaurants.
This tour is recommended for couples, solo travellers, and families with children over the age of 12. Click here to learn more.
Galway's Legendary Walking Tour
A great way to learn about Galway’s history is to take an introductory walking tour.
This 90-minute tour will teach you all about the Lynch family of Galway, the Claddagh, and more. You’ll also learn more about the historical sites of the city.
This tour is family-friendly and everyone under age 16 is free! Plus, the tour is limited to 10 people so you’re bound to have a personalised experience. Click here to learn more.
The Claddagh Ring Experience
As mentioned earlier in this post, the Claddagh legend came from Galway! This is a great tour to learn more about the culture of the city.
This awesome 2-hour Airbnb experience will teach you all about the history of the Claddagh and you’ll even visit a ring workshop and a famous jeweller.
The tour ends with coffee, tea, and dessert at a local bakery. This tour is family-friendly and is perfect for couples and solo travellers alike. Click here to learn more.
BEST DAY TRIPS FROM GALWAY
If you find that you’ll have more than a few days in Galway city, then I highly recommend taking advantage of its prime location to visit some of the surrounding sites.
Many of Ireland’s natural gems are in western Ireland, and Galway is the perfect location to serve as a home-base.
Here are some of the best day trips that you should consider.
Cliffs of Moher
This Galway guide wouldn’t be complete without mentioning a day trip to the Cliffs of Moher!
These gorgeous green cliffs set against the rocky blue waves provide a perfect photo opportunity for any traveller.
The Cliffs of Moher are by far the most popular site for tourists to visit in all of the Emerald Isle.
Tickets start at €10 and you can easily get there in 1.5 hours by driving or by taking Bus Eireann 350, which takes slightly longer.
Another option is to book a day tour with one of Galway’s many tour companies, like this one.
This beautiful abbey was built in 1920 and is a Benedictine monastery. It was originally built for nuns that were fleeing from Belgium during WWI.
It takes around 1 hour to get to Kylemore Abbey from Galway by car. There’s also an option to take 2 different buses, but this takes closer to 3 hours.
Book a day tour to learn more and to have your transportation easily sorted out. Click here for details.
The Aran Islands are a small group of three islands located right off Ireland’s western coast.
The islands include Inishmore (the most popular island to visit), Inisheer, and Inishmaan.
There’s an abundance of forts and historical sites to visit on these islands, including Dun Aengus and O’Brien’s Castle.
One of the smallest churches in the world is also here —Teampall Bheanáin.
Luckily, it’s easy to get here from Galway with this affordable day tour.
WHERE AND WHAT TO EAT
Galway’s food scene is one of the best in Ireland. The city is mainly known for its seafood dishes, so if you’re a fan of seafood, you’re in great luck.
Since Galway is located right on Ireland’s coast, many of the seafood restaurants get their fish from local fisherman early in the morning and will serve it to you later in the city centre.
Your Galway travel adventure wouldn’t be complete without trying seafood in at least some form! Here are some dishes you won’t want to miss.
If you’re looking to try the best oysters in Galway, you’ll want to visit McDonagh’s. Three oysters will only cost €5.50 ($6).
The oysters come straight from Kelly Oysters which have been at the forefront of the oyster business in Ireland for over 50 years. The oysters are caught right in Galway Bay.
Fish and Chips:
Though fish and chips may be seen as a traditional English dish, Galway is also known for it! This dish is fried fish with a side of french fries.
Be sure to try it at McDonagh’s, which has its own fish and chip shop in addition to their seafood restaurant. The price fluctuates depending on what type of fish you order, but cod starts at €6.40 ($7).
All the best food in Galway revolves around seafood!
The best place to get mussels in Galway is at Oscar’s Seafood Bistro. An average meal here will cost around €15 ($17), but you’re paying for local, high quality food.
Best Restaurants in Galway
Dela Restaurant: This is farm to table restaurant located right in Galway that sources its ingredients locally. Dela Restaurant has a casual and modern atmosphere, with prices ranging from €12 to €23 ($14 to $26). See the brunch menu.
Crust Bucket: Don’t let this funny name deter you from eating here, this is a great place to eat in Galway! Crust Bucket is a quirky pizza place inside of a double-decker bus with prices ranging from €10 to €12 ($11 to $14). See the menu.
Pullman Restaurant: This is a more upscale restaurant located in an old converted Orient Express train car! It’s a one-of-a-kind dining experience. The atmosphere is luxurious and dinner will cost €61 ($69) for two courses or €69 ($78) for three courses. Click here to learn more.
BEST PUBS IN GALWAY
The pubs in Galway are amazing and a lot of them are known more for their live local music rather than their food! You’re sure to be entertained no matter which pub you choose to eat at in Galway.
Here are a few of the best pubs to stop in at when visiting Galway.
This is one of the most popular pubs in Galway. Located conveniently right near Eyre Square, O’Connell’s has its own beer garden and a casual atmosphere.
You’ll want to visit for the beer garden itself which feels like its own hidden section of Galway! It used to be a grocery store but converted to being just a pub around 50 years ago.
While you’re there, try to order some of their pizza, which is beyond delicious. It will be a highlight of your Galway travel experience.
Taaffes Bar is located right near Eyre Square as well.
This pub is particularly well-known for its live music. No matter what time you visit, there was always some form of live music being performed.
Taaffes Bar is located in a 400-year-old building, but the pub has only been up and running for around 150 years. This is a great pub to visit if you want to run into some locals!
Tigh Neachtain is one of the most cozy pubs in Galway, with fireplaces throughout. You’ll also find live music here.
Unlike Taafes Bar and O’Connells, Tigh Naechtain is located near Quay Street in the city centre of Galway.
This pub in particular dates back pretty far and the Neachtain family has been running it for over 100 years. The current location was once home to the founder of the first theatre in Galway.
LIVE MUSIC VENUES
Since Galway is known as a cultural hub of Ireland, it’s of course also known for its live music venues. The best live music in Galway can be found inside pubs and restaurants mostly. Here are three top spots.
If you want to experience some local trad music, you 100% have to go to Monroe’s Tavern. It’s located right down the road from the Spanish Arch and next door to Oscar’s Seafood Bistro.
They also serve some great food and have open fireplaces. Monroe’s Tavern even has Irish dancing on Tuesday nights. Find it on the map, here.
Some say that Róisín Dubh is one of the best live music venues in the world. If that doesn’t sell you on this venue, I don’t know what will!
It’s located just a five-minute walk from Monroe’s Tavern and they also serve traditional pub food. Find it on the map, here.
Tig Chóilí is another excellent spot in Galway to listen to some trad music. There are live music sessions scheduled twice every day.
Despite having scheduled times, Tig Chóilí is specifically known for its spontaneity! Oftentimes, musicians may come into the pub to grab a pint and instead end up performing from their table. Find it on the map, here.
FESTIVALS IN GALWAY
As the cultural hub of Ireland, Galway has so many fun festivals throughout the year. From food to arts to literature, Galway has a festival for everything!
Keep in mind that if you’re visiting Galway during a festival, the city might be a lot busier than normal. Here are a few of the most interesting and fun festivals that the city offers.
Vodafone Comedy Carnival
This is considered to be the biggest festival of comedy in all of the European Union. It’s been running since 2006.
The festival takes place over a whole week, during which, 10 shows a day take place. This festival only sells tickets to anyone over the age of 16.
Some of Ireland’s best comedians come to take part in the Vodafone Comedy Carnival every October.
Tickets start around €20 ($23) depending on the shows you choose to attend.
Cúirt International Festival of Literature
If you’re a fan of literature, this is the festival for you.
This is one of the oldest festivals in Galway, running since 1985.
The Cúirt International Festival of Literature promotes poetry, non-fiction, literary fiction, and more. It’s a week-long festival in April.
You purchase tickets per show and each show costs anywhere from €6 ($7) to €25 ($28).
Galway International Arts Festival
The Galway International Arts Festival dates back to 1978 and features music, theatre performances, and more during July.
This festival normally takes place over approximately 10 days and it’s the biggest arts festival in all of Ireland. It’s recommended for couples and solo travellers.
Like the other festivals on this list, you buy tickets separately for each performance that you’d like to see.
Depending on the popularity of the artists, tickets can range anywhere from €30 ($34) to €55 ($62).
HIKING IN GALWAY
Though there aren’t any hikes directly in Galway city, you can easily travel about 30 to 60 minutes out of the city and find some amazing trails.
If you’ll be in the area for more than a few days, definitely go on one of these hikes to get the most out of your Galway travel experience.
Below are a few of the top-recommended hikes near Galway city — all offering breathtaking views.
This is a 2.5-mile trail about 30 minutes from Galway’s city centre. Unfortunately, it can’t be reached by public transportation.
The trail here is called Knockma Nature Reserve Trail and is considered moderate.
It’s forested and you’ll feel like you’re in a mystical place — there’s an abundance of fairy doors throughout the forest too.
There’s a legend that says Connacht’s Queen is buried somewhere on this hill, so you can be on the lookout during your hike.
At Diamond Hill, there are two trails to choose from. These beautiful trails are located right in Connemara National Park.
Though these trails are an hour’s drive out of the city centre, the views are worth it.
Upper Diamond Hill Trail is best for intermediate hikers and is approximately 3.8 miles long. Beginner hikers may choose to hike Lower Diamond Hill Trail which is only 1.6 miles long.
The views at the top are unmatched as they offer views of the coastline and the Twelve Bens mountain range.
Portumna Forest Park
This beautiful park filled with trails is only a 50-minute drive from Galway city.
It’s made up of four different trails, all with varying degrees of difficulty. Each offers great views of the water and cover a decent amount of the park.
Beginners should opt towards the Forest Friendly Walking Trail which is around 1 mile long and takes 20 minutes.
Intermediate hikers will want to go on either the Bonaveen Walking Trail or Rinmaher Walking Trail, both of which are around 6 miles long.
Top Beaches in Galway
Since Galway is located right on the water, there are quite a few great beaches in the area.
Most of these beaches aren’t meant for swimming but do provide a great place for walking or jogging. Here are three good options:
Salthill Beach is technically one beach that’s made up of tinier ones, so you’ll be able to find an area just to yourself if you want.
It’s fun to go swimming here and the water is a beautiful shade of blue. Keep in mind that lifeguards aren’t on duty year-round.
This beach is a 10-minute drive or a 20-minute bus ride away from Galway’s city centre and can provide a perfect escape from city life for a little bit.
Ballyloughane Beach isn’t a swimming beach, but it is a great place to walk the shoreline and just feel at one with nature.
If you’re looking for a place to bring your kids, this is a place that they’ll love. It’s also an area that isn’t usually busy.
South Park is another coastal beach area that isn’t necessarily for swimming! You can walk straight to Salthill from here within 15 minutes.
This beachy area provides great views of the harbour and there’s a playground that’s great for the kids.
Be sure to also walk Nimmo’s Pier to get some great views of the water.
COST OF TRAVEL IN GALWAY
If you’re okay with giving up luxury stays to save money, it can be quite budget-friendly and cheap to visit Galway.
One night in a hostel dorm will only cost around €18 ($20), while hotel rooms average around €90 ($100), depending on the area you choose to stay in.
Bed and breakfasts are a good mid-range option, costing around €70 ($75) per night.
Airbnbs in Galway can cost anywhere from €30 to €100 ($33 to $113), but the nice thing about staying in an Airbnb is that you can save money by cooking your own food.
Transportation won’t cost more than €10 ($11) a day, especially if you have a Visitor Leap Card.
Choosing to eat at local restaurants will allow meals to cost around €7 to €10 ($8 to $11) while expensive restaurants can put you out upwards of €60 ($67) per meal.
Budget $40 / Day
This would get you one night’s stay in a hostel dorm, budget-friendly meals, and allow you to visit a lot of the free sites in Galway.
Mid-Range $150 / Day
A budget like this would allow you to stay in The Claddagh neighbourhood in a bed and breakfast with meals at some of the great pubs in the area.
Top-End $300 / Day
With $300 a day, you could stay directly in Galway’s city centre and eat at some of the finer places in the city, including a nice dinner at Pullman Restaurant.
GETTING AROUND GALWAY
Galway’s public transportation is quite reliable and you’ll most likely use it at least once a day while in the city, especially if you’re staying a bit away from the centre.
If you purchase a Visitor Leap Card, you can save around €0.50 per ride, so be sure to buy one to save money. Staying outside of the city centre will most likely require you to at least use public transport to get to and from the city.
If you’re staying closer to the city centre, you’ll most likely be able to rely on walking or biking.
IS GALWAY SAFE?
Ireland, in general, is pretty safe for travellers, and since Galway is a small city, there isn’t much crime. The overall risk for travelling in Galway is quite low.
There aren’t any particular neighbourhoods that are at higher risk for crime, though it’s probably best to be especially alert while in the city centre for pickpockets.
Use normal safety precautions, especially at night and try to stick to well-lit areas.
Consult local travel advisories and the current political climate before planning your trip to Galway for safety precautions, and ask your hotel receptionists if it’s safe to walk around at night.