Galway is one of the most popular destinations in Ireland. People from all over the world come to visit the city. Many of the them will only stay in Galway for a day.
I know that this might seem like a very short amount of time, but if you play your cards right, this can be more than enough to experience what Galway has to offer. There are plenty of things to do in Galway, so read on if you want to see as much as possible!
There will be multiple options for things to do in Galway, once you hit the part of the guide you’re are looking for. Attached to this guide is a map, where I have included all the attractions and establishments mentioned. This is a free tool for you to use during your stay here.
When using this guide, it might be a good idea to open the map and see where things are. Also, as it is a Google map, you will be able to download it to your phone to use when you have no easy access to WiFi.
Walking around Galway today is like stepping back in time. You will find modern coffee shops and banks in 500-year-old castles. Winding medieval streets will lead you to trendy cafes and bars, well off the beaten tourist trails.
A veteran Irish Guide once told me that, “if you don’t like Galway, you don’t like anywhere!” and he was completely right.
Even though Galway is a city where going to the bank means that you step into a building steeped in history, that history is by no means finished. Like the rest of Ireland, the last 25 years has brought massive change.
In that time the population of the city has nearly doubled. People from all over the west of Ireland have moved here for work and study.
But here you will also find people from all over the world who have fallen in love with this little city. You can get a sense of this change by simply walking the streets!
Before we get into the details of what to see, we need to talk about some of the more important logistical information first.
Getting to Galway
Galway is the fourth biggest city in Ireland, so it is easier to reach than many smaller towns throughout the country. Having said this, some methods of transport are better than others. Here I will talk a little bit about how to get to Galway.
If you are travelling to Galway as your first port of call, then there are a couple of options for flying there. Shannon Airport is the closest airport to the city. It is about an hour away from the city centre by car and between 1.5 – 2 hours away by bus, but there are also direct links from Dublin Airport.
If you are travelling directly from Dublin city, the company that I recommend is GoBus, they offer good value for money and are a comfortable and reliable service. They are also the company that I frequently use!
If you are travelling to Galway from Dublin by train, there are regular services that will run throughout the day, though they will be more expensive than (and roughly the same length of time as) the bus route that I previously mentioned.
Use the table below to find out more information on getting to Galway:
|Method||Approximate Journey Time||Ticket Price (Adult Single)||Booking Link|
|From Shannon Airport||1.5 – 2 Hours||€50+||Galway Shuttle|
|From Dublin Airport||3.5 Hours||€18||GoBus|
|Bus from Dublin||3 Hours||€13||GoBus|
|Train from Dublin||2.5 – 3 Hours||€20||Irish Rail|
I also have a comprehensive guide to getting around Ireland, if you want more detailed information.
The most important meal of the day is a great way to start off any city guide. This is the first thing you will do in the morning, so this is where we should talk about it!
There are several great places to get a bite to eat around Galway, but if you are going for something with a local flavour, why not try a “full Irish breakfast”. The ingredients for the meal are as follows:
- Grilled or fried rashers,
- black and white pudding,
- A fried egg,
- All served with homemade brown or white soda bread.
This meal is a great way to start your day, especially the morning after enjoying any of Galway’s excellent pubs!
This is my personal favourite place to get breakfast in Galway. Located on a side-street near the main square, this is a great spot to get away from the busy crowds in the centre of town.
The building itself is in an old warehouse which was turned into a coffee shop in 2011 by Pascal himself. Originally from France, but growing up in England, he met a local, married her and moved to Galway to set up his own series of coffee shops which have become successful.
Here you will find an atmosphere suitable for individuals or groups. The food is usually excellent with the menu catering to a variety of different tastes, if you want the full Irish, or a vegan alternative, you can find it here.
Customer service was one of the biggest priorities for Pascal when he set up shop and the staff are some of the most helpful around. Prices range from approximately €8-15 per meal.
Gourmet Tart Company
This chain was founded by a local couple, Fintan and Michelle, in 2001. Since then it has expanded to 5 bakeries/ delis and a restaurant and is extremely popular among locals.
The Gourmet Tart Company run on the French style of baking, the have real French chefs who cook into the night and prepare all the food served the next day.
The food on offer usually comes in the form of pastries, in both sweet and savoury kinds. If you are looking for something quick bite to eat at any time of the day, this is normally a great option, with locations all around the city.
Prices here normally range between €5-15 per meal.
For more food options, I have a guide to the best restaurants in Galway.
Now that you are up and moving, its time to head out and get some serious sightseeing done! I always recommend people do this in the morning.
This way you will be less tired, you will absorb as much of the information as possible and if you hear about anything good from guides or locals, you can act on it later in the day.
Also, everything else that you experience in the city will be put into better context thanks to the anything cultural you participate in early in the day.
Free Walking Tour
This is still my number one recommendation whenever its available. I started my career in tourism by giving this type of tour and I feel they are a great way to get to know a place in a short amount of time.
The company that I advise you check out in Galway is “Tribes Tours”. They operate from Eyre square every day from 11am.
This tour is approximately 1.5 hours long and encompasses large parts of the city of Galway. The tour itself talks about Galway’s history, how it was founded and its place in Irish and world history.
I really enjoy the history of this unique city and tours like this are great in a town that you can walk around in less than an hour.
Going to places like the old city walls and the Spanish Arch are fine if you do them by yourself but getting the chance to experience them and learn about the stories and mythology that goes along with them is a great way to spend a morning.
Galway City Museum
The main museum in Galway is one of the best ones that I know of in Ireland. This museum is free to the public, but is closed on Mondays, so plan accordingly!
This museum goes into detail on the history of this beautiful little city. They begin by talking about the archaeological methods that have been used to learn more about the region’s past.
The recent economic boom that Ireland has felt, brought with it a lot of construction, this in turn has helped us unearth artefacts that are thousands of years old all around the country. You can see some of them on display here in Galway.
People from Galway are proud of their city’s history and you can see this pride on full display in the museum. They go into detail on Galway’s contribution to the struggle for Irish independence and the subsequent foundation of an independent Irish state.
Another point of pride for the locals is the area’s sporting history and you will learn a lot about it here! I feel that this museum is a wonderful addition to the walking tour, if you get the chance to do one. There is also a great coffee shop on the premises, if you are looking for something quick.
Day Trips from Galway
There are also plenty of places nearby that offer great ways to experience some of the beautiful Irish countryside.
I have a list of my favourite day tours from Galway, if you want to explore some of the beautiful West Coast of Ireland from the city.
If you want to sit down for lunch in Galway and enjoy something a little more substantial, I have a few options for you! Bear in mind that during the tourist season, Galway can get busy.
People will come from all over Ireland to visit the city for a few hours during the afternoon. This can mean that places will be very busy during lunchtime. Try to plan and beat the crowds with this guide!
Food for Thought
This is my favourite café in Galway. This place is in a small alleyway just off one of the busiest and most bustling parts of the city, shop street.
When you wind your way off the main thoroughfare you will find yourself at this cosy, locally owned café. The building itself is like most of the rest of Galway, old. You will order food at the counter, take a seat and wait for a great quality meal delivered right to your table.
The food offered comes in many different flavours and can suit many tastes. If you are looking for traditional Irish cuisine, a vegan meal, or something more exotic, they will probably be able to provide for you here.
Most importantly, the food is good value, a typical meal will cost between €5-15.
This famous Galway institution is located right between the Galway Museum and the Spanish Arch, possibly the best location in the city! It is named after the famous Scottish Engineer, Alexander Nimmo.
If you eat in this establishment, you will be able to see the pier that he added to Galway harbour across the river Corrib.
The restaurant itself is one of the most iconic in the city. You can tell this is already the case due to its excellent location, but the food on offer is truly great.
You will be able to experience some of the finest dining in all of Galway right here with some of the best views, looking over the river Corrib and over to the Claddagh village.
Prices are normally between €15-25 per meal.
Now that you have learned about the unique culture on the western coast of Ireland, its time to go out and experience some of it! The atmosphere of Galway is truly something else.
If you want to experience some of the best “Craic” that Irish people are always talking about, then you should come to Galway and embrace the city’s atmosphere. These are some of the things that I think can help you experience this in Galway.
Take a Stroll…
“…Down the Old Long Walk, wah hey, eh eyy eh eeyyy!”. The famous song “Galway Girl”, by Mundy (Not Ed Sheeran), starts with these lyrics.
Working in tourism in Ireland I have probably heard this song far too much, but if you come here you will more than likely enjoy this tale of an American falling in love with a local.
The Long Walk is a short street, near the Spanish Arch and museum, that has become iconic thanks to photos and paintings of it, taken from the other side of the river. But walking the streets of Galway is one of the best things that you can do in the city.
It really is a place that I feel you should try to get lost in. With a place this size, you won’t be lost for long and Ireland is one of the safest countries in the world, so you shouldn’t worry!
But getting the opportunity to lose myself in this city is something that I really enjoy. You can walk around the entire place in about an hour or so. In that time, you will probably find some sort of bar or restaurant that is not in any guide (even this one!), or you might find out about some sort of event or gig that is happening later that evening.
There is always something going on in Galway!
Even if you don’t want to get lost in a new city, going window shopping along Shop Street and listening to musicians from all over the world perform can be a great way to spend an afternoon.
Some More Museums
Being a medieval city, Galway has plenty of interesting buildings for you to check out. Also, being a city on the west coast of Ireland means that it probably rains about 400 days a year, so getting the chance to wander the streets might not happen on your visit.
If you are lucky enough to see the authentic Galway weather, you will get the chance to see some of the more unique buildings in the city. Near the Spanish Arch is the current offices of the local government.
When construction began on these offices in the 1990’s they found the remains of a 13th Century building. The “Hall of the Red Earl”, is a unique piece of history that you can explore for free any day of the week and get a glimpse of life in the city hundreds of years ago.
Near Shop Street you can also check out the oldest Cathedral in Galway, St. Nicholas’. Like most of the religious buildings in Ireland that are more than 200 years old, this is Anglican.
But if you chose to venture inside you will be able to find out about this building’s storied history. There are monuments dedicated to local soldiers who fought with the British army in conflicts around the world for hundreds of years.
You will be able to learn about how the building was impacted by Cromwell’s invasion of the city. There are also local legends about how Cristopher Columbus prayed in this building in the years before his famous trip across the Atlantic Ocean!
Another unique exhibit is in Lynch’s castle. On Shop Street, the old castle is now a bank, but on the ground floor you will be able to access a room that goes into detail on the old castle and some of its history. The room is open to the public and you can access it for free on any weekday.
By this stage in the day you have probably been walking for a while and are ready for something hearty to fill you up before you hit the town! As mentioned before, Galway has been hit by the same “foodie renascence” that has been felt all over the rest of Ireland.
You have always been able to find Irish food prepared with some of the best quality ingredients, but now you can find cuisine of all descriptions, prepared with ingredients that have been grown locally whenever possible.
And if you have been travelling around Galway city, you will clearly see that there are a lot of ingredients that are grown locally! Here are a couple of places that you might like to check out…
The Pie Maker
This is one of the most popular places to eat in the city. During the college year, you will probably see people lining out the door for the chance to eat here.
There are a couple of locations, both are right next to each other, near the famous shop street. As the name suggests they serve pies here.
Made in a traditional style, they have a menu to suit various tastes, but if you have spent a day in the bracing Galway weather, there are few things better than coming inside for a warm, filling meal and a nice beer too!
The prices are usually €10-20 per meal.
TGO Falafel Bar
This is one of my favourite places to eat in the city. Located just off the main streets, you might have to wander a little before you find this place.
If you do decide to get off the beaten path though, you will be seriously rewarded! If you are looking for any sort of vegan/vegetarian cuisine, then this is where I recommend you go. The food here is prepared in front of you and you will have the option of either sitting in or taking the food to go.
The meals themselves are filling and always created with fresh ingredients. I personally enjoy this place because after a while traditional Irish food can be a little filling. It is sometimes a good idea to have something a little lighter.
Prices here are normally €7-15 per meal.
Enjoy Galway’s Nightlife
When the sun goes down, is the time that Galway really shines! This city is famous across Ireland for the quality of its nightlife. Musicians of all sorts venture here to prove their worth in the Galway pub scene.
You have probably heard some of them already today on the streets of the city, but now they are out of the cold and in a cosy pub. Here are a few of the places that I think you will get the chance to see some of the best live performances in the city of Galway.
If you are interested in exploring more of the city’s nightlife, I have a list of my favourite activities to give you some alternatives for your stay.
Listening to music at Tig Coili
This gem of a pub is located right next to St. Nicholas’ Cathedral. During the day this is normally a great place for a quiet drink as its not too busy. If you get the chance to go there during the day you will see pictures all over the walls of musicians.
Some of them you will probably recognise, but others might be a complete mystery. During the evening, this place will get busy. This traditional Irish pub is well known as the place to go for both well-established and up and coming musicians to practice their trade.
This sort of thing has been going on in Tig Coili’s for decades.
If you want to experience this slice of authentic Irish musical life, then I recommend you arrive early to beat the crowd and secure yourself a seat. The music will be free for you to enjoy, but that doesn’t mean that the musicians will refuse any tips that you feel they deserve!
The Roisin Dubh
I cannot talk about Galway and not mention this place. The Roisin Dubh is famous all over Ireland for the quality of its live performances, with live acts performing there every night of the week.
They tend to have acts of all descriptions perform here. Irish comedians love to perform here and there is usually some sort of comedy act performed here on any given week.
Musicians too like to cut their teeth by performing in this famous venue and you will find all kinds of different musical acts here. From traditional Irish music to modern American stars, they are all equal in this venue.
When the show finishes though, the music still goes on. This place will turn into a nightclub later in the evening and people from all over Galway tend to like to finish their nights right here.
I think that when you go to Galway you should try to experience a little bit of the city’s famous pub culture. One look at the weather forecast for Galway and you will be able to see why cosy public houses became so popular right around the county! Here are some of my favourite pubs in Galway
This is possibly the most famous pub in the city, and with good reason! Right on the main pedestrian street it is har to miss this place. It is also a warm and inviting spot, well over 100 years old, that offers guests the chance to have a drink in a cosy atmosphere, either in private, or in the more public parts of the pub!
The Salt House
Galway doesn’t end at the river. Too many visitors to the city get that far and turn back, don’t do that! Some of the best place in the city are just across the bridge.
One of my favourites in the Salt House, here you will find craft beer from all over Ireland and further afield, but the atmosphere here is one of the best I have seen in the city. If you want a cosy place, with a younger crowd, then this is where I would recommend.
There are usually Irish music sessions here during the week too, do if Tig Coili’s is too busy, The Salt House offers a great alternative (One that I personally prefer!)
This is one of the most popular spots in Galway, located right on Eyre Square. Some people might recognise this place from its appearance is the video for the Ed Sheeran version of “Galway Girl”.
The video features the famous Irish actress Saoirse Ronan. When you go into O’Connells’s, the first part of the pub looks like a cosy traditional Irish pub, but once you head out to the beer garden, you will see something totally different.
This huge area looks like something out of Harry Potter. On any given weekend, you will likely find hundreds of locals and tourists alike milling around and enjoying some of the best Craic to be had in Ireland!