Galway Travel Guide
If you’re in search for a proper Irish hooley, look no further than Galway. Walking the streets of this city, it’s not uncommon to find raucous groups out on the town for stag and hen parties, or the lively sounds of alcohol-inspired drinking songs drifting out the doorways of the numerous brightly colored local pubs.
Come prepared for a few late nights, as the largely student population keeps this city abuzz with activity. But not to worry; when it’s time to take a break from the partying, you can walk along the water at Galway’s Salthill Promenade or relax in the park at nearby Eyre Square.
Those looking to immerse themselves in Irish culture will also have a great time, as Galway is one of the few cities in Ireland where the locals will regularly speak in the traditional Irish language.
What to Budget
€10-25 per night
With the large student population and the high amount of travelers coming to Galway, you’ll find that there are plenty of hostels around. Because of this, you should be able to shop around a bit to find a low price hostel that still suits your needs.
Choose wisely, though. My first time in the city, I stayed at the ironically named Sleepzone. My 10 bed room left a lot to be desired and the hostel staff didn’t seem bothered by the group partying in the hallway late into the night. I highly recommend finding a smaller and less expensive hostel a little outside the city center if you plan on getting any sleep at all.
Going out to Eat
€8-15 per meal
With all the pubs in Galway, there’s no reason to overpay for a meal in a fancy restaurant. Take your pick of one of the many establishments in the Latin Quarter and enjoy a delicious hot meal at a great price.
Galway is a very walkable city and really doesn’t require transportation to get around, but should you want to rest your feet on journey across town, Bus Eireann runs a local line that should get you anywhere you need to go for around €2. Once you’re ready to move to your next Ireland destination, the same central bus station offers service to other cities relatively cheap.
€5-15 per day
There is plenty to do in Galway for free, but should you want to visit a museum or take in a show at the Irish Language Theater, tickets can typically be bought for €15 or less.
How to Save
Cook For Yourself
While the pub food can be inexpensive, cooking for yourself will always be cheaper. Visit the local Aldi or Lidl grocery store and stock up on the basics like bread, peanut butter, cold cuts, pasta and vegetables. It should cost you less than €20 all together and will last you the week.
Find a Hostel with Free Breakfast
Many hostels you’ll come across offer free breakfast during your stay. It’s usually just the basics like toast and cereal, but regardless, it’s one less meal you have to pay for. If you really want to get fancy, buy a half dozen eggs for €1 and add some protein to to your breakfast.
Take a Free Walking Tour
The Galway City Trust offers a free walking tour every Tuesday and Thursday between May and September. The tour covers Galway’s impressive medieval history and is entirely donation based.
Fish and Chips at McDonagh’s
It’s an unwritten law that you can’t come to Galway and not get the fish and chips at McDonagh’s on Quay Street. This family-run restaurant has been serving locals and tourists alike for over 100 years and consistently wins the title of best fish and chips in Ireland, which is no small feat.
The staff moves quickly and the menu is surprisingly daunting, so be sure to have your order ready by the time you approach the counter. I personally recommend the cod and chips with curry sauce for dipping, and a side of the mushy peas. I’m getting nostalgia hunger just thinking about it.
Salmon Weir Hostel
After a couple iffy hostel experiences in Galway, I eventually stumbled upon Salmon Weir Hostel. It’s a short walk to the city center, but still far enough away to escape the sounds of the late night bar crowds. Mostly, I enjoyed the fact that it felt more like a house as opposed to the other hostels I stayed in which reminded me of a large college dorm building. Rooms are cheap, the staff is incredibly helpful, and the common areas are great. You can’t ask for much better!
Pub Hop in the Latin Quarter
Galway’s Latin Quarter is the hub for drinking, dining, and boutique shopping. Visit some of the many brightly painted pubs on Quay Street to grab a pint and enjoy the live music. The best pub on the street (and quite possible all of Galway) is widely considered to be Tigh Neachtain. This beautiful old pub is Galway’s mixing pot; hosting customers from all over the world and from every walk of life. You would be hard pressed to find a better place to spend an evening in this city.
Take a Tour
Galway is seated in a great geographical location for touring some of Ireland’s more scenic spots. Last time I was here, I took a tour of the Cliffs of Moher with the Galway Tour Company that stopped in several small fishing villages as well. I really enjoyed the opportunity to visit not only the iconic landmarks, but some of the less-traveled areas of the country as well.
Hike the Hills of Connemara National Park
Connemara National Park is a gorgeous expanse of rolling green hills and rivers that sits just an hour and a half from Galway. The Galway Tour Company I mentioned above, in addition to many other tour groups, offer day trips to this breathtaking area.
Before ever coming to Ireland, when I would close my eyes and imagine what the countryside looked like, this is the place I would picture in my mind. Be sure to bring a camera with you, because there are no words to describe to people back home just how beautiful this place is.
When you’re ready to take a break from the crowds in downtown Galway, head over to nearby Salthill Promenade; known to the locals as “the prom”. Here, you can walk along the waters of Galway Bay, overlooking the distant Aran Islands, while enjoying the nearby shops and restaurants.
If you happen to be here during the last week of July, you can’t miss the Galway Races. This week-long horse racing event is THE event of the year and draws in massive crowds from all over.