Split in two by the River Corrib, this small Irish city is filled with a history of destruction and rebirth. Now Europe’s fastest growing city, Galway, Ireland, offers an eclectic variety of traditional Irish culture and international flare. From restaurants and pubs to galleries and events – Galway is a must-visit cultural capital in the Europe Union.
Day One –
Breakfast: Known for their food and service, Lohans Bar and Restaurant in Upper Salthill is worth the jaunt across town. Offering a full Irish breakfast along with options of the more traditional breakfast of porridge, pancakes, or eggs cooked to your liking – they are sure to help you start your day off right. And if you feel like it’s not enough, you can always add sides of sausage, potatoes, beans, eggs, etc.
The Prom / Galway Bay: After the hearty breakfast, take your time walking the Promenade that runs along Galway Bay and connects Salthill to Galway City center. Just about 2.5-3 km (depending on your chosen route), the prom offers an easy walk with beautiful views of the Aran Islands – visible to the right – and the Burren in County Clare across the bay. And to the West sits the bogs and mountains of Connemara. There’s an old expression that holds true to the Irish weather, “When you see Aran and the Clare hills it’s a sign of rain, and when you can’t see them, it’s actually raining!”
photo by: claytonhotelgalway.ie
Claddagh: At the end of your walk along the Prom, where River Corrib meets Galway Bay, sits the Claddagh Village – home to the famous Claddagh Ring, which was handed down generation to generation as a wedding ring symbolizing love, faith and honor.
The Claddagh Village used to be it’s own separate town apart from Galway City. Known for it’s fishing industry, it used to house a small fleet of Galway hookers – small fishing boats sent into Galway Bay to bring back mackerel and herring. The women would then take the catch across the river to sell in the city market. The small village used to have its own laws, kings, and customs but now finds itself a part of the greater Galway city area.
Don’t forget to purchase your own Claddagh Ring – available both for men and women in various shops around the village.
Kai Cafe: Just North of the Claddagh Village, have lunch at Kai Cafe & Restaurant. Hidden on Sea Road, this little lunch and dinner place is worth the walk. Proud owners, David and Jessica Murphey, only use fresh produce creating a constantly changing menu. If they can’t find it in the markets that day, then it won’t appear on your plate that afternoon or evening.
photo by: goodfoodireland.ie
History: After a relaxing lunch, cross over River Corrib on Father Griffin Road which will take you right to the Galway City Museum and Spanish Arch on the bank of the river. At the museum you will find a collection of objects of the cultural heritage related to Galway City and its people: past and present. There are over 1,000 objects in this collection which has been collected over the past 30 years.
The Spanish Arch, built in 1584, has no known association with the Spanish in Galway when the Arch was constructed — it was built as an extension of the city walls in order to protect from looting.
photo by: radford.edu
Stroll: After injecting yourself with some Galway history, head over to the Latin Quarter to explore Shop Street and Middle Street. Mosey around the big name shops, local boutiques and cafes as you listen to the famous buskers who line the streets looking to make some money. The streets are full of colorful wooden and brick buildings, flowers in the summer, and beautiful lights during the winter holidays. Any time you go, its sure to put a smile on your face.
Also pop into the many bookshops in the surrounding city center. One of the not-to-miss hot spots include: Charlie Byrne’s in the Cornstore on Middle Street is always well-stocked with new and second-hand books in both English and Irish.
Located on Shop / William Street, Galway writer Oscar Wilde sits next to Estonian writer Eduard Vilde – a gift presented to Ireland from Estonia when they entered the EU in 2004.
photo by: nazrie photography
Lynch’s Castle: Located on the corner of Shop Street and Abbeygate Street, Lynch’s Castle was home to the most powerful family in Galway. The limestone building is a classic example of Irish gothic style. Now home to the modern world of banking, the castle was restored in 1930 after the Allied Irish Banks came to own the building. People may enter the ground floor and view the history and architecture of the building.
Dinner: The Huntsman Inn Restaurant and Bar offers a collection of craft beers and ciders to accompany their locally produced (whenever possible) menu items. Offering a range of meats, fishes, and starters – The Huntsman Inn Restaurant and Bar is a nice way to end the evening just outside of the city center. With only one vegetarian dish on the menu, this place may be a little tricky for those who don’t eat meat or fish – but if you do, this is the place to be for the local cuisine.
Guinness & Irish tunes: Head back into town after filling up at dinner for some traditional Guinness and tunes at either The Quays (pronounced The Keys) or The Hole in the Wall – two bars always offering live music. Check out the list on the Galway City Pub Guide for more information on local pubs, good beer, and live music.
photo by: irelandhousing.com
Onto DAY TWO!
Weekend Market: Find the Galway Market open every weekend from 8am-6pm on Saturdays and noon to 6pm on Sunday. So, whether you start your day early in the morning or head over around noon on a Sunday, start your day wandering the market stalls filled with a variety of already made foods, fresh produce, and locally crafted products. The Market is located in the city center just in front of St. Nicholas’ Collegiate Church in the heart of the Latin Quarter.
photo by: irelands-directory.com
Island hopping: After a late morning / early afternoon stroll through the Market, pop over to Nuns Island via Bridge Street. Located in the River Corrib, Nuns Island is home to several green spaces in the city as well as the Department of Engineering Campus. But the main attraction, The Galway Cathedral – the seat of the Bishop of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Galway, Kilmacduagh and Kilfenora – is the youngest of Europe’s stone cathedrals (dedicated to Our Lady Assumed into Heaven and Saint Nicholas on August 15, 1965). Entrance is free.
National University: Visit the National University of Ireland just north of the Galway Cathedral for more inspiring stone structures. Some of the beautiful buildings date back to 1845 when Queen’s College of Galway was first established under The Queen’s University of Ireland.
photo by: nuigalway.ie
Lunch: A mix of creative and traditional with local produce, The Quay Street Kitchen offers a rotating daily menu of delicious food for great prices. Located in the city center, you can sit on the patio out front or at any of the cozy tables located inside.
The Shed: To find The Shed, a 4,000 square foot industrial warehouse, walk towards the harbor and you’ll find it located on the middle pier. Adapt Galway used The Shed to present various projects, events, and exhibitions by visual artists and organizations based in Galway. Check out the various ongoing events on their website to see what’s happening when you pass through the city.
Eyre Square: Head up to the Eyre Square, otherwise known as the John F. Kennedy Memorial Park, where you can lay on the grassy knoll, people watch, or wander in and out of the 60 shops around the main square. The park was dedicated to the former US president in 1965 after he visited the city and gave a speech in the square on June 29, 1963.
The square was redeveloped and reopened in 2006, having cost a mere €9.6 million. The finished square recieved the Irish Landscape Institute Design Award in 2007. Various monuments can also be found in the park including a bust of John F. Kennedy as well as the fountain with a copper-colored statue portraying the sails of the Galway Hooker – one of the old fishing boats.
photo by: theskeff.ie
Dinner: Dine at Ard Bia restaurant – winner of various awards, including a Michelin recognition – their menu consists of various local and sustainable meats, fresh fish and seafood, and delicious vegetarian dishes. The menu changes with the seasons, allowing for new, fresh and inspiring dishes to try constantly. On the spring menu, don’t miss the five mile town goats cheese salad or the spiced monkfish dish. Ard Bia also offers a wide variety of desserts, craft beers and ciders as well as various liquors to finish the evening on a happy note.
To find Ard Bia, just pop over to the Spanish Arch and you’ll find them along the banks.
“Ard Bia is about expecting great local food with an unusual twist”
Town Hall Theatre: If the time is right, check out an evening show at the Town Hall Theatre Hosting various theatre productions and musical guests, this old 1820’s courthouse and later town hall – now theatre – is located in Courthouse Square. The refurbished building got it’s facelift in 1995 and also houses various cultural events throughout the year including: Galway Arts Festival, Galway Film Fleadh, and the Cuirt and Baboro Children’s Festival amongst others.