Although unlikely, Galway has a growing reputation (in Ireland and abroad) as one of the best places to enjoy good music, good food and good crack, as well as the obligatory pints of Guinness . Ed Sheeran was right: he has magic in spades.
Located on Ireland’s beautiful west coast, this small city is within striking distance of landmarks such as the Cliffs of Moher. Even better, it’s less than an hour’s flight from most major UK airports, including London, making it the perfect location for a weekend break.
Here’s how to make the most of 48 hours there.
You’ve arrived, the weather is standing up (hopefully) and it’s time to get stuck into the city. First things first: a food tour is one of the best ways to explore Galway and its emerging food scene.
Led by Galway Food Tours (a daytime food tour costs £71 each, and a whiskey tour costs £88; galwayfoodtours.com), you’ll taste your way through the city’s best patisserie, truffles and coffee before heading out to McCambridges local beach. for some Irish charcuterie and spirits – then lots of Galway’s best seafood at some of the best local restaurants. Have you ever wondered how good fish chowder can be? The answer is (if you go to Rubín, which will be seen on the tour): very.
If you still have room for lunch afterwards, a trip to the Farmers’ Market (held on Saturdays and Sundays; galwaymarket.com) is a must to sample the local goods, including small-batch ones. honey from the Cliffs of Moher.
Afterwards, kick back by exploring some of the city’s cultural scene. As well as a gorgeous little gallery above the excellent coffee shop Coffeewerk + Press, there is the Kenny Art Gallery, the Vanda Art Gallery and the Galway International Arts Festival Gallery (the festival itself takes place every year and attracts artists from all over the world ) are all located within. throw a stone at each other. And for those more interested in its history, the Galway City Museum (free admission; galwaycitymuseum.ie) is located near the city’s most famous tourist sites, the Spanish Porch and the Long Walk.
By the time dinner is over, you’ll probably want to work – check out some of our suggestions for where to go below, but Sophie’s at The Dean (thedean.ie), Kai (kairestaurant.ie) and Cava Bodega (cavarestaurant.ie) all good options.
To put things right, all you have to do is take a trip to some of Galway’s music venues. The city is famous for its traditional Irish music and many of the pubs on and around Quay Street often host live performances until the late hours.
Of particular note is Taaffes, which serves one of the best pints of Guinness in the city, as well as providing a place to watch Irish hurling or football matches with the locals. From 5.30pm onwards there will be an ever-changing rota of musicians – and when that finishes around ten, the street moves to Tigh Cóilí pub to continue the party until midnight.
If you prefer to stay in one place for the night, try Na Céanna, a little further down Quay Street. Sip on your pints (if Guinness isn’t your thing, always ask what’s on tap: many of these pubs have their own micro-brewed beers) and while away the hours in good company.
Work off that hangover with a bike ride around the city. With a large electric bike under your belt, you’ll be taken on a speed tour around Galway (we went with WeWheel, which was excellent; tours start from £41.50 each; wewheel.com) — it’s by far the most efficient way. see the whole area with a local guide who can explain every nook and cranny. For those less bike friendly, there are hop-on, hop-off bus tours around the city that can be booked online.
While the tourist heart of the city is on one side of the river Corrib, the village of An Clade and Beach Road on the other side are well worth exploring and getting a glimpse of its local side – as well as some great views of the harbor .
If you don’t fancy a tour, it’s still worth the trip down the long walk and across to the Black Rock Dive Tower (also featured on the tour). Built in the 60s, it is now an emblem of the area and has great views of the bay – if you’re feeling brave, you can even swim with the locals.
Whatever you end up doing, head to toastie mecca Meltd (meltd.ie) afterwards for a delicious lunch and learn about the history of the famous Ring Shore at the Ring Shore Museum. Situated at the back of the Claddagh and Celtic Jewelery shop, it is a great insight into the history of this iconic piece of jewelery – which is embedded in the signage of many of Galway’s shops.
With everything sorted, it’s time to pack your bags and visit the Galway City Distillery for some excellent local gin (which serves a variety of seasonal, botanical tonics) before heading back to the airport. Health!
Where to eat
If you’re after dinner with a view, then one of the best spots is Sophie at The Dean. Located on the third floor with folding glass walls, it offers one of the best panoramic views in the city (along with an outdoor terrace for sunny days) and you can enjoy local fish, steak and a very good pizza menu before kicking off back with some of theirs. cocktails.
For those looking to eat a little closer to the centre, then why not try local lads such as Rúibín (ruibin.ie) or Éan (engalway.com)? If you go to Ean for one thing, make it for the squid on toast, the restaurant’s signature dish, made using its popular sourdough loaves (queues for these stretch around the door at opening time). In contrast, Rúbín is run by husband and wife team Richie and Alice Jary and look to local ingredients in their dishes. The dish to try here is the seafood chowder, which is almost criminally good.
For something different, Cava Bodega (cavarestaurant.ie) is the place to go. With multiple Michelin nods to its name, it serves Spanish tapas, along with a mouth-watering wine and sherry menu that will make those patatas bravas a hit. Booking is essential: when we went, guests were still arriving well after 10pm.
And finally, for fine dining you can’t do better than Kai (kairestaurant.ie). Named after the Maori word for food, it is run by New Zealander Jess and local Dave Murph, who focus on organic, local produce that changes with the seasons. The price point is high, but the dishes are excellent: any menu that includes Irish crab and scallop ceviche has a vote.
Where to stay
Galway has many good options for the weekend traveller, but the Dean (thedean.ie/galway) is the best. The Dean, the newest and most fashionable of the city’s hotels, is located five minutes’ walk from the city center and has everything the city-dweller could need.
This includes a gym, boxing and fitness classes, a Jacuzzi-style pool and sauna, and even better, multiple restaurants to accommodate all dietary preferences. These include the aforementioned Sophie’s and the Elephant and Castle (thedean.ie), which is booming at weekends and delivers a New York vibe and a very good burger. Oh, and there’s also a traditional bar if you’d like to enjoy a Guinness or whiskey before heading up to your rooms.
The rooms themselves are great too: packed with colorful, whimsical artwork and decor – there’s bucket loads of it.. With prices for a double room starting from around £123 per night, it’s also incredibly affordable, especially when you consider that Jacuzzi.
If The Dean is full (or indeed not your thing), try the Jury’s Inn Hotel (leonardohotels.co.uk), located just down the road on Quay Street. The location is fantastic (with bay views) and although the rooms are quite cheap and nice, they only cost between £115-150 per night, making it a good place to travel on a budget.
For more boujie vibes, why not check out Salthill Hotel (salthillhotel.com)? With rooms starting at £245 a night, it’s not cheap, but it’s situated across the river in Beach Road and has stunning bay views from its seafront location, as well as an excellent pool and bar.
How to get there
The nearest airport to Galway is Shannon, which is a good hour’s drive from the city (passengers flying into Dublin should be able to get there by bus or train, but it is a journey it’s two and a half hours).
Return flights to Shannon from Heathrow start from £107 with Aer Lingus, and from £33 from London Gatwick, returning to Stansted with Aer Lingus.