Planning your trip to Galway
Updated: Jan 29, 2020
Whether you want to spend one day, three days or a week in Galway we have you covered. Let’s jump straight into it.
With only one day in Galway, what should I do?
Galway offers a unique mix of history and modern cultural happenings and has nowadays become one of the hot spots on the Irish food scene, with great options available. Is it possible to enjoy it all in the span of a day? We sure can try! Here is an example of what your model day could look like, with a few of the best things to do in Galway. Note that most of the times are only suggestions and there are also variants at the bottom (in particular for the weekend and Mondays).
Whether at your hotel or in one of the many cafés in the city centre, you will find that most places offer the world-famous Irish breakfast, with its traditional bacon, sausage, beans, black and/or white pudding, mushrooms and tomatoes, often served with some hash browns and toast. The Skeff, on Eyre square, will not only offer a good option for breakfast but the place itself also happens to be a landmark in its own right, with about 300 years of history and a great atmosphere. It is also ideally located for the next part of your morning.
11:00am Tribes Free Walking Tour:
The Walking tour is a great way to start your visit, to get a sense of the city’s history and modern layout and a few tips about the rest of your day. Let your guide narrate (most of it is stories after all) the origins, development and modern bloom of the City of the Tribes and discover the remnant of its lengthy past and the landmarks of today.
The tour takes between 90 minutes and 2 hours depending on the size of the group and the number of questions and will take you on a loop, ending back in Eyre square.
After the walking tour, grab something on the go in own of the Best places to get a bite in Galway and start heading down Shop street, having a look at some of the boutiques, and making your way to the Spanish Arch, and the Museum.
2:30pm Galway museum/Salt Hill: (Note that the Museum is closed on Mondays)
The Galway museum, next to the Spanish Arch, will allow you to get a further look at the history of the city, and is an excellent way to escape the traditional Irish weather we sometimes endure here, on the west coast.
If the weather is more clement, or if you simply don’t mind it, cross the Corrib, the Galway river, on to the Claddagh and follow the river down to the Galway bay. Find the footpath going through SouthPark, following the bay, and enjoy the view (if there’s not too many clouds, you should be able to see all the way to the other side of the bay where County Clare lies. Pass Mutton Island and its lighthouse, unfortunately unavailable to the public, and make your way to Salt Hill. Once you get there, you can walk the “Prom” and “Kick the wall”. If you’re lucky, you might even sea seals in the bay.
Next make your way back towards the city centre.
4:30pm Next on the list of best things to do in Galway: Tea time!
It is difficult to pick only one place to have tea, but we think we got it.
You could go to Secret Garden, which offers a cosy spot with mismatched chairs and cushions that make it a real corner of quietness in the otherwise buzzing city. If you simply feel like relaxing with a pot of tea with maybe a sweet bite, this might be the perfect choice, as they offer a large variety of teas from around the world and scrumptious freshly baked cakes.
And if you’re feeling more fancy, check out Cupán Tae, on Quay lane, and step back in time, with dainty china and quality loose leaf tea. There, too, generous slices of cake can accompany your tea. There’s everything you would find for a stylish tea party, and you can go for a full afternoon tea experience if you'd like.
Whichever place you choose, you won’t be too far from your next stop, the Galway cathedral.
6:00pm Galway cathedral/University
Once you’re done with your tea, take a short walk and you will find yourself at one of the most recent cathedrals in the world, fresh from 1965. Don’t miss out on the singular mosaic one of the alcoves contains, where Jesus is flanked by Patrick Pearse, one of the leaders of the Easter Rising of 1916 that later led to the Irish independence, and more surprisingly JFK (yes that JFK), who was, and is still to some extent, a very popular figure.
Exploring the cathedral shouldn’t take you too long, but be aware that the building closes at 6:30pm, so if you would like to spend more time there you will need to make your way there earlier.
While at the cathedral, you will be very close to NUIG (National University of Ireland in Galway) and its oldest building, the Quadrangle, which first opened its doors to students in 1849. If you have been to Oxford or Cork beforehand, you might recognise it has been modelled after the emblematic building of those two other universities. To see this very recognizable, building, cross the canal following University Road and take a right at the main entrance. You cannot visit any of it per say, but it is a nice place to have a short walk, before heading back into town for dinner.
7:00pm or 7:30pm Dinner
Some of the best places to visit in Galway are its restaurants. Whatever you feel like having, Galway probably offers it. To make your choice, you can head over to our selection for a few ideas of the Best food spots of Galway, which will give you a few pointers. You will discover that Galway is home to many good eateries, from the most classic pub food to more elaborate Michelin-starred restaurants.
After dinner, it’s time for drinks! When in Rome Galway…
8:30pm or 9:00pm Finding a pub
Well… Finding a pub in Galway isn’t difficult. Even finding a good pub isn’t difficult!
The first option is of course to come join us for a Pub Crawl, which will take you to 5 pubs, starting from 8:00pm to 9:00pm at the Skeff, on Eyre square. At 9:00pm you and the group will make your way towards the second pub, and so on and so forth every hour, on the hour. You will get a free shot in the first four bars, see some live music, play drinking games and will eventually make your way to a late bar at midnight, where you can enjoy the rest of the night until 2:00am, when all venues (unfortunately) have to close.
If the Pub Crawl isn’t your speed, you can of course go your own way and find good spots yourself. To this end, we have compiled a list of our favourite if not Best pubs of Galway, with various types of venues, from the most traditional ones to the more relaxed ones. Whichever you choose, make sure to sample some of the best beers or whiskies, as well as excellent cocktails.
This completes our One day visit of Galway guide. These are obviously only recommendations and can be switched around, especially at the weekend and during the summer. Keep an eye out for the following.
If you happen to be in Galway on a Saturday or Sunday, make sure to walk through the Galway market on Churchyard Street, where you find a great assortment of food, produce and crafts stalls, right in the centre of town from the morning until mid-afternoon.
Galway is already buzzing during the better part of the year, but it really gears into full swing with the summer months. Galway really becomes a city of festivals, with more festivals than one can count happening throughout May to September. If you are visiting Galway during those months, make sure to look up which festivals might be happening while you are here and don’t miss out on the experience, as there is something for everyone: food, theatre, poetry, music, gin, arts… to cite only a few.
Have a bit more time in Galway? (2 days to a week)
If you have more days to spend in Galway, our recommendation would be to follow our One day visit of Galway guide for your first day and to then pick some day trips to explore the surroundings of Galway and other landmarks on the West coast of Ireland.
Cliffs of Moher
One of the real wonders to see on the West coast is a set of sea cliffs South of Galway, that run for about 14km in County Clare and constitute one of the most popular tourist attractions in Ireland. You might even have seen them already, without knowing it, as they have appeared in a few famous movies and other media productions such as Princess Bride (1987) and Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (2009).
You can either drive there yourself or pick an organised tour. Whichever you choose, we would recommend you pick an option allowing enough time at the cliffs, and preferably one that takes the scenic route, following the coast. There are a few spots to hit along the way, and it would be a shame to miss out on them.
The Aran Islands are a group of three small islands off the coast and in the Galway Bay: Inishmore (the largest), Inishmaan (the least visited) and Inisheer (the smallest). As they are still well preserved to this day, these islands will give you an exclusive insight into traditional Irish history and culture. If the weather is nice during your stay, it is an unmissable stop.
You can get there on an organized tour or by yourself. Our personal preference is to get there by plane early in the morning, renting a bike as soon as possible (beat the traffic!) and go around the island you’ve picked.
Connemara national park
This is one of the 6 Irish national parks, world-renowned for its bushy vegetation, its many bogs and infinite shades of green. It is a perfect place for anyone who loves hiking and nature in general, as it remains one of the most beautiful untouched natural havens.
A couple of interesting spots to check out would be:
Diamond Hill, an ideal location just out of Letterfrack where you can hike one of 3 trails up the hill and through the bog. You can get there from Galway using the Citylink Galway-Clifden or Bus Éireann Route 419.
Clifden, a cosy little coastal village where you can cycle following the famous Sky road and dip your toes in the water on Dolphin beach. Getting there only takes a bit more time than getting to the previous suggestion, with Citylink or Bus Éireann.
Kylemore Abbey, a Victorian abbey complete with walled gardens nestled on the bank of Pollacapall Lough since its construction in 1867, makes for a great visit, in particular during the summer, when the flowers bloom. There are organized day-tours, or you can make your own way there.
Wild Atlantic Way
If you simply want to explore the West coast at your own pace, you can also drive along the Wild Atlantic Way, which passes by Galway. It is the longest coastal route in the world and runs along the entire West coast of Ireland, passing by some of the attractions we’ve already mentioned but also revealing some other incredible viewpoints (such as Achill Island). Whether you are staying in Galway, or just driving through it while exploring Ireland, we do recommend following this road as much as you can.
With those recommendations you will have plenty to do and to enjoy your stay in Galway, and on the Irish west coast. There is obviously a lot more to see, but these are in our opinion some of the Best places to visit in Galway and around.
Do you have other favourite spots? We would love to hear which places you enjoyed visiting!