Music to sing about
Pull up a stool and raise a glass to traditional Irish music in this brightly painted corner pub in Galway’s West End. The spontaneous sessions downstairs encourage drop-ins and amateurs, while upstairs the performances command a spine tingling attention. With music nightly and great Guinness on tap, it’s a no brainer when the pipes are calling.
Róisín Dubh (that’s ‘little black rose’ to the Gaeilgeoirs) is one of the best known music and comedy venues in the country. In an unassuming black and red pub alongside the Eglinton Canal, it always draws big crowds and even bigger names. Alumni include comedians Jack Whitehall and Kevin Bridges, as well as acts as diverse as Toots & the Maytals, Steve Earle and De La Soul.
The only thing sweeter than the Irish whiskey at this 150 year old pub is the trad music that permeates the premises day and night. Slap bang in the middle of Shop Street, many Irish musicians have cut their teeth there, all time trad legend Sharon Shannon among them. Try the no nonsense pub grub at the mahogany bar while the players tune up.
Beyond the distinctive fire-engine-red front of this classic pub just off Shop Street is one of Ireland’s best traditional music venues. The twice daily sessions at Tig Cóilí are so famous that when the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge were looking to hear some good trad music during their 2020 visit, they came here. The walls of this cosy pub are plastered with pictures of those who’ve played here, including Paul Brady and Frankie Gavin.
Food – made in Ireland
This might be the best pizza in not only Ireland but the entire world. Starting out as a food truck, the Greaney brothers opened their own pizzeria near Shop Street in 2013 and have been winning awards (including 50 Top Pizza’s ‘Best Pizza in Europe’ award in 2021) and slinging Neapolitan-style pizzas ever since. For those who can’t make it in person, their DIY Pizza Kits are a worthy substitute.
Freshly baked sourdoughs, charcuterie and organic wines, what’s not to like? Éan (meaning ‘bird’ in Irish) is located on Druid Lane and is brought to you by the creators of Galway’s Michelin-starred Loam. Early birds should grab a pastry fresh from the oven paired with a specialty coffee. For night owls, try their small or large sharing plates and seasonally inspired dishes.
Housed in a handsome stone building overlooking the city’s docklands, service at Rúibín comes with a view. Opened since 2019, it’s been making waves ever since thanks to an extensive menu including an excellent wine selection and ample vegetarian options. The cocktails, like the Peruvian Old Fashioned, are creative and the atmosphere unbeatable.
For an even bigger helping of mouth watering recommendations including superior pub grub, check out our list of fantastic food experiences in Galway.
A European Capital of Culture
Dating back to the 1820s, this striking neo classical building has served as a courthouse, town hall and cinema. Today, it’s been restored as a 400 seater auditorium and 52 seater studio space hosting dramatic performances and countless Galway festivals. It’s also where Oscar-winning playwright Martin McDonagh’s Beauty Queen of Leenane was originally staged.
For the past three decades, the Galway Arts Centre has been helping local artists showcase their work across two spacious galleries. The organisation also runs classes and workshops, has darkroom facilities and rehearsal spaces, and a live space in a nearby restored church. Talk about championing the arts…
This old converted tea warehouse is the home of the Druid Theatre Company, which has been at the cutting edge of Irish theatre for nearly 50 years. Its stock in trade is the work of new artists and reinterpreting classics for contemporary audiences, just as founders Garry Hynes, Marie Mullen and Mick Lally intended when they founded the company in 1975. The theatre was renamed in tribute to well-known actor Lally, who died in 2010.
Galway Cathedral is a bit of a character in the ecclesiastical world. It’s the last great stone cathedral built in Europe, and its mash up of Renaissance, Romanesque and Gothic styles has been turning habits since it was dedicated in 1965. Drop in on Gaol Road to light a candle while appreciating the architecture and interior statues and stained glass.
The Spanish Arch is a little piece of history perched on the banks of the Corrib. Built in 1584, it was part of an old town wall that was used to protect ships moored nearby. Back then, Spanish galleons were a regular sight in these waters, which is where the nickname come from. These days, you walk beneath it to get to Galway City Museum.
Step under the medieval Spanish Arch and into the Galway City Museum courtyard, venturing inside to unearth the city's secrets. Like prehistoric stone axe heads, rusty revolvers used in the 1916 Rising and a traditional Galway Hooker boat. You’ll leave with a whole new appreciation for the City of the Tribes and its treasured history.
Take time out
Get your daily dose of Vitamin Sea at the ever-popular Salthill Prom. Join the daily swimmers at Salthill Beach before practicing your cannonballs from the Blackrock diving tower. Or stay dry and walk the 3km stretch with the Burren in County Clare in the distance. Galwegians have been holidaying here since Victorian times, when presumably the tradition of kicking the wall at the end of the prom began. Just a little tap will do, but it has to be done.
Dive into Ireland’s largest native species aquarium, which is home to sharks, conger eels, crustaceans and more. Exhibits include a Fin whale skeleton and a bio-zone area with species from Africa and the Amazon. There’s a big emphasis on education and conservation too, for the socially-conscious Marine biologists out there, and it’s an ideal excursion on a rainy day.
Shop (Street) till you drop
Between Spanish Arch, O’Brien’s Bridge, St Nicholas’ Church and Middle Street is the Latin Quarter, at the heart of which is colourful, bohemian Shop Street. Walk down from Lynch’s Castle and you’ll pass a lively mix of buskers (it’s where a 13 year old Ed Sheeran plied his trade) and brightly coloured family run businesses. Whether you’re picking up something thrown on a wheel in Judy Greene Pottery or sweet tasting at the Galway Farmers Market, something will catch your eye. Or tickle the tastebuds.
Make time for something to eat
Shopping can be a tiring business. When the time comes for a much needed pick-me-up, go big with Afternoon Tea at The Hardiman. The hotel overlooks Eyre Square so you can people watch while you tuck into classic and creative sandwiches washed down with endless cups of tea. For the sweet tooths, the scones with clotted cream and miniature desserts like cherry chocolate cheesecake are exceptional.
Independent makers and curators
The people of Galway are a crafty bunch, and we mean that in the best possible sense. For clothes, you’ve eclectic boutiques like No. 8 and Colette Latchford as well as vintage threads over at Public Romance and Flea Style Market. You can spoil someone with candles and award-winning perfume at Cloon Keen, or pick up a framed print from 2 Wild Geese or Beadin’ Deadly.
If your wallet needs a post shopping break, check out our list of free things to do in Galway City.
On Galway's doorstep
Only 25 minutes from the city is Brigit’s Garden, tranquil gardens dedicated to the goddess Brigid and based on the Celtic calendar. Take a breather on trails that pass through 11 acres of woodland and wildflower meadows, or the four gardens representing ancient Irish festivals. Top off your visit in their praiseworthy café before driving to Oughterard, the gateway to Connemara.
Ask anyone to close their eyes and imagine Ireland. Chances are, they’re picturing Connemara. Films like The Quiet Man and The Field helped put this region on the map, but it’s even better in person. Whether you’re hiking rugged mountains, driving by glassy lakes or getting acquainted with the locals, you’ll be reminded of the area’s stark beauty at every turn.
Fill your camera roll at this iconic castle mirrored in a Connemara lake. Home to Benedictine Nuns (as well as Connemara ponies) and nestled among rocky mountains, the 1000 acre estate contains a Neo Gothic church, Victorian walled garden and giant’s wishing stone. Drop into Mitchell's Cafe and try the divine soups and scones based on recipes shared by the nuns themselves.
This group of three Irish-speaking islands at the mouth of Galway Bay remind us what Ireland was like centuries and millennia ago. Inis Mór is the largest and home to a cliff hanging prehistoric fort, Inis Meáin is where you’ll pick up the world famous jumper, while tiny Inis Oirr has a handful of sandy beaches as well as the famous wreck of the Plassy, a steam trawler that ran aground here in 1960. Ferries sail year round to all three islands from Rossaveal (38km west of Galway) and from March to October from Doolin in County Clare. All three islands have air strips to service Aer Arann Islands flights from Connemara Regional Airport, 30km west of Galway City.