Nicknamed “The City of Tribes” for the 14 families who controlled the city’s politics and trade between the 13th and 19th centuries, today Galway offers travelers rich history, picturesque views, lively pubs and beautiful churches. Located along the Corrib River in western Ireland, Galway is a convenient home base for exploring the region and the nearby Cliffs of Moher. With so many things to do in Galway, you can easily fill a weeklong itinerary. However, if you’re spending just a weekend in Galway, this travel guide and itinerary will ensure you maximize your trip and experience the best of what to do in Galway.
3 Days in Galway
What to do in Galway is truly a personal preference. But with only a few days in Galway, follow this recommended travel itinerary to maximize your time.
- Day 1: Participate in a walking tour during the day and frolic around the Latin Quarter in the afternoon/evening.
- Day 2: Take a day trip to the Cliffs of Moher. Then, walk along the Salthill Promenade before spending the evening in the Latin Quarter.
- Day 3: Visit the Galway Museum and Galway Cathedral. Relax in Eyre Square and enjoy a Guinness at O’Connell’s Pub.
Things to do in Galway
Wander through the cobbled stone streets in the lively Latin Quarter, popping in and out of pubs and listening to the live Irish folk music. Not only does the music pulsate from the venues – it also comes from the many street performers! The pedestrian-friendly Quay Street is a popular spot for restaurants, shops, cafes and pubs. You can easily spend an afternoon and evening bopping around this area.
Galway Walking Tours
The city is best explored on foot, and a walking tour is a fantastic way to learn the history of Galway. The tour takes you to many of the iconic sites and landmarks – such as Eyre Square, Lynch’s Castle, Galway Cathedral and the Latin Quarter. Many tours will even pop into a local pub for a quick pint of Guinness or a glass of Irish whiskey. If you only have a weekend in Galway, a walking tour is an efficient way to maximize your time!
Now a local bank, this former town castle was the home of the Mayor of Galway, James Lynch FitzStephen, in the late 1400s. Legend has it, the mayor hung his son in the castle window for murdering a town visitor (who allegedly befriended the son’s girlfriend). The family was one of the most powerful of the Tribes of Galway.
Renamed the John F. Kennedy Memorial Park in 1965 to honor the late US president, this public park is a fantastic place to simply relax. JFK visited Galway in 1963 and delivered a speech from this square. The Irish and JFK shared a special connection – one being that his four grandparents were children of Irish immigrants. He is honored in many other places in town – such as a bust in the square and a portrait hung in a local restaurant. While in the square, check out the public art pieces, such as the massive Galway hooker boat fountain. Nearby, you’ll find O’Connell’s Pub, which is one of the oldest bars in Galway.
Although it looks ancient (like the many historic churches worth exploring in Dublin), the Galway Cathedral is actually a relatively new church. The stunning cathedral was constructed in the mid-1950s and completed just a decade later. But if you want to see a very old church, check out St Nicholas’ Collegiate Church near the Latin Quarter. The later church was constructed in the 1300s.
Galway City Museum
One of many free things to do in Galway, the museum is a great spot for a budget-traveler or a rainy day. And rain sure is frequent in Ireland – pack a travel-sized umbrella! Like the walking tour, the Galway City Museum allows you to better understand the history and culture.
Take in a relaxing stroll along this two-mile promenade, which sits right along the Atlantic Ocean.
Festivals in Galway
It’s likely a festival or special event will be happening during your visit – there is always something going on! The Galway Arts Festival (July), Galway Races (August) and the Galway Oyster Festival (September) are among the most popular. Check out the Galway events calendar before your trip.
Wander through the Galway Market for food, souvenirs and trinkets. The market is open on Saturday and Sundays throughout the year (and also on Fridays during July and August). If you’re traveling on a long-term trip and/or exploring on a low-budget, the market is a great place for affordable groceries. That way, you can cook or eat in at your accommodation!
Day Trip from Galway
Cliffs of Moher
The Cliffs of Moher is likely the most popular day trip from Galway. Even if you’re traveling to Dublin (or anywhere in Ireland for that matter), spend one of your days visiting these iconic cliffs in County Clare. There really are no words to describe the natural beauty of the Cliffs of Moher. You can participate in a Cliffs of Moher tour from Galway, such as a bus tour or private car tour. Another option (my recommendation) is to rent a car and drive from Galway to the Cliffs of Moher. Be sure to follow the “Wild Atlantic Way.” While this route takes about an hour longer than the direct route, it’s a very scenic ride that takes you along the Atlantic Ocean. You will see cliffs, greenery, rocking terrain and even sheep on your left and the sparkling ocean on your right. The drive is an unforgettable experience, and you can stop in many cute towns (and visit old Irish castles) along the way!
And one particular town that is worth a stop is Doolin. This charming little town has a few cafes and boutiques (like the picturesque sweater shop). While the drive to the Cliffs of Moher is serene, parts of the journey can be slightly terrifying! Many of the roads are very narrow, so be sure to rent the smallest car possible. You got this though — seriously the views are worth it.
Cliffs of Moher Tickets
You can book tickets online for a discounted rate. To keep my itinerary flexible, I opted to pay the admission price on arrival (less than 10 euros).
Cliffs of Moher Hours
The opening hours vary depending on the season with the Cliffs of Moher staying open well into the evening during the summer months. Always check the website before your visit, especially if you plan to visit later in the afternoon. Also, the cliffs occasionally close in the event of severe weather.
Another popular day trip is to the Aran Islands. While I did not have time to visit these three islands on my weekend in Galway, many travelers rave about the beauty. There’s a ferry that leaves from Galway, which takes approximately an hour.
What to Eat and Drink in Galway
There are so many great things to eat and drink in Galway. Be sure to try the Irish stew, Irish pudding, fish and chips and soda bread. Being right on the Atlantic Coast, the seafood is fantastic! And if you’ve traveled from Dublin (or other parts of Ireland), you won’t be surprised by the popular pub culture in Galway. Pubs are everywhere, especially in the Latin Quarter and near Eyre Square. No matter which one you pop into, it’s highly likely that live music, a pint of Guinness and an Irish whiskey are waiting for you!
Galway Restaurants and Pubs
- Pie Maker: For a hearty meal, head to the Pie Maker. You may experience a wait in this tiny restaurant located in the Latin Quarter. But the wait is worth it. I still drool thinking about the lamb stew-like pie.
- The King’s Head: Not in the mood to wait, head to The King’s Head. The three-floored building is said to be over 800 years old. And the Irish pudding is exceptional!
- The Quays Pub: Head to the Quays Pub on Quay Street for live Irish music. No doubt you’ll sing along to “Galway Girl” all night.
- The Front Door: In the mood to party? The Front Door has strong cocktails and a club-like atmosphere.
- Dough Bros: This restaurant has gained international attention for its wood-fired pizza. Check it out!
Where to Stay in Galway
There are so many fantastic places to stay in Galway. Like transportation, it comes down to personal preference. Here are some Galway accommodations near the Latin Quarter and Eyre Square. Be sure to check out all the available accommodations in Galway on Booking.com.
Hotels in Galway
Galway Backpackers Hostels
For the low-budget traveler, there are plenty of hostels in Galway. I loved my stay at Sleepzone Hostel. And it is a short walk to everything. The staff is very helpful, and they are eager to recommend things to do in Galway. The dorm rooms were a bit small, but the hostel was very clean. I’d definitely stay there again! Other highly rated budget accommodations are Galway City Hostel and Kinlay House Hostel.
Getting to Galway
Dublin to Galway
You can make the journey by train, bus or car. Transportation is a personal preference, as each method takes roughly the same amount of time (about two and a half hours).
I recommend renting a car in Dublin, as there are some cool things to see between Dublin and Galway. The charming town of Athlone is in the middle of the journey. And it is home to Sean’s Bar, which is the oldest pub in Ireland. Although the name has changed, the bar dates back to 900 A.D. Be sure to pop in for a Guinness (if you aren’t the driver, of course). There are also several cafes/boutiques (and a castle) in Athlone.
The most affordable option is via bus. And there are plenty of bus companies to choose from (City Link, Go Bus, Bus Eireann, etc.) You can view all your options and book a ticket on Omio. Or you can book directly through the bus company.
A little more expensive than a bus ticket, your train ticket can be booked on the Irish Rail site.
Shannon Airport to Galway
Just under an hour drive from Galway (60 miles), consider flying into the Shannon Airport for your visit. And many low-cost carriers fly here.
Purchase your bus ticket upon arrival at the Shannon Airport (or book online at the Bus Eireann website).
If you plan to drive yourself to the Cliffs of Moher (or want to drive through the Irish countryside), rent a car upon arrival at the Shannon airport.
Packing Essentials for Galway
If you are planning to travel for a long time or you simply need tips for packing light in Galway, check out this detailed minimalist packing list and guide. Additionally, here are a few other essential items to pack:
- Universal power outlet adapter: Ireland used the three prong (type G) power outlet adapter. This adapter can be used in many countries and continents.
- Rain jacket – we’re in Ireland after all!
- Travel-size umbrella: Bring a heavy-duty and durable umbrella.
- Power bank for phone
- Reusable water bottle: Be sure to bring it with you to the Cliffs of Moher!
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