A Weekend in Galway: Travel Guide & Itinerary

The dramatic landscape of the Cliffs of Moher
The dramatic landscape of the Cliffs of Moher.

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.
The ruins of a castle in Ireland
Spend one day of your itinerary for Galway outside the city. You may just stumble upon a historic castle in the Irish countryside!

Things to do in Galway

Latin Quarter

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!

A photo of a castle along the Wild Atlantic Way in Ireland
Dungaire Castle sits along Galway Bay.

Lynch’s Castle

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.

Eyre Square

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.

Galway Cathedral

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.

Salthill Promenade

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.

Galway Market

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!

A weekend in Galway must include a day trip to the Cliffs of Moher. Pictured here is the dramatic coastline of the cliffs and the coast.in
The Cliffs of Moher is the perfect day trip from Galway.

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!  

A photo of a lighthouse along the ocean
The drive from Galway to the Cliffs of Moher offers spectacular views, especially along the Wild Atlantic 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.

A pink and orange building in the town of Doolin, Ireland.
Stop in the adorable town of Doolin on the way to the Cliffs of Moher.

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.

Aran Islands

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.

Two women at the Cliffs of Moher.
The wind is powerful at the Cliffs of Moher, but the views are simply enchanting. A must-do on any weekend in Galway.

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!
A stop at Sean's Bar is one of the many things to see between Dublin and Galway. There are two women drinking a beer in the bar.
Sean’s Bar is the oldest bar in Ireland – dating back to 900 A.D. Pop in for a Guinness!

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

There are so many highly-rated hotels (and bed and breakfasts) in the area, such as Heron’s Rest Boutique Accommodation, Imperial Hotel and Skeffington Arms Hotel.

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.

A white cottage house in the Irish countryside.
Just a few minutes outside of Galway, you’re greeted by the stunning Irish countryside.

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).

Via Car

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.

Via Bus

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.

Via Train

A little more expensive than a bus ticket, your train ticket can be booked on the Irish Rail site.

A woman standing in front of a bar - Sean's Bar - one of the things to do between Dublin and Galway.
Pop into Sean’s Bar for a Guinness. It’s the oldest bar in Ireland.

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.

Via Bus

Purchase your bus ticket upon arrival at the Shannon Airport (or book online at the Bus Eireann website).

Via Car

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.

A small car parked on the side of the Wild Atlantic Way. There are cliffs in the background.
Follow the Wild Atlantic Way from Galway to the Cliffs of Moher. Renting a car gives you the flexibility to stop in small towns along the way – or even stop for the beautiful views!

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:

If you liked this guide, you may also like:

I hope this Galway travel blog post is helpful to you in planning your trip. And if you’re looking for a great souvenir to remember your trip, pick out an authentic Claddagh ring from a local shop!

If you liked this post, pin it to your Pinterest board so other travelers learn how to spend a weekend in Galway! Just click the photo below to pin.

A photo of a castle and woman.
Pin this travel guide and itinerary for other travelers to see.

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15 Comments Add yours

  1. s1simps says:

    Reading your post makes me want to return to see more of Ireland! I was staying in Dublin and, as you suggest, took a day trip to the Cliffs of Moher. Well worth it even though it was a very long day of driving. Looks like I need to get back and explore the Galway area. Thanks for sharing so much detail and beautiful photos.

  2. Danik says:

    Havent got to this part of Ireland yet and so want to get there. I did more of the south-west of the island last time and loved it. Now I want to go back for me and Galway is next on my list. 🙂

  3. Great post! I’ve never heard of Galway before, this is really informative and helpful. The scenery look so beautiful and love the historical buildings and architecture. More places to add to my travel list 🙂

  4. Ireland has always been on the top of my bucket list! These photos look great! I am going to pin this for later so I can reference when I finally get over there to explore! Great read!

  5. Gosh I would love to spend a few days exploring Galway!

  6. Evan Petzer says:

    I just love the scenery, it is so beautiful. There are allot of things to keep one busy, historical buildings and museums have my full attention and a good pub lunch and a Guinness is my weakness.

  7. FSG Travels says:

    Beautiful Post! I love my time at the Cliffs of Moher and Galway Town. Im gutted i didn’t read this before I went there is some gold that i missed.

  8. I enjoy learning and reading it! I love all the detailed information so its easier for the people to plan their trip. Thanks for sharing!

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