If you’re wondering what the most authentic and traditional Irish city is, it’s the city of Galway, located in western Ireland on the Atlantic Ocean. Dublin will always have a special place in my heart, but the craic and beauty found in Galway and its surrounding areas are absolutely legendary.
Galway is a top locale for the party-friendly millennial crowd, so there are some really fabulous hostels located right in the city centre. One such hostel is Barnacles. Part of the same chain as the Barnacles in Dublin, this hostel in heart of Galway offers all of the same amenities its Dublin location offers, plus a hostel pub crawl taking guests to experience the vibrant Galway nightlife. Sleepzone Galway City is also a good place to stay. Just steps from Galway’s famous Eyre Square, this hostel offers a load of amenities, such as free WiFi and breakfast, linens included, lockers, city maps, currency exchange, and even adapters for use in case you forget one. I also like the Woodquay Hostel. This hostel is just a block away from Francis Street, one of the main drags loaded with shops, pubs, and restaurants. Amenities here include free WiFi, a free safe to use, free hairdryers for use, free tea/coffee, laundry facilities, ensuite bathrooms, free nightclub passes, as well as tour tickets available for purchase to the Aran Islands off the coast of the Cliffs of Moher and also to the Burren/Connemara region near Galway.
There’s some cool stuff to see and do in Galway’s city center, but most of it is in the surrounding regions. In Galway City, I enjoy walking down William Street and Shop Street to window-shop and listen to the various musicians lining the picturesque streets. I also recommend Eyre Square, the main open area in Galway’s city center. There are a lot of sculptures and points of interest all around the square, including a bust of former U.S. President John F. Kennedy, who was of Irish descent. The Galway Hooker boat is located close by. From there is a short stroll to dozens of shops, restaurants, and bars.
When in Galway, you must take a day trip to the Connemara region to see the beautiful Kylemore Abbey, Ross Errily Friary, and Cong village (where a famous John Wayne movie called “The Quiet Man” was shot). A relatively cheap one can be found at viator.com. Another must is Dunguaire Castle. The most photographed castle in Ireland isn’t far from Galway. Bus tours will usually make a pit stop here. Grounds are open during the summer, but there sadly isn’t much to see inside the castle. AMAZING place to take pictures outside of! We also really recommend a Burren Wild Bus Tour. These bus tours will take you through a region known as the Burren, home to some of Ireland’s most beautiful scenery and pretty close to the world famous Cliffs of Moher (where you absolutely HAVE to go; it’s stunning!). A lot of Burren tours take tourists to the Cliffs as well as around the Burren. Galway Tour Company offers a great day tour.
For the best food in Galway, you must visit Oscar’s. Oscar’s is known by the locals as the best seafood restaurant in Galway. Every tour driver I’ve ever had in Galway has recommended it and it doesn’t disappoint! They update the menu depending on the season and what is best at market, so it’s always fresh from the Atlantic. It’s also surrounded by pubs for a post-dinner pint. Another good spot is McDonagh’s. For the best fish ‘n chips in Galway head to this family owned business which has been around for 4 generations. The walls are covered in reviews of the place. I also loved Ming Garden. This spot serves up an eclectic mix of European and Chinese food. Tip: go on Sunday for a four course lunch for only €4.50. What. A. Steal. If you like tapas, I strongly recommend Cava Bodega (I went with my parents). It is DELICIOUS. I especially enjoyed their wild mushrooms, meatballs, and Galician-style octopus.
You’d think the nightlife capital of Ireland would be Dublin as it is the capital and largest city, but natives will tell you that Galway is the best place to party. Head over to An Pucan, one of the several bars in the city where you can frequently hear the Irish language being spoken, which from my experience is really cool to hear. An Pucan has a wide variety of music from traditional to folk to DJs to local bands, and also plays host to a number of whiskey tasting events. Fibber McGee’s is another must. The crowd is young with Fibbers being popular among college students for its cheap drinks and loud music during the week. On weekends, the crowd remains young as well as attracting visiting hen and stag nights. Taaffe’s is also fun. Taaffe’s has long been known as the main GAA (Gaelic Athletic Association) pub in Galway, where fans and County Galway’s GAA hurlers and footballers have been known to frequent. There is also a nightly trad session, or traditional Irish music, beginning at 5:30. Irish music originated in western Ireland, so you should definitely listen in on a trad session while in Galway. Be sure to visit Tig Coili, home to the best trad session in Galway (in my humble opinion). They play nightly. Be sure to get there early (6:30-7ish) to get a good spot to see the band play. We also like the Skeffington Arms. Known by locals as ‘The Skeff’, this bar is one of the most popular places in Galway for locals to meet, mingle, and take in some football. This is a good spot to sample the famous Galway Hooker beer. Don’t miss the weekly Saturday night party from 8pm-2am!
I have taken several incredible trips to Galway in my life, and I’m sure you’ll enjoy it as much as I do.