My roommate and I rather spontaneously opted to get out of Dublin for the weekend to experience a different side of Ireland, and from all that we had heard about it, Galway was a no-brainer. Just two-and-a-half hours from the country’s capital, it’s easily accessible and makes for a great weekend escape.
Having only spent a few short days in Galway, I’m by no means an expert on the city and all that it has to offer (I’m already debating going back this weekend so don’t worry, I’m sure I will be one soon enough). But we found some amazing gems in Galway and I hope that in sharing my itinerary, it can provide some inspiration for a trip of your own. Like we did, don’t be afraid to wander and explore with no expectations! There’s something to be said for traveling completely spontaneously every once and a while.
DAY ONE – FRIDAY NIGHT
We arrived in Galway late on Friday by bus and checked into our new digs for the weekend – the centrally located Kinlay Eyre Square Hostel. For a budget stay, this hostel has great facilities, helpful staff, provided meals, and an assortment of day tours, pub crawls, and the like.
Galway’s lively nightlife was already beginning to buzz as we made our way back down Shop Street, stopping to listen to street musicians. We grabbed a pint at 1520 Bar on Quay Street before checking out The Quays. From there, we got caught in the rain (sans piña colada… hence why this nearly ruined the night). Fortunately, the rain subsided and we found our way to the place that quickly became my favorite nightlife hub in the city.
DRINK || O’Connell’s Bar
If you’re familiar with Ed Sheeran, you may recognize O’Connell’s Bar from the music video for his single ‘Galway Girl’. I’ll be completely honest – that was one-hundred-percent the reason we went to check out this bar. And TBH, the highlight of the night was getting my drink served by the red-haired bartender who served Ed in the video. Two degrees of separation amiright?? But the atmosphere here was so fun that we just couldn’t leave. Walk through the unassuming main room of the bar to the back where you’ll find the most amazing beer garden. Seriously, this place looks like a boozey Diagon Alley – instead of vending robes and wands, fake store-front facades pipe whiskeys and gins. The vibe is much more local than you’ll find on Shop Street, so this is the place to make new friends!
DAY TWO – SATURDAY
EAT || Ard Bia’s at Nimmos
Come for brunch… and then maybe come back for lunch too (I won’t tell). Ard Bia’s is famous in Galway for a reason. Nestled just behind the Spanish Arch on the waterfront, this cozy space offers some great homemade fare. As Michelin Guide describes it – “Buzzy, bohemian restaurant where tables occupy every nook and cranny. They sell homemade cakes, bread and artisan products. Menus blend Irish, Mediterranean and Middle Eastern influences; the provenance of the ingredients takes precedence.” We split the avocado + egg toast and the banana french toast – both were divine. As was the coffee.
After brunch, we spent the day wandering the city, from sitting by the Spanish Arch to walking a bit of the Salthill Prom.
TO DO || Sit (+ Have a Pint) by the Spanish Arch
The Spanish Arch and the Caoċ Arch are part of the extension of the old city walls that are still standing today. In the 18th century, the Eyre family added an extension of the quays, and the arches were built to allow access to them from the town. The arches sit at the water’s edge, and when the sun comes out, they become a meeting place of sorts. Grab a pint and sit along the river’s edge, dangling your feet off the side. This is a great spot to just soak up the great atmosphere that Galway has to offer.
The Salthill Promenade stretches for three kilometers along Galway Bay from the city center down to Salthill. The prom is lined with cafes, pubs and restaurants, and the view over the bay. My favorite view of Galway is from across the river at the start of the prom, overlooking the city’s colorful facades. Fancy a swim mid-hike? Take a leap off the Blackrock diving board!
Stop by for afternoon tea at this charming renowned teahouse! For only €17 per person, you can lunch on ALL the scones and finger sandwiches.
After a short siesta back in the hostel, we headed over to Tribeton for a few cocktails at the bar.
DRINK || Tribeton
This lively urban restaurant is housed in a renovated warehouse, offering art-deco vibes that create the perfect ambiance for dining or grabbing a craft cocktail. The service was friendly, putting up with my lack of decision making skills by playing along when I told the bartender to ‘surprise me’ with my cocktail order.
After grabbing dessert at the King’s Head Bistro, we checked out the bar our waitress had suggested to us, walking in just in time to catch the band that was playing. Never be afraid to ask for a local’s advice! Often they’ll have great suggestions on places to go where you’ll escape the tourist crowd.
Another lively pub just around the corner from O’Connell’s and Eyre Square, this venue offers live music and great vibes. Not to mention another great beer garden.
DAY THREE – SUNDAY
We began the day with brunch, naturally. What can I say? I love a good brunch. And although heading back to Ard Bia to try more of the menu was tempting, this time we opted to try Dela.
TO EAT || Dela Restaurant
This cozy joint serves up what they describe as Scandinavian-inspired fare with an Irish twist. They grow as much as their own produce as possible. With bountiful lighting and string lights overhead, Dela offers a comfortable ambiance perfect for a Sunday morning.
By this point, we felt like we had seen a lot of Galway’s city center and were itching to get out and explore more of the area. The west of Ireland is (in my humble expat’s opinion) the most beautiful land in the country, so this region along the Wild Atlantic Way makes a perfect day trip to see the rolling green hills or the rugged coastline. Other excursion options include the Cliffs of Moher or exploring the bogs and mountains of Connemara and visiting the fairy-tale-esque Kylemore Abbey. We ended up spontaneously hopping a ferry over to the remote Aran Islands.
TO DO || Day Trip to the Aran Islands
Ferries leave to the Aran Islands from Galway Bay, and it’s quite easy to purchase both a shuttle bus and ferry ticket in downtown Galway. The bus to the port is about an hour drive, while the ferry takes around 45 minutes, but it is completely doable in a day. We caught a 12 PM shuttle and 1 PM ferry that later left the islands at 6:30 PM and had us back in Galway by 8:15 PM. It felt like more than enough time to see the highlights of the island. The ferry sails to Inis Mór (Inishmore) and from there, the other two islands of Inis Oírr (Inisheer) and Inis Meáin (Inishmaan) are accessible.
Check out my Galway + Inis Mór vlog –
What are some of your must-do’s while in Galway?