3 days in Galway and beyond
This harbour city on the Wild Atlantic Way has a rich medieval past. Today, it’s a lively hub brimming with traditional pubs, colourful streets and west coast charm.
Galway is a bohemian gem, packed full of cool things to see and do but head out beyond the city and you can discover the wonder of the Wild Atlantic Way. Here’s how best to spend three days in Galway city and beyond...
Tip about busy Eyre Square, take in the grandeur of Galway Cathedral, hop aboard a memorable boat trip, then feast on some tasty local seafood before a drink or two in a buzzing Irish pub. That’s not a bad day out, if you ask us!Explore Day 1
And Eyre we go...
The heart of Galway city is square – Eyre Square to be precise. A popular meeting point for local Galwegians, the grass in the centre of the square is often dotted with people having a picnic and there’s a laid back and relaxed vibe to the place. The square is officially known as the John F Kennedy Memorial Park, and there is a bust of the US President here that marks the spot where he delivered a speech to some 100,000 Galway people on his trip to Ireland in 1963.
Popular cafés, bars and restaurants can be found around the square. Esquires Coffee is a good spot to fuel up on food and drink before a day exploring the city, with tasty bagels and toasted sandwiches on the menu alongside organic coffee and freshly-made smoothies. The Lighthouse Vegetarian Café just off Eyre Square is a top choice for vegetarians and vegans. The family-run eatery serves homemade meals such as a Vegan Big Fry and a Daily Plant-based Hotpot. Yum!
A heavenly sight to behold
From Eyre Square, take the ten-minute walk through the city streets to Galway Cathedral, crossing the River Corrib via the Salmon Weir Bridge along the way. The cathedral itself is an impressively large structure. Dedicated in 1965, it’s the YOUNGEST of Europe’s great stone cathedrals. As impressive inside as out, this oasis of peace and serenity is a top attraction at which to stop awhile and soak up the atmosphere.
The nearby University of Galway is also well worth a visit. The university first opened its doors to just 68 students in 1849. Today, the campus is abuzz with over 19,000 Irish and international students. The Quadrangle building is the must-see here. Built with local limestone in a Tudor Gothic style, it’s like something out of a Harry Potter film or episode of Bridgerton! A few snaps here for the socials is essential.
Time to hit the water
With epic architectural gems well and truly ticked off your Galway bucket list, it’s time for a change of pace. Head to the Galway Docks, where the River Corrib enters the Atlantic Ocean, and hop aboard for a boat trip around Galway Bay! Galway Bay Boat Tours are a solid agency to go with as they offer tours for individuals, families and groups that focus on a mix of history and local tradition.
Wild Galway Boat Tours are another fine option. Their popular trip on the River Corrib is a scenic delight that only lasts an hour, so you’ll still have plenty of time left in your day for more Galway shenanigans!
Seafood treats and traditional music
After all of that fresh sea air on the open water, you’ll have built up a hearty appetite. So where better to head than The Seafood Bar at Kirwan's Lane in the heart of the city? It’s all about fresh, local produce here, from torched line caught mackerel to Galway Bay rock oysters. Delicious! If you’re not into seafood, try The Dough Bros for the best wood-fired pizza in the city, or for something a little fancier, Kai is an award-winning restaurant serving innovative takes on classic Irish dishes.
Round off your great first day in Galway with a nightcap in one of the city’s lively bars. An Púcán is a local favourite and it features live music seven nights a week. Tigh Neachtain's is another top spot to catch live traditional Irish music throughout the week and you can’t miss its bright blue and yellow exterior. Grab a local craft beer or Irish whiskey from the bar and settle in for an evening of the famous Irish “craic”!
Enjoy a walking tour around Galway’s famously colourful streets, see the medieval Spanish Arch, visit Galway City Museum, and sample the electric atmosphere of the Latin Quarter. Day two is shaping up to be just as good as day one!Explore Day 2
Walk this way...
Kick-start day two of your Galway trip with a guided walking tour around the city and delve deep into the history of this medieval wonder. Many walking tours can be found around Eyre Square, including Galway Walks. Join local guide Brian on his daily “Horrible History” tour and hear tales both true and tall about Viking raids, the Spanish Armada and Cromwell's siege of the city!
Tribes Tours Galway is another good shout. They offer free and private walking tours, as well as a pub crawl in the evening, which is a fantastic option if you’re looking to meet like-minded travellers in the city.
No doubt a few sights will have piqued your interest on the walking tour. Now’s the time to stop by and check them out. Thomas Dillon’s Claddagh Gold is an excellent place to pick up a gift or souvenir you'll cherish forever. It’s the oldest jewellers in Ireland; they’ve been handcrafting iconic Claddagh rings since 1750! Nearby, Lynch’s Castle is also worth stopping by. It’s the best preserved fortified townhouse in Galway.
If you happen to be in Galway at the weekend, you should definitely go to the Galway Market. Trading every Saturday and Sunday, various colourful stalls sell everything from local cheese and homemade cakes to artisan crafts and much more. It’s a cornucopia of smells and sounds, and who knows what you’ll pick up along the way as you mingle with the locals.
Down by the docks
No trip to Galway is complete without a visit to the historic Spanish Arch. Built in 1584 as an extension to an Anglo-Norman town wall, the arch is believed to have gotten its name as Spanish merchants often docked here, selling spices and other goods. It is even believed that Christopher Columbus was here in 1477! When the weather is fine, crowds gather along the banks of the river and it’s a lovely place to take in those big west coast sunsets.
Don’t miss the Galway City Museum which is located close by. Admission is free and there are always several interesting exhibitions on, some of which usually focus on the unique history, myths and legends of the Galway area. The museum also houses a fabulous collection of historically important objects, from prehistoric stone axeheads and World War One helmets to sports items detailing Ireland’s rich history of Gaelic games. There’s something for everyone to enjoy.
The Long Walk and the Latin Quarter!
Close to the Spanish Arch are a number of pleasant walks along the sea shore. The Long Walk is a popular short route that’ll take you past cute Insta-worthy houses. Stop awhile and take some snaps. On the other side of the harbour, the old fishing village known as The Claddagh also offers delightful walking routes. A little further afield, the Salthill Promenade provides stunning views of the Galway coastline. Make sure to take in the sight of the iconic Blackrock diving tower – you might even see a few hardy souls taking the plunge into the sea below!
After a refreshing stroll along the coast, head back into the Latin Quarter in the city centre for a night out. Many of Galway’s best-known pubs and restaurants are closely packed in alongside historic buildings in this buzzing area. Explore the cobblestoned streets and alleys and take in the atmosphere. There are over 50 different eateries in the Latin Quarter, so take your pick! The Burgerstory is perfect for something cheap and simple. While Martines is a popular steak and seafood restaurant with an extensive wine menu. We’re sold!
Finish the night with a tipple of your choice in one of the Latin Quarter’s many bars. Garavan's offers Irish whiskey platters if you’re a lover of the old “water of life” (uisce beatha). Seven Bar is the place to go for killer cocktails as you toast another brilliant day out in Galway city.
It’d be a shame to visit Galway and not take in some of the stunning scenery in the surrounding region. From fairytale castles to epic sea cliffs, this is one of the prettiest stretches along the Wild Atlantic Way.Explore Day 3
A fairytale retreat
If you’re the romantic type, head north from Galway city to Connemara National Park, and pay a visit to the Disney-like wonder that is Kylemore Abbey. Built in the mid 1800s by a wealthy businessman for his new bride, this gorgeous castle is nestled by a serene lake and comes complete with a neo-gothic church and a beautiful walled garden. This labour of love is simply a joy to wander around and makes for a memorable day out.
If you have the time on the way back, stop off in Clifden, the unofficial capital of Connemara. It’s a pretty-as-a-postcard town, with bright traditional shopfronts set against a backdrop of moody mountains. There are plenty of cafés, bars and restaurants where you can get a bite to eat and a drink before returning to Galway city.
An elemental experience
If man-made wonders aren’t your thing, skip Kylemore Abbey and instead head south from Galway city to the Cliffs of Moher in County Clare. Mother Nature wasn’t messing around when she forged these timeless, sheer sea cliffs on the edge of the wild Atlantic Ocean. The cliffs are truly an Ireland bucket list essential and photos just don’t do them justice. You need the wind in your hair, the sea salt on your lips – this attraction needs to be seen to be believed!
For a guided tour of the cliffs, check out Doolin Cliff Walks. Local farmer and historian Pat will regale you with tales and folklore from the area as you traverse the lush green cliff-tops. On the way back to Galway city, stop in the lively town of Lisdoonvarna, famous around the world for it’s long-standing annual matchmaking festival.