Galway is a happening town on Ireland’s west coast, now best known as the subject of Ed Sheeran’s popular song “Galway Girl”. Although this seaside town has a lot to experience in terms of night life, it’s also a delightful area to walk around and explore during the day. The streets are lined with buskers, shops, and markets, and in classic old Irish style, the alleyways and cobblestone roads weave around like a maze where you’ll find a pleasant surprise around every corner. Galway is also one of the closest major towns to the famous Cliffs of Moher, which is just a two hour drive away. Both the wonderful town of Galway and the sights around it are more than enough reasons to venture to this side of the country.
How to Get There
Galway is a 2.5 to 3 hour dive from Dublin.Give yourself about 2 hours to get from Galway to the Cliffs of Moher (or a little more time if you want to check out The Burren; see below). After the cliffs we headed south to Killarney, with a quick stop in Limerick for a bite to eat. That trip takes between 3 to 3.5 hours (not including time spent stopped in Limerick). If you don’t have a car, check out Transport for Ireland to find a bus that can take you there and back! Using public transit instead of booking an expensive tour will help you save money!
What to Do
- Explore the city – We mostly stuck to the area east of the River Corrib, where we found countless stores, markets and walking streets. A great place to start is the southwest end of Quay Street, then make your way up through the shops. This street changes to High Street, then to Shop Street, but as you’re walking down it you won’t even notice the difference. The area is packed with cool stores to check out and buskers to listen to. Right before St. Nicholas’ Church we turned left down a small alley that was full of little craft booths and funky clothes. Definitely a good place to grab those authentic souvenirs!
- Galway Cathedral – We didn’t enter the cathedral, but viewing it from outside was nice as well. We approached it from the east and had a great view of it from across the bridge. After that we enjoyed a nice leisurely walk down the east bank of the River Corrib.
- Cliffs of Moher – A must see while visitng Ireland! These iconic cliffs span about 10km, are 700 feet high at the highest point, and house approximately 30,00 nesting pairs of seabirds. The cliffs are also the most visited natural site in Ireland, so it can get quite busy! Heading here in off season is a good idea, otherwise coming later in the day is recommended (after 4pm). O’Brien’s Tower is over to the right of the visitors centre, and is the highest point of the cliffs. You can pay to go up the tower for a better view, but it was somewhere in the realm of 15 euros so we passed on that one, and we don’t feel as though we missed out on anything! Down the path on the left side there are guides with telescopes set up so that you can view nesting birds on the cliffs. We managed to see a nesting puffin! Past the telescopes the regulated cliff paths end and a makeshift dirt path begins, where daredevils take pictures closer to the edge of the cliff. The visitor centre is kind of interesting, but if you don’t have the time to check it out you’re not missing much. Parking at the cliffs is 6 euros, or 4.5 euros for students. Entrance to the cliffs is free, so you do have the option of parking in Doolin (the closest town) and walking the 10km or so to the cliffs and you won’t have to pay a dime. No matter how busy it is or how you get to the cliffs, once you’re there the view is spectacular from everywhere! Give yourself at least two hours to explore this majestic natural wonder.
- The Burren – We stumbled upon The Burren by accident when our GPS decided cutting through this national park was a shortcut. It is full of exposed limestone rock, and almost looks like a different world. There are a bunch of walking trails (which we didn’t explore but were very tempted to) around these rocky mounds, cliffs and lakes. The roads through the park however are definitely not the fastest way to the cliffs, and turn into one-lane, off road, mazes. If you have the time to drive through and explore a bit we definitely recommend it, but if you’re in a rush stick to the main highway, no matter what your GPS says.
Where to Eat
- Ard Bia at Nimmo’s – This tiny brunch spot is right on the bank of the River Corrib, by the Spanish Arch. It does take a little while to get a table, as the cozy spot is lacking in table space, but is extremely popular. What it lacks in space it makes up for in atmosphere and absolutely amazing food. Get there early and put your name in, then spend your wait time checking out the Spanish Arch! This is the best way to kick off your day exploring Galway.
- King’s Head Pub – This is a 17th century pub on the north end of High Street. It’s absolutely massive, and contains multiple rooms in class Irish style. Combining delicious food and a piece of history, it is a great place to stop for a drink, or grab one of their renowned seafood meals.