Anyone who has been to the oft-called “Emerald Isle” can tell you that visiting Ireland is a good idea whether you have two days or two months — and don’t be surprised if you end up staying for two years. There is something magical about this island and its people. Welcoming, brimming with culture, and experiencing a 21st-century renaissance, Ireland is a traveler’s dream and Galway is the perfect place to start the exploration.
Book a Room
Ireland is a B&B lover’s paradise, with accommodations ranging from quaint cottages to sprawling castles. St. Jude’s is a gorgeous B&B with just three guest rooms in a beautifully restored 1920s home. Breakfast ranges from the full Irish to organic porridge and fresh fruit. Adare Guesthouse is one of the most central options, and larger too with 11 guest rooms ranging from singles to family-style. It’s just a five-minute to Quay Street, the city’s main drag, and there’s an organic garden to look at while noshing on savory pancakes with Irish smoked salmon.
For more formal digs, The House Hotel is a four-star boutique hotel with a popular cocktail bar and luxe room setups, while The G Hotel & Spa epitomizes glam thanks to décor by uber-famous hatmaker Phillip Treacy (favored by the British Royal Family) and an iconic afternoon tea.
Dine & Drink
If you’re not getting breakfast as part of your lodging, you’ll have to head to one of the local eateries and decide between a full Irish breakfast (a massive feast consisting of some combination of sausage, rashers, eggs, mushrooms, grilled tomatoes, beans, black and white pudding, and soda bread or brown bread) and something a bit lighter.
Ireland might be known for tea, but Pascal Coffee House takes pride in its specialty coffee as well as its famous pancakes. At The Secret Garden Galway, you can sprawl across handmade furniture and floor cushions while you gaze at local art and enjoy a chai, Rooibos, or latte and homemade pastry (gluten-free, raw, and vegan options abound).
It’s hardly a trip to Galway without a meal at Ard Bia. Brunch and lunch include irresistible treats like a hot honey chicken salad, but it’s the seasonally changing dinner menu that’s a true revelation. Last look saw dishes like West Cork monkfish with spiced root veg and ribeye with fondant potato and wild mushrooms.
Part of Ireland’s relatively recent push toward more global cuisine, Black Cat Restaurant serves tapas-style grub made with locally sourced ingredients and accompanied by live jazz. Black Cat is only open for lunch and dinner with a two-hour gap in between, so plan ahead. It’s worth it to try their black pudding and thyme croquettes and slow-roasted beef cheeks with Guinness and honey jus.
As for drinks, there’s certainly no shortage of pubs. The best are arguably the ones with sessions, informal gatherings of local musicians who play tunes and sing songs just for the “craic” (aka fun). Check out An Púcán, Tigh Chóilí, Róisín Dubh, The Crane Bar, and The Quays.
See the Sights
With so much to do in Galway and just 48 hours to do it in, it’s important to prioritize. Skip touristy spots like the Spanish Arch and the Hall of the Red Earl and look into what’s around the city. Galway is the perfect starting point for a number of day trips. Take a boat out to the ruggedly stunning Aran Islands, tour the movie backdrop-worthy vistas of Connemara National Park, and Salthill Promenade is like an Irish boardwalk of sorts with a diving board, bars, souvenir shops, and even an ice cream parlor.The Dungaire Castle Banquet combines history and top eats with a four-course gourmet dinner hosted in 17th-century castle.
For even more fun, plan your trip around one of Galway’s many special events. The Galway Christmas Market is a festive explosion of kiosks, rides, puppet shows, live music and of course visit from Santa and his helpers. The Galway Races are a yearly summer tradition that draws people from all over the world to watch horse races and show off their sartorial best. Then there’s the Galway International Arts Festival which has been giving everyone from actors to opera singers a forum for nearly 50 years.
Stop & Shop
Eyre Square is the heart of shopping in Galway. It’s quite the experience, with street performers on most corners (be sure to throw a few Euro in the hat if you appreciate the busking musicians and dancers). In Eyre and beyond, visit Bell Book & Candle for reading material and vinyl, Mishnoc for handmade leather goods, and the brilliantly named My Shop… Granny Likes It for local artisanal finds like swan-print pillows and stationery.
What to Know Before You Go:
- The Best Way to Travel: It’s just an hour’s drive from Shannon Airport to Galway — rent a car or grab a bus, it’s easy either way.
- When to Go: To avoid the rainiest months and make the most of Galway’s buzzing outdoor scene, visit between July and October (but it’s also busiest then, so pack a coat and go in the off-season to avoid crowds)
- Local Currency: Euro
- Native Language: English, pockets of Irish Gaelic
- How to Get Around: Rent a car, take a bus, and walk as much as possible
- Plan To: Walk a lot. It’s the best way to see the city, meet people and get perfectly lost.
- Here’s a Hint: Avoid St. Patrick’s Day. Yes, it’s Ireland, but it’s not the best time to experience the true wonder that is Galway and the pubs will be packed with amateurs.