Natural beauty is awash across the west of Ireland. In this part of the world, you’re only a few minutes away from something pretty to look at. If you’re more of a city-person though and enjoy the crowds and nightlife when traveling the world, you’d be more than impressed by the metropolitan city of Galway. An hour’s drive from Shannon Airport, or a 2-hour train from Dublin, Galway harnesses the buzz of an international community and adds it to an Irish charm and passion for the arts that result in a city that will be Europe’s Capital of Culture in 2020.
Approaching the city from the south gives the warmest of introductions, so I always stay slightly further away from the hustle of the center and reside in Salthill, a seaside town a mile or two away from the main high street. Taking a walk across the promenade, or ‘The Prom’ as locals know it, you get to feel the wash of the Atlantic Ocean as well as having options for top-quality bars and restaurants to enjoy. The perfect Salthill experience though is turning to your youth and heading into Seapoint Leisure to play classic arcade and fairground games, as well as taking a large cloud of Candy Floss, before working up a thirst for a pint at Oslo, one of the Galway Bay Brewery companies first public houses. The company export ales across the country, and offer tasting menu options for newcomers who are looking for something a bit less Guinness. Once enjoyed, the city center would need to be explored, but not without the help and aid of a storyteller.
Galway is perfect for a walking tour, and can be led by an array of charismatic guides who spend their spare time away from creative escapades to show locals around the town. On my most recent tour, my guide was able to bring me up to speed on Irish independence, a story that spans two hundred years, three revolution attempts and great famine. Trust google and online reviews to find the guide that fits.
If your idea of entertainment is more stage than street-talkers, then Galway is big on performance. Buskers will play through the town, but a truly unique experience is provided by Emma O’Sullivan, or @emmastep for Instagrammers. She is known as the Irish dancer of Galway, performing in the Latin Quarter come rain or come shine. Standing with revelers to watch her move is a great spirit-lifter and a wonderful thing to experience with a crowd. For something indoors, The Roisin Dubh, a venue south of the River Corrib, would house open mic and spoken word evenings throughout the week as well as performances from the world’s leading musicians and comedians, including Ed Sheeran, who has wowed crowds here on numerous occasions,
Galway comes alive at night-time, with a community of students, international workers and tourists all hitting the streets of the city for music and dancing. Tig Coili, located in the Latin Quarter of Galway, hosts multiple-daily traditional Irish music shows and is often used as the starting point for night-owls. The bar is painted with notes of currency from around the globe, and you’re never too far away from sharing laughs and tales with the clientele. From there, it’s a short walk up Quay Street to the blue door of Neachtain, an intimate public house with low ceilings, oak booths and corned spaces. If Bilbo Baggins ran a pub, this would be it.
Approaching the early hours, The Quays bar would have tribute bands and covers acts playing you right through to the early hours. As the night wears thin and a hunger hits, then the last culture stop on the trip will be one of the country’s largest location of Supermacs, a popular fast-food chain. The venue is known for its music and atmosphere, and although it’s not an art gallery, a chicken burger and fries shared with friends can be just as beautiful an experience.
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