For a small sea port city, Galway’s legacy far exceeds its actual size. From inspiring the setting of Steve Earle’s famous “Galway Girl” song (you haven’t quite heard it until you’ve seen it performed live in an Irish pub) to the birthplace of the centuries-old Claddagh ring, it’s a town with history to spare and a quaint-beyond-words appeal all its own. Alexandra of To Vogue or Bust dubbed the city her favorite (by far) on her two-month long European travel. Thanks to the help of the friendly locals in the city, she’s managed to round up seven of the city’s must-see sites, eats, and bars!
1. The Salthill Promenade
Walk the Promenade overlooking beautiful Galway Bay to take in the incredible views of the bay, stop in one of the many bars dotted along the way for a pint and at the end, and don’t forget to kick the wall across from the diving boards as per local tradition for good luck! If the weather’s not too frigid and if you’re up for a jolt of cold do as some of the locals do and take a dip near the diving boards (a sight our writer saw on a windy day in October, no less!).
2. Ard Bia at Nimmos
This is where our writer had the best meal of her whole two-month trip in Europe, hands-down. True to the new farm-to-table, local focus of Ireland’s culinary community, Ard Bia’s ingredients are fresh, natural and above all else, delicious. The space is almost equally as amazing as the food itself—a beautiful combination of Nordic simplicity and Irish coziness. If you’re there on the weekend, be sure to try the incredible weekend brunch and don’t forget to try a baked good from the main floor while you’re at it! After you finished your meal, take in the Spanish Arch that Ard Bia is nestled in (the arch is actually an extension of the original city wall).
3. Sheridan’s Cheesemongers
Need a break from pubs or simply in the mood for wine? Stop by the unpretentious and cozy Sheridan’s Cheesemonger wine bar tucked away above its eponymous cheese shop for a sampling of cheese and wine, including some incredible selections sourced locally. It’s worth nipping back downstairs afterwards to see (and shop!) the cheese shop itself and tour St. Nicholas’s Church Square afterwards.
4. Quay Street
It’s hard to miss iconic Quay Street! Located in the center of town and solidly packed on either side with must-visit pubs, bars, and shops, you could easily spend a whole afternoon on the bustling street. Try to time your visit with a GAA (Gaelic Athletic Association) game of some sort to see the true fanaticism. Locals have a true enthusiasm for their traditional sports, whether it’s hurling (camogie is the near-identical female version), handball or Gaelic football! The Quay’s is an incredible spot to catch live music and if you’re in the mood for traditional Irish dress and tweed; keep walking up Quay Street across to High Street and visit Ó’Máille!
5. The Long Walk
A whole lane of, quite possibly, the most quaint houses you’ll ever see is an extension of the quays—walk the length of it to take in each different colored door and then be sure to snap a picture!
6. The Burren
If you’re in Galway, you may as well drive or take a bus (lplenty of tour buses leave the city, though renting a car to tour around the Irish countryside is never a bad idea!) to one of the country’s most beautiful and special places: the Burren. The karst landscape is truly like nowhere else in the world, and on the way there you can see the beautiful Dunguaire Castle in Galway Bay (keep your eyes peeled for hookers, Galways’ iconic fishing boats!).
7. Cliffs of Moher
There’s plenty to see in the Burren, but if you’re limited on time, you must see the Cliffs of Moher. They are a once-in-a-lifetime experience to see in-person, particularly if you’re lucky and spot them during a “soft day” (how the Irish refer to those beautiful misty days so common there!) to see the layered cliffs in a gradient of mist. Be sure to bundle up because the temperature drops here!