Straddling the River Corrib on Ireland's west coast about 40 mi/65 km north of Shannon Airport, Galway exudes a youthful liberalism rarely found in Ireland. Galway's own large population of college students is bolstered by the influx of young adults from across Ireland (and many from mainland Europe) who are attracted by the music, the theater and the lively pubs.
But travelers of any age will enjoy the city's compact, walkable downtown—it's a delightful jumble of narrow streets and medieval buildings that recalls Galway's long history. Filled with restaurants and pubs, the city center is the best place to experience Galway's nightlife.
Galway makes a convenient base for exploring the Cliffs of Moher and the other sights in County Clare, as well as Connemara, but don't miss out on the city itself. Founded in the 1120s, Galway has an extensive history and rich culture, and plenty of sights to go along with it.
Save some energy for exploring Galway's lively nightlife: A stop at a bar or two likely will bring you to some live music; ask the locals if they know where there's a session taking place. Though the city may be crawling with youth, most of Galway's nightspots have a nice mix of young and old customers. The spirited conversation and good cheer (craic—pronounced crack—in Irish lingo) are among the best we experienced in Ireland.
Ireland offers a variety of wholesome foods for every budget. Do try grilled or roast beef, cured hams, breads, fish, oysters, mussels, eel (some of the restaurants have viewing tanks) and hearty local meals—they're not gourmet, but they're delicious.
Irish food is traditionally meat-based, so vegetarian choices sometimes are a bit lackluster. However, nobody can do more with a potato than the Irish. Our favorite was the simple and delicious potato cake—a flour-and-potato concoction sauteed in butter. Don't leave without trying them. Other delicacies not to be missed include brack, a fruity bread that is delicious fresh from the oven and spread with butter; soda bread made from flour, salt, baking soda and buttermilk, the traditional daily bread of most Irish families from the mid-19th century; and colcannon, a creamy, delicious potato dish made with milk, leeks, and kale or cabbage.
Ireland is also blessed with plentiful salmon. Served in a variety of ways, it can be found in the finest restaurants and in the humblest of pubs. And though it may sound redundant, the Irish make the best Irish stew (mutton, onions and potatoes).
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