By Susan FtizGerald of Vibrant Ireland
It may not be on any travel advisory lists, but I experienced a few things I feel visitors should be warned about before you visit this iconic Irish city. Oh, Galway City may seem innocuous enough; after all it is known as the cultural heart of Ireland, and the worst that is said is that it’s the cloudiest city in Ireland, but Galway has a dark secret.
This secret has four facets, and if you’re wise you’ll consider them before you plan your visit.
1. It is very likely you’ll be tempted with the drink in Galway — and that’s not just alcohol!
You think you’re immune to loosing dreamy hours to imbibing because you’re tee-total or studiously only have ‘just the one’? HAH! Herein lays a danger of Galway City. Not only is it full of charming pubs brimming with excellent pints of Guinness or featuring interesting arrays of craft beers, Galway is also home to quirky coffee spots and tempting tea shops. My partner and I lost an enjoyable hour each day just in the teashops, perusing fantastical tea blends such as Honeybush Honey Kiss, Chilli Romance or Toffee Popcorn.
You can even have an ol’ smoke through a hookah in one of these quirky establishments. Most Galway watering holes have a good mix of locals and visitors, and are super for people watching whilst you sip and nibble a cake or chow down on a bit of pub grub…which brings me to your next danger!
TIP: Be sure to cross the River Corrib from the main tourist area so you can discover some of the best craft beer pubs.
2. Galway may cause unexpected weight gain
You may or may not be aware that Ireland has experienced a food renaissance over the past years; what this means for you is that there are more delicious choices than ever. Mouthwatering and fresh Irish artisan products feature on many menus, and myriad types of restaurants & cafes abound. In Galway’s buzzing ‘Latin Quarter’ alone you’ll find over 30 restaurants to tickle your taste buds and tighten your waistband. And if that’s not enough, the delicious but sinfully calorie-laden traditional Irish breakfasts on offer at most every hotel & breakfast cafe will have you in hog heaven—almost literally as pork is a delicious staple of the Irish breakfast. Irish pork products are the best I’ve ever had, in all my travels. Sod the diet, you’re on holiday!
TIP: Do try black pudding! I promise it is truly yummy. As an American ex-pat, this Irish favourite sounded bizarre to me, too, but with one bite I was convinced. Give it a go.
3. You may lose all track of time
Visitors from North America & Northern Europe often remark that Irish time feels a bit more relaxed and fluid. In Galway you may find this especially so. Galway City has a seductive habit of enticing you to wander round an intriguing corner to get a closer glimpse of a bit of Medieval architecture, or to find the source the of bouncing sounds of Irish trad music…. the next thing you know you’ve spent an hour chatting away to some old-timer full of stories in the pub (I refer you to the related Point 1).
Or perhaps on your way to the Galway City Museum via the Spanish Arch you realise that here where the River Corrib dances and flows into Galway Bay is actually a great place to sit and have an ice cream, and oh yeah, the cafe at the Museum is really quite good, why not have a bit of that good looking cake on display after we enjoy the museum…and oh look, there’s a lovely little walk upstream along the river as well—and of course we do need to work off that cake; plus it is near to the way to that delicious restaurant in the old water mill… and oh wow, another festival is starting tomorrow, maybe we’ll just stay an extra day to go to some of it…
This, my friends, may be very similar to how the faery folk of Ireland enchanted those who wandered into their realms in the days of yore. The next thing you know, weeks have gone by and you’ve extended your holiday because you didn’t expect to love Galway so much that you nearly forgot to see the rest of Ireland!
TIP: Wandering and walking will help burn off all that fab food! You can head a few miles outside of the city centre for a stroll along the seaside promenade in Salthill. You can also swim if you are hardy enough for the chilly Atlantic.
4. You’ll happily part with your money for unique treasures
Whether your weakness is books, craft, vintage, art & design, music, jewellery or just browsing in general, echoing through the fascinating Galway shops you will hear the siren call of ‘take me home.’ I’m a massive fan of quirky shops and excellent bookstores; Galway is a real danger to folk like me. Popping into somewhere such as Charlie Byrnes with their wonderful selection of new and used books is an exercise in restraint if you don’t want to go away laden.
TIP: If you are looking around for one of the internationally famous Claddagh rings, check out the wee museum at Thomas Dillon’s jewellers on Quay Street. They’ve some of the very first Claddaghs from the 1700s.
Yes, Galway City will charm you, fill you with drink, fatten you, lead you astray and empty your wallet. Yet because of this you may never want to leave. Before you go though, I must warn you of a an actual possible danger with Galway — not booking your hotel ahead of time. Galway is one of Ireland’s most popular destinations, especially in high season and during the many festivals. I’ve experienced the dangers of not booking early myself — nearly thought I’d have to sleep in the car on an impromptu summer visit a few years back!
So, if you’d like to be as close to the main visitor areas as possible, do peruse for your favourite type of hotel and book early. And remember — plan to give yourself plenty of time to really explore and enjoy this vibrant small city.
Check out the latest hotel deals in Galway city here.