It’s a very rare experience as a traveler and a travel blogger that you find a place that truly resonates with you. Digging deep into that blogger bag of superlatives is not really my thing, but Galway, well, it’s different.
A university town, it’s also the European Capital of Culture in 2020, but its beautiful coastal location and charming and friendly people means it has a lot to offer visitors.
A bit Bohemian, witty and with a lot of soul, Galway stole my heart and these are the reasons why it will also steal yours:
- The Streets
This city is probably the most Instagrammable city in Ireland, let alone Europe. Every, corner seems to have a quirky, thoroughly charming spot. Its walkable main area, the Latin Quarter, is a crush of color – shops, pubs, cafes – each one gets smaller and more eye catching as you stroll. Its restaurants and cafes offer front-row seats for observing buskers and street theatre which are part and parcel of the Latin Quarter. Remnants of the town’s medieval walls can be found alongside shops selling handcrafted Claddagh rings and others selling “Kiss Me I’m Irish” T shirts.
2. The Food
You don’t have to search hard to find a good meal in this city. Its coastal location means it has access to the bounty of the seas that surround the city, as well as lamb, beef and other produce from the area. As with my visit to Dublin, the food in Galway was a revelation. One of my first stops was Sheridan’s Cheesemongers which stocks cheese from across Ireland as well as the surrounding area. I stocked up on some of the area’s famous goat cheese from Killeen Farmouse.
Galway is the location of one of the best meals I had in Ireland (and it was a trip of outstanding meals). This was thanks to the Cafe-Restaurant Kai. Owners David and Jessica Murphy have created a relaxed, rustic and welcoming cafe. standouts from our visit were a beatifiully simple Fishfingers. These are NOT your average fishfingers rather hunks of pollock with buttermilk and panko crumbs, served with kohlrabi and cucumber salad. The flavor of its beef stew was rich and deep, the meat fork tender and falling apart.
3. Its History
I could devote an entire post and then some to the history of this fair city which has a history as colorful as its present. Instead I was fixated by the role it played in the recent history of my own country, Australia. Galway was the location from where many convicts were transported to the new colony of Australia in the 1830s. You can see the Galway Jail where many were housed, before being taken to the docks for the gruelling year long journey to the bottom of the world. This included distant members of my family. I’ve travelled widely, and while we can be moved by a painting, or an experience, it’s rare for me to have been moved as much as I was by a place. Standing on what would have been the docks many left from for uncertain futures, I will be honest, I was affected.
For other history buffs, you won’t be disappointed. The city’s Spanish heritage, thanks to the trade boats from those countries that used to ply its waters, is evident in the Spanish Arch, an extension of Galway’s medieval city walls, designed to protect ships moored at the nearby quay while they unloaded goods from Spain.
Meanwhile, those looking for some more “recent” pop culture history can visit the pub made famous by a certain red headed singer in his song, Galway Girl. O’Connor’s Bar is every bit as charming as it looks in the video and you can even have a Guinness with bemused locals and regulars.
4. It’s a Cultural Hot Spot
From street performers through to traditional bands playing in its myriads of pubs, this is rightly one of Ireland’s cultural capitals. It’s impossible to walk through Galway without hearing traditional and contemporary music somewhere. Summer is its peak season, with the Galway International Arts Festival, a full schedule of plays, music performances and exhibitions.
5. Its G Spot
Well, more precisely, the G Hotel. Designed by milliner to the stars Phillip Treacy, this hotel on the edge of town is Alice in Wonderland meets Hollywood. Swirling carpets, Swarovski crystals and live Connemara sea horses in their lobby fish tanks are just the start of the experience. Their suites have extravagant free standing Villeroy & Boch designer bathtubs as a focal point but the Linda Evangelista Penthouse is the crowning glory and completely over the top with a private dining area and touches only a super model (whose image can be found around the hotel) would approve of.
No one knows these streets better than Brian Nolan from Galway Walks, who is passionate, funny and a great ambassador for his home city. He should be the first person you contact on arriving in Galway and will help you navigate the maze of streets in the Latin Quarter.
Qatar Airways flies daily to Dublin, the capital of Ireland. Galway is a 2.5 hour drive from Dublin or you can easily reach it by rail. Incidentally, the railway line ends literally next to the ballroom of charming and historic Hotel Meryk, which is worth a visit if only for their selection of gins!
*Life on the Wedge was a guest of Qatar Airways and Failte Ireland for this trip.