How to spend 48 hours in Galway

    (Ireland content pool)

(Ireland content pool)

Small as it may be, Galway has a growing reputation (both in Ireland and abroad) as one of the best places to enjoy good music, good food and good craic, as well as the obligatory pints of Guinness. Ed Sheeran was right: it has charm in spades.

This small town is located on Ireland’s beautiful west coast, a short distance from iconic landmarks such as the Cliffs of Moher. Even better, it’s less than an hour’s flight from most major UK airports, including London, making it the perfect weekend getaway location.

Here’s how to make the most of 48 hours there.

Day one

Quay Street, Galway (Ireland content pool)

Quay Street, Galway (Ireland content pool)

You’ve arrived, the weather is (hopefully) holding up and it’s time to hit the town. For starters, a food tour is one of the best ways to explore Galway and its burgeoning foodie scene.

Led by Galway Food Tours (a daytime food tour costs £71 each, while a whiskey tour costs £88;, you’ll taste your way through the city’s best patisserie, truffles and coffee before heading to the local haunt McCambridges goes for some charcuterie and Irish spirits – then a whole range of Galway’s finest seafood in some of the best local restaurants. Have you ever wondered how good fish soup can be? The answer is (if you go to Rúibín, which is on the tour): very much.

If you still have room for lunch afterwards, a trip to the Farmer’s Market (which runs on Saturdays and Sundays; is a must, if only to sample the local wares, including delicious small batches of honey from the Cliffs of Moher.

Afterwards, relax by exploring some of the city’s cultural scene. As well as a wonderful little gallery above the excellent Coffeewerk + Press coffee shop, Kenny’s Art Gallery, Vanda Art Gallery and the Galway International Arts Festival Gallery (the festival itself is held every year and attracts artists from all over the world) are all within a stone’s throw distance from each other. And for those more into their history, the Galway City Museum (free entry; is located near the city’s most famous tourist sites, the Spanish Arch and Long Walk.

Galway International Arts Festival (content pool Ireland)

Galway International Arts Festival (content pool Ireland)

By the time dinner is ready, you’ve probably worked up an appetite. Check out some of our recommendations for where to go below, but Sophie’s at The Dean (, Kai ( and Cava Bodega ( are all good options.

To top it off, a trip to some of Galway’s musical venues is simply a must. The city is known for its traditional Irish music and many of the pubs in and around Quay Street have live performances that often go on into the late hours.

Of particular note is Taaffes, which serves one of the best pints of Guinness in town, as well as providing a venue to watch hurling or Irish football games with the locals. From 5.30pm it also plays host to an ever-changing roster of musicians – and once that’s finished around 10pm, head down the street to the Tigh Cóilí pub to continue the party until midnight.

If you prefer to stay in one place all night, try The Quays, just down Quay Street. Sip your pint (if Guinness isn’t your thing, always ask what’s on tap: many of these pubs have their own specially brewed microbrewery beers) and while away the hours in good company.

    (Ireland content pool)

(Ireland content pool)

Day two

Work off that hangover with a bike ride through the city. With a hefty electric bike tucked under you, you’re taken on a speed tour of Galway (we went with WeWheel, who were excellent; tours start from £41.50 each; – which is by far the most efficient way to view the whole area with a local guide who can explain every nook and cranny. For the less bike-friendly, there are also hop-on hop-off bus tours of the city that can be booked online.

Although the tourist core of the town is on one side of the Corrib River, the village of Claddagh and Salthill on the other are still worth exploring and offer a glimpse of the local side as well as some beautiful bay views.

If you don’t fancy a tour then it’s still worth making the trip along the Long Walk to the Blackrock Diving Tower (which is also on the tour). Built in the 1960s, it has become an emblem of the area and offers great views of the bay – if you’re feeling brave, you can even take a dip alongside the locals.

Blackrock Diving Tower, Salthill, Galway (Ireland Content Pool)

Blackrock Diving Tower, Salthill, Galway (Ireland Content Pool)

Whatever you’re up to, head to toastie mecca Meltd ( afterwards to grab a delicious lunch and run through the history of the famous Claddagh Ring at the Claddagh Ring Museum. Tucked away at the back of the Claddagh and Celtic Jewelery store, it’s a fascinating look into the history of this iconic piece of jewelery – which features on the signage of many of Galway’s shops.

With that all in order, it’s time to pack your bags and visit the Galway City Distillery for some excellent local gin (served with a variety of seasonal, botanical tonics) before heading back to the airport. Slainte!

Where to eat

If you’re looking for dinner with a view, Sophie’s at The Dean is one of the top spots. Located on the third floor with wraparound glass walls, it offers one of the best panoramas in the city (plus an outdoor terrace for sunny days) while enjoying the local fish, steak and a really good pizza menu before kicking back with some of their cocktails.

For those wanting to eat a little closer to the centre, why not try the local stallholders like Rúibín ( or Éan ( If you go to Éan for one thing, do it for the squid on toast, the restaurant’s signature dish, made with the highly sought-after sourdough breads (queues for these stretch around the door at opening time). Rúibín, on the other hand, is run by husband-and-wife team Richie and Alice Jary and puts local ingredients in the spotlight in its dishes. The dish to try here is the seafood chowder, which is almost criminally good.

Sophie is with the dean (the dean)

Sophie is with the dean (the dean)

For something different, Cava Bodega ( is the place to go. With multiple Michelin nods to its name, it serves up Spanish tapas, paired with a mouth-watering wine and sherry menu that will make those patatas bravas go down a treat. Reservations are essential: when we went, guests were still arriving well after 10pm.

And finally, for great food you can’t get better than Kai ( Named after the Maori word for food, it’s run by New Zealander Jess and local Dave Murph, whose focus is on organic, local produce that changes with the seasons. The price is high, but the dishes are excellent: every menu of Irish crab and scallop ceviche has our vote.

Where to stay

Galway has several good options for the weekend traveller, but the best has to be The Dean ( The Dean, the city’s newest and trendiest hotel, is a five-minute walk from the center of town and has everything a city breaker could want.

This includes a gym, boxing and fitness classes, a Jacuzzi-style swimming pool and sauna, and even better, multiple restaurants to cater for all dietary options. These include the aforementioned Sophie’s and also Elephant and Castle (, which is heaving on weekends and delivers New York vibes and some seriously good burger. Oh, and there’s also a traditional bar if you want to enjoy a Guinness or whiskey before heading to your room.

The Dean Hotel (The Dean)

The Dean Hotel (The Dean)

The rooms themselves are great too: packed with colourful, quirky artwork and decorations – there’s charm in bucketloads. With prices for a double room starting at around £123 per night, it’s surprisingly affordable too, especially when you consider that jacuzzi.

If The Dean is full (or not really your cup of tea), try the Jury’s Inn Hotel (, just down Quay Street. The location is great (overlooking the bay) and while the rooms are quite cheap and cheerful, they also only cost between £115-150 per night, making it a good place to travel on a budget.

For a more boujie vibe, check out Salthill Hotel ( With rooms from £245 per night, it’s not cheap, but it’s just across the river in Salthill and also offers great views of the bay from its seafront location, as well as a swimming pool and a seriously stylish bar.

How to get there

The nearest airport to Galway is Shannon, which is a good hour’s drive from the city (passengers flying into Dublin should be able to get there by bus or train, but it’s a two and a half hour journey).

Return flights to Shannon from Heathrow start from £107 with Aer Lingus, and from £33 from London Gatwick, back to Stansted with Aer Lingus.

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