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The ancient walled city of Galway is the center of arts, culture, and commerce in Western Ireland. Stroll medieval alleyways, tap your toes to traditional Celtic music, and, as the old song says, watch the sun go down on Galway Bay.
Galway was founded in the 13th century by 14 English families who built a well-fortified town on the spot where the River Corrib runs into the Galway Bay. Today, the city is a thriving business center that still retains much of its Gaelic charm. Locals who work in the high-tech industry by day crowd the city's many pubs at night for a pint of Guinness and a friendly chat. Galway also draws thousands of visitors each year to its many arts and music festivals.
Galway is an ideal base to explore Western Ireland. Experience the barren beauty of the Aran Islands, visit the stunning Cliffs of Moher, or simply take a car trip around the countryside to view the region's famous "40 shades of green" scenery.
There's a public house on virtually every corner in Galway, so you'll be sure to find one, or several, to suit your tastes. Pubs come in all shapes and sizes from cozy neighborhood establishments to bars that are known throughout the region for their live folk music.
Immerse yourself in Galway's Gaelic culture by taking lessons in traditional Irish step dancing. Theaters, schools, and even pubs offer classes that will let you unleash your inner lord of the dance.
You'll always feel close to the ocean in Galway, whether you're enjoying a meal from one of the many excellent fish and chip shops or simply watching the small wooden sailing boats known as Galway hookers glide up and down the Corrib. The Galway City Museum in the Spanish Arch neighborhood gives an excellent overview of maritime history.
Galway's city center is one of Ireland's best shopping districts. You'll stroll through medieval alleyways lined with colorfully painted shops where you can buy Irish crystal, Belleek pottery, and rare books. The weekly Saturday market outside the St. Nicholas Collegiate Church offers everything from traditional Irish cheeses to freshly made sushi.
A must-see destination is the magnificent Cliffs of Moher, which is 45 miles south of city. This natural wonder is a sheer rock wall that rises 700 feet and extends five miles along the Atlantic coastline. You can spend the afternoon hiking along the cliffs or simply soak in one of the most stunning vistas on the Emerald Isle.
Galway has a temperate climate year round, so when you travel to the city largely depends on what kind of experience you prefer. If you enjoy quiet strolls and intimate dinners, spring is a good time to visit. However, if you're a social animal, plan your trip for summer. The annual Galway International Arts Festival at the end of July draws thousands of visitors for live music, theater, and literary events. The festival is immediately followed by the start of the summer horse racing season at Ballybrit Racecourse.
Most international visitors will arrive via Shannon Airport (SNN), which is 53 miles south of Galway. The easiest and cheapest way to get to Galway from the airport is to take an hourly bus that operates between 7 am and 8 pm at a cost of EUR19; the journey takes around two hours. You can also get a taxi, but it can be quite pricey at EUR90 per fare. Those who want to drive to Galway would be better served by renting a car at the airport.
Iarnród Éireann operates six trains per day from Dublin's Heuston Station to Ceannt Station in Eyre Square. There is also a commuter train line that runs five times per day between Galway and Limerick's Colbert Station.
Galway is an easy car journey from both Dublin and Limerick. Take motorways M6, M4, and M50 for the 129-mile journey from the Irish capital. Take highway M18 for the 62-mile trip between Limerick and Galway. Expect some tolls if you are traveling from Dublin. Taxis can be expensive in Ireland, so it is best to rent a car if you are planning to drive to Galway.
Bus Éireann operates several lines through Galway that arrive and depart from Ceannt Station. There are also frequent bus routes between Shannon Airport and Dublin Airport. Buses are inexpensive with the average fare between Dublin and Galway costing EUR18.
Galway is Ireland's bed and breakfast capital with a cozy inn on almost every street. Try Ard Mhuire Bed and Breakfast and Tara House Bed and Breakfast in the Salthill neighborhood, or the Asgard Guest House in the city center if you are looking for comfortable rooms and a good breakfast. The luxurious Radisson Blu Hotel and Spa in the city center offers lovely views of Galway Bay.
City Center - this neighborhood comprises the original fortified city, and it is still at the heart of Galway's history and commerce. Visit the bustling Latin Quarter for some high-end shopping, tour the medieval St. Nicholas Collegiate Church, and grab a pint at the famous watering hole Tigh Neachtain.
Claddagh - this fishing community on the west bank of the Corrib is the traditional home of Galway's Gaelic culture. The fiercely independent residents elected their own "king" until 1954, and you can still see the famous Claddagh ring symbol of two arms embracing a crowned heart on buildings and signs.
Salthill - when the song urges visitors to "see the sun go down on Galway Bay," it was extolling the views from this seaside suburb. Visit Palmer's Rock Beach for a fun family afternoon of amusement arcades and seaside cafes, or experience the bracing Atlantic breezes while walking along the famous promenade.
Both Bus Éireann and City Direct operate bus routes through Galway and its suburbs. Adult fares start at EUR2, but, if you are staying in the city for a few days, you can save money by purchasing a weekly fare for EUR20.50.
Taxis are plentiful in Galway, but they are more expensive than other forms of transport. The average fare is a flat rate of EUR3.60 with an additional EUR2.49 per 0.62 miles.
You can easily walk to almost anywhere in Galway, so there isn't really a need for a vehicle unless you are using Galway as a home base for touring Western Ireland. You can rent a mid-size vehicle for EUR14 per day from international companies like Budget and Thrifty. Be aware that parking is limited in Galway with spaces running EUR4 for every two hours.
Galway's main shopping drag is the pedestrian zone encompassing High Street, William Street, and Shop Street, which runs west of Eyre Square. There you can buy everything from rare books to Irish cheddar. The shops can be touristy and the prices reflect that, although authentic Irish knitwear is worth the price. Irish crystal makes an affordable gift at EUR15 for a small figurine.
Tesco and SuperValu are large American-style grocery stores in Galway that are well stocked with food and necessities. The prices are somewhat cheaper than in the US, with a loaf of bread at EUR1 and eggs at EUR2 per dozen.
Galway's proximity to the ocean makes it a seafood lover's delight. Head to McDonagh's on Quay Street for take-out fish and chips or seafood specialties like oysters in garlic and wine sauce and seared scallops. Martine's Restaurant and Winebar on Quay Street is another great fine dining experience serving a large selection of delicious dishes from lasagna to Asian fusion cuisine. O'Reilly's Bar and Kitchen in Salthill serves traditional fare like Guinness stew and bangers and mash (sausages and mashed potatoes). The average meal in Galway costs EUR25.