Galway is the second-largest county in Ireland, and it has a lot more to offer than just the city with the same name. It covers more than 2,000 square miles and has high mountains, the Wild Atlantic Way coastline, and the beautiful Connemara region, which is home to Ireland’s largest Irish-speaking community.
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Friday evening: Galway city by night
Walk along Salthill Promenade
After you check into one of the best cheap hotels in Galway, you should go straight out to see the European Capital of Culture 2020. Take an evening walk along the Salthill Promenade, which runs along the northern shore of Galway Bay. Stop at the famous Blackrock diving tower to breathe in some fresh Atlantic air. After you’ve worked up an appetite, head back to the narrow streets of the city center and stroll to Aniar, a Michelin-starred restaurant in the West End of the city that focuses on food from its own region. (If you want a more relaxed meal, you can get delicious wood-fired pizza at the Dough Bros.)
Sip your first pint of Guinness at O’Connell’s Bar
Bar, Pub, Irish, European, $$$
You’ll be hungry and thirsty after getting a breath of fresh sea air. You can get a perfectly poured pint of Guinness and a lively atmosphere at O’Connell’s Bar in Eyre Square.
Saturday: Galway Market and the Aran Islands
Eat fresh at Galway Market
Market, Grocery Store, Street Food
If you want to make the most of your time in the City of Tribes, get up early and be one of the first people at Galway Market on Church Lane. This is a weekend market that has been going on for hundreds of years. Walk around the stands and talk to the local vendors. When your stomach starts to rumble, grab a doughnut from the Boychik Donuts stand that will change your life.
Visit the Aran Islands
Natural Feature, Ruins
You can drive or take a day trip to Rossaveel, which is an hour away, and catch the 10.30am ferry to Inis Mór, which is the largest of the Aran Islands in Galway Bay. Rent a bike and spend the day taking in the beautiful scenery and quietness of the island. Explore the limestone pavements of the glaciokarst landscape, the arctic, alpine, and Mediterranean plants, the much-loved seal colony, the prehistoric Dn Aonghasa hill fort on the edge of one of the island’s dramatic cliff faces, and Clochan na Carraige, a well-preserved ancient island dwelling. Visit Joe Watty’s Bar and Restaurant, a traditional Irish pub with an open fire, to end the day.
Back on the mainland, go to Ard Bia at Nimmos for dinner. It’s a very cool restaurant in the Spanish Arch area of the city that serves great gourmet food from the season. The food on the menu is fresh and “inspired by the world,” taking ideas from places like the Mediterranean and New Zealand. After that, go to the Róisn Dubh, a popular bar and club with locals that is also one of the best places to see live music in Ireland.
Sunday: Connemara National Park and Kylemore Abbey
Escape the city to Connemara National Park
After breakfast, take the N59 north for a 90-minute drive to Connemara National Park. The park is a 2,957ha (7,307-acre) area of colorful Irish bog, mountain peaks, grasslands, and woods that for some travelers has been the best part of a tour of the whole country. Walk one or more of the four Diamond Hill trails and stop to take pictures of the beautiful views along the way. To get to Connemara, you can also take a bus.
Explore Kylemore Abbey
Once you’ve seen enough of the beautiful scenery, drive a few minutes to the historic Kylemore Abbey and take the Visitor Experience to learn about its Benedictine monastery. The tour tells the story of the many generations of people who have lived, worked, and prayed inside the building’s thick granite walls. It does this with the help of old photos, artifacts, and audiovisual presentations. During World War I, the abbey was built for Benedictine nuns who came from Belgium. Some nuns still live here today, so keep an eye out as you walk through the beautiful Victorian walled gardens.
Sunday evening: more live music
Join in the fun at Tig Cóilí
Bar, Pub, Irish, European, Pub Grub, $$$
You might want to take a quick nap back at the hotel before going out into Galway city one last time. The Tig Cóil pub on Mainguard Street is a great place to make sure your weekend ends on a high note. Traditional Irish music is played live every night.
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