I’m here to profess my love for Galway.
After spending three weeks in Ireland, I kept mentioning one city again and again when telling my friends about this trip. I adored so much of Ireland, but I felt such a strong connection with Galway. It’s hard to describe. I only spent one day in Galway, but I could see myself living there. Have you ever been to a place like that? One where in the middle of your travels, you could simply settle down, unpack all of your things, and stay put? Not only are there so many things to do in Galway, but it was the vibe of the city that I fell in love with. The constant stream of music from every corner. The cobblestone streets that continually lead to interesting discoveries. Random bursts of colour in homes and fences. Even though it poured rain at one point, it didn’t matter. The energy and spirit of Galway flowed through the streets and through me; I was living in the moment and grateful for every second of it.
I urge you to spend at least a day in Galway, if not longer. While I only spent 24 hours in Galway, my departure was bittersweet. It was exciting to explore more areas of Ireland, but I also wished I could stay. Here are some things to do in Galway for one memorable day in this Irish town.
Want to travel more?
Need more travel in your life? In this special free bonus content, we reveal our top tips and personal advice to living a life of travel.
BREAKFAST/LUNCH AT LIGHTHOUSE CAFE
You have adventures in Galway ahead of you, so it’s time to start the day out right with a delicious meal. My first stop was at a cozy little vegetarian cafe called The Lighthouse. It’s a coffee house, tea room, and vegetarian/vegan lunch joint. When I arrived, I didn’t realize that lunch wasn’t served until noon. However, there were slices of cake and dessert with coffee ready to go, so I had my dessert before my meal. Hey, what’s a girl to do?
I didn’t eat the entire slice of cake before lunch as I didn’t want to totally ruin my appetite. The slice of chocolate/cardamom/orange torte was delicious, but the veggie burger I ordered was just as tasty. I highly recommend trying their butterbean and parsley veggie burger with herb tahini, hummus, and fresh tomato salsa. Along with their small menu, there are daily specials written on a blackboard. Whether you’re looking for coffee and cake or a light lunch, stop by The Lighthouse for a yummy and satisfying meal to begin the day on a full and happy stomach.
Looking for more vegan food? Check out my Vegan Guide to Galway!
CHARLIE BYRNE’S BOOKSHOP
Are you a fan of independent bookshops and libraries? I love finding quaint and unique bookstores on my travels, and Charlie Byrne’s was a shop you could browse for hours. In a labyrinth of rooms, you’ll find 100,000 books of every variety and genre imaginable. The knowledgeable staff meticulously organizes the books by subject matter, and there’s even a section devoted to Irish literature. Charlie Byrne’s Bookshop is pretty Instagrammable, too, so snap a few pics after you’re done your shopping.
STROLL DOWN QUAY LANE
Quay Lane is a pedestrian street lined with shops, cafes, and restaurants. You’ll find many talented musicians performing on various street corners. It’s organized very well so only one artist plays at a time, or they’re far enough apart so the songs don’t compete in any way. Quay Lane is a very lively spot. You can spend hours exploring this street, along with its neighbouring ones, poking your head into the shops or stopping to listen to the music.
AFTERNOON TEA AT CUPAN TAE
After your legs are feeling sore from wandering, take a break at Cupán Tae. There’s a massive menu of tea selections in dozens of varieties, plus it’s served up in an elegant teapot and teacup. It’s a classic tea shop that reminds me of stopping for tea at your grandmother’s home. It’s cozy, warm and inviting, just like a soothing cup of tea. My tea was “Merlin’s Magic Elixir” – apple bits, grapes, rosehip petals, lemon myrtle, and marigold petals. You could also purchase loose leaf tea from the shop to bring home with you.
EYRE SQUARE AND #WHATLIFTSYOU
Continue walking around town by taking a stroll past Eyre Square. Many streets all intersect at this large park. The Quincentennial Fountain features a sculpture depicting Galway Hookers, traditional fishing boats used in Galway Bay.
We also stumbled upon a pair of #WhatLiftsYou wings on a wall near Eyre Square, as painted by street artist Kelsey Montague. Similar wings exist in Nashville and all over the world. These ones are just outside of O’Connells Bar and they’re perfect for a photo opportunity. Please note that I didn’t plan to match my sweater to the art as this find was a complete surprise – it just worked out that way! With so many things to do in Galway, there are so many chances to take beautiful photos along the way.
LUNCH AT TGO FALAFEL BAR
By now, maybe you’re feeling a little bit hungry again. It was a great time to stop for a bite to eat as it had just started to rain. By the time we finished eating, the rain temporarily stopped. It’s not a bad idea to plan your meals according to the weather. While it only makes sense to order falafel at the TGO Falafel Bar, I actually decided to try their Seitan Shawarma. It isn’t every day that you find a vegan shawarma on a restaurant menu, and it certainly didn’t disappoint. The wrap was perfectly spiced, and it even came with a side of fries. Order your meal downstairs and head upstairs to dine.
WALK ALONG THE RIVER CORRIB
The River Corrib is the shortest river in Europe, spanning only 6km in length from the lake to the Atlantic Ocean. It’s a pretty powerful river with rushing waters, and a very pretty walk between the city centre and the university. Along the way, we stumbled upon some colourful street art and picturesque homes.
EXPLORE THE UNIVERSITY GROUNDS
The National University of Ireland Galway has stunning old buildings that look straight out of a film. Out of all the things to do in Galway, this was one of my favourites. Vines and leaves creep around each structure, and it’s worth a peaceful and quiet walk around the property. At one point while I was there, it started to rain, and then hail! Big chunks of ice pelted us from the sky. I took coverage in a nearby building with several university students until the storm let up. The weather is constantly changing in Ireland, and I’m pretty sure I saw just about every variety of weather all in one day!
THE LONG WALK
Walk back into town and visit the docks, including The Long Walk. It’s a stretch of houses facing the water near the Spanish Arch. Built in 1584, there are two remaining arches from an old city wall that used to protect Galway’s quays. They were partially destroyed in 1755 from a tsunami created from an earthquake in Lisbon. There are lots of swans and seabirds along the waterfront, and I suggest taking the time to relax as the sun starts to go down.
PIZZA AT THE DOUGH BROS
Looking for the best pizza in Ireland? The Dough Bros makes one of the best pizzas I’ve had in a long time, and it’s quite an institution in Galway. They use wood fired pizza ovens and the pizza is outstanding. They have a few vegan pizzas on the menu, complete with vegan cheese. I ordered the Buffalo Soldier (Buffalo mozzarella, balsamic red onion, portobello mushroom and basil) along with garlic bread. The restaurant has lots of 80s and 90s nostalgia through its decorative memorabilia. Naturally, I adored the restaurant even more for its Super Mario and Nintendo decor.
WHERE TO STAY
After you’re finished exploring all of the things to do in Galway, you need a place to get a restful night’s sleep. I highly recommend that you check out the Connacht Hotel. Even though it’s not right in the city centre, there are many reasons why you should stay there. First, the hotel is clean, comfortable, and has everything you need for a great overnight stay. The Connacht Hotel offers a luxurious stay at an affordable price.
If you’re traveling on an Ireland road trip, you’ll need somewhere to park the car. In Galway, parking can be quite expensive, so it was nice to save a little bit of money with the hotel’s free parking. There are outdoor and indoor parking lots with tons of spaces for your vehicle.
Would you like to see more pictures from Galway? Check out my entire Galway travel photo album! You can purchase canvas prints and housewares of every photo I take, directly from my Smugmug site.
Hopefully this article provides you with lots of suggestions for things to do in Galway. From eating tons of delicious food to exploring this historic and colourful city, I hope that you fall in love with Galway just as much as I did.