25 reasons I’m in love with Galway

Shortly after I moved home to Ireland in December 2015, I dashed off this post about things I love about Galway. I just rediscovered a more in-depth post I wrote on my old blog on the same topic, so I thought I would share it. Don’t forget to leave a comment with your favourite things about the Town of the Tribes.

Monday at the Galway Races: The Galway Races are the highlight of the city’s social calendar and Monday is the highlight of the races for Galwegians. Before the Dubs arrive down flashing the cash and the poseurs start circling the Champagne Tent (or the Fianna Fail tent in days gone by), Galwegians get together to exchange tips, have a tipple and catch up on another year gone by. It has all the craic of the rest of the week but without the pretentiousness of the latter days and half hour bar queues.


Pic via Barnacles Budget Accommodation on Flickr.

Eyre Square: Eyre Square is the first impression people arriving to the city by train or bus get, and that’s no harm whatsoever. It’s a beautiful green area smack bang in the middle of the city that means different things to different people; On a sunny day you’ll find a totally laid-back atmosphere with kids kicking a football or throwing frisbee, groups of students eating ice cream and rolling “cigarettes”, while envious office workers grab twenty minutes outside over lunch.

Salthill: It’s a little bit noisy and a little bit tacky in places, but on the odd occasion when we do get a bit of sun, Salthill is the first place that springs to mind. Whether you want a leisurely stroll along the Prom, a whirl on the Waltzer, a game of giant chess, a wander through one of the numerous casinos or for the very brave a dip in the ocean; the smell of the sea air and the atmosphere of family fun in Salthill is a huge draw for Galwegians and tourists alike.

The Saw Doctors: Together more than 25 years now, the Saw Doctor’s have eighteen top 30 singles including three number 1s. On one level, the Saw Doctor’s are just a really good country-rock band with a cult following. On another level, a close look at Saw Doctor’s lyrics over the last two and half decades gives a reasonably comprehensive modern history of Galway and Ireland: coming of age, doubting religion, recession, emigration, disappointment, hope and friendship. A lot of their most popular songs are lively – maybe even a little raucous – but my favourites are the ballads they wrote about love.

Shop Street: Shop Street is the epicentre of Galway city life. The pedestrian street bursts with the energy of shoppers, tourists, students, buskers, workers and families. A mixture of high street shops, somewhat kitch tourist spots, street entertainment and leading on to the popular pubs of Quay Street – it is a veritable melting pot of life and culture.img_1614.jpeg

The Guard: If you haven’t seen Galway based film the Guard already, stop what you’re doing right now and buy, rent or download it. Now watch it and come back to me. From the writers of In Bruges, it stars Brendan Gleeson in another dark comedy following a small-town cop as he attempts to deal with cocaine smugglers, prostitution, a dying mother, a gay colleague moved down from Dublin, a couple of murders and a ‘Yank’ over from the FBI just for good measure.

Supermacs: What separates Supermacs from every other take-away? I don’t know. But they have the best chicken burgers in the world and the best taco chips. Inexplicably, Supermacs also tastes better in its home county of Galway than any other place in Ireland. [Edit: My Mac keeps auto-correcting Supermacs to Supremacy – both are basically correct)

Ladies Day at the Races: Okay so as I said above Monday and Tuesday are the locals favourite days at the Races, but I’d be lying if I said we weren’t a bit drawn in by the glitz and glamour of Ladies Day. It’s all about the dress, the accessories, the hat, the champagne for this Lovely Girls Competition. Horses- what horses? Today is all about the style!

Galway Girl(s): Galway Girl is an incredibly popular song, and Galway girls are a very popular species. Known for having a sense of humour and ability to laugh at ourselves, the way we speak our minds, our good looks and of course, our modesty, Galway girls are a welcome addition to any night out.

Christmas Market: While summer in Eyre Square is all about ice cream and frisbee, winter in the Square brings with it the Christmas Market, ideal for picking up stocking-fillers and trinkets. Pick up local products like seaweed skin care products of delicious fudge. And of course after a good mosey around, there’s no better way to finish off the day than with a stop off at the beer tent– to keep the cold out.

The Roisin Dubh: The Roisin is the epicentre of all things alternative in the Galway music scene. As well as live gigs, there are regular comedy nights, headphone discos, open mic nights and more in the infamous pub.

The Omniplex: This one might just be personal to me, but back in the day before the EYE opened and everything was in 3D, the Omniplex was where my secondary school friends and I took our first unsupervised trips into town. While the early days were innocent, in later years these trips involved quick trip to Lidl across the road with notoriously bad fake IDs. In we went to an over-18s film armed with a bottle of cheap paint-stripperish vodka to go with our large cokes.

The Arts Festival: The Arts Festival is a world famous explosion of colour, theatre, puppetry and sound. Over two weeks the festival features the Macnas parade and shows for all ages and tastes. Tens of thousands of people attend hundreds of performances over 14 days. The city comes to life with crafts, street theatre (even more than usual), drama and dance, confirming Galway’s place as the true capital of culture.

Fairytale of New York: The best Christmas song of all time was written about Galway Bay. When it gets to mid-November and you’re pissed off because shops have been playing Christmas songs since Halloween, this is the one that’ll bring a smile to your face and get you singing along.

Street Performances: One man bands, human statues, balloon artists, unicyclists, break dancers – you never know quite what you’re going to find walking down Shop Street and through the Latin Quarter but wherever you see a semi-circle of onlookers go and join them for a few minutes of free entertainment.katie-harrington-irish-blogger-galway-buskers

The Corrib: The Corrib is a beautiful river flowing right through the heart of Galway. There’s something very soothing about watching the fishermen nearly thigh high in water over the Salmon Weir Bridge stand still for what seems like hours on edge to get the catch.

Michael D Higgins: He’s an intellectual, a cultural theorist, a political scientist, a poet, a champion of social justice and human rights and now he’s our President. His origins are Clare and Limerick but Michael D has long been Galwegian by choice. We couldn’t be prouder to claim him for our own. My favourite MDH quote has to be on the Dail floor; in response to “We can’t all be intellectuals like you, Deputy” was when he said “No, but you can aspire to be”. The man has got style.

The sing-songs: There’s no sing-song like a Galway sing-song. Whether it’s your Aunty’s 60th, a lock in at the local or sitting above the rock face at the back of Laurel Park, it always ends the same way. You’ve got two good singers that know the words and hold everything together while the rest drink and dance and join in for the chorus. Sure you wouldn’t have it any other way.

The Film Fleadh: Directly before the Arts Festival comes about, Galway hosts Ireland’s leading film festival over six days. It brings together film buffs, directors, actors and critics from all over Ireland and the world in a unique, intimate setting. The central goal of the Fleadh has remained unchanged over the 24 years of its existence – to bring film makers and audiences closer together. For any lover of film and the Arts hitting Galway for the end of the Film Fleadh and the start of the Arts festival is pretty much heaven.

Claddagh: There are few Irish girls who don’t have a Claddagh ring, usually given to them by a loved one. Originating in the village of Claddagh just outside Galway the heart symbolises love, the hands symbolise friendship and the crown represents loyalty. As time has gone on, the Claddagh ring has also become a symbol for pride in Ireland and pride in Galway.image

Charlie Byrne’s Bookshop: Located on Middle Street, Galway, one could spend hours if not days mining for treasures in Charlie Byrne’s new and second-hand bookshop. From crime novels to college texts and everything in betweeen, Charlie’s is the ideal place for a mooch if you’ve got an hour to kill. It’s all but impossible to leave without buying something. The place is a book-lover’s dream.

The Rest of the West:  Much as Galway has to offer in itself, the city is also a gateway to the rest of the West. Croagh Patrick, Donegal, Connemara, Achill Island, Rossespoint, Sligo town and the Burren are just a few of the most beautiful places in Ireland, each with their own charms, and they’re easily accessible from Galway.

The Bog: Now you may not think of the bog as the ideal day out, but for those of us that grew up in rural Galway it’s a place full of memories. Sure, we bitched and moaned at the time, but looking back now it’s all sunshine, sandwiches, sitting on top of a trailer and laughing. And where else can you get a tan and and get toned up in the space of a week 100% free! Important note to family members: Please don’t take this obscure outburst of nostalgia about the bog as an offer to actually go there this summer!

Galway Bay FM: Back in the day before we all had iTunes plugged into every aspect of our lives (I’m talking 2003, people) a fundamental aspect of teen sleepovers was the tunage – and the requests played – on Galway Bay FM “It’s the late night love hour, with Corrine Gavin” Every week without fail she played Sinead O Connor’s ‘Nothing Compares to You’, usually with a cringe-inducing dedication like ‘That one goes out to ClaireBear from Jay who says he’s so sorry he didn’t text her back after school, he ran out of credit but he still loves her forever’… Ah, it was a simpler time!

The people: Ultimately, if you have to sum up what’s special about Galway, it comes down to the people. The city is home to Galwegians, students, artsy types, tourists, alcoholics, poets, musicians and many more. There is an atmosphere in the city that is difficult to describe – that’s what happens when you fill a tiny, historic city with people from all walks of life. If you don’t believe me… just come and see for yourself.

Have you been to Galway? What did you love most about it? If you are Galwegian, what are your favourite things about the place?

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*Throwback! This post was first published on my old blog Oracular Spectacular in 2012. I’ve made some edits to it before reposting here.


29 thoughts on “25 reasons I’m in love with Galway

    • Katie says:

      Honestly, Shop Street just puts me in a good mood! When it’s sunny, there are buskers on every corner and the atmosphere is just incredible.

  1. Katie says:

    If you’re ever planning a trip to Ireland I highly recommend going beyond Dublin and visiting our other beautiful cities like Galway, Cork and Limerick.

  2. Jess says:

    I’ve never been to Ireland but it’s somewhere on my list as it’s just across the water for me! Lovely pictures and great post – I’ll certainly have to save your post for when we do go!

  3. Kevin says:

    Galways looks like an interesting place to be. I’ve never been to this part of the world but you made me feel like I’ve been transported there! thanks for sharing. 🙂

  4. Carrie says:

    Galway looks like a great place to be! I have been to Ireland and absolutely loved it! My family is Irish and so I have a Claddagh ring but I haven’t worn it in a while! I think Im going to go dig it out of my jewelry box!

    • Katie says:

      I love mine. My sister gave it to me for Christmas around 15 years ago and I think it’s the only piece of jewellery I never lost!

  5. Fred Erick says:

    What a beautiful place to visit. I have never been to Ireland but I really want to. I think Galway is such a quiet town where you can relax and explore the Irish culture. I hope I can visit soon.

  6. Bernie says:

    I’m London born and bred of Connemara parents (and going back back back). I spent every summer in Galway and Connemara as a child and am there several times a year now. Your post captured it all for me. It’s a wonderfully vibrant and friendly place and unique in its mix of people and ages and stages. All human life! Thanks!

    • Katie says:

      I’m glad you enjoyed it. My sister lives in London and she’s a part of the London-Irish community. Thanks for reading and taking the time to leave a comment.

  7. Rory Monaghan says:

    I have a love hate relationship with Galway city…I love going there but I hate living there 🙂

    If I move back to Ireland, I’ll be sure to move close to Galway but would never live in the city again. I think around your mid 20’s you outgrow it. It’s a student town and that comes with a lot of baggage. During the summer when the students leave you have to put up with the Galway races. I’m sure it’s fine for those who attend the races but for those working and living their every day lives, it’s a major pain in the arse.

    On a quiet non-student day. The people are great. So, I’d agree on the people. Unfortunately there’s a lot of students for much of the year and in my opinion they don’t treat the city with the same respect as people from it or people who live and work in it. The genuine Galwiegans are great! The absolute best time of my life in Galway was during the first Volvo Ocean Race…the city was magic then. Nothing but great people just enjoying themselves.

    Rather than Supremacs, I would say the food in general. The restaurants your man PJ opened are incredible. There’s also two Michelin star restaurants in a town the size of my ballsack! How crazy is that?

    Live music…not the buskers so much. They’ve gone down a hill a little, imo. The trad sessions on any given night upstairs in The Crane are great. The random acts you’d find in Roisin Dubh. All amazing.

    The air…ok, this is kind of true and not true. Prior to 2012, the air in Galway city was perfection. The moisture in the air, the sea breeze. Conor McGregor mentions the difference in the air in Ireland in a lot of interviews and it’s true. Try living in the Sonoran desert, harsh dry air…or somewhere with high temps and humidity. The cool temps, sea breeze and moisture in the air makes it the best BUT unfortunately in recent years people living in Bohermore have gone back to use the smokey coal rather than smokeless coal…so it’s not as nice as it use to be. Fine in the summer, harsh in the winter again. Boo!

    Walkability. Every day off I had, I would just walk the city back and forth about 4 or 5 times from Salthill out to the University, out to the Headford Road, through Bohermore or Lough Atalia…great place to walk. Even in the cold and rain. I loved it. I left in 2012. The night before I left, I walked through the city one last time and felt like shit for leaving. Even when I worked, the first thing I would do when I got home was through on my heavy jacket and just go for a ramble through town.

    The Pubs…even for people who don’t drink, there’s something nice about the pubs in Galway. There’s good music to be found. A friendly chat to a stranger. Some sort of sporting occasion on. You can go to the Blue Note or Salt House, have a few cokes and play board games, if that’s what you’re into. Also, Massimo’s has the best pub food of any pub I have ever been to…but I already covered food.

    Festivals. I’m not a fan of the Galway races but some people are…so I can’t discount it entirely. Aside from the races you’ve got the Arts Festival, Food Festival, Oyster Festival etc. All year, there’s something to look forward to.

    Galway originals. Places like McCambridges, The Galleon and Mortons not only are authentic Galway businesses but their products are second to none. We have KFC, McDonalds and Burger King but it’s not like in the US…they aren’t on every corner. There’s small local businesses all over the town and county.

    The weather. People who lived or live there would say I’m crazy for this one BUT I currently live in Phoenix, Arizona. The temps get up to 48 C in the summer…there’s no seasons. On the flip side, I have worked in countries and some of the eastern states in the US during their winters…brutal!! We bitch and complain about the rain in Galway and the cold, dark winters but seriously, we are really lucky. Bar 2010, I can’t remember a time when it got really, really cold. We get ice but not a really harsh cold. -4 C to -6 C is nothing..a few cm’s of snow is nothing…a little flooding is nothing…a strong wind is nothing when you compare all of those to other places that get tornados, earthquakes, hurricanes, topical storms, snow storms, Siberian winters, massive hail stones etc. I’ll gladly take cold, dark and wet over deadly.

    Anyways, that’s long winded. I would suggest anybody traveling to IRELAND FOR THE SUMMER to rent a car (buy excess insurance rather than insurance direct from the company) and setup Galway as the base for the trip. Galway is the real Ireland. Dublin is great but it’s not..it could be any other major city in Europe…well, not really but it’s not really representative of the rest of Ireland.

    • Katie says:

      Thanks so much for your comment. It’s interesting what you say about your twenties, I haven’t lived in Galway in a few years (though I go back often), and I do wonder if I would find it too small now. I didn’t go to college in Galway, but most of my friends did, so I have a slightly different take on student life there and some great memories.

      100% agree on the weather – I have just moved home after years living in the Middle East and I’d take a Galway winter over a Dubai summer any day. Thanks for reading.

  8. Patricia says:

    You can feel your love for the place jump off the page! Galway seems like such a fun and lively place to explore. I’d love to visit the races (even enjoy the glamour of Ladies Day), but also the Arts Festival and just the chance to wander around and experience it.

  9. Danny Snyder says:

    On our way to Galway next week, coming from Berkeley CA, USA. Thanks for the great list, it reinforces my decision to stay in Galway, and we’ll be sure to check a lot of the things you suggested.

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