How to Make the Most of One Day in Galway, Ireland

Filled with colourful pubs, craft shops and unequivocally charming, Galway is a bustling city on the Western coast of Ireland. Known as the “City of the Tribes”, a reference to the 14 families who ruled the place centuries ago, Galway is a historic city with many stories to tell, an ideal destination for a day trip from Dublin. Located along the Wild Atlantic Way, Galway is also a logical base for anyone wanting to discover the wonders of the Connemara, the Aran Islands or the Cliffs of Moher.

Is one day in Galway enough though? Whether you choose to head to Galway for the day or even decide to stay the night in the city before heading to your next destination, Galway’s main attractions can be easily explored in 24 hours or less. Let me tell you how to get there, my top 5 things to do in Galway, the best area to stay and eat. 

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Top Websites to Plan Your Visit to Galway City

  • Where to Stay | is my go-to for the best deals on accommodation. I also read the latest reviews on TripAdvisor to help me decide what hotel to book.
  • Internet | Worried about expensive roaming charges? Try WiFiCandy and its handy, portable WiFi device.
  • Travel Insurance | Don’t forget to buy travel insurance before visiting the West of Ireland. Heymondo comes with an app to help you get the assistance you need while travelling.

More Travel Resources

How to Get to Galway

What is the best way to get to Galway City ? The city’s small airport being closed to commercial traffic, getting to Galway from abroad is not entirely straightforward. Having said that, the city is well-connected by public transport, so with a bit of planning, you should be fine.

Where Do You Fly to for Galway

If you are flying from abroad, the nearest airport to Galway is Shannon Airport. Located 90 km south of the city, Shannon Airport is served by international flights connecting the West of Ireland to the US and some European cities.

Once in Shannon, bus 51 operated by Bus Eireann will take you to Galway city in approximately 2 hours time. Departures are every hour outside the terminal. You can buy your bus ticket at the airport or when boarding the bus. However, it is best to buy your ticket online to reserve your seat.

Door in Galway, Ireland

Routes to Shannon Airport are limited though, especially during off-season. Your best option to get to Galway from abroad may well be flying to Dublin International Airport instead before making your way to Galway by public transport or rental.

I always recommend checking Skyscanner for the best options to fly to Shannon or Dublin.

How to Get to Galway From Dublin Airport

If you are flying to Dublin Airport and planning to head straight to Galway after landing, know that there is a direct bus route linking the two. The bus company CityLink operates a bus route between the airport terminal and Galway city centre. The bus journey is 3 hours long, or 2.5 hours if you choose the Express bus. Book online for a discounted fare.

If you prefer travelling by train to Galway, you will have to make your way to Heuston Station in Dublin first. The Dublin Express Bus is the only bus connecting Dublin airport to Heuston station. It is also one of the cheapest ways to get to Dublin city centre from the airport.

Dublin Express Bus at Dublin Airport

How to Get From Dublin to Galway

From Dublin city centre, the best way to get to Galway is to travel by train. Departures are from Heuston Station with a train departing nearly every hour. The journey time is 2.5 hours. I always advise to book online to reserve your seat and get the best price. Departures to and from Galway are frequent enough. You can spend one day in Galway and return to Dublin in the evening if you choose to do so.

Already mentioned earlier, CityLink also operates frequent buses between Dublin city centre and Galway. Book your ticket online for the best deal. The journey time is 2.5 hours with departures from the CityLink office on Crampton Quay, in Temple Bar.

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One Day in Galway | Top 5 Things to Do in the City of the Tribes

Whether you are visiting the “City of the Tribes” on a day trip from Dublin by train or you are planning to stay 24 hours in the city, you can explore Galway in just one day. 

The city centre is very walkable, and the main attractions are just minutes from each other.

To help you make the most of 24 hours in Galway, here are my top 5 things to do in the City of the Tribes.

Explore the Buoyant Latin Quarter

Galway’s Latin Quarter is not to be missed. Dating back to the medieval times when Galway was surrounded by protective walls, the Latin Quarter is the oldest and most historic part of the city. Its name refers to a period up to the 17th century when Galway was thriving, thanks in part to a lucrative trade route between the city and the Iberia peninsula.

Pub in the Latin Quarter, Galway, Ireland

Nowadays, the Latin Quarter is a popular shopping district with many Irish craft stores to explore, such as the Aran Sweater Market selling locally-made knitwear. The Latin Quarter is also the best place to buy the famous Claddagh ring, a traditional piece of jewellery created in Galway 300 years ago, a unique souvenir to take home. 

Claddagh Ring shop in Galway, Ireland

Down the cobbled streets, you will find heaps of traditional Irish pubs whose colourful facades add touches of red, blue, green and yellow to the buoyant district. At night, traditional Irish music can be heard slipping through the doors as you take a stroll down Quay Street. Don’t be shy and join in! Make sure to follow the Irish pub etiquette and all should be grand!

History enthusiasts will not want to miss the few places of historical interest hidden in the neighbourhood, starting with Lynch’s Castle, a magnificent fortified town house from the 16th century. Going back to the 14th century, the Collegiate Church of St. Nicholas nearby saw the visit of Christopher Columbus. At the back of its cemetery, the spooky Lynch Memorial Window has a chilling story worth discovering. Don’t forget also to walk through the Spanish Arch, the 16th century remains of the thick town wall that protected the quays from attacks. 

Visit Galway Museum

At the bottom of the Latin Quarter stands Galway City Museum. This free attraction opens Tuesday to Saturday and offers long-term and temporary exhibitions to curious visitors. If you are looking for free things to do in Ireland, don’t overlook the country’s free museums as they are often the best ones too.

Exhibitions focus mainly on the local history and folklore. I had the chance to see the fascinating Keepers of the Gael exhibition, which explores Gaelic society and culture during the Middle Ages. I highly recommend it if you can catch the exhibition during your visit.

Galway Museum

Amongst interesting finds that you can see inside the museum, a Galway Hooker boat, a traditional fishing boat unique to the West of Ireland, hangs from the ceiling.

The museum is also the keeper of the oldest Claddagh ring ever found ; made of gold by Richard Joyce, the “father” of the Claddagh ring, the ring dates from the beginning of the 18th century.

Stop by Galway Cathedral

Located a mere 10-minute walk from the Latin Quarter, on the opposite bank of the River Corrib, Galway Cathedral’s modern turn on ecclesiastical architecture is worth seeing. Entrance is free, but donations are welcome.

Erected in the 1960s, Galway Cathedral is one of the very last of its kind being built in Europe. Rather stern and bulky-looking from the outside, the inside is unusual and spectacular (my opinion). Mixing different traditional styles with a modern touch, the cathedral’s interior is light and airy.

The round arches running on each side of the large nave are reminiscent of the Romanesque architecture used in Medieval times. Meanwhile, the copper dome, high above the altar, was clearly inspired by Renaissance architecture. I hurt my neck just by looking at the four angels placed all around its base.

A pipe organ, a musical instrument that every cathedral, ancient and modern, owes to have, floats above the doors of the north wall, spanning its entire length. Its pipes were designed to perfectly frame the rose window above, a colourful and magnificent focal point on this side of the cathedral.

Admire the Quadrangle’s Exquisite Architecture

Although just a five-minute walk from Galway Cathedral, the Quadrangle couldn’t be more different in style. Dating back to the mid-19th century, the original home of the University of Galway was built in the elegant Tudor Gothic style.

The Quadrangle, Galway

The building has a rectangular shape, hence its name. It has an inner courtyard that can be freely accessed from an arched passageway found under the copper-clad clock tower. Once inside the courtyard, the great architectural beauty of the Quadrangle can be truly appreciated.

I was taken aback by the grandeur of the place : the building’s perfect symmetry, the Gothic windows framed by romantic, thin turrets, the walls disappearing under timeless blankets of purple and green ivy… Everything oozes elegance and history. It is certainly the most stunning attraction in Galway city. Do not miss it, even if you only have one day in Galway.

Take a Guided Tour of Galway City

If you only have 24 hours in Galway, a guided tour led by a professional guide is ideal to get a good sense of the history of the place, especially if you didn’t have time to research the city’s main historic attractions yourself or simply don’t know where to go.

To be honest, I’m not a fan of free guided tours you can now find on the Internet. They might be organized by locals, it doesn’t mean the information provided is accurate or delivered in an interesting way. Plus, they take business away from professionals who actually make a living from guided tours.

River Corrib in Galway, Ireland

Galway has a long history going as far back as the 12th century Anglo-Norman invasion of Ireland and even before, therefore I would recommend choosing a tour guide well-versed in local history and heritage.

Where to find your perfect guide for the day ? The Galway Tour Guide Association’s website has a list of accredited tour guides providing varied walking tours. I’m sure you’ll find the right one for you, so you can listen to great anecdotes and stories as you walk down the city’s medieval lanes.

If you prefer visiting solo and at your own pace, I curated this self-guided walking tour of Galway to help you make the most of your time in the City of the Tribes. All the major historical sites mentioned earlier are included in this itinerary.

Where To Eat in Galway City Centre

There are tons of places to eat in Galway city centre, from cafés to pubs and restaurants. For a small European city, Galway offers an impressive food scene that should content everyone. 

Among the neighbourhoods to check out for a meal while in Galway for the day, Eyre Square is one to consider. It is a busy part of town with plenty of cafés and pubs. On a sunny day, why not eat a comforting lunch at the terrace of the Skeff Bar overlooking the square.

Restaurants in Galway, Ireland

Then comes the Latin Quarter. By the time you reach the bottom of Quay Street, you won’t know where to stop for your breakfast, lunch or dinner. I had my breakfast at 56 Central, on Shop Street. They have a delicious menu from pancakes to porridge and the scones are super tasty! Located on the first floor, make sure to get a table by one of the windows for the view over the street.

For lunch, the highly-rated Quay Street Kitchen, in the heart of the Latin Quarter, is a restaurant popular with locals and tourists. For a meal in a historic place, Ard Bia at Nimmos welcomes you near the Spanish Arch for quality food and local produce.

If you want to stray away from the tourist trail, head to Dominick Street Lower and Upper, Galway’s foodie destination. Located a short walk opposite the Latin Quarter across the River Corrib, Dominick Street has plenty of award-winning restaurants to choose from.

While Handsome Burger was voted the best burger in Ireland in 2019, Aniar was awarded one star by the Michelin Guide for its Irish and contemporary cuisine. Literally stuck between its neighbours Handsome Burger and Aniar, Dela is another award-winning restaurant often listed as the best place to eat in town. Up the street, seafood lovers will enjoy dining at Oscar’s Seafood Bistro whose owner and chef, Michael O’Meara, wrote SEA Gastronomy, a book with 220 seafood recipes. I bet you will be in good hands there!

What Area to Stay in Galway City

Those planning to stay 24 hours in Galway will need to find accommodation for their short stay. Galway is a popular destination, so booking early is highly recommended if you are hoping to stay in the city centre without breaking the bank.

Where to stay in Galway city ? I believe that the best area to stay in Galway is Eyre Square and nearby streets. This part of the city has many advantages:

  • The bus and train stations are close-by, so you can easily walk to your hotel if you travel to Galway by public transport.
  • Eyre Square is only a few minutes walk from the Latin Quarter, Galway’s medieval heart famous for its pubs, street musicians, and craft shops.
  • You will find a large choice of accommodations in the area to suit your budget, from lively hostels to luxury options such as The Hardiman, a historic building dating from the 19th century.
  • The area is full of restaurants, pubs and cafés.

Here are a few recommended hotels in the neighbourhood based on customer ratings:

  • Galway City Hostel: On the low end, this clean and friendly hostel is perfectly located near the train station. You can even store your luggage there while you explore the city.
  • Imperial Hotel Galway: This modern, 3-star hotel will provide all the comfort you need a stone’s throw away from the Latin Quarter. It is one of the cheapest of its category.
  • Skeffington Arms Hotel: Overlooking Eyre Square, this comfortable hotel has its own restaurant and bar open until late. Light sleepers, be warned; music can be an issue.
  • Park House Hotel: Full of character, this 4-star hotel has a boutique vibe and fine dining on offer for the perfect romantic getaway.

I hope this guide will inspire you to spend one day in Galway, the capital of the West of Ireland. Whether it’s a day trip from Dublin or a stopover along the Wild Atlantic Way, Galway is a must-see destination. A word of advice: always be prepared for changing weather and wear appropriate clothes and shoes for your trip to Galway.

Disclaimer: This post may contain affiliate links. If you click on a link, I earn a little money at no extra cost to you.


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