Although €10 Ryanair tickets to another country are a real temptation every weekend, don’t forget to explore Ireland itself. Every Dubliner sings the praises of Galway above every other Irish city and after a weekend visit it was clear why. 

Galway is only the sixth-largest Irish city by population with 80,000 residents- small enough to feel intimate and local, but big enough to be packed with fun things to do. Situated where the River Corrib meets the sea on Ireland’s west coast, the town is famous more than anything for its music culture. Not only do a multitude of pubs have nightly live music, but it’s apparently not an uncommon occurrence for random customers to whip out their instruments and start playing. We didn’t experience that, but it still was a lovely time. 

The Streets 

The Latin Quarter is the heart of Galway. It’s the only part of the city that feels touristy, but even so it’s impossible to not be charmed by the brightly colored buildings lining the winding streets. 

Latin Quarter 

The street is almost all pubs and restaurants which are lively all day and night. On Saturday and Sunday until 3 there’s also a little market. There’s delicious street food, local artists, and a mix of random artisans. Make a point to grab a donut from Boychiks or a baked good from the bakery stall directly across the lane. 

Honestly, although there are more structured activities like visiting the Galway City Museum, if you only have the weekend and don’t have a car to explore the surrounding nature (which is amazing!), I think the best thing to do is to just wander around. Take in how cute it all is and just eat, drink, and generally be merry. 

The Sea 

Galway is along the fastest flowing river in Europe, River Corrib. The water is truly gushing and the water level is so high I must admit it’s a bit unsettling. 

River Corrib 

Walking out to where the river meets the sea, you pass a row of brightly colored houses in the distance. 

Be sure to carve out some time to meander down the Salthill Promenade, a pretty walk along the coastline. There is a lighthouse out in the distance, but the gates are locked so don’t bother with the long walk. Instead, stick to the main drag with the sea stretching endlessly to one side and a vast expanse of grass on the other. 

Salthill Promenade 

The beaches are certainly different from LA’s. In addition to it being very chilly and windy, the water is gray and choppy and almost marshy for a while. The long spread of shallow water creates interesting patterns in the sand, like this perfect circle we found. 

Does this count as a fairy circle? 

It’s a more rugged, dark sort of beauty than you might be used to, but gosh, it sure is lovely. 

The Culture 

Galway may have its fair share of great pubs and trendy brunch spots, but really it’s known as the city of music as I mentioned earlier. On the weekends, dozens of places have live music and they’re all amazingly talented. 

My boyfriend and I went to the Róisín Dubh which means “black rose” in Gaelic. We paid a mere €5 cover fee to see Galway Street Club, a 15-piece band who have a super unique style. They have some original music and do some covers, but it all has a traditional Irish twist. 

11 of the members of Galway Street Club 

It was probably the most fun show I’ve ever been to. If they’re playing, drop everything and go see them. If they’re not, I’m sure every show in Galway is incredible. Just know that a trip to Galway is not complete without seeing a live show. To tempt you a bit further, here’s a video of Galway Street Club performing on a random street in Galway. 

The End 

After a busy weekend, knowing we had a mere 2.5 hour bus ride was home was great. Somehow I spot a rainbow whenever I’m on a long bus ride in Ireland. Every single time. There’s no better way to end a trip. 

Alexis Harmon studied abroad in Dublin, Ireland during Spring 2019: