North London Food & Culture

Free Weekend? Explore Galway

[quote] “Fans of Camden Town Brewery should be sure to try Galway Hooker – a locally-brewed pale ale – whose name refers to a traditional type of fishing boat. Obviously.” [/quote]

Galway. Photo: Galway Tourism
Galway. Photo: Galway Tourism

We all love our patch of London but sometimes it can get a bit hectic. So if you’re in need of a short break and an afternoon on the Heath just won’t cut it, why not hop over to Galway?

I should know; it’s where I’m from. Clinging to the west coast, it’s Ireland’s cultural capital, lying on the fringes of the Irish-speaking Gaelteacht area (you’ll even hear it spoken on the street). And this, together with its proximity to the Atlantic Ocean, means the place feels a bit, well, different.

To start, there’s history in spades. Known as the city of the Tribes, after the fourteen merchant families who dominated its economic, social and political life from the 13th century onwards, Galway has castles, churches and ruins in abundance. Lynch’s Castle, built in the 14th century by Galway’s most powerful family, still stands on the corner of Shop Street and Abbeygate Street. The beautiful cathedral is also worth a visit, not least to see a praying JFK included in a mosaic of the Resurrection. Seriously. Right next to Christ.


Galway has a bit of a foodie reputation and given its location, seafood is a must. The best options are to be found on the west side of the city, as the restaurants that line Quay Street are overpriced and full of tourists. One that is worth a go, however, is MacDonaghs, overlooking the bay, for the best fish and chips in town.

But for an excellent meal head to the slightly shabby Dominick Street which not only boasts Aniar, the West of Ireland’s only Michelin starred restaurant, but long-standing local favourite Cava as well as two very popular upstarts, Rouge and Creole. For cheap and cheerful, Finnegans Corner on Market Street is the place to go for locally-sourced classics at bargainous prices.

Tig Coili
Tig Coili. Photo: Louise Hogan
Now on to what everyone comes here for: the craic. Fancy a good trad music session? Head to Tig Coili (pronounced Tea-Cole-ee). Right at the top of Galway’s main shopping street, this is also an excellent people-watching spot and serves one of the best and cheapest pints of Guinness in town. Neighbouring Taffes is also well known for its quality of music; but the very best trad and craic is at The Crane Bar on Sea Road.

Towards the Spanish Arch, where on fine days crowds gather to enjoy some alfresco drinks by Galway Bay, the Front Door pub is a well-known spot to, ahem, meet new people (OK, pull). And close by is my favourite Galway boozer of all, the Quays, whose interior was imported from a French gothic church.

Missing Camden Town? Cross the River Corrib to the Roisin Dubh to hear both local and international live acts – K-Town fave Gabby Young recently played here. And nearby Kelly’s is also popular, its interior resembling a 1930s country pub: cosy lamp-lit nooks divided by high, glass-panels.

Prom to Salthill
The atmospheric prom to Salthill. Photo: Louise Hogan
Aside from the obligatory Guinness, make sure you try a good Irish whiskey while you’re in town; and fans of Camden Town Brewery should be sure to taste Galway Hooker – locally-brewed pale ale. The ‘hooker’ in the title refers to a traditional type of fishing boat. Obviously.

Burp. Need to get rid of that hangover? Walk from the landmark Spanish Arch (once part of the city’s walls) along Galway Bay to the seaside suburb of Salthill.

A popular pastime of locals is to kick the wall at the end. You’ll see what I mean once you’re there. And don’t forget to soak up the awe-inspiring scenery and bracing Atlantic wind: it’s a powerful memory to savour when, on Monday morning, you’re stuck in traffic on the Kentish Town Road.

Flights & Accommodation

Flights start at around £75 return but book online for a deal. As a local, I haven’t tried out any accommodation in the city but friends recommend The House, Galway’s first boutique hotel (Rooms from £84). Other options include the Victoria Hotel or the Harbour Hotel.

Words: Louise Hogan

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