After seven years of knowing Greg, our best friend and neighbour, I finally found myself in his home city of Galway, on Ireland’s West Coast – an absolutely stunning bit of country.
I had my first impression of it walking through the Saturday market. We’ve been to lots of markets all over, but this market is, for me, particularly special.
I think what makes it is the eclectic mix of food and crafts. You can find everything from French crêpes to Indian samosas, gastro pub style hotdogs and sushi. But what really made it for me are the oysters, fresh out of Galway Bay. The crafts on sale here are also all handmade and high quality. As with the rest of Ireland, everyone’s really friendly and more than glad to tell you their story, which I find is a key element of shopping at a local market.
There’s lots to love about this city. On its outskirts, a few minutes’ walk from the city’s downtown, is a long road that winds around the bay. When the tide is low, you can enjoy a walk out onto the beach and get quite far, wading through the seaweed and finding your footing among the rocks.
The area is very different, depending on the tide. When it’s in, it floods a huge portion of the bay, leaving barely a foot between the waterline and the edge of the canal walls. When it is low, it gets really low, revealing the moss covered rocks at the bottom. Under the morning sun, these rocks reflected the light like tinsel.
There were plenty of swans around as well, that seemed to glow a golden-white.
We also spotted one black swan that was introduced who knows when – but it was there, with the other birds, dotted around the boats resting in the bay.
Galway city is extremely charming – between the traditional pubs, the hipster brasseries, and the many talented buskers, giving visitors a taste of Irish culture, you could spend the entire weekend eating, drinking and partying along streets that make up the heart of the city.
For the Irish pub experience, you’d want to go to Neachtain’s. It’s a cosy, all wood pub with good food, served up from the restaurant upstairs. There’s also regular live music and booths that allow you to have a quiet chat with your friends while you sip one of the many whiskies or beers on offer. If Neachtain’s is too packed, try Freeney’s Bar. This is a real local pub like. Nothing fancy, but its no-frills jive really gets you feeling you’re hanging in with the locals.
For dinner, you’ll be spoilt for choice, but Kai Café is a great option. Local legend has it that the previous owner – this is decades ago – was once boiling some sausage and cabbage, and by accident exploded the sausage all over the kitchen. Kai’s kitchen has come a long way from the boiled meat and veg – they serve up seasonal produce on a regularly changing menu, with flavours mixing the best of east and west.
For going out at night, The Front Door is probably the place to be in the city. It has five bars across two floors, and is a total maze inside. Each bar has a different vibe, and the two standouts are Tigh Nora, a gin bar, and Sonny Molloy’s, a whiskey bar which was once a drapery shop. Both have a huge selection of gins/whiskeys from all over the world. The gins are served up with different garnishes, depending on their bouquet, and at Sonny Molloy’s you can choose from several whiskey platters to accompany your drink.
To be honest, after we left Galway, I felt Greg had been underselling his hometown all these years. It’s just the sort of city I love – not too big, hip, yet super laid back, close to nature and filled with lots of great eats.
What’s not to love about a Galway city break, really! I would definitely return to try the other bars and restaurants, not to mention take a bite out of everything on offer at the Saturday market!