Greetings Internet Stranger and welcome to a 24 hours in Galway itinerary. Galway is one of Ireland’s top 5 cities in population. However, it’s arguably the country’s number one city when it comes to fun. You can’t go wrong by choosing a 24 hours in Galway itinerary. It has a university, so there’s always young people bopping around the city, doing whatever young people do.
It has enough cobblestone streets and swans to thrill the most hard-hearted of photographers. Finally it has world class food, from Michelin star restaurants to some of the greatest ice cream the world has ever known. Join me for a 24 hours in Galway itinerary, and I guarantee we’ll have some fine craic on every street corner!
24 Hours in Galway Itinerary
Where To Stay?
Like any cozy Irish city, Galway is a great place to choose a bed and breakfast. And I strongly recommend the Sunrise Lodge B&B. The friendly couple that runs the bed and breakfast will give you tons of great tips about the best things to do in Galway. Plus their breakfasts are delicious!
24 Hours in Galway
What to Pack?
Ireland, as you may have heard, is on the rainy side. That’s why it’s so green! So the two most important things you’ll need to bring are an umbrella and some rain boots. My favorite travel umbrella is the Repel Teflon Waterproof Umbrella. It is strong enough to stand up to the sometimes-quite-strong winds of Eire.
For rain boots, I recommend the Asgard Rain Boots. They are comfy/cozy and keep my feet dry all day. Plus they’re cute enough that I can wear them out and about without feeling like some gauche American with gross feet.
Finally, if you’re not from Europe, you need a universal adapter if you’re going to plug in electronics. European electrical outlets don’t work with either American or UK plugs. I suggest the NEWVANGA travel adapter. It’s usable with any electrical outlet in the world, so you won’t need to keep buying new adapters. I always carry two with me, just in case something happens to one.
24 Hours in Galway Itinerary
Morning: City Sightseeing Galway
Some travelers have a problem taking hop on hop off buses. “Oooh, how touristy!’ they say as they sip their craft beer in an underground brewery that used to be a poultry slaughterhouse. But sometimes a hop on hop off bus is the best introduction to a city available. I spent my 24 hours in Galway itinerary on a Tuesday and no public walking tours were up and running.
Yet I still wanted to find a local’s introduction to the city. Fortunately City Sightseeing Galway runs a bus tour with a live local guide. (He was even a native Irish speaker, which is rare, even in Ireland, so I’ll call him Tadhg because only an Irish speaker can pronounce that name.) We got loads of that legendary Irish humor along with our historical…
three fun facts: 24 hours in Galway itinerary
1) Eyre Square
The first stop on the 24 Hours in Galway Itinerary is the center of town at Eyre Square. The statue you see above is of Liam Mellows, who led the Easter Rising in Galway back in 1916. Even the most unmotivated student of Irish history will know that England colonized the Irish for centuries.
In fact, the reason that the potato famine hit Ireland so hard is that the English forced Ireland to export so much of its food. Naturally, this did not make English rule popular in Ireland. Many Irish people agitated for Home Rule–or independence.
One famous rebellion against England was the 1916 Easter Rising. The Easter Rising was mostly limited to Dublin, but Galway also rebelled against the King. The rebellion was a failure. Many of the leaders of the Uprising got got, execution-styles. Mellows wasn’t executed at that time, but he was executed a few years later during the Irish Civil War. This is Irish history, after all. Everyone’s executed, one way or another. (Also spoiler alert: Ireland is a country now.)
2) Claddagh Swans
One of the prettiest sights in Galway are the Claddagh swans that live in the Galway basin. These swans are mute, which is definitely the way for swans to be. Swans should be seen and not heard, as my grandmother used to say. We noticed a surprising black swan in the group. Tadhg said the interloper was an Australian tourist. Australians really do travel everywhere, don’t they? The Claddagh swans are so popular, they even have their own Twitter account.
3) Congratulations, President Higgins
One spot on this tour that’s definitely off the beaten track is the house of Irish President Michael Higgins. Of course he doesn’t live here full time anymore, but he was a Galway politician before he became president and he maintains a home here. Keep in mind that the President of Ireland is a mostly ceremonial position. It’s the Taoiseach (Prime Minister) who is the actual head of government.
We asked Tadhg if Higgins was at home. He answered that Higgins might be standing by his gate at that moment for all he could tell. Higgins is very short, so you’d never know. Tadhg then boasted about how many Irish-Americans were influential in American politics. He said that basically the Irish founded the Democratic party. I did hear that Joseph Kennedy and Franklin Roosevelt started the modern Democratic Party in a backroom with a bottle of whiskey and a box of cigars. But as an American, I’m not sure I want that information to get out.
24 Hours in Galway Itinerary
Afternoon: Explore Galway
Once the bus tour is over, our 24 Hours in Galway Itinerary continues! You’re welcome to explore this adorable and historical (hisdorable?) city on your own for the next few hours. We’ve got tiny museums, shopping, and great views. But first, LUNCH!
approximately top 5: 24 Hours in Galway Itinerary
1) Lunch at Kai
Kai Cafe + Restaurant specializes in seasonal, simple, delicious food. Kai is the Maori word for food, and one of the owners comes from New Zealand. I ordered a local amber lager called a Galway Hooker. (Get your mind out of the gutter. A Galway Hooker is a type of boat.)
This went perfectly with my light West Coast crab salad. In the United States, West Coast means California. Therefore, I got a bit confused because I thought all the food at Kai was supposed to be local. But it turns out that Ireland has a West Coast too, and there are crabs there. Who knew?
2) Galway City Museum
Now that your tummy is fed, it’s that time on our 24 Hours in Galway Itinerary to feed your head! Head to the Galway City Museum where you can learn all about what makes Galway so special. One reason is that the Normans conquered Galway all the way back in 1232. It became an important trade city and has a lot of Spanish and French influence. Christopher Columbus even briefly visited Galway on his travels. So there’s a reason Galway might consider itself more cosmopolitan than some other places in Ireland.
Don’t miss walking to the top floor of the museum and getting views of the surrounding city without other tourists flailing at you and getting in your face. You can even see the Spanish Arch, which is part of the old medieval wall, from up here.
3) Claddagh Ring
I don’t always make shopping suggestions on this blog, but I need to tell you about Galway’s most popular export, the Claddagh ring. As you might have guessed from my mention of the Claddagh swans, Claddagh is an area in Galway. (Though it used to be outside the city back when the city was walled.)
Legend has it that a craftsman named Richard Joyce from Claddagh made it for a jewelry making competition. He wanted to give it to his sweetheart. Unfortunately he was captured by pirates and didn’t know if he’d ever see her again. But love will find a way, and his lady love remained true. They married using the Claddagh ring as a symbol of their love. You can do the same!
If you want the only Claddagh Ring that says it’s the authentic Claddagh Ring, you need to buy it at Claddagh Jewellers. They make the rings in every size imaginable, which is perfect for me as I have crazy tiny hands. I have to wear children’s gloves.
There are different ways to wear the Claddagh ring to show the world your relationship status. If you wear it so the heart is pointing towards you, it means you’re spoken for. Heart away means you are looking for love. But I like it because if I’m at a place like a bar and don’t want to get hassled, I can put it on my wedding ring finger and tell random creeps I’m married. SMART!
4) Fisheries Watchtower Museum
If you’re looking for truly oddball museums, please step into the Fisheries Watchtower Museum. It dates to the mid 19th century. Obviously this adorable yellow watchtower was the perfect place for a tough guy guard to hang out and make sure no one was illegally fishing in the river or trying to steal from the fishery’s stores of fishy fish. I was about to make a joke about the sort of person who would steal fish, but then I remembered that the potato famine happened during the 19th century and it’s not nice to make fun of starving people. Couldn’t they just have let them have the fish?
Inside the museum is an impressive collection of historic fishing equipment. But the neatest part of the place is getting this view of the River Corrib. I dare you to wait until the guard’s back is turned, bust out your hidden fishing equipment, and start doing some illegal fishing. Free fish for everyone! Power to the people!
5) Murphy’s Ice Cream
If we are friends, which is very unlikely because none of my friends read my blog, you know of my obsession with Murphy’s ice cream. Like any right thinking person, I am obsessed with ice cream in general. But Murphy’s is really the ice cream de la creme. They are in four different Irish cities, which means I get to stalk them all over the country.
I usually get one ice cream here a day if I am staying in a Murphy’s City. One of my favorite ways is to get an “ice cream cocktail”. This pairs their gin ice cream with a black currant. Ask the ice cream mixologists at Murphy’s to come up with their own special blend. And tell them Stella sent you.
6) St Nicholas Church
Some people think visiting churches is boring. Not me! I love any type of architecture, but religious architecture tells you so much about the community that built it. This church above, St Nicholas, is one of the largest medieval churches in Ireland. It is dedicated to Santa Claus, which is adorable. Like the church we saw in Kilfenora on our trip to the Cliffs of Moher, it is an Anglican church, not a Catholic church.
If you go inside, you’ll notice the interior is rather plain for such a large and extravagant church. Well, that’s because the church was defaced by Protestant and notable Meanie Pants Oliver Cromwell and his men during their rampage across Ireland. They even used this building as a stable for their horses. “Cromwell can suck it!” is a very uncontroversial opinion in Ireland.
7) Galway Cathedral
If you’re looking for something very different church-wise, head down to Galway Cathedral. This is a Catholic church, not an Anglican one. Also, it’s a little more recent than St. Nicholas, having been built in 1965. Some say it was Europe’s last stone cathedral.
One point of interest to any American is this little mosaic of John Fitzgerald Kennedy. Kennedy visited Galway while they were building the Cathedral, and his visit helped raise money for its construction. So after he was assassinated, Galway Cathedral put in this mosaic to honor him. There’s another connection between Kennedy and Galway. At his funeral, at Jackie Kennedy’s request, Irish cadets from Galway performed a drill in memory of the dead.
24 Hours in Galway Itinerary
Late Afternoon: River Corrib Cruise
My philosophy is life is to take every single river cruise I can. What’s more relaxing than riding on a small boat down a gently flowing river? Nothing, says I! If I had my druthers, I’d spend every travel day between the hours of 5 and 7 floating down the river on a boat.
Fortunately for us, Galway has a beautiful boat called the Corrib Princess and an even lovelier river called the Corrib. So we can certainly spend a charming evening lazing down the Corrib and listening to our driver’s Irish brogue teach us about the sights and smells of the River Corrib. The last boat of the evening leaves at 4:30, which gives us plenty of time to make our dinner reservation.
The best story on the tour was about the Blake family, which used to live in Menlough Castle, pictured above. One of the Blakes was named Sir Valentine, and at one point he racked up so much debt that he was in danger of being served with a legal summons any time he walked into Galway.
However, being as Ireland was a Catholic country, you couldn’t serve someone with a summons on a Sunday. So every Sunday, Sir Valentine would stroll around Galway and get back home before midnight. This earned him the nickname Sunday Boy Blake. Eventually he ran for public office in Galway and won…which meant that he couldn’t be taken to court for debt anymore. This is the most Irish story I have ever heard.
24 Hours in Galway Itinerary
Evening: Dinner at Loam
My mother is of Irish heritage, and I vividly remember our first trip back to the home country. This was in the 1990s, and if you asked anyone about Irish food back then, you’d either hear, “Do you mean other than potatoes?” or “Ugh, no, why, even, please, stop.” But now even a mid-sized Irish city like Galway has not one, but two Michelin star restaurants. Loam is one, and the other is Aniar, which was closed when I was in Galway. Loam serves the highest quality Irish produce, which is swell because Ireland is about 65 percent farmland. But enough economic statistics! We’re here to eat!
approximately top 10: dinner at loam
We begin with a light and refreshing oyster paired with radish and cucumber. This was served with an equally crisp Gruner Veltliner. I need to take a moment and give a shout out to the sommelier at Loam, who is one of the most delightful humans in this world. He was entirely covered in tattoos, and spoke so expressively with his arms when he explained the wines that I can only assume he had a background in mime. I heard a neighboring table tell him that he should get his own TV show. I CONCUR!
This looks like a pasta dish, but it’s actually strips of squid in a pea soup with a delicate egg in the center. A course like this is exactly why I come to a tasting menu restaurant because if you asked me when it would occur to me to combine squid, peas, and an egg, the answer would be never. Yet the salty-sweet combination of the squid, egg, and peas was perfect, like the salted caramel ice cream of appetizers.
I need to draw my Internet Stranger’s attention to the visual aspect of this meal. Each course is strikingly different in terms of both the shapes and colors used. Yet I never felt flavor was being sacrificed for beauty. This earthy dish is river trout, shiitake mushrooms, and beans. Ireland, being an island, has access to some incredible seafood in both the ocean and its many lakes and rivers. So I was very excited to see contemporary Irish chefs taking advantage of the bounty of the seas.
Up here we have a little culinary surprise. It’s sirloin steak that has been sliced very thin and raw. The steak is gently placed over some soft cheese and onion. That way when you cut into it, the cheese pops out of the steak like Marilyn Monroe out of JFK’s birthday cake. Sirloin needs to be top notch if you’re going to serve it raw, and this was some of the best quality meat I have ever eaten. Ireland is famous for its dairy cows, but it’s just as easy to kill a cow as it is to milk it, as my grandmother always used to say.
Back to the seafood! Next up is cabbage, mussels, and verbena. I like how the foam at the top makes it look like the mussels are literally rising out of the sea. Also the menu is well balanced because the steak dish, though rather small in size, was quite rich. So I appreciated being able to clean my palette with some green veggies.
This dangerous looking thing is cod with cauliflower. (It really looks like one of those pieces of cod could cut you if you are careless. Also Careless Cod would make a very good band name.) Cod with cauliflower seems like something a person who was obsessed with doing white on white paintings would make. But I found this dish to be quite soothing and comforting. It helps prepare for the next course, which is more aggressive.
I’m torn when I look at this dish because I love the colors, but it also reminds me of a crime scene. This course had the most unusual flavors of the whole evening: wild pigeon, beetroot, and salted plum. This was my first time eating wild pigeon. I imagine it’s something that Sunday Boy Blake would serve other small members of the Irish gentry while he was trying to cheat them at whist. Pigeon meat is extremely plump and flavorful. Eating this made me feel guilty about yelling at the pigeons back home that they are just “rats with wings”.
No tasting menu is complete without at least two desserts. Why do you think I like them so much? The first dessert was the White Dessert. It was made with yoghurt and woodruff. Looking at this plate, I was a little worried that woodruff had something to do with cocaine. But like many of the ingredients in this menu, woodruff is native to Ireland. I had never heard of it before, but apparently it’s popular as a gentle sweetener. It was effective at softening the yogurt without adding so much sweetness that the dish became saccharine.
For the final course, we had the Pink Dessert. The two main ingredients are strawberries and roses, which are the two pinkest foods I know. Most people don’t think of roses as a food, but I’ve seen it in desserts all over the United Kingdom and the former British colonies. Just putting one bite of this into my mouth and smelling both the roses and the strawberries at the same time made me feel like I was in the middle of a summer day that would last forever.
That’s a Perfect 24 Hours in Galway Itinerary
What would you do with a 24 hours in Galway itinerary? Are you ready to start booking your hotel in Galway right now? Is Sunday Boy Blake the most Irish character of all time? And is Murphy’s Ice Cream about to file a restraining order against me? Please leave your thoughts below!
Note: If you want to know how I put my travel itineraries together, just click here. Keep in mind that while each article is about how to spend 24 hours in a place, that doesn’t mean you should ONLY spend a 24 hours in Galway itinerary here. If you have time for an extra 24 hours in Galway itinerary, try this day trip to the Cliffs of Moher.