Dearbhaill Standún and her husband own and operate a restored 17th-century “hill village,” Cnoc Suain, just a short drive from Galway city on Ireland’s west coast. Though the Gaelic speaker and musician loves her rural retreat in the ruggedly beautiful Connemara district, she cherishes her time in this “friendly festival city by the Bay.” Here are a few of her favorite things to see and do in Cathair na Gaillimhe (that’s Irish Gaelic for Galway).

Galway is My City

A stone thatched cottage at Cnoc Suain Cultural Retreat, Connemara (Photograph by Todd Parker)

A stone thatched cottage at Cnoc Suain Cultural Retreat, Connemara (Photograph by Todd Parker)

When someone comes to visit me, the first place I take them is on a stroll along Quay Street, the pulse of Galway, because it encapsulates the medieval city’s character and vibrancy.

Summer and autumn are the best times to visit my city because the artistic, creative, and fun qualities for which my city is renowned come to life in a blaze of festivals ranging from the arts and food to film and horse racing.

You can see my city best from the stony beach area known locally as “the Claddagh.” Here, as you gaze across on the medieval streetscapes, walls, big skies, and Atlantic Ocean you sense that this western port city has a rich and varied history.

Locals know to skip the big-brand fast food outlets and check out McDonagh’s legendary fish-and-chips shop on Quay Street instead.

Judy Greene Pottery store on Kirwan’s Lane is the place to buy authentic, local souvenirs.

In the past, notable people like actor Peter O’Toole and film director John Huston have called my city home.

My city’s best museum is the Galway City Museum because this architecturally innovative structure harnesses the luminescent light of Galway Bay while showcasing the rich history of my city through the ages.

The Claddagh (Cladach is Irish for "shore"), a popular fishing spot where the Corrib River meets Galway Bay  (Photograph by jdiego_gr, Flickr)

The Claddagh (Cladach is Irish for “shore”), a popular fishing spot where the Corrib River meets Galway Bay (Photograph by jdiego_gr, Flickr)

If there’s one thing you should know about getting around my city, it’s that it’s best explored by foot.

The best place to spend time outdoors in my city is strolling along the canal walks and the seaside promenades.

My city really knows how to celebrate with an exciting tapestry of national and international festivals because of its passion for culture and creativity.

You can tell if someone is from my city if they are never short of a tale to tell!

For a fancy night out, I go to Galway’s highly acclaimed Druid Theatre to catch a play and then cross the street to Nimmo’s Restaurant on the pier for atmospherics, food and wine.

Just outside my city, you can visit the Gaeltacht, an Irish-speaking area renowned for its rugged coastal beauty and distinctive and rich Gaelic culture.

My city is known for being the fastest growing city in Europe, but it’s really a warm, intimate place.

The best outdoor market in my city is St. Nicholas Saturday Market where one can find a wealth of local artisan foods and crafts.

Finnegan’s is my favorite place to grab breakfast, and Java’s is the spot for late-night eats.

The St. Nicholas Saturday Market (Photograph by irishfireside, Flickr)

The St. Nicholas Saturday Market (Photograph by irishfireside, Flickr)

To find out what’s going on at night and on the weekends, read the Galway section on whatsonin.ie and the free newspapers–the Galway Advertiser and the Galway Independent–in print or online.

My city’s biggest sports event is the Galway Races. Watch it at Ballybrit racecourse during the last week in July.

When I’m feeling cash-strapped, I relax and enjoy the buskers and street performers on Shop Street.

To escape the crowds, I visit Charlie Byrne’s award-winning bookshop, Powell’s traditional music store, or Kenny’s Bookshop and Art Gallery.

If my city were a celebrity it’d be the actor Brendan Gleeson because he is charismatic, a fluent Gaelic speaker, and a fiddle player who values his culture and heritage.

The dish that represents my city best is fresh Galway Bay oysters, and Galway Hooker Irish Pale Ale is my city’s signature drink.

St. Nicholas’ Collegiate Church is my favorite building in town because of its architecture, history, and general ambiance.

The most random thing about my city is that it’s also known as the “City of the Tribes.”

Oysters from Galway Bay (Photograph by psi_mon, Flickr)

Oysters from Galway Bay (Photograph by psi_mon, Flickr)

The Crane Bar and Tigh Neachtain are the best places to see live music, but if you’re in the mood to dance, check out Monroe’s.

Impromptu traditional music sessions–day or night–could only happen in my city.

In the spring you should come to the Cúirt International Festival of Literature.

In the summer you should attend the Galway Arts Festival and one of the numerous traditional boating festivals or Connemara  pony shows that are all within an hour’s drive of the city.

In the fall you should partake in the Galway Oyster Festival.

In the winter you should experience the Tulca Visual Arts Festival.

If you have kids (or are a kid at heart), you won’t want to miss Baboró International Arts Festival for Children.

The best book about my city is Galway Stories. These tales, told by residents and local characters, give an insight into the culture and life of my city.

When I think about my city, the song that comes to mind isGalway Bay.”

The world should heart my city because in an increasingly globalized and homogenized world, Galway has retained its character, vibrancy, creativity, and warmth.

Comments

  1. Kathy Mangan
    February 9, 8:45 am

    I love the song “Galway Girl” by Steve Earle:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_7-PM_4aeE4

    You couldn’t get any more authentic Irish experience than staying in a thatched cottage at Cnoc Suain.

    This is the town where the claddagh ring came from; head to Thomas Dillon’s Claddagh Gold for the official version.
    -Kathy Mangan

  2. Declan Walsh
    Ireland
    February 16, 3:47 pm

    Great piece.
    For all the wonderful cultural events of Galway one should visit Galway Hub, http://www.galwayhub.com

  3. Linda York
    Mississippi USA
    February 17, 10:28 am

    Great help. I am coming to Galway in June. Thos article will be a great help. This is my first trip to Ireland. I will be in Galway for three days. Can’t wait.