The furthest journey on our list, Galway is well worth the two-and-a-half-hour trip. Bus Éireann, GoBus IE, and the IrishRail all complete the route daily if you prefer not to drive. Affectionately referred to as the most Irish city in Ireland and the city of festivals, coastal Galway is a haven of Celtic music and culture. Thanks to the 17,000 students who attend the local outpost of the National University of Ireland, this small city feels increasingly international.
With rows of colourful homes and a bustling wharf, the city will certainly impress your Instagram followers. The Hall of the Red Earl archaeological site, Druid Lane Theatre, Eyre Square, green-domed Galway Cathedral, and 16th-century Spanish Arch are all worth visiting, but a cruise on the River Corrib provides a more unique perspective.
Global seasonal plates wow at the quaint Ard Bia at Nimmos. Meanwhile, Michelin stars abound the ever-evolving, locavore-themed menus at Aniar and Loam. Wood-fired, Neapolitan-style pizza at Dough Bros and under-€10 southeastern Asian specialities at Papa Rich round out the top dinner options. Try Dela, Coffee Werk + Press, 130-year-old Griffins Bakery, or New Zealand-tinged Kai Café for brunch.
Gothic-style Quays Bar and Dáil Bar keep the craic coming late into the night. The pubs may be world-famous, but sometimes you just need to let loose after the trad music stops.
Wander the winding cobblestone streets, relishing the idyllic bay surroundings, listening to top-notch buskers and dropping into independent shops. The staff at Charlie Byrne’s Bookshop, Judy Greene Pottery and Gifts, Dillon’s Claddagh Gold and Sheridans Cheesemongers are almost as charming as the wares on sale.
Harbour Hotel in the heart of the city is a bright, boutique hotel with small but comfy rooms. If you’re willing to be a bit further from the action, the upscale G Hotel overlooking Lough Atalia more than earns its five stars. Budget travellers should check the hip Residence Hotel in the lively Latin Quarter or boutique-style Forster Court just off Eyre Square.
If you only do one thing…
Quay Street bars host musicians every day of the week. Head to Tig Coili, The Crane, Taaffes Bar or Tigh Neachtain and join in the fun. After a few sessions, you’ll know a bodhrán from a tambourine, a tin whistle from a flute, a bouzouki from a mandolin, and a concertina from an accordion.