There is a special kind of magic found in Galway that makes it one of the most interesting places in Ireland to visit – fun to walk through, great food, lots of Irish music, friendly people and a long history. Following is the text of the movie. Photos, videos, links and maps will be added later.
Later in the program we will have lots more Irish music in the pubs after we take you on our in-depth look at Galway, the main pedestrian lanes, and all around the town.
The most unique and exciting part of town is the main street, lined with restaurants and pubs and shops and we will spend a lot of time in the program taking you there. Plus, we will show you around, taking a little bus ride through the streets and bring you to some historic sites such as the main cathedral.
And yes, there is even a beach on the outskirts of Galway. Back in the center of town, we begin our visit at Eyre square which leads us directly into that pedestrian main street.
You'll see that it's worth the close and detailed look because it's so much fun to be here
And this Street is not just for tourists. In fact, it seems like half the people here are locals, either workers, local residents or students from the university, which gives the place an authentic feeling that we can all enjoy
This lane changes name several times in typical European-style, going from north to south, William Street, Shop Street, Churchyard Street, it's the High Street, and Quay Street at the lower end with most of the sidewalk restaurants. We're starting at the top end where it's wider and with more retail.
There's also a modern shopping mall just off this main Lane. Actually, two malls joined together, the Eyre Square Center and Corbett Court. They've got over 100 stores and of course a lot of places to eat. Quite convenient, but really the same as shopping malls that you find all over the world. So we’re going to focus more on the pedestrian lane.
It's only about 600 meters from one end to the other, but it seems much longer than that. And for your experience, you'll be walking up and down at least once, round-trip, maybe two times round-trip. You could keep going for much of the afternoon and into the evening, which can make this road seem much longer. There is so much to see and do along here that one pass does not do it justice.
You'll notice that quite a few of the shops are for locals as well as tourists, and they even have not just one bookstore, but two bookstores facing each other. that's becoming quite a rarity in today's high streets, but this is a university town so there's a lot of reading and it's got a great literary tradition – typical of the Irish.
You'll find music many evenings in the Kings Head, one of the oldest and most popular pubs in Galway. It's located in a building that is 800 years old – goes back to the medieval, steeped in history. On the sign out front they proudly say they've been in business since 1649, and under the same ownership for the past 25 years. Called Kings Head, they say, because the executioner of King Charles I owned part of the property. Full pub service, meals, Stout and whiskey bar facilities, extending up three floors and they even have comedy sometimes.
Galway Woolen Market features Aran Islands knitwear: sweaters, socks, hats, gloves, blankets, some of it hand knitted, others from the loom – in business for three generations.
Nearby is Freeney's Bar, which is been family owned since 1938, a traditional Irish pub. They say it's a little less busy during the week, so if the other pubs are packed, come on in here, but on weekends, it's jumping too, with a mix of locals and visitors.
By the way, you should realize that my commentary in this movie and all my movies is unbiased. I'm not paid by anybody to say anything, it's my own honest opinion, or just straightforward description, usually based on personal experience and lots of research.
Sonny Malloy's Irish Whiskey Bar looks small on the outside, but indoors they've got seven different bars with a lot of room for you.
Making progress in our walking journey down the main Street, we've done the areas called William, Shop, Churchyard and High Street, and now we've arrived at a boundary, at Cross Street, which marks the beginning of what's called the Latin Quarter.
We'll continue south, but first a look along Cross Street Upper, also a very attractive place, looking east it's called Cross Street Lower. It's another neighborhood worth exploring – nice sidewalk, shops, restaurants, pizzerias.
Here's a view of that same intersection if you are in a car driving through it looking back up along the street that we've just been walking down, loaded with people.
We are in the home stretch of this pedestrian lane. You can see on the map how we've gone below Cross Street and we've entered into the Latin Quarter.
It's only 100 meters long. Not much it would seem, but it is just packed with restaurants, side-by-side. Irish food, of course, along with some ethnic varieties, and more pubs, some of them offering live music. You'll even find a hotel and a youth hostel on this block.
We are in the middle of the liveliest part of Galway.
It figures that on Quay Street you'll find the Quays Pub, which for nearly 400 years has been catering to both Galwegians and visitors. Galwegians. Get that? People of Galway
Although we are focusing on the main Lane, the side streets are also quite interesting. You'll find more shops. There are some hotels out there, cultural attractions like the Galway City Museum and the Druid Theater with the neighborhood called West End that's fun to explore.
You don't want to just walk through this block not and stop. This is a perfect spot to sit down, especially at an outdoor table, and have a drink and watch the people go by.
Quay Street Kitchen is a place I can recommend from personal experience. I was able to snag a table outside and enjoy the passing parade, have a drink and then after a short wait my delicious meal arrived. I had some chicken curry.
Trip Advisor ranks this place number eight out of the 500 restaurants in Galway.
Most of this video was photographed in the late afternoon about 5 o'clock, which is really a nice time to be out here walking around. This is the month of May. The weather was perfect. If you come earlier in the day there'll be much fewer people, making it less interesting.
And if you come later at night it can get even more crowded, so I like this 5 PM till 7 PM time slot.
One of Galway's most popular and famous restaurants is right here at the bottom of Quay Street, McDonagh’s.
Not McDonald's, there is none of that on Quay Street, but McDonagh’s has got fish and chips that people line up for out the door, especially later at night, but for now the line' s not bad. It's all very well organized. Inside – prices posted clearly, you wait your turn, and you'll be fed pretty quickly. Four generations of the family have been running this restaurant, established in 1902.
They serve up a variety of seafood, not just fish and chips, but you can get oysters, salmon and crabs.
You can get take away or just self-service and sit at one of their tables, or sit at the restaurant for full-service, including a couple of prize tables outdoors on the street.
So many choices to pick from in the Latin Quarter, and they're all good, catering to visitors as well as locals, so they have to keep up the quality.
That covers the street. Now were going to take you down to the waterfront.
This end of town is called the Corrib.
There is a small plaza here with benches. It's a fun place to hang out, get at a drink from the teashop.
Down in this neighborhood you've got the famous Spanish Arch. So-called because Spanish merchants lived here in the 16th-century and practically controlled the city. Because of its excellent location on the west coast of Ireland with a natural harbor, Galway enjoyed for centuries trade with Spain. The arch was built in 1584, but it's an extension of Norman wall built much earlier in the twelfth century.
There would've been a longer wall running around it to enclose the fortified settlement. This is what's left of it.
The city thrived on international trade and by the Middle Ages it was the principal Irish port for trade with not only Spain but France. Those merchants lived behind the wall to protect themselves from the Irish.
In front we have the River Corrib and it flows out into Galway Bay.
This area is a very popular public park. You can see how attractive it is with the waterfront promenades and grassy areas – sit down, have a picnic take a stroll.
You've got a lot of swans, there's fishing boats, and we're in a very historic part of town.
And we're actually in the area that's called the Claddagh. It's a very old part of the city.
There was a population of people who lived and worked here over a thousand years ago. It was the earliest settlement known in Galway.
Now it's a very popular place for relaxation and recreation, showing how wise planning by the city government can create a wonderful gathering spot – with some healthy foods available.
Okay, now were going to take you on another walk through that lower part of the Latin Quarter along Quay Street.
Strolling along, recapping what we've just been looking at.
By the way, this was photographed with the iPhoneX in 4K high definition, on a smooth gimble to give you walking, eye-view of the experience.
These kind of pedestrian lanes add incredible value to a place, and you're finding them more and more throughout Europe. Narrow streets that formerly had cars running through them, or crowded, congested, smelly and noisy, have been turned into these pedestrian oases.
At first a lot of businesses objected, thinking, oh, people can't drive to my shop, and then they realized that business would be much better with this sort of a peaceful atmosphere.
Now we've jumped back to the upper part of the pedestrian lane where it's a little wider, a little bit more retail. You don't have the sidewalk restaurants up here.
We've finished with that lower, amazing, magical area of the Latin Quarter. Hope you enjoyed that view. And there are also side streets along this neighborhood that are quite fun to take a walk on.
Of course there is a lot more to Galway than what we can show you in this brief movie.
Such as the vegetarian restaurant which was closed at the moment. It would be nice to come back later if we had time.
Now we' re taking you on a little drive through the west part of Galway town, a neighborhood called Claddagh, that was an early settlement area. Now it's just another commercial zone, probably outside your normal pedestrian footprint area, but we have our minibus with our guide, so we have a chance to drive around and see some peripheral neighborhoods.
When you hear Claddagh you might think of the famous Irish wedding ring which was developed here in this neighborhood first, back in 1700.
The ring features two hands clasping a heart and surmounted by a crown, symbolizing the qualities of love, friendship and loyalty.
Heading over to Galway Cathedral, coming up in just a moment.
Crossing over the River Corrib. It's quite a large river. There's a canal running next to it, and typical of the Irish, it's nicely landscaped and it's looking very green. This too is public park area.
The river water is quite clean and used for variety of water sports, including kayaking. They do some fishing out here in the Corrib, especially for salmon.
This brings us to the Galway Cathedral, with its Renaissance-style dome towering 44 meters high above the city skyline.
Its full name is the Cathedral of Our Lady Assumed into Heaven and St. Nicholas, but commonly known as Galway Cathedral – a Roman Catholic Cathedral, and one of the largest and most impressive buildings in the city.
It's style looks like it's a very old building, but construction only began in 1958 on the site of the old city prison and was completed in 1965, with opening ceremonies that included numerous bishops and Cardinal Richard Cushing of Boston.
It's the last great stone cathedral to be built in Europe.
This large imposing building was constructed from limestone with an eclectic architecture including the Renaissance pillars and round arches, and a Romanesque mosaic behind the main altar. Mass is conducted daily.
As we continue driving through the Claddagh with our minibus tour, you'll notice this area is a little bit less touristic than the center, which means you'll probably find some better prices on accommodations and restaurants.
And not far from here you can get to the beach. Galway has a beautiful beach promenade called Salt Hill. It goes for nearly 5 kilometers.
We are here on a sunny warm day in early May and there are some people out swimming, actually, and frolicking on the sand.
The promenade is a very popular spot, of course, for a waterfront stroll, even if you're not going to the beach. It's a beautiful sidewalk. And since it's along the shore there is no cross traffic. It is really quite peaceful here.
On a summer weekend, however, it gets real crowded.
Here's the National Aquarium of Ireland. Notice that next to it there are some beautiful, modern apartments that have been developed. They are lowrise, high-density, very efficient, very nice and with a view of the waterfront.
There are some casinos out here and other kinds of recreation, water parks, and a memorial to Irish who emigrated after the Great Famine.
This brings us around once again to the mouth of the River Corrib and the Long Walk, and that beautiful riverfront park area.
The locals are out enjoying some of the first warm spring weather. They've had as usual, a rather cold and wet and gray winter, but now the sun is shining brightly.
We've come full circle on our little bus ride out to Salt Hill and now back into downtown, crossing over the River Corrib, and there's the bottom of that main pedestrian Lane we've been walking on.
Driving up Merchants Road, another one of the main downtown streets, that leads us to the Galway harbor.
It's mostly a marina now, a few fishing boats. At one time, historically, this was a very busy harbor trading center.
Now there's a harbor hotel and some boats from the university marine biology department.
We've cut back through downtown again and reached the final destination of this little bus ride which is Eyre Square, the main public park in downtown Galway.
Officially known as John F. Kennedy Memorial Park, because America's young president gave a speech here in the summer of 1963.
The large bronze sculpture commemorates the Galway hookers. That's the name for a small sailing boat that was used for fishing in the old days in Galway, the hooker.
There's a large paved pedestrian plaza on one side with the benches.
That was created as part of controversial and massively overbudget redevelopment of the square that totally shut down the square for two years in the early 2000s, costing over 20 million euro to develop. And there are 14 very large colorful flags that represent the tribes of Galway. They were 14 merchant families who dominated the political and social life of the city of Galway between the 13th and late 19th centuries.
The square has been a public space ever since the Middle Ages when part of it was used as a marketplace. It was officially presented to the city in 1710.
If you're arriving in Galway by train, the square is your first impression because the train station is just a block away and you walk through the square to get into town.
There are convenient train connections to Dublin. Usually six trains go every day.
And a major bus station is also located across the street from the train station, very convenient to downtown and Eyre square.
It's probably better if you're taking public transit from Dublin to come over to Galway by bus, because it's quicker and easier, especially if you're landing at Dublin airport. If you're flying in and you want to head straight to Galway, there is a direct express bus service from the airport in Dublin over to Galway.
If you want to come by train, well you'd you have to get from the Dublin airport into downtown Dublin, find the train station, get on your train. It's going to take you a lot longer by train.
One of the nice old established hotels is the four-star Hotel Meyrick right on the square.
We stayed at the Galmont, which was a lovely modern hotel about a five-minute walk beyond Eyre Square.
It was formally the Radisson, and it was quite a comfortable place to stay that was arranged for us by our tour company, who set up the entire eight day tour of Ireland, called My Ireland Tour.
One of the many joys of walking along this main street is the music that you're going to run into, the buskers, especially if you're here in late afternoon and early evening.
We have other pages about Connemara, Cliffs of Moher, Dingle, Dublin, all parts of Ireland. Look for them in our collection.