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24 Hours in Galway: Can You See the Best of the West in a Day?

See Galway in a day. Make the most of a short trip with recommendations on how to spend 24 hours in Galway. Experience the best of the West of Ireland

What luck! I recently had the chance to return to Galway, a charming city of about 80,000 people in the West of Ireland. Known as the "City of Tribes", Galway is the quintessential Irish city by the sea. 

This was to be a super quick trip; in total a spent about a day in Galway. However, I definitely made the most of my time there (as I always do). 

I was in town to speak at a Google Developer Group event for the local Tech community so I had the benefit of plenty of local advice to make the most of my short time in Galway. 

True to my motto – work to live, live to travel, travel for work, I managed to pack a lot in despite the short stay. With this in mind, here are my recommendations for how to spend 24 hours in Galway.

Getting to Galway

Shannon is the closest airport to Galway and is located about an hour from Galway by car in County Clare. However, the flight options are somewhat limited. Shannon is a Ryanair destination from points around Europe. In addition, Aer Lingus flies to Shannon Airport (SNN) from Boston and New York City in the U.S.
24 Hours in Galway: Mural representing a tribal chief

That said, I consider Dublin to be the most convenient gateway into Ireland. Dublin Airport has a wider range of flights serving points around the world. It's possible to take the CityLink bus directly from Dublin Airport to Galway in about 2.5 hours. 

I prefer to travel Ireland by train and so I opted to take the train to Galway from Heuston station. The train journey from Dublin to Galway takes about 2.5 hours and costs around €15.99 each for a flexible ticket if you book in advance. 

If you are not pressed for time, I recommend flying into Dublin, spending a day in Dublin city, and then taking the train to Galway. That will give you some buffer (and no stress!) in case there are flight delays.

White door with a drawing of a man playing a flute with kegs in front of the door

Where to Stay in Galway

For this trip, I opted to stay at the Menlo Park Hotel, situated just outside Galway City Centre. While this hotel is about a 25-minute walk from the heart of Galway City, it's quiet, clean, comfortable, and economical. I paid around €100 per night (not including breakfast).

Inside a deluxe king room at Menlo Park Hotel

On past trips to Galway, I've stayed at the Galmont Hotel & Spa, a pricier option right in the city centre. While the Galmont is definitely more convenient (just a 5 minute walk from Galway Ceannt railway station), I found the hotel to be a bit noisy.  

Exterior of the Galmont Hotel in Galway Ireland

Ultimately, where you decide to stay will depend on your priorities: paying a premium for convenience or paying less with a higher probability of a good night's sleep.

How to Spend 24 Hours in Galway

Now let's look at how to make the most of a short trip to Galway.

Plan to arrive in the early evening and then head to dinner straight away. After arriving a little before 7 pm on the evening train from Dublin, I checked into the Menlo Park Hotel and then headed to dinner with my event hosts at Brasserie on the Corner.  

Pint of Guinness at Brasserie on the Corner in Galway

This Irish gastropub serves delicious local food – things like creamy seafood chowder to start, followed by perfectly battered fish and chips.  Of course, I had to wash down my fish and chips with a proper pint of Guinness! Brasserie on the Corner has a great dessert selection, but I opted for a dram of Yellow Spot whiskey for dessert instead.

Get a good night's sleep at the hotel and set an early alarm.  After a good night's sleep at the Menlo Park Hotel, opt for a full Irish breakfast at the hotel if you are feeling hungry or walk into the heart of Galway for breakfast. I stopped for a scone with jam and a specialty coffee at Brazco Coffee Academy to fuel my 24 hours in Galway.

Scone and jam from Brazco Coffee Academy in Galway

Take a morning photo walk. Morning is the best time to explore Galway in my opinion. Many tourists visit on day trips and thus the city tends to 'wake up' around lunchtime. 

Exterior of the Dew Drop Inn in Galway Ireland

Before then, you'll have your run of the city for an unimpeded photowalk. Galway's streets are a photographer's delight. Look for colorful Galway-themed street art adorning facades and electrical boxes. 

Electrical box decorated with a picture of a puffin and "love Galway" written on itStreet Art Mural depicting Galway in the Latin Quarter

The pubs and shops along Galway's High Street are painted in bright fabulous colors. Walk The Latin Quarter, as Irish tricolor flags flutter in the stiff coastal breeze and explore any of the shops that catch your fancy along the way.

Galway High Street crowded with people

Explore Galway's West End. Crossing the Corrib River via Bridge Street led me to Nun Island. After another block or so I crossed The Eglinton Canal and found myself in Galway's West End. 

River Corrib in Galway

I discovered that Plámás is a great spot for a mid-morning caffeine fix, with a special discount if you order your coffee in Irish. My regular readers know that I simply adore, door photography

Galway's West End is chock full of beautiful Irish doors. In fact, the main reason Plámás caught my attention was its fantastic Dutch door.

Half door of Plámás Coffee Shop in Galway's West End

I was surprised and delighted that I even spotted a historic thatched cottage in the heart of Galway's West End.

Thatched cottage in Galway's West End

Browse for Books. The great thing about Galway is that it's a very compact city. Walking between Eyre Square and the far end of the West End takes just 15 minutes. After my West End sojourn, I decided to browse for books. 

A number of locals recommended Charlie Byrne's Bookshop, a huge shop selling new and used books. I could have spent hours here. Alas, I was short on time since I had just one day in Galway so I only had time for a quick browse before moving on to find lunch.

Inside Charlie Bryne's Bookshop in Galway

Grab a pizza for lunch. Galway is home to one of the most popular pizzerias in Ireland: The Dough Bros. We ordered one of their "at home" kits during the pandemic and I'd always hoped to visit in person someday. It turns out this was the trip! 

The Dough Bros Pepp Guardi-Jala Pizza in Galway

I tried the Pepp Guardi-Jala, a margherita pizza with pepperoni and candied jalapenos. I can understand why The Dough Bros. gets so much hype. So good! I recommend going when they open at noon. Dough Bros. fills up quickly during the lunch hour.

Visit the Spanish Arch. After lunch, take a walk to see the historic Spanish Arch. Built in the 16th century, it is believed that the arch was commissioned to protect merchant ships from looting. It is named the Spanish Arch after the Spanish galleons that often docked here. 

Red door near the Spanish Arch in Galway, Ireland

Explore the NUI Galway campus. I love visiting university campuses and National University of Ireland Galway (NUI Galway) is one of my favorites in Ireland. Check out the Quadrangle near the entrance to the historic part of campus near University Road. 
Quadrangle on the NUI Galway campus
I love visiting in the Fall when the Quadrangle is covered in fiery red ivy. I also love visiting the Zoology and Marine Biology Museum, a real Galway hidden gem. Here, you can marvel at samples collected by Charles Darwin himself!

That's it! 24 hours in Galway just flies by. Head to the train station for the return trip to Dublin. Alternatively, if you have more time to explore as part of a longer trip to Ireland, you could consider:

2. Hopping off the train in Athlone to stretch your legs and experience Ireland's Midlands
3. Heading north into County Mayo for a hawk walk at Mount Falcon Estate near Ballina.

Where will you go on your next trip? Try out the Sidewalk Safari European destination picker to find your perfect place.

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Sidewalk Safari | Part-time Travel Blog: 24 Hours in Galway: Can You See the Best of the West in a Day?
24 Hours in Galway: Can You See the Best of the West in a Day?
See Galway in a day. Make the most of a short trip with recommendations on how to spend 24 hours in Galway. Experience the best of the West of Ireland
Sidewalk Safari | Part-time Travel Blog