If you are traveling to Ireland, Galway is a must for you. Not just for a day but for as long as you can stay. There is so much to see in the region, from beautiful Galway Bay to idyllic Connemara, with its majestic mountains, lakes and rough barrens. But Galway City itself also has a cornucopia to offer – especially for travelers on a tight budget.
Galway’s Latin Quarter
I decided to take myself on an adventure and check out Galway’s famous medieval district, the Latin Quarter (Shop Street that leads into Quay Street districts), and I wasn’t disappointed. The streets are lined with stone paving, giving them a nice historic feel, and there’s an abundance of restaurants and coffee shops.
As you enter Shop Street you are met by a bust of Oscar Wilde sitting on a bench, and if he were alive today he would simply lap up the atmosphere of Galway’s artistic vibe that is ever-present in this wonderful Irish city. The street performers and buskers are very professional. All along the street you have a huge array of free entertainment, though of course they would welcome a tip in their hat on the ground please!
The streets have wonderful Claddagh shops where you can purchase the traditional Irish Claddagh ring and if you look around you can get a great deal for your loved one or a family member. Remember there is an old wives tale that it is bad luck to buy the Claddagh ring for yourself. The Irish Claddagh ring (Gaelic: fáinne Chladaigh) is a traditional Irish ring given which represents love, loyalty, and friendship (the heart represents love, the crown represents loyalty, and the hands represent friendship).
Where to stay
Galway is full of charming hotels and B&Bs, and the website Airbnb has also become a very popular option for those traveling on a budget, with Galway’s welcoming citizens opening up their homes to visitors.
If you need a place to stay in the Latin Quarter and have a more flexible budget, I would suggest Jury’s Inn, Galway. The cheapest room I could find runs at 129 Euros per night for a double and single bed but off-season they have offers of 79 Euros per night.
A full breakfast from their amazing buffet selection is only 10 Euros and children under twelve years of age eat free. Just a ten minute walk or a six minute bus ride from Galway’s train and bus station. For more information on Jury’s Inn, Galway: Tel: +353-91-566444, or visit their website.
If you want to hostel it, a very clean and reasonable hostel is located right on busy Quay Street: Barnacles Hostel (10 Quay Street). Accommodation works out to a little over 15 Euros per night in a small, very clean mixed dorm bedroom and 10 Euros a night during off-peak season. The staff are super friendly and you are right there in the heart of all the hustle and bustle of Galway’s Latin Quarter. For more information on Barnacles Hostel: Tel: +353-91-568644 or visit their website.
Where to eat
After traveling up and down Galway’s Latin Quarter checking out the bookstores, music stores and Claddagh ring shops it is time to eat. This is the hardest part: there are so many great restaurants to choose from in this famous Galway area.
There are so many that I can only focus on a few for you. Keep an eye out for the early bird menus, which most of these restaurants offer and are priced to suit even the tightest budgets.
Up first for me was Gemelle’s Restaurant, at 23 Quay Street. I loved the atmosphere, the staff there were great, and prices are very reasonable too. The steak I had was perfectly cooked and served with thick cut homefries, sautéed mushrooms and onions, choice of sauce, pepper, mushroom or garlic butter. It came to 19.95 Euros. Gemelle’s has a set early bird menu from Sunday to Thursday up until 6.30pm, with a two course meal for 20 Euros and three course meal for 25 Euros. If you’re traveling with a group, I would recommend you book your table in advance so you won’t be disappointed, especially on the weekends. For more information on Gemelle Restaurant: Tel: +353-91-568821 or visit their website.
For a midday snack, I headed to Griffin’s Bakery Cafe at 21 Shop Street (which runs parallel to Quay Street). There they have outside tables and chairs, perfect for listening to the great talent of the street buskers as I chose my dessert, and what a choice! Their cheesecake is out of this world and a large slice of it is only 3.25 Euros. They also specialize in artisan breads. A great place to spend a sunny afternoon in Galway’s Latin Quarter. For more information on Griffin’s bakery Cafe: Tel: +353-91-563683 or visit their website.
Trattoria Restaurant at 12 Quay Street is owned and run by brothers Sean and Marco Magnetti. This place offers great value as main courses run from 14.95 Euros* to 21.50 Euros*. I decided to have the Tagliatelle Pasta Mista (fresh tagliatelle with bacon, thyme and mushroom in a rich cream sauce) all for just 14.95 Euros. Simply delicious. For more information: Tel: +353-91-563910 or visit their website.
Druid Lane Restaurant and Wine Bar, owned by Chef Camilla Cutlar, is located at 9 Quay Street. The medieval building dates back to 1663 and was originally owned by King Charles II.
Today, over 350 years later, the premises are bright and colorful and with the sun beaming in on the tables of happy diners. For the great value of just 20 Euros*, I went for the early bird menu, which gives you two courses. The starter Cajun Spiced Chicken Wings, was unlike anything I’ve ever tasted before, and for the main I opted for the open Philadelphia Steak Sandwich – sirloin steak strips on a garlic baguette topped with sautéed onions and pepper sauce, accompanied by hand cut chips (fries) and seasonal leaves. Words can’t describe the taste and it was so filling no room was left for dessert.
Chef Cutlar runs a tight ship and customer service is top of her agenda. Indeed everywhere I went in Galway the staff seemed very pleasant and helpful. For more information on Druid Lane Restaurant and Wine Bar: Tel: +353-91-563015 3-91-563015 and if you’re going there with a party at the weekends I would advise, to avoid disappointment, to book your table in advance. Check out their website here.
There are so many restaurants I passed by in the Latin Quarter, and when I return they will be top of my list. To name but a few:
21 Quay Street
8 Quay Street
10 Quay Street
Vegans and vegetarians should make sure to try:
1-3 Dock Road
Out and about
After a fine meal, no visit to the Latin Quarter would be complete without a few pleasant hours passed in a pub with live trad music. The list is extensive, but a few cosy watering holes include:
15 High Street
19 Shop Street
11 Quay Street
My time in the Latin Quarter came to an end but left many fond memories. When the sun shines there, the Latin Quarter comes alive with street entertainment on every corner and Galway locals and tourists alike hopping from shop to shop, cafe to restaurant, pub to pub.
Galway City is truly artistic and alive, and not to be missed on any trip to the west of Ireland.
* Prices subject to change.