On the western fringes of Ireland, Galway (Gailimh) is a bohemian beacon. Recognized as one of Europe’s best cultural cities, Galway melds tradition, art, and pleasure in a way that few cities can pull off. Colorfully painted pubs and outdoor cafes add to the buzz of the medieval town, where students make up a quarter of the population. Shops selling handcrafted Claddagh rings, Aran sweaters, and second-hand bookstores make it far to easy to lose track of time (and money). It is Galway’s vibrant culture that puts it in the league with the likes of San Francisco and New York City, despite it only being a fraction of the size.
Considered the ‘most Irish’ of Ireland cities, as Galway is the only place where you’re likely to hear Irish spoken, it may come as a surprise then that city boasts a creative food scene. That’s not to say there’s any shortage of traditional Irish food to be found. McSwiggan’s Restaurant offers up some of the best Irish cuisine in the city, not to mention a great craft beer list. However, for those craving something different, these three restaurants will do the trick.
Located near Eyre Square, Loam is reimaging what Irish cuisine be. With its hip décor and open floor plan, the chefs at Loam are driven by their passion for creative, yet, simple seasonal dishes. The restaurant works closely with local farmers and producers to highlight the delicious flavours of western Ireland. For wine enthusiasts, Loam’s wine list showcases an excellent selection of organic, biodynamic wines from small family run vineyards. Its wine bar offers a more relaxed affair where guests can pair wines with a small plate menu featuring local and house made charcuterie, snacks, cheeses, and pickles.
This family-run Mexican restaurant offers up large Tex-Mex style dishes at a good price. After spending more than a decade in the San Francisco Bay Area, eating some of the best Mexican in food in the country, the owners decided to bring Mexican food to Galway when they moved back to town. Drawing inspiration from the Mexican food served in San Francisco’s Mission District, the restaurant is a welcome addition to Galway’s flavourful food scene, and a must-try for anyone, including vegetarians, needing a Tex-Mex fix.
CHI Asian Bistro
While Galway has no shortage of Asian bistros—many, including Chi Asian Bistro, sell cheap, delicious noodle boxes–CHI Asian Bistro’s flavours stood out among the pack. Situated in the heart of Galway, the restaurant offers diners (and takeaway lovers) an array of classic dishes as well as regional ffavouritesfrom Vietnam, Malaysia, Thailand, and China that use locally sourced produce and ingredients. Additionally, the menu includes an array of vegetarian and vegan dishes as well as gluten-free Thai curries.
Money Saving Tips
- When it comes to eating cheap in Galway, Asian noodle boxes are your best friend. For about €5, you can feast on a takeaway box that’s not only filling but delicious too.
- The Galway City Museum, which offers free admission, covers the city’s history from 1800 to 1950, featuring permanent and touring exhibitions that highlight the city’s rich history.
Did You Know?
- Galway was abandoned temporarily in the mid-17th century after a Spanish ship introduced the Bubonic plague to the city, killing nearly 4,000 residents.
- In addition to being Ireland’s largest medieval church still in use, St. Nicholas’ Collegiate Church is also believed to be where Christopher Columbus worshiped in 1477.
- Galway got its nickname “The City of the Tribes” from the 14 families that ruled the city during its Anglo-Norman period.
Your Personal Highlight
Attending the premier of the excellent film My Name is Emily at the 27th annual Galway Film Festival. The film was written and directed by Simon Fitzmaurice, who is paralysed from motor neurone disease (MND) and can only speak with his eyes. Not only was the Irish director in the crowd for the premier of his first feature film, but he also held a Q&A following the screening.