My love affair with Galway Ireland was intense, real, and as it is with many great loves, over all too soon.

Galway was the final destination during my two-week stay on the Emerald Isle, and I certainly saved the best for last. I heard a few years back that Galway was the epicenter for music in Ireland, and being an enormous fan of live music, I decided I need to spend at least a solid three days there.

By the time I left I was wishing I had planned an entire extra week to spend there!

Galway Ireland

I fell head-over-heels in love with Galway in only three days. There was something so magical about it that even a month after returning to Spain, it’s still never far from my mind. I’m so crazy about it that I’m trying to figure out how to spend a couple of months there next summer. I know that sounds like a big jump for only having spent a few days there, especially for a commitaphobe, but my obsession with live music runs deep.

Not only is the music scene in Galway unbelievable, but the people are beyond friendly and have an unparalleled sense of humor, which is perfect for a goofball like myself. Although it is a bit smaller than I’d prefer, I don’t think I’ve found another city that felt like such a fantastic fit for me.

Luckily Galway doesn’t have any tropical beaches, or I’d probably move there for good, never to be heard from again. But as it is, my love of palm trees and mangoes would draw me away eventually 😉

Galway Ireland
Galway (taken by Mindclick via Flickr)

The Music

I was lucky enough to be in Galway during their Jazz Music Festival, however, I only went to one show since it was held in a theater-type venue with the audience in a darkened formal seating arrangement, and I was really aching to get a taste of the music scene in a rowdier pub setting. The jazz show I did attend was a treat, with a truly talented band from France called Beware the Dogz (check them out!)

One of the directors of the Jazz Festival spoke before the show and explained that due to the strong music culture in Galway, and in particular the young people’s desire to listen to more jazz, the city decided to bring in jazz acts from all over the world just to make them happy.

What a neat culture, right?! The kids want music, the city gives them music. (Yeah, pretty much the opposite of Bomont)

Galway Ireland
Galway Buskers (Photo by Patrick Dinneen via Flickr)

One of the things that resonated most with me about Ireland, is the importance their culture places on music and socializing.

The two are strongly intertwined, albeit usually with some Guinness thrown in for good measure, and in my opinion there are few things better in life than spending time with some great friends and good music.

Galway Ireland
Since one Guinness fills you up like a meal, you might want to substitute a whiskey ginger or two 😉

Galway’s music culture is so strong that you can find incredible live acts in multiple pubs, every night of the week.

In fact, the night I experienced the most live music was actually a Sunday! I can’t remember exactly how late I was rocking out until (oops!) but I think it may have been close to 6AM. On a Sunday night. And the quality of the bands was unreal, even at 4AM!

Galway’s tradition of extremely high-quality music attracts the best acts from all over the country, and presumably other countries, that are eager to strut their stuff for the music-hungry crowd in Galway. 

You can literally walk anywhere in Eyre Square and find great music, but one sure bet is The Quays. They have two levels, with the upper level being reserved for main acts that tend to start pretty late at night. There might be a cover for the upper level, but the band I saw there was so mind-blowing and the cover went to a charity for children, that I didn’t mind coughing up the 10 euros. Not to mention it had the most unique stage I’ve ever seen in my life, which was salvaged from an old church and features a massive organ. When all lit up, the stage itself is a sight not to be missed!

Galway City

I figure the best way to convince you of the musical treasure that is Galway is to let you experience it for yourself, so here’s a five minute walk-through of some of the pubs I went to while I was there. The first clip is pretty dark, but the quality improves drastically as the video goes on, and you can see the unbelievably dope stage I mentioned at The Quays towards the end.

Take a listen, the songs played might surprise you!

On a final note, I highly recommend staying at the Kinlay Hostel in Eyre Square. The entire hostel is spotless, a pretty large breakfast is included, the lounge area is perfectly conducive to making new friends, and the manager, Frank, is an absurdly nice guy.

Have you ever fallen madly in love with a city while traveling? If so, tell me about it!

30 COMMENTS

  1. Your posts on Ireland have successfully made me even more excited (if that’s possible) to visit Ireland this summer. I also feel like I need a long chunk of a time to appreciate places, and now I know to plan to spend quite some time in Galway as I adore listening to live music as well! I know I’m going to fall in love with the country and city the moment I get there! One city that really surprised me was Kraków, I wasn’t expecting to but I ending up loving it in the 3 short days I was there a few years ago. I’m going back this winter and I couldn’t be more excited! It’s a beautiful but understated, not too touristy city with a young, fun crowd – there are so many universities that 25% of the population are students!

    • I’m so excited for you! I had been dreaming about going to Ireland for at least 6 years before this trip, and I fell in love with it even more than I expected to! I’m glad you plan to spend some time in Galway to appreciate the music scene…I’m tentatively planning on heading there in June/July so keep in touch and maybe we can meet up!

      I’m also dying to go to Krakow – my family is Polish and comes from a small town outside of Krakow so I’m interested for heritage reasons, but I also keep hearing nothing but good things from people! I think I’ll be there at some point in the next few months 🙂

  2. I was in Ireland for 2 weeks this summer and I also loved Galway! Sadly, we didn’t get to spend that much time there, but it was one of my favourite places we visited.

  3. We are very honored to be mentioned in your article and really glad you liked our music !
    We too fell in love with Galway, we only spent two days there and everybody we met was so nice, the city is so chilled that we decided to come back have some more gigs next summer ! Oh and we also named our new tune Galway, as you heard at our gig.
    Thanks again, and if someday you’re visiting Paris, let us know !
    http://soundcloud.com/bewarethedogz

    • Your performance was fantastic! Glad to hear you also loved Galway…maybe I’ll catch another one of your shows since I’ll probably be there next summer as well 🙂

      And I’ll actually be in Paris with my Parisian friend in a couple of weeks! Do you guys have any big gigs coming up or even recommendations on the best bars to see live music?

  4. Great post! I was just visiting a friend in Galway recently and loved the city too. I had been there before (since I’m Irish) but never for a long enough time to really see what it was like. Looking forward to taking my Colombian boyfriend to Galway over Christmas so he can experience what you just did! 🙂 We Irish really do love music…I only realized just how much it is a part of our culture when I started traveling to other countries.

    • I envy you for growing up in such a musical culture! I can’t wait to hear how your Columbian boyfriend likes it…I’m sure he’ll fall in love like we both did 🙂

  5. Fantastic article – about a magnificent City. So much good music seven nights a week, if you haven’t overdosed on it after so long. An Pucan (just off Eyre Square) was one of my favourites, with top class Irish music and Irish dancing too. But The Quays is simply awesome, as portrayed in your video.
    I was lucky enough to be in the city for the Galway Arts festival – completely by coincidence 🙂
    Music, art, street theatre, photography exhibitions and workshops, you name it. A joyous week (if a little tiring).
    Anyhow, you have a new follower on twitter and if I may include a generic link to a wide selection of Galway pubs, I’d be obliged.
    http://www.galwaycitypubguide.com/trad-music-galway.html

    • Wow, that art festival sounds amazing, I would love to be there for that! Lucky you 🙂 I’ll definitely refer to that pub guide next time I’m in Galway – thanks for that! Thanks for stopping by and keep in touch 🙂

  6. I was in Galway about 10 years ago, just for a few days while looking for a place to stay for six months while on maternity leave. I remember it as a colourful and lively town, though quite chilly and windy for August. But then one doesn’t come to Ireland for warm weather. When I was there, there was some sort om impromptu music festival, so definitely a great music scene in Galway. (We ended up in New Zealand for our six months – much better weather, but not as lively and not nearly as much music).

    • Sounds like you happened to visit Galway at a perfect time! I hope to check out a few more music festivals there in the future. I’m also a sucker for good weather so I can’t see myself ever wanting to stay there during the winter!

  7. I spent 3 and a half months in Galway 3 years ago. Still wasn’t enough time, and I miss it every day. It may just be my favorite place in the world. Seeing your pictures reminded me of just how much I love the tiny city, and how much I need to go back. And the music scene… Unlike anything I’ve seen anywhere! If you have the chance to go back for a couple of months, do it. You won’t regret it!

  8. […] Galway, on the west coast of Ireland, is where I spent three months drinking Guinness and listening to street music. It sits, isolated, right on the coast, in front of the great blue ocean. The city is a may not have a good value for money, but it’s simply a delightful town. So much so, that people call it the “graveyard of aspirations”. This is due to a large quantity of foreigners who came to visit it for a weekend (like me) and stayed for a lifetime. Galway has music surrounding it, loads of fun pubs, and the Irish people are incredibly friendly. And the Cliffs of Moher – breathtaking! The founder of Fleeting Life talks about her love affair with Galway. […]

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