After Dark in Galway, Ireland
Absorb some late-afternoon rays on the grass in front of the town’s Spanish Arch, which was originally constructed in the late 1500s, but not by the Spanish. Actually, it seems to have not much to do with Spain at all. Built as part of a wall to protect the city’s quays, the most Spanish thing about it is it was almost destroyed by a tsunami in 1755 following an earthquake near Spain. It’s not even a particularly good-looking attraction, but the green, green grass in front of it is a popular spot for students, backpackers, hobos and locals to gather for a drink and a sing-a-long on the River Corrib.
Enter the dining and drinking zone at Sheridans Cheesemongers. The downstairs provedore is an introduction to Galway’s classy, self-assured side, and that feeling continues upstairs at the wine shop and bar. Match your cheese and salumi platter to a glass or two of Italian or French wines, and enjoy the outlook over St Nicholas Church, which dates from 1320 and is Ireland’s largest medieval parish church.
14 Church Yard Street
Dinner can be tricky in Galway. Definitely avoid the tourist traps, most of which dot Quay Street. If greasy chips and fresh fried fish are to your taste, head to McDonagh’s. It’s worth a look if only for the slightly creepy maritime-themed decorations reminiscent of the conch-headed Hadras in Pirates of the Caribbean. It’s been in the same family for four generations, so they know what they’re doing. Eat in or line up with the rest of Galway for your takeaway. For something a little more refined, try the Quay Street Kitchen across the road.
22 Quay Street
The Quay Street Kitchen
21–25 Quay Street
By now you’ve covered much of the main tourist area, so it’s time to venture further afield. Quay Street turns into Main Street, which turns into Shop Street. Somewhere along here you’re sure to be caught up in a jam of people watching a busker. Remember The Commitments? Remember Once? Busking is big in this part of the world. Even Bono was spotted singing for a few bob in Dublin this Christmas Eve past. Good, bad or indifferent, an entertainment fix can be found by simply strolling down this street. Finish at the lovely Eyre Square.
With the summer sun still doing its thing, there’s plenty of time to keep the musical vibe going. During the annual Galway Arts Festival you’ll see throngs of people walking to University Road and crossing the Corrib to the Big Top Stage, where international and local acts play. It’s a friendly, boozy event held right next to the humungous and atmospheric Galway Cathedral. Peer over the River Corrib on your way back to see a most unusual sight: men in full-body waders, standing in the rushing waters while quietly fishing for salmon. They fish down the river, step by step until they reach the bridge, before going back upriver and starting again.
It’s definitely time for a session at one of Galway’s traditional music pubs. You can pretty much trust your ears and eyes with this one – if the Irish jigs are happening, there will usually be a big crowd jostling to get in, no room at the bar to order a Guinness, and people taking up every available space to get as close to the sweaty musicians as they can. Want to secure a snug (a booth of sorts, popular in Irish pubs)? You’ll need to be there way before the bow hits the fiddle. On a good night, as the tempo increases, so does the excitement, and you’ll be left wondering how a few people sitting down with instruments can cause such a fury. Want a tip? There’s always something happening at the Crane in the West End.
The Crane Bar
2 Sea Road
Since 1993 the Róisín Dubh has played host to Ireland’s best musos and some pretty cool international acts, including Dinosaur Jr and the Violent Femmes. Check the listings before you hit Galway and book tickets so you’re not disappointed. Even if nothing appeals, there’s always the weekly silent disco, an open mic or comedians yukking it up in one of its bars, to be sure, to be sure.
Lower Dominic Street
If the disco touts haven’t got you yet, wind your way back through Galway’s streets, past the touristy shops, now with their shutters down, and on to fast-food joint Supermac’s on Eyre Square. For a taste of late-night Ireland, try the curry chips – an ‘Irish delicacy’ according to the website. It doesn’t close until 3.30am (4.30am on Saturdays). Alcohol soaked up, head back towards the water and land yourself at the House Hotel, near to where you started your night. This place is late-night fancy, with a cocktail bar, plenty of shrieking voices and DJs on weekends.
The House Hotel
Lower Merchants Road
Etihad has flights from Melbourne and Sydney to Dublin, with stopovers in Abu Dhabi.
The House Hotel is central, has a great sense of fun, and has rooms that are as interesting as they are practical. There’s free wi-fi, pink stuff everywhere (but in a good way) and a popular, sophisticated bar and restaurant on-site. Doubles from about US$125.
Visit the official tourism website.