Galway is one of Ireland’s best kept secrets, but the secret will soon be out with tourists flocking to discover Ireland’s rugged wild Atlantic coast and the diversity, culture and tradition of Galway city itself, known as the “cultural heart” of Ireland.
Galway has plenty to offer in terms of creativity, art and literature and fine cuisine. It hosts plenty of cultural festivals annually, especially in the summertime, the most well-renowned festival being the International Arts Festival held annually in July, which hosts street performances, dance, music and art exhibitions. However, Galway is a vibrant city and you will find music in its streets all year round.
The number one draw to Galway is the breathtaking scenery, huddled against the Atlantic coast, surrounded by stunning vistas of rugged mountains, it will make you feel as if you’ve been transported back in time to a time of myth and folklore.
Despite the rainy climate, Galway makes the perfect adventure destination with plenty of outdoor activities on offer including kayaking, fishing, golf, mountain biking, hiking and sailing amongst the many things you can do in the rugged outdoors.
Aside from adventure to get your blood pumping and a region rich in history and culture, Galway also has world-class fine dining and designer shopping too, making it the ideal destination for the elite traveller.
Here in our luxury guide to Galway, we will explore the best of Galway for every type of traveller – the culture vulture, foodie, adrenaline junkie and luxury seeker.
This guide is perfect for those who are travelling to Galway on a luxury. We will show you what to do in Galway, where to stay, what to eat and how to get around, whether it’s a weekend in Galway or a long term stay.
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The best time to visit Galway
Galway is on Ireland’s wilder Atlantic coast and often is buffeted by winds and rain, with there being chances of rain or snow all year round.
For the best and warmest weather, head to Galway during the summer months of June to August with an average high of around 19°C, this means that layering up is important all year round as temperatures drop at night and the wind chill factor means that coastal visits can be a bit brisk or chilly.
There is a strong chance of rain all year around with an average of 294 days of rain per year, so a raincoat and wet weather gear is highly recommended. However, Galway is not a destination for sunshine and if you plan to go, take the correct gear and make the most of it!
Luxury things to do in Galway
Take a plunge in the Atlantic
Do as the locals do and take a leisurely saunter along Salthill promenade, here you can watch the locals dive into the icy-cold waters of the Atlantic, which is usually around a freezing 13°C even in the summer! This Galway tradition is something you can partake in if you dare! Not for the faint of heart!
A day at the races
If you’re travelling to Galway in the summertime head to Ireland’s biggest racing event, the Galway Races (held in the last week of July and first week of August).
Aside from being the one of Ireland’s most epic festivals, the races has a popular day known as “Ladies Day” where ladies will have the opportunity to flaunt your style and your extravagant hats amongst the other ladies, all battling to win the award for “Best Hat” or “Best-Dressed Lady” at the event. So, ladies, don’t forget to pack your best fascinators!
The city comes alive during this week-long horse racing event and the hotels and pubs will be bustling and packed, so make sure you make your reservations in advance. A seven-day ticket starts at €140, whilst day passes cost between €20 to €30 depending on the day.
Savour local flavours at Galway Market
Visit the Galway Weekend market to taste the best of local, organic produce and purchase some unique handicrafts and artisanal products.
The market draws crowds made up of the local crowd and tourists too, it is held weekly by the St. Nicholas Church. Here, you will find hundreds of bustling market stalls and even get the chance to taste some freshly-caught local seafood.
The market is open year round weekends, during the month of August they also open on Fridays and every day during the Arts Festival.
Indulge in seafood at the Galway Oyster and Seafood Festival
Galway oysters are highly-prized and any foodie should not miss the Galway Oyster Festival held annually at the end of September.
It is the world’s oldest recorded oyster festival, nowadays it is one of Ireland’s biggest social events where you can enjoy the craic with the friendly locals and savour the flavours of the best freshly-caught seafood and delicious oysters from the West Country.
Don’t miss the entertaining World Oyster Shucking Championships, where competitors try to crack open oysters at lightning speed.
Aside from the competition, there is entertainment, parades as well as lots of champagne and strong Irish stout to accompany the gastronomical delights. This is one of Ireland’s huge events so make sure to book your accommodation in advance!
Dancing in the street
A unique and unmissable summer experience is Roisin Dubh’s Silent Street Disco. This iconic live music venue hosts regular music and comedy acts all year round, but during the summer they organise something truly special: silent discos.
Dance in the street to your own beat with headphones and enjoy the vibrant atmosphere as the clientele pour out onto Dominick street to drink and dance to music no one else can hear.
Discover Galway Cathedral
The remarkable Galway Cathedral is just a few steps away from St. Nicholas Church, constructed in the 1950s, a building consisting of a fusion of styles over the ages which include Romanesque, Gothic and Renaissance influences which looks over the Corrib River.
It’s relatively recent construction makes it one of Europe’s youngest cathedrals and it hosts an impressive art collection within. Entrance is free of charge.
Get on your bike!
If you’re looking for adventure, head to Connemara for a gentle ride around the Glenlo Abbey Estate or if you’re looking for more adrenaline pumping action, rent out a mountain bike to explore the spectacular landscape of the Derroura Mountain Bike Trial Network.
Where you can enjoy views over the Twelve Pins and Maam Valley. The steep climbs and the heart-pumping descents will be sure to get your adrenaline going, not for the faint of heart!
Ride the waves
For adrenaline junkies, Galway also offers some amazing surfing. The most popular surfing beaches also have surf schools for those who wish to learn. You can visit Lahinch Beach which has five breaks that are easily accessible and suitable for different levels.
For those who are more experience and looking for a quieter surfing spot, head to Fanore Beach where you can catch some waves away from the crowds at Lahinch. One of Galway’s secrets is Dunlaughin, tucked away on the Connemara coast where ou can find great waves away from the crowds.
Cruise the River Corrib
Between the months of May to September you can explore the Rive Corrib by boat up towards the lake. The cruise takes a leisurely 90 minutes through tranquil pastoral landscapes and departs twice a day from the city centre, from Woodquay, at 12:30 and 14:30, with an additional journey departing at 16:30 during the months of July and August.
Journey along the river towards the lake, past the ivy-covered Menlo Castle and enjoy a relaxing day upon the water, seeing Galway from a different perspective.
Head to Connemara National Park
This stunning natural park is nestled in the mountains and is host to some of Ireland’s flora and fauna including wild Connemara ponies, a diverse variety of birds and Irish red deer.
The changing landscape ranges from mountains, marshes to heaths and plains of grass seems to have emerged straight from a brooding fairytale. This is the perfect escape from the city and ideal for avid hikers.
Shop til you drop
If you’re looking for shopping, Galway offers high-end fashion including labels such as Victoria Beckham, Gucci, Prada and more!
Head to Brown Thomas department store for all the big brands, alternatively Eyre Square Shopping Centre has plenty of designer labels on offer.
If you’re looking for a unique souvenir for a loved one you can find a typical Claddagh ring at Thomas Dillons, for a special gift for little ones you can visit the charming toyshop called The Wooden Heart which sells handcrafted wooden toys.
Visit Kylemore Abbey
For a slice of history, visit this neo-Gothic abbey which was once a private residence in the 18th century, the Benedictine nuns opened it to the public and you can spend a relaxing few hours exploring the gothic chapel, cathedral, pottery studio and Victorian walled gardens and stroll around the lake of Kylemore Abbey.
King or Queen of the Castle
Explore Dunguaire Castle and take in the mystical atmosphere of undoubtedly one of the most instagrammable castles in the Emerald Isle. The castle is only an hour away from Galway city, overlooking a bay where you can enjoy incredible views from the top of the 23 metre-high tower.
For a truly regal experience, the castle hosts a summertime “Dunguaire Castle Banquet” where you can experience flavours at a four-course feast using recipes dating back to the middle ages and listen to poems by Irish greats such as George Shaw and William Butler Yeats.
Bliss out at a spa
After all that adventuring and walking you can rest your weary feet at a luxurious spa and melt away in complete bliss. The G Hotel and Spa has five-star spa facilities including thermal pools, crystal steam room, massage rooms, tepidarium, rock sauna and vitality pool, there is even a relaxation lounge with views over an Asian-inspired bamboo garden.
Spa packages start from €95 per person, depending on the package. They also offer overnight packages including a room, a full-Irish breakfast, 55 minute treatment and access to the Thermal Suite and fitness centre with prices starting at €360 in the summertime.
Hop on a ferry to the Aran Islands
The Aran Islands are an archipelago of islands located a short ferry ride away from Galway, these islands are home to rural farming communities that made their living by using seaweed to nurture the soil of the islands.
The farmlands are divided by century-old limestone walls that create a maze of paths around the island and hiking this myriad of paths will lead you to desolate windswept beaches lapped by the waves of the Atlantic Ocean, crumbling Neolithic forts and Medieval stone ruins.
One of the most notable forts is Dún Aonghasa, which perches on top of the towering cliffs of Inishmore.
The fort was constructed over 3,000 years ago and thought to have been used for ceremonies and is one of the most dramatic historic ruins in Galway, attracting artists and poets over centuries. Prices for the ferry start at around €25 per person for a return journey, you can find prices and timetables on their website.
The Atlantic Ocean and Galways’ bay offers fantastic opportunities to kakak, and for more novice kayakers there’s always the gentle waters of the lake of Lough Corrib.
If you’re blessed with good weather during your stay, kayaking in the open ocean will allow you to get up close and personal with the local seals and sometimes you might even see some killer whales in the distance.
Outdoors Ireland organizes kayaking trips out towards Mutton Island and other locations and even offer bioluminescence kayaking trips, where the sea is lit up with bioluminescent plankton like stars suspended in the night sky.
Where to stay in Galway – Luxury Hotels
Glenlo Abbey Hotel – Glenlo Abbey is a sumptuous and elegant hotel built in an 18th century Abbey, the five-star service and romantic surroundings are sure to win your heart.
On its extensive gardens and grounds you can even find a fine-dining restaurant built in two original Pullman Orient Express train carriages. For a romantic getaway, this is the ultimate luxury hotel.
Rooms overlook the shores of the Lough Corrib and are decorated in timeless elegance. Facilities include an Afternoon Tearoom, Oak Cellar Bar, golf course, falconry and archery activities, fishing lake and billiards room.
Ballynahinch Castle Hotel & Estate – Feel like King or Queen of the castle at this 450-acred castle estate which dates back to 1756. The castle is situated amongst the surroundings of the Connemara 12 Bens mountain range, on the shores of the Owenmore River looking over a salmon fishery.
The rooms are decorated in traditional country style but you will find WIFI and flat screen televisions available, upgraded rooms are even equipped with four-poster beds and have sitting areas and separate dressing rooms.
There is a fine-dining restaurant on-site as well as a cosy bar. The hotel also offers plenty of activities onsite such as hiking, tennis and fishing.
Currarevagh House – Stay on a 180-acred Victorian estate with views over Lough Corrib lake and be transported to another era, set in the midst of the tranquil backdrop of lakes and distant mountain peaks.
The fantastic views make up for the lack of TVs and quaint rooms are decorated with old-world charm and include a free Irish breakfast and afternoon tea.
Facilities include lounges with roaring fireplaces in the wintertime, a lawn for playing croquet, a tennis court and fishing boats for rent. Five-star service will make you feel right at home.
Hotel Meyrick – For a hotel in Galway centre, it doesn’t get any better than this. Four-star Hotel Meyrick is situated a few minutes by foot to Eyre Square, the bustling heart of Galway.
The Hotel Meyrick is a Victorian-style railway hotel dating back to1852 with a luxurious old-world feel. Rooms are decked out in plush fabrics, heavy draped curtains and elegant antique furniture yet are equipped with all the modern mod-cons such as WIFI and flat screen televisions.
Upgraded rooms include four-poster beds and sitting areas and even dining areas, with high ceilings. The hotel also boasts a spa with a hot tub where you can soak the day away whilst enjoying views over the city skyline and a fine-dining restaurant serving up delicious cuisine.
Harbour Hotel – For chic modernity and a fantastic location in the centre of Galway City, check out the Harbour Hotel which offers contemporary design and style in a fantastic harbourside location.
Rooms are decorated in a hip, modern style and are fully-equipped with all mod-cons you can desire, the soft, pillow-topped mattresses make it very difficult to get out of bed and will ensure you have an amazing night’s sleep.
The jewel in the crown of the Harbour Hotel is its fine-dining restaurant, Dillisk, producing divine dishes using Galway’s key ingredients – seaweed and seafood. There is also afternoon tea available at the restaurant, a sexy cocktail bar on-site, exercise room, coworking space and meeting rooms and free parking.
The Galmont Hotel & Spa – If you’re looking for somewhere more central without sacrificing great views, this incredible four-star hotel hugging the riverside and within a short five-minute walk to Eyre’s Square shopping centre.
Its Marina Restaurant serves up mouth-watering local seafood and has earned a reputation for one of the best places to enjoy the fruits of the sea.
Facilities include a bar and lounge as well as a luxe spa with relaxing treatments and thermal pools for an additional cost. The rooms are chic and modern and suites include a living area or even a private terrace. For a relaxing and pampered city break, this hotel is perfect.
Luxury eats in Galway
Galway has a staggering number of Michelin-starred restaurants offering fine-dining which features some of the freshest locally-sourced ingredients, the star of the show being the local seafood.
Here are some of the very best of haute cuisine restaurants that have been awarded a Michelin star and will guarantee tingles on your tastebuds and the very best prime ingredients.
Ard Bia at Nimmo’s – This 2019 Michelin star winner can be found situated near the Spanish Arch in the centre of town and is a bustling restaurant popular with locals.
The name means “high food” in Gaelic and inspiration for the cuisine is sourced from many different countries including Mediterranean and Middle-Eastern influences. The fusion dishes feature freshly-caught local seafood and you can find dishes such as lobster borek, Connemara crab and local lamb and beef.
The restaurant, despite having won a Michelin star, maintains its economical pricing and serves breakfast, lunch and dinner daily.
Moran’s Oyster Cottage – This Michelin-starred seafood restaurant tucked away in a small hamlet showcases the best of Galway’s produce, the oyster. Along with oysters, Moran’s serves up some of Galway’s best freshly-caught seafood in an modest and unpretentious setting.
The dining terrace looks out onto Dunbulcaun Bay where the oysters are farmed, the restaurant has been owned and run by six generations of the Moran family and one of the best places to sample smoked salmon, seafood chowder and lobster, all served up with rustic brown bread from their own bakery.
Aniar Restaurant and Cooking School – Situated in the West End, Aniar is a restaurant and cooking school that sources its ingredients locally, serving up seasonal dishes in their innovative and daily-changing menu based on foraged ingredients.
The restaurant sources free-range meat and artisanal cheeses from local producers and includes dishes such as slow-cooked organic pork belly and sorrel and buttermilk but due to the menu changing daily due to the whims of the chef, every meal is a unique surprise.
The restaurant offers various tasting menus: a six-course menu costs €70, an eight-course menu starts at €85 and the 10 course menu is €105 per person.
The restaurant is also a cooking school and you can join a day workshop from €225 per person. JP McMahon, head chef of Aniar, is also owner of the Michelin-starred restaurant Loam.
Loam Restaurant – Loam Restaurant is a Michelin-award winner for “Best Restaurant in Ireland 2019” and can be found in Galway city centre, near Eyre Square. The cuisine is focused on locally-sourced prime ingredients from local producers and farmers offering farm-to-table dishes.
The menu consists of a fusion of Irish and international ingredients and menus may features dishes such as Squid served with shiitake mushrooms and egg or Duck with beetroot and radicchio with bursts of delicious flavour that marry flavours perfectly.
A nine-course tasting menu is €99 or €159 with the wine pairing, whilst a seven-course menu will set you back €78 or €119 with the wine pairing.
Kai Café and Restaurant – Casual dining at its finest, this unpretentious bohemian-styled restaurant is intimate, with rustic and colourful chairs and tables and serves up delicious local delicacies to a high standard, without all the fuss, earning it a Michelin star.
Local seafood play a starring role in the dishes, with locally-caught hake and monkfish on the menu as well as local meat such as lamb and beef.
The desserts are charming with options such as malt ice cream, Hokkaido pumpkin pie and saffron sorbet on the menu.
You can visit the restaurant for brunch, lunch or dinner and you will leave satisfied after a delicious meal, whatever the hour.
Oscar’s Seafood Bistro – Seafood lovers should definitely pay a visit to this gem of a restaurant which has earned a well-deserved Michelin star in 2019. This intimate restaurant serves up the catch of the day and dishes prepared using the freshest West Country seafood.
The menu includes dishes featuring the star of Galway’s produce: oysters and mussels, as well as offering traditional Irish dishes such as seafood chowder as well as exciting Asian-inspired dishes such as coconut shrimp with Japanese noodles.
The menu changes daily based on the catch brought in by Galway fishermen, with fresh and memorable flavours. Book early to avoid disappointment as there are few tables and the restaurant is a rising star on the Galway food scene.
Luxury tours to do in Galway
Private, Luxury, Guided Tour of Connemara
Enjoy the flexibility of having a private guided tour of Connemara and experience the beauty of Galway at your own rhythm. The tour is tailored to your interests and an experienced guide is on hand to help make your experience of Connemara unforgettable.
The tour lasts 6 to 8 hours and you will be chauffeured from place to place in the comfort of a luxury vehicle with WIFI on board.
The tour can include visits to the Quiet Man Bridge, the picturesque fishing village of Roundstone Bay and Mannin Bay, Clifden Castle and Kylmore Abbey before returning to your hotel.
Tour of the Cliffs of Moher
This full day tour will allow you to visit the cliffs of Moher with an experienced private guide, feel the wind whipping through your hair as you look over the Atlantic Ocean from atop the 200 metre-high cliffs.
This is followed by a visit to the charming fishing village of Doolin in County Clare where you will stop for a fresh seafood lunch at one of the local pubs, before heading to the Burren National Park to take in the rugged wild landscape before visiting the ruins of an ancient monastery of Corcomroe Abbey.
Connemara Wild Atlantic Way on Horseback
If you’ve ever dreamed of riding a horse through the gentle surf on a beach to the dramatic backdrop of a rugged coastline with wind whipping through your hair, then this tour is for you.
Explore the Connemara Peninsula atop a horse and discover the beaches of the Wild Atlantic Way and Omey Island. This three-hour tour includes safety equipment and prices start from €109 per person, not including pickup or drop off at the hotel.
Recommended Luxury tours in Galway
- Private, Luxury, Guided Day Tour To Connemara From Galway
- Connemara National Park, Beach & Blanket Bog ecology walk. Private Full-day
- Wild Deer viewing safari from Letterfrack, Connemara
- Deluxe Food & Whiskey Experience
- Galway Food and Drink Walking Tour
- Luxury 7-Day Wild Atlantic Way e-Bike Cycling Holiday from Galway
- Private Trip: Connemara Deep Sea Angling Day Trip from Cleggan
- Personalised tours of Connemara,Burren & Ireland with fully qualified tour guide
- Wild Atlantic Way Beach Horseback Riding Excursion from Galway-Full Day
- Half-Day Tour: Connemara Wild Atlantic Way Guided Beach Horseback Ride.
- Kayaking on the Corrib River, Galway City—Guided, Three Hours
- Aran Islands, Cliffs of Moher & Cliff Cruise tour from Galway. Guided. Full day