It’s hard to deny that Galway is a beautiful place. As someone who’s grown up here, it’s easy to take just how much the city has to offer for granted. Whether you’re on a budget or ready for a big night out, you’re into sports or prefer the arts, there’s definitely something for everyone here. If you’re staying in Galway at the weekends instead of heading home, we have a list of all the best things to do that’ll make the most of your time off.
Get Outside: NUI Galway is built beside the river Corrib and has some of the nicest walkways in the city. Locals use these everyday but they’re often overlooked by students. It’s a great place to start if you’re not sure where to head for a nice walk on a dry weekend. Start at the back of the IT building or the engineering building and follow the path up behind Corrib village and into Dangan sportsgrounds. If you’re into sports there’s pitches galore here, along with a running track, an astroturf hockey pitch, lots of lovely woodland to walk around in and hills that overlook the river for a nice post puck around lunch. It’s a wealth of pretty spots if you’re into photography as well, especially along the Corrib itself.
If the river doesn’t do it for you, head to Salthill to walk the prom. You can start at Blackrock and walk straight in to the Spanish arch, where you can treat yourself with a congratulatory ‘I just walked two kilometres’ Boojum. There’s plenty of places to stop for coffee or ice cream along the prom where you can look out and enjoy the sea. Salthill is also the home of Galway’s only aquarium. It’s open 10am – 6pm at the weekends and student tickets are nine euro, so if you’re looking for a creative date idea, to feel like a kid again or just want an excuse to hold a starfish, look no further. The 401 bus heads straight out to Salthill from Eyre Square and with attractions like a kilometre of sandy beaches, Leisureland pool where you can spend a few hours swimming and some of the nicest coffee shops in Galway, it’s a great place to spend a quiet weekend day exploring.
Get Cultural: Galway will be the European Capital of Culture in 2020 and for good reason. There’s so much to do and see the city that can definitely fill a few hours at the weekend. Sign up for the Roisín Dubh newsletter to get emails about all the latest comedy shows, gigs and events they have on, they usually guarantee an interesting time. Galway has some great theatres and you can see plays, ballet performances, comedy and lots more in the Town Hall or the Taibhdhearc. If you don’t fancy seeing an actual play, the Eye Cinema usually has live streams of things like variety performances or ballet recitals from famous performers that you can enjoy from the comfort of the big screen. If you’re looking for culture on the cheap, Galway has a free museum at the Spanish arch that you can explore and learn more about the town. Places like the Cathedral or St Nicholas Collegiate Church near Shop Street are incredibly beautiful and have lots of free information available inside if you want to learn more about local history. Or just grab a coffee and some breakfast at somewhere like Cafe Express or McCambridges and sit outside, watch buskers perform and soak in the vibe that Galway is famous for.
Get Exploring: If you have a bit of cash or a car and you want to see more than just Galway city, head west. You can book a tour, usually for about €20 to see places like Spiddal, the Twelve Pins, Kylemore Abbey or even the Aran Islands. You can spend a day out there exploring one of the islands and still make it home in time for tea in the evening. If you have a car, head to some of the beautiful beaches along the coastline like Dog’s Bay or the famous coral beach in Carraroe. You can visit the free Connemara National Park and hike Diamond Hill if you really feel like an adventure or just drive around and see the beautiful landscape left behind by years of glaciers. ‘To hell or to Connaught’ Cromwell used to say but when you’re out among the craggy landscape, it’s far from hellish. It feels like somewhere from a mythological tale and it’s easy to spend hours seeing what the West has to offer.
-By Deirdre Leonard.