Galway, Ireland is a youthful city with plenty of Irish tradition. A perfect location for the solo traveler who is looking to socialize, Galway offers friendly pubs filled with charming locals. The tiny city offers an assortment of activities and close proximity to many sites just outside the city to make daytrips a meaningful and enjoyable experience.
Explore the main shopping boulevard of Williams Street, Shop Street, High Street, and Quay Street that stretch from Eyre Square to the Galway Museum. The streets are lined with both traditional and modern shops, restaurants, and pubs. Satisfy your desire for all things Irish with a bowl of Irish stew from the modern Busker Brownes on Cross Street.
Express yourself with a purchase of a Claddagh ring of your choice. This traditional Irish ring is worn most often as a wedding ring or as a token of love. The design originated just outside Galway, and there’s no better place to buy one than on the main shopping street of this cultural city. Wear one and show how much you love yourself.
Spend your evenings in the traditional Irish pubs of the city. Taffes Pub and Tig Coili’s on Shop Street have nightly traditional music sessions. The longer you wait to arrive, the more likely you are to have to elbow your way through a hoard of people spilling out the front doors. Arrive early in the evening to mix with locals and tourists alike, and you’re sure to make quick friends with the charming and amiable Irish. Grab a pint of Guinness or Bulmer’s Original Irish Cider and exorcise yourself as you sing along to the popular tradition and contemporary Irish tunes.
Spend a day in exile by taking the ferry to the Aran Islands. These islands are a community of people in an area of Ireland Irish is still the first language. The easiest way to see the island is to rent a bicycle and there are two locations to rent from as soon as you depart the ferry. If you haven’t brought a lunch, you can get a sandwich made for you at the deli and then head out to see the sites and ruins of the main island. If biking doesn’t appeal to you, there are several carriage, minibus, and taxi tours available. You’ll be able to explore and see the ruins and sights of the island with a local guide.
The islands are origin of the tradition Aran sweater, and you can support the local economy by buying one from the main store close to the port. Some of the sweaters are hand knit and all of them offer the warmth and tradition of the Aran sweater. Some of the sweater stitches have traditional meanings allowing you to pick one with special significance to you. Smaller and more affordable souvenir options include mittens and hats. Although similar sweaters are offered in the shops of Galway, the most authentic ones are available on the island.
Exhale with a day trip from Galway to the Cliffs of Moher (http://www.cliffsofmoher.ie/). Take an organized bus tour from Galway, or rent a car and drive there yourself. These 700 ft cliffs stretch for nearly 5 miles along the Atlantic Ocean and have recently been nominated to be one of the modern Seven Wonders of the World. Explore the paths along the cliffs edge alone or take a free guided tour. Either way you’ll be able to exhale atop one of the most breathtaking sights in the world.
Rachel Selkirk is a teacher and freelance writer who discovered her love of travelling after a life-changing backpack trip through Europe