5 festival tips for the ultimate summer festival in Galway

20 April 2016

Make the most of your summer festival experience with these top festival tips.

Galway is always festival ready, whether it’s welcoming literary luminaries in April or shucking oysters in September. But come July, it’s the ultimate summer festival: the Galway International Arts Festival. Thousands of people descend on the city for a whirlwind two weeks of theatre, music, comedy, street performers and a few surprises. Here are five festival tips to ensure you have the best festival experience in Galway:

1. Book your accommodation early

In summer, accommodation fills up quickly in the city, so book early. Options range from hotels, B&Bs, guest houses, hostels and self-catering stays. B&Bs are perfect if you’re on a modest budget and you plan to stop off in Galway for just a couple of nights to catch a show. B&B owners are super friendly and knowledgeable – and happy to share plenty of helpful nuggets too. Galway hotels and self-catering options range from 5 star luxury to reliable budget, while our hostels are laid back, comfortable and great value for money.

2. Plan on how you’re getting here

If you’re travelling to Ireland from Great Britain and Europe, Galway is very accessible from the three main airports: Shannon Airport, Ireland West Airport Knock and Dublin Airport. If you’re flying from the US or Canada, you can fly straight into Shannon and Dublin Airport. If you’d like to travel by water, take the ferry from Great Britain to Dublin and Belfast, or from Europe to Dublin, Wexford and Cork. Getting to Galway by bus or rail is easy too – there are regular return services from Dublin. And by car, it's approximately 2.5 hours from Dublin to Galway city. Get all the info on how to get here.

3. See all the city hotspots

Galway’s history is around every cobblestoned corner. Head to the City Museum and get to grips with the city’s medieval history before taking in some sights, such as Lynch’s Castle (one of the oldest buildings in Ireland) and the Collegiate Church of St Nicholas (dating from the 1300s). Stroll through Kirwan’s Lane to admire the 16th and 17th century architecture and soak in the atmosphere – this is a hotspot for buskers and street performers. Wander the famous Spanish Arch, a remainder of the city’s 16th century bastion, or simply pop into a pub for a chat with a friendly local – and maybe an impromptu music session.

4. Explore the Wild Atlantic Way

Once you’ve travelled every nook and cranny of the city, head beyond the limits and explore some of what the Wild Atlantic Way has to offer. Don’t miss the beautiful Killary Harbour fjord, one of only three in Ireland, which forms a natural border between Galway and County Mayo. Hop on a bicycle (they’re super easy to rent) and pedal Connemara’s famous bog road. Shaped by Neolithic and Bronze Age farmers millennia ago, this mysterious landscape is both tranquil and beautiful. The Aran Islands are another must-do. Inis Mór, Inis Meáin and Inis Oírr are packed with ancient history and culture – think stone forts and shipwrecks.

5. Immerse yourself in the culture

Galway is recognised internationally as a ‘city of equals’, and if you keep an ear out, you’ll hear a chatter of different languages that reflect the diversity of cultures here. Although the city is seen as a buzzing mini metropolis, it’s also deeply traditional. Galway has the largest Irish language speaking population in Ireland and the city’s roots are found in many of its shops, from the original Claddagh Ring to chunky Aran jumpers. And, of course, there’s the traditional Irish music pouring out of nearly every pub. The best way to experience it all is to get stuck in.