Maybe it’s all that Atlantic air, but even though every major Irish city tends to have an all-embracing choice of watering holes, Galway pubs seem particularly special. Ranging from the traditional tavern right through to the newly opened gastropub, this is Culture Trip’s selection of the city’s top places to get a drink.
The traditional Irish music sessions that take place in Mainguard Street’s Tig Coili are so legendary that they have even been known to attract some of the country’s biggest musical stars – such as Paul Brady and Sharon Shannon – to join in the fun. Indeed, this lively and welcoming pub is so loved by locals and tourists alike that it’s nearly always busy, with revelling crowds spilling out onto the street during the summer months. Still, a lack of elbow room is a small price to pay for the authentic local culture you’ll soak up here.
Huey Morgan at O'Connell's | Courtesy of O'Connell's Bar
O’Connell’s is well located on Eyre Square, a public park that hosts the annual Galway Continental Christmas Market and acts as a meeting point and socialising spot during the summer. Formerly a grocery and bar, O’Connell’s wears its status as a historic local landmark proudly, with its original features being lovingly maintained. But in spite of its reverence for history, this pub hasn’t been afraid to keep up with the times. The updated exterior features an appealing heated beer garden housing two outdoor bars and a DJ box, which has hosted live events by DJs such as Fun Lovin’ Criminals’ Huey Morgan.
Billed as Galway’s newest gastropub, John Keogh’s – The Lock Keeper only opened during the summer of 2016, but at the time of writing, it had already climbed the TripAdvisor rankings to a place as the city’s fifth-best restaurant. Though it’s one of the city’s youngest establishments, this venue is kitted out with antiques and pieces reclaimed from scrap yards – mirrors on the walls date back to 1910 – which give it a cosy, old-time feel. Craft beers, whiskeys and gins can be sampled here, and locally sourced food is a major part of the appeal, with top-notch food served daily from 5 until 9pm.
One of the best live music venues in the country, the Róisín Dubh and its decade-old Strange Brew club nights helped launch some of Ireland’s biggest alternative music acts today, including bands like And So I Watch You From Afar and Two Door Cinema Club. Meaning ‘little black rose’, Róisín Dubh also has a special place in its heart for comedy, having seen early shows by people like Jack Whitehall and Sarah Millican, as well as bringing mega-stars like Tommy Tiernan and Dylan Moran to the city through its curation of the annual Comedy Carnival Galway. If you like keeping up to date with up-and-coming music and comedy acts, this is the place to look.
A veritable Galway institution, Tigh Neachtain has been in operation since 1894. This bar is one of the region’s favourites for many reasons, which include its snug charm, the 130-strong whiskey menu and the fact it is situated in the former townhouse of Richard Martin – the 19th-century Irish animal rights campaigner who King George IV famously nicknamed ‘Humanity Dick’. Tigh Neachtain rivals Tig Coili in the traditional Irish music stakes – live music takes place every week, and there is even an album featuring famous artists like Sharon Shannon playing at the pub, entitled Ceol Tigh Neachtain: Music from Galway.
Found in the trendy area known as Galway’s West End, Bierhaus is where youthful owners Jack Considine and Conor Lynam keep the city’s largest beer selection – with more than 60 options available. Opened in 2005 to satisfy Galwegians’ cravings for craft and speciality beers, this modern haunt also serves a crowd-pleasing cocktail menu, has its own restaurant and hosts the Entrepans sandwich stall, whose pork banh-mi has been described as the best sandwich in Galway.
The Quays may look like your quintessential traditional Irish pub from the outside, but its interior is surprisingly cosmopolitan. Parts of the décor were originally part of a medieval church in France, including the pews and a sizeable church organ – which acts as a backdrop for musical acts performing daily in the venue upstairs. Located in the city’s bustling Latin Quarter, the almost 400-year-old Quays is a sociable setting that deservedly won Ireland’s City Bar of the Year in 2016.