Dan and I spent a few days between Christmas and New Year’s in Galway, Ireland. This was our third trip to Galway, and we had a lovely time, despite it being winter. This article shares information on what we did and some tips for visiting Galway between Christmas and New Year’s Day.
WHAT WE DID IN GALWAY BETWEEN CHRISTMAS AND NEW YEAR’S 2023!
Galway is decorated beautifully for Christmas and Christmas decorations, with the exception of the small Christmas market on Eyre Square, stay up through New Year’s, possibly longer. As such, this is a great time to just stroll around Galway, take in the decorations, and simply enjoy the town. And that is just what we did. We didn’t have too much planned for our three days in Galway, but we ended up doing some shopping, some pubbing, some sightseeing and a day trip to the Cliffs of Moher.
As mentioned, our one planned activity in Galway was a day trip to the Cliffs of Moher. I am going to write about this separately, but the Cliffs of Moher are a couple hours via bus from Galway. While the weather predicted rain, we got lucky and had a nice afternoon at the Cliffs of Moher with lots of wind but no rain and some sun (which is never guaranteed!). Take away, don’t listen to what anyone says about rain in Ireland. No one knows, and it can change in a moment. Take the tour!
WHERE WE ATE IN GALWAY DURING THE HOLIDAYS
We’ve always had excellent food in Galway, and Galway has some of the best restaurants in Ireland in my opinion. This time was no different.
First, we had an absolutely amazing dinner at a wine bar and tapas restaurant called Ean. I booked Ean as a third option after several restaurants were closed during the week we visited due to the holidays. Ean was outstanding and I wrote about it here. Do not miss Ean if you are in Galway. Ean is opened for breakfast and lunch if you cannot make dinner.
Another restaurant that we lunched at is Galway’s famous Dough Bros. The Dough Bros. is a wood-fire pizza restaurant that Dan and I first visited in 2017 (read about it here). The pizza is fantastic and its won numerous awards. While the pizza was as good as I remember, the really diamond was the Calabrian red pepper ranch for dipping. It was so good!
Another dinner evening was spent at McSwiggan’s, which I choose due to its location and that it had mussels on the menu (Betty’s favorite). McSwiggan’s is a large restaurant with a solid dinner menu. They also accept reservations online. Betty did, indeed, get an entire plate of mussels. I would return, especially with a large group. Unlike some other places in Galway, McSwiggan’s has space for big groups.
Finally, a surprise dinner that we had at our hotel, The Hyde. The Hyde has a swanky downstairs bar and restaurant that seems to be very popular with locals. Due to the restaurant that we had planned to visit closing early, we went to the Hyde, and our food was quite good. I had the butter chicken with naan. The Butter Chicken was tasty, but the naan was hard as a rock, LOL. The cocktails at the Hyde were great and not overly expensive.
WHERE WE DRANK IN GALWAY BETWEEN CHRISTMAS & NYE
We found most pubs to be open in Galway, and decorated fabulously for Christmas. There are many, many pubs in Galway, so this cannot be said to be an exhaustive list. However, these are some places that we enjoyed during the holidays 2022.
First, Garavan’s Pub for Irish Coffee. Garavan’s is a famous pub on Williams Street that is well known for its Irish Coffee – which are great. Just pop in and find an open seat. Spoiler alert, this may mean that you are sitting with strangers. Garavan’s was quite crowded on the 28th during the day.
Another favorite, which is decorated absolutely lovely for Christmas, is O’Connell’s Bar. This is the bar from the cover picture. O’Connell’s is a gorgeous pub with a spacious (and heated) beer garden in the back, making lots of room for patrons. There is even an outpost of The Dough Bros. (yep, the pizza place from above) in the garden. O’Connell’s was also famous featured in Ed Sheeran’s music video Galway Girl. Prepare for crowds; the outdoor area was even packed in winter. That being said, the outdoor area is heated.
We also hit up Taaffe’s, which has live Irish music twice a day, including just after Christmas. While very crowded despite the holidays, the bar is fairly large and we managed to find seats in the back. Sit close to the front to hear the music better.
WHERE WE STAYED IN GALWAY – THE HYDE HOTEL
We stayed at the Hyde Hotel, just off of Eyre Square. We choose this hotel based on its website and the lovely decorated rooms. The location and the staff at the Hyde were great. We could walk everywhere and the staff was helpful. And, the bar and restaurant on site was super cute and popular with locals. However, the rooms were a different story. While they were “fine,” they were certainly not luxurious and could use a 2023 update. In other words, the rooms did not match the attached bar/restaurant or the photographs online. We didn’t mind too much, as we did not stay in our room that long. Our room came with free breakfast and it was very good.
TIPS FOR VISITING GALWAY BETWEEN CHRISTMAS AND NEW YEAR’S
- Galway is busy during this week, with lots of Irish coming into town, as well as foreigners. Expect crowds.
- Some nice restaurants and tours are closed for the last two weeks of the year. That being said, this should not deter you from visiting; plenty are open.
- Following up on Number 2, many restaurants and pubs are open between Christmas and New Year’s and you will not have trouble finding a place to eat or drink. I checked social media for the latest on holiday opening hours, but most pubs and tourist catering restaurants reopened from Christmas on the 27th, with some even reopening on the evening of the 26th.
- Many stores, especially the big ones like Brown Thomas, have sales this week. You can find good deals, but know that many people are also hunting for these deals.
- The Galway Christmas Market closes before Christmas and is completely taken down by the 27th (if not earlier).
- The weather can go anyway – it was around 50 F during our visit and it only rained in the evenings. In any case, I would bring layers and clothes that you can wear in the rain. And, as I mentioned above, don’t listen to anyone’s thoughts on the weather!
- I suggest confirming times/opening hours for everything due to the holidays, especially any “must visit” spots.
- Some hotels offer packages during this time (mid-week getaway, etc.) – look directly on hotel websites for deals.
- I was iffy as to whether tours out of Galway, such as to the Cliffs of Moher, would run in light of the winter and the holidays, but they certainly did. Ours was totally full!
- We noticed that several places stopped serving food on the early side (like 8:30 PM). Confirm dinner hours if you are not making a reservation.
STEAL OUR TRIP
Hyde Hotel: Forster St, Galway, H91 PY7E, Ireland. Book directly with the hotel for the best prices (we got something like 15% off the rack rate for booking super early).
Galway Tour Company: This is the company we used for our Cliffs of Moher tour. It was a big bus tour, and it was totally full. We did the Cliffs of Moher and The Burren tour.
Ean: Druid Ln, Galway, H91 WD26, Ireland. Closed Monday – Tuesday. Open Wednesday – Sunday 9:00 AM – 3:00 PM and 5:30 PM – 11:30 PM. Reservations recommended.
The Dough Bros.: Cathedral Buildings, 1 Middle St, Galway, Ireland. Open daily at 12 until (9:30 or 10:00 PM). At the time of writing, no reservations. Expect to wait. There is also a food truck inside O’Connell’s Pub’s beer garden. I believe this location is only open in the evening.
McSwiggan’s Steak + Seafood Restaurant: 3 Eyre St, Galway, Ireland. Open daily 12:00 – 10:00 PM. Reservations can be made online.
Garavan’s Pub: 46 William St, Galway, H91 RX54, Ireland. Open daily.
O’Connell’s Bar: 8 Eyre Square, Galway. Open daily.
Taaffe’s Bar: 19 Shop St, Galway, Ireland. Open daily.