Where to Stay in Galway First Time: 9 Best Areas

The best areas to stay in Galway, Ireland are the neighborhoods of Galway City Centre, Salthill, Oranmore , The Claddagh, Kinvara, The Docks. In this Galway neighborhood guide, I will help you to find where to stay in Galway for first time tourists and best things to do in each area.

Galway is a city in the province of Connacht, Galway County, in West Ireland. It marks the halfway point on the Wild Atlantic Way which is one of the world’s most scenic drives. With a rich historic atmosphere, scenic views, and quaint charm, it is no wonder that this tiny Irish city has been inspiring artists and musicians for centuries. Galway offers a perfect glimpse of traditional Ireland, bursting with cozy pubs, local shops, and wonderful restaurants. 

The city of Galway is fairly compact, so don’t stress too much about which specific area you stay in if you are planning to book accommodation in the city itself. All the main areas are within easy walking distance of one another. The Galway City Centre is the best place to stay in Galway but there are also the main towns of Salthill, Clifden, Oranmore, and many more smaller villages.

If you do choose to stay further out, the region is serviced by a comprehensive bus network. Even if you choose to stay in one of the surrounding villages, you will still be able to travel around the area easily. One important point to remember is that Galway is in the Republic of Ireland, meaning the local currency is the euro, not pounds like in Northern Ireland. If you plan to bring cash, make sure you double-check you are getting the right stuff.

Where to Stay in Galway: 9 Best Areas to Stay in Galway

1. Galway City Centre, where to stay in Galway for first-time tourists

Galway city centre is the lively heart of the region’s eponymous town. If you want a faster-paced vacation with plenty to see and keep you occupied, the city centre has plenty to fill your time. Galway City Centre is the favourite places to stay for first-time tourists who want great nightlife, shopping, convenient public transportation, and soak in a wonderful Irish atmosphere.

Like any city centre, there are tons of restaurants and cafes to choose from when mealtimes roll around. If you feel like snacking in between, head to one of the many bakeries, dessert shops, or street food stalls dotted around the area. 

Of course, no Irish city would be complete without a healthy speckling of pubs and bars, so you will have plenty of options to keep you entertained in the evenings. The pubs are also a fantastic place to meet the locals and chat with some interesting characters. 

Alternatively, if you prefer heading to nightclubs for your evening entertainment, then the city centre is where you will find most of Galway’s. Most of them are located around the Latin Quarter and Eyre Square.

Eyre Square, also known as John F Kennedy Park, is the center of Galway’s social calendar. A popular meeting place in all seasons, the leafy park is an especially wonderful place to relax in the warmer months. In the winter, the square hosts Galway’s Christmas market. Meanwhile, various other installations and displays pop up here throughout the year. 

The copper sails of Eyre Square’s Quincentennial Fountain are one of Galway’s most iconic landmarks. The fountain was installed to commemorate the 500th anniversary of Galway being granted city status. The sails represent the city’s maritime heritage.

Just down the road from Eyre Square, towards the Latin Quarter, is the Lynch Memorial Window. The memorial is comprised of a replica of a wall from the house of 15th-century Mayor James Lynch. The mayor was forced to hang his own son after he was found guilty of murder. Supposedly, the window at the top of the memorial is the very same window from which the hanging took place all those centuries ago.

For all the history in Galway, one of the most prominent and impressive structures in the city is actually not very old at all. Galway Cathedral, a magnificent, grey brick building that looms over the surrounding area, only opened in 1965.

Just across the Salmon Weir Bridge, on the site of the old city prison, Galway Cathedral casts a striking figure against the Galway skyline. With its sweeping dome, soaring twin towers, and dazzling stained glass, the cathedral is something to behold from outside. The interior is lovely too. The exposed grey brick lends the vaulted hall a chic, elegant appearance, reflecting a more modern twist on the usual busy opulence of older cathedrals.

Another important place of worship at the heart of Galway’s life is the 14th-century Saint Nicholas’ Collegiate Church, the largest medieval parish church in Ireland. Home to many interesting monuments and memorials like Galway’s Jane Eyre, James Kearney,  and Adam Bures.

You can also take a stroll along Lough Atalia route to see the beautiful Lough Atalia lake which is a is a big estuarine lagoon east side of Galway City.

If you like shopping, head to the main shopping areas in William Street and Shop Street where you can find the Eyre Square Shopping Centre. Eyre Square Shopping Centre is liveliest place in the city with more than 70 local and national shops.

For food and Irish beer, walk down to Quay Street where you find some of the best restaurants and pubs in the city.

The city centre is well-connected public transportation, home to Galway Train Station and Galway Coach Station which offers easy access to other parts of the city and to explore the Cliffs of Moher, Kinsale, and Cork.

There is a huge range of accommodation options in Galway city centre on a broad spectrum of price points. You can find some of the most expensive hotels in the city here but also some of the most affordable too. Surprisingly, the city centre is ideal to stay in Galway on a budget with some charming, low-cost hostels just around the corner from fancier, luxury hotels. 

Stay In Galway City Centre If you want to have most of Galway’s top attractions right on your doorstep; you are visiting Galway for the first time; you are planning a shorter trip to the city; you want a good selection of budget hotels and hostels; Nightclubs are your preferred form of evening entertainment;

Best places to stay in Galway City Centre:

Best luxury hotel: The Galmont Hotel & Spa This 4-star hotel is within easy walking distance from Eyre Square. it has an award-winning restaurant, and offers full Irish breakfast. it also has gym, a sauna, a swimming pool, and free wifi.

Best mid-range hotel: The Hardiman (formerly Hotel Meyrick) Located in the best rated area in Galway, this hotel is 12 minutes walk from the beach, 1-minute walk from both the train station and bus station.

Best budget hotel: The Eyre Square Townhouse This guesthouse offer comfortable rooms with mordern amenities. it is a stone’s throw from the train and coach stations. You can enjoy delicious meal and drink at award-winning Revive Cafe and Bistro.

You can also consider staying in the luxury hotel of Glenlo Abbey Hotel which is just 3km from city centre. This is a 5-star accommodation offers free parking, beautiful scenery of Lough Corrib and West Ireland, and a lake-side golf course. You can enjoy Continental, Full Irish Breakfast or English breakfast.

FIND BEST HOTELS IN GALWAY CITY CENTER

See more: Where to Stay in Dublin

2. Salthill, where to stay in Galway for families

Salthill is a vibrant seaside resort town only a short bus ride from west of Galway City. In fact, they are so close together that it is easy to mistake Salthill as being just another neighborhood of the larger town. 

With its long stretch of white-sand beaches, both sandy and pebbly, Salthill is a popular destination for summer vacationers. You won’t have to choose between a city break or a relaxing vacation and can enjoy the best of both. Travelers both Irish and international flock to the area to soak up the rare Irish sun. 

Families with children would particularly benefit from staying here. With plenty of family-friendly activities and attractions nearby, space for kids to spread out in the fresh air, and the sights of the city just a short journey away, Salthill has an abundance of conveniences. 

When you’re not lazing on the beach, you can instead take a pleasant walk along the Salthill Promenade. In addition to offering wonderful views across Galway Bay, Salthill Prom ends at Blackrock Point, where you can partake in a curious local tradition.

When you arrive at the end of the walk, you may notice a plaque encouraging you to ‘kick the wall.’ It is unclear where the tradition stems from exactly, but locals and visitors alike have been kicking the wall for good luck for years. 

There is now also a collection box installed by the wall, where you can donate a coin to charity in return for your good luck kick. Blackrock point is also home to Blackrock Tower, a popular recreation spot. 

Blackrock Tower consists of a rocky promenade extending out into the sea, which ends at a public diving platforms. You can spot brave souls jumping from the board into the frigid water all year round, but it is a particularly popular tradition in the warmer, summer months. 

One of the main tourist attractions in Salthill is the Galway Atlantaquaria, the National Aquarium of Ireland. Primarily focused on species native to Ireland, the aquarium houses numerous species and various educational exhibits. 

The aquarium has a particular focus on conservation and biodiversity, with some fascinating displays. Galway Atlantaquaria is the perfect location for a family day out, with something to entertain visitors of all ages. 

Salthill is also a great place for golf enthusiasts. It’s home to Galway Golf Club, one of the finest courses in the country.

Being a popular resort town, there are plenty of options for accommodation, particularly along the seafront. Overlooking the water, you have your pick of various hotels and self-catering apartments, whilst further inland you can find an array of guesthouses and bed & breakfasts. 

Salthill is not the most affordable area to stay, particularly in the peak summer months. However, there are a few cheaper options, especially further back from the seafront. 

Stay In Salthill If you are planning a family vacation; you are planning a relaxing, seaside break; you are more interested in beaches and seafront walks than inner-city sightseeing; 

Best places to stay in Salthill:

FIND BEST HOTELS IN SALTHILL

3. Oranmore, charming waterside village east of Galway city centre

Oranmore is a charming small waterside village, just a couple of miles east along the Galway Bay from Galway town. With a population of under five-thousand people, Oranmore is the definition of a small neighborhood, with all the charm that comes with it. Oranmore is a great base to explore Burren, Connemara, the Aran Islands, Galway City, and the Corrib and Lough Mask water systems.

Oranmore dates back to medieval times and retains many original buildings from the period. It is a stunning historic village and the perfect place to stay if you want to be surrounded by charming stone houses and thatched cottages, particularly along Main Street.

Just a short drive from the city, Oranmore offers a quaint, laid-back base from which to explore the larger town. If you won’t have a car during your stay, you can just hop on a bus instead and be in the city center in half an hour. 

Of course, there is plenty to do in and around the village itself. Oranmore is brimming with fantastic restaurants boasting an impressive array of cuisines for such a small area. There are loads of cozy pubs to visit too, where you can mingle with the locals.

Oranmore is surrounded by beautiful countryside on three sides and Galway Bay on the fourth. You will have plenty of opportunities to go rambling in the fresh air and take in the magnificent scenery. There is plenty more to discover outside of the town for those who choose to go exploring.

The star attraction of Oranmore is Oranmore Castle. The square tower sits right by the water, overlooking Galway Bay. Records are hazy, but it is believed to have been built around the 14th century.

Despite the fact that the castle is a private residence, it is also often open for public viewings and tours, particularly through the summer. Even when it is closed, it is still worth visiting to appreciate its impressive façade and the striking figure it cuts against the skyline. 

Of course, there are plenty more castles to be discovered if you have the time to venture outside of Oranmore. 

Renville Castle and Ardfry Castle are both just a couple of miles outside of the village. If you love walks through the country, wandering through the fields or along the seafront to one or both of them would make a lovely afternoon. 

Despite being well outside of the city, rates for accommodation options in Oranmore are not terribly dissimilar to what you can find in Galway city center. Whilst it is relatively affordable, it’s not ideal if you were planning to sacrifice a central location for budget prices. 

Stay In Oranmore If you want local experience small-town Ireland whilst keeping reasonably close to Galway city; you want plenty of historic sites and buildings within easy reach; you don’t mind not being right in Galway city;

Best places to stay in Oranmore:

FIND BEST HOTELS IN ORANMORE

4. Kinvara, lovely seaport village across the bay from Galway 

The charming little seaside village of Kinvara is connected to Galway Centre by bus, about twenty miles south around the bay from Galway city. Located along the N67 road, which winds along the seafront from Galway city all the way south to county Kerry, Kinvara is a perfect stop for any coastal road trip. 

Fewer than two thousand people call Kinvara home. So, if you are looking for a local, small-town atmosphere, this is a perfect option. The busiest part of the town is around the port, where you can watch the fishing boats drifting about on the water. 

Every Friday, the locals gather at the weekly farmer’s market along the main road. It is the perfect opportunity to pick up local crafts and trinkets as souvenirs. There is also plenty of fresh produce to sample, as well as local dishes and home-baked goods to try when you get peckish. 

Despite being such a tiny little town, there are plenty of restaurants for you to choose from. Whether you are craving fresh seafood overlooking the port, traditional Irish fare in a cozy pub, or chic Italian dishes, you won’t risk going hungry in Kinvara.

After dinner, you will have numerous pubs and bars such as Green’s Bar to retreat to for the evening, particularly along the main road. In the summer, it is nice to sit outside at one of the waterside bars and restaurants and appreciate the scenic views and sea breeze.

Kinvara is surrounded by gorgeous countryside. Anyone who loves getting out in the fresh air for a walk through endless fields will fall in love with Kinvara. Areas like this make it easy to see why Ireland boasts the nickname of The Emerald Isle. 

Along with Kinvara Harbour, Dunguaire Castle is one of the must-see attractions in Kinvara. The 16th-century Dungaire Castle castle sits right on the bay, overlooking the water. The castle has featured in various films, books, and legends over the years. In addition to tours, visitors can also indulge in the frequent banquets which are held within the castle halls. 

Being such a small village, there is not a huge range to choose from when it comes to accommodation. You will mostly be looking at family-run guesthouses and bed & breakfasts, in keeping with the local, cozy vibe. You can find some of the best guest houses in all of West Ireland.

Stay In Kinvara If Staying close to Galway city is not a high priority; You are planning a road trip along the west coast of Ireland; You want somewhere with a cozy, small-town vibe; You love walking in the countryside;

Best places to stay in Kinvara:

FIND BEST HOTELS IN KINVARA

5. The Claddagh, where to stay in Galway for couples

The Claddagh is a hip neighborhood just across the River Corrib from the city centre. The Claddagh also functions as a convenient bridge between the city centre and Salthill. If you just can’t decide if you want a city break or a relaxing beach vacation, staying in The Claddagh is a perfect compromise. 

Primarily a residential neighborhood, it is just removed enough from the bustling center to maintain a more laid-back atmosphere. That said, it still offers convenient connections to the sights and attractions of the main town. 

With the quieter atmosphere, open parks, and easy access to Galway’s main attractions, this is also a great place for families with children. Kids have space to spread out and you don’t have to worry about losing them in a crowd.

Whilst it has been consumed into the larger city, The Claddagh maintains its identity as the oldest fishing town in Ireland. The seafront is lined with open parks such as South Park and Celia Griffin Memorial Park, where you can relax and admire the beautiful ocean views. 

It is also the origin of the tradition of the Claddagh ring. The Claddagh ring is known as a symbol of love and friendship around the world. It was created in Claddagh in the  17th-century, a link that makes Claddagh a popular destination for couples on romantic breaks to this day.

Being primarily residential, there are fewer bars and restaurants in Claddagh. What there is can mostly be found in the north of the area, around the Wolfe Tone Bridge. That’s not too much of an issue though. 

There are plenty of restaurants just a short walk away, in the neighboring areas. You can enjoy a lively evening out and then retreat to the peace and tranquillity of this quieter community.

The accommodation options available in the area is in keeping with the local, serene vibe. Rather than big hotels, you can stay at cozy, family-run guesthouses and bed & breakfasts. The prices are generally pretty affordable too.

Stay In The Claddagh If you are a couple who planning a romantic break;  you want to stay in a trendy area close to the city center; you want a convenient center point between the city and the beach resort of Salthill; you are traveling with children;

Best places to stay in Galway in Claddagh:

FIND BEST HOTELS IN CLADDAGH

6. The Docks, where to stay in Galway with stunning waterfront views

If taking in amazing views over the water of Galway Bay is your priority, then the Docks area should be top of your list of areas to consider. Located right where the River Corrib releases into the bay, the Docks offer waterfront views in almost all directions. 

The Docks also boast the benefits of being one of the most central areas of Galway. You will be within walking distance of the city center attractions, as well as even more of its own, closer to the water. 

The bustling Port of Galway lets you hop on a boat tour along the River Corrib, perfect on a sunny day. Alternatively, charter a boat of your own and head out onto the bay. If you prefer to take in the view from dry land, head to one of the bars and restaurants overlooking the marina for lunch or dinner.

The famous Long Walk is a pleasant place to walk along Lough Corrib, with its houses, boats, and small harbor. It offers stunning ocean views and the Claddagh.

The Long Walk start from the Galway City Museum. It is a great place to visit if you want to learn about the area’s development and people both past and present. 

The Galway City Museum exhibits artifacts and relics from throughout the city’s history and into the modern-day. It was formerly housed within the Spanish Arch before being moved to its current, dedicated location. 

The Spanish Arch is a stone archway that stands as one of the only remaining pieces of the historic Galway city wall. Originally known as ‘Ceann a Bhalla,’ it was dubbed the Spanish Arch many years after its installation. 

It is not known for certain how it garnered its nickname, but it is likely due to the arch being the primary entryway into the city for Spanish Merchants. The arch is also just down the road from Galway’s Latin Quarter. 

The Latin Quarter is a hub of restaurants and bars, with a distinctive Mediterranean vibe that most would not expect to find at the heart of an Irish town. 

Here you can enjoy delicious food from tapas bars, Italian restaurants, and fresh seafood restaurants. It is especially lovely in the summer when you can sit outside at the streetside dining terraces and really immerse yourself in the Mediterranean atmosphere.

Anyone with a particular interest in the history of the city will want to pay a visit to the Hall Of The Red Earl. The remains of one of the oldest buildings in Galway, dating back to the city’s founding in the 13th-century, the stone foundations of the hall were excavated in the late ‘90s.

The site is now preserved under glass, with visitors able to observe it from a viewing platform. Various unearthed relics and replicas of similar artifacts are displayed around the little museum, offering a chance to learn about life in Mediaeval Galway.

There are some lovely, high-quality, and boutique hotels in the Docks area. There are fewer affordable options here than in the city center, but what is available offers a bit more of a luxury, exclusive feel.

Stay In The Docks If Staying in a hotel with waterfront views is a priority; You want to stay in a super central area, surrounded by attractions; You are planning more of an indulgent, luxury vacation.

Best places in Galway near the docks:

FIND BEST HOTELS IN THE DOCKS

7. National University of Ireland Galway (NUIG) Area, good area for young travelers

Nestled in a curve of the River Corrib, the area around the National University of Ireland Galway is a popular destination for younger travelers. Close to the city center, this district provides a much quieter tone in a super convenient location. 

With numerous public parks and green spaces, as well as a long stretch of river, this is one of the more scenic neighborhoods in the city center. There is plenty of space for you to spread out and relax, knowing you are always just a short walk away from some fascinating attractions. 

Just across the river, you can see Terryland Castle. The 17th-century castle now lies mostly in ruin, but it offers an interesting view over the water and a curious place to explore up close. 

The university itself is one of the principal attractions of the city. The beautiful cloisters and grand stone façade of the Quadrangle building are some of the most well-known images in Galway. The whole campus is open to be explored by the public, so you should definitely take the opportunity to swing by.

As you often find with university districts, there are some interesting museums to be explored around the area. 

The James Mitchell Geology Museum is just across the road from the Quadrangle. The museum houses a collection of fossils and rare stones that is definitely worth paying some attention to. 

Also, in keeping with the area’s academic tone, the Cúirt Literary Trail begins at the university’s Quadrangle. 

The trail leads south towards the river, before continuing along the seafront. Along the route, you will find plaques inscribed with snippets from various literary works by Galwegian writers. 

Although the neighborhood is particularly popular with younger travelers, it is not one of the cheapest areas in the city to stay. The university area is firmly in the mid-range category, with some lovely, stylish accommodation. But it’s not the place to look for super budget options. 

Stay In The National University of Ireland Galway (NUIG) Area If you want a quieter neighborhood that is still close to the city center; you want to stay in a more scenic district;

Best places to stay in Galway in NUIG area:

FIND BEST HOTELS IN NUIG AREA

8. Newcastle, where to stay in Galway for local vibe

Towards the northern outskirts of the city is the residential suburb of Newcastle. About a mile outside of the city center, Newcastle is much quieter, more laid back, and far less touristy. You can still comfortably walk, or catch a bus, into the city if and when you want to, and retreat back to your calm oasis once you’re done sightseeing. 

Being a more residential area may mean that there are fewer options to choose from as far as accommodation, but what is available is typically cheaper than more touristy areas. This doesn’t just apply to accommodation either. The bars, pubs, and restaurants in the area also lack the tourism tax.

Anyone who chooses to stay in Newcastle will also benefit from being so much closer to the stunning countryside of the landscape surrounding Galway. Just follow the River Corrib north and through lush green fields towards sparkling Lough Corrib.

Lough Corrib is the largest lake in the whole Republic of Ireland. Now a protected area, the landscape around the lake boasts stunning hiking routes. If you enjoy getting out in the fresh air and exploring the natural world, then Newcastle is perfect for you. 

If you are not quite feeling up to a full-on hike, then you can just enjoy a leisurely walk along the river to Menlo Castle instead. You will need to cross the river by Terryland Castle and then head north to encounter the 16th-century castle, now ruined and being consumed by ivy. 

Completely open to the public, you are free to explore the skeleton of the old castle. Right on the riverbank, it also makes a lovely location to enjoy a picnic on warmer days. 

Almost directly across the river from Menlo Castle is the Martin Tea-House Folly. Built in the 19th century for the landowners to enjoy views of the river, the tea-house itself is now a cute point of interest for ramblers walking along the south bank of the river. 

Stay In Newcastle If You want a more laid back, residential neighborhood; Being right in the city center is not a priority; You want easy access to the countryside surrounding Galway city; You enjoy spending time out in the fresh air;

Best places to stay in Galway in Newcastle:

FIND BEST HOTELS IN NEWCASTLE

9. Clifden, popular base for exploring Connemara

Located in the heart of the beautiful Connemara region on the foot of Twelve Pins Mountain, Clifden is a lively coastal town in the west of County Galway. About fifty miles from Galway city, Clifden isn’t the top suggestion for first-time visitors to the area, but it does make a wonderful stop on a coastal road trip. 

Whilst it’s a very small village, there is plenty packed into it. There are tons of small shops, museums, and galleries to browse, excellent local restaurants for you to try, and even a fair few sights to see. You will also close to Connemara National Park and Dog’s Bay Beach.

In the evenings, you can hole up in one of the many pubs and bars for some vibrant Irish entertainment. If you prefer a quieter evening, head to one of the cozy pubs. Alternatively, if you prefer a livelier night out, there are several live music venues and bars in the area. 

I particularly recommend spending an evening at Lowry’s Music & Whiskey Bar. There are few things more typically Irish than whiskey, so you can soak up the traditional atmosphere by trying some local brews, whilst listening to some traditional music, in a cozy local Irish pub.

The most notable attraction in the area is Clifden Castle. The beautiful residential castle was built in 1818 as the home of John D’Arcy, the founder of Clifden, but is now falling into ruin. It still strikes a wonderful image against the surrounding countryside, with its numerous crenelated turrets standing amongst the crumbling stone walls. 

To get to Clifden Castle you will have to pass through the pretty castle gate, in what’s left of the old castle wall. The castle is about a mile west of Clifden town. It’s a pleasant walk along country roads, or just a few minutes if you drive. 

A walk along the coastline will reveal various other sites and monuments for you to discover. The John D’Arcy Monument can be found just off the route leading to Clifden Castle. Meanwhile, the Alcock and Brown Memorial is about a mile around the other side of the bay.

Located close to the western coast of Ireland, the sunsets you can enjoy from atop the hills here are particularly magnificent. They are more than worth the effort of trekking out along one of the many coastal trails. Of course, if you don’t fancy the hike, you can always just drive up for the view instead. 

Clifden is can be reached from Galway by regular bus services. Alternatively, follow the N59 directly from Galway to Clifden through Oughterard, Maam Cross, and Recess.

For all that it is a fairly small area and not the biggest tourist destination in the region, there are still plenty of options for accommodation to choose from. There is a good variety of holiday homes, bed and breakfast, and family-run guesthouses at a range of price points. 

Stay In Clifden If you are plotting stops on a road trip around Ireland; you want to stay in a rural area, far from big cities; you want to experience local small-town Irish life;

Best places to stay in Clifden:

FIND BEST HOTELS IN CLIFDEN

Whilst there are not as many world-famous tourist attractions here as you would expect from a larger city, there is still plenty for visitors to see and do. Galway makes an ideal location for a laid-back getaway or romantic break and is a must-visit stop on any Irish road trip. 

So, now that we have covered all the best areas to stay in Galway, you should be feeling much more confident in choosing a neighborhood in which to base your upcoming trip. Whether you are just planning a stop on a road trip or a more dedicated city break, I am certain you will have noted at least one neighborhood that suits you. 

Whether you prefer contemporary hotels or local bed and breakfasts, there are also accommodation options to fit all preferences. We also have plenty of recommendations for the best hotels, hostels, apartments, and guesthouses in and around Galway, so you don’t have to stress about that either.

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