How to spend 14 hours in Galway

From gastro stops to great museums and theatre, the European Capital of Culture 2020 is ripe for exploring — and is arguably Ireland’s most delicious city.

Saturday, March 21, 2020,
By Pól Ó Conghaile
Dish of oyster, cucumber and arrow grass at Aniar, a Michelin-starred restaurant in Galway.
Dish of oyster, cucumber and arrow grass at Aniar, a Michelin-starred restaurant in Galway.
Photograph by Aniar

8am — Snack and stroll  

Grab a warm cinnamon bun and locally roasted Red Eye Coffee from Marmalade Bakery on Middle Street, before walking along the River Corrib and the Long Walk promenade. Or do as Galwegians do and walk the Salthill Prom, kicking your foot against the wall at the end, as tradition dictates.

10am — A Dela-cious Brunch 

Dela is a colourful cafe that sources much of its produce from an organic farm near the city. From a Dela Fry, with sizzling Herterich’s sausages, and Kelly’s black pudding to buttermilk pancakes and veggie options, there’s plenty to choose from.

12pm — Tour the Latin Quarter

The beauty of Galway is its ability to squeeze big city buzz into small streets. Soak it up by strolling from the Spanish Arch up Quay Street towards Shop Street, stopping at Hazel Mountain Chocolate (bean-to-bar chocolate made in the Burren region of County Clare) and Charlie Byrne’s Bookshop along the way. If you’d prefer a guide, Brian Nolan’s Galway’s Horrible History tour leaves from Eyre Square at 10.30 and noon. galwaywalks.com 

2pm — A killer lunch at Kai 

Peckish? Plot a course for the city’s Westend, where New Zealand-born chef Jess Murphy is doing magical things with seasonal, Irish ingredients at Kai (the Maori word for ‘food’). Think Clare crab and Irish fine beans served with local leaves and a hen’s egg, or chickpea and goat’s curd filo pies. 

4pm — Galway City Museum 

Exhibits at this small museum range from a Galway hooker (a type of sailing boat) to prehistoric finds and a collection of local author Pádraic Ó Conaire’s books and belongings. There’s a super view of the River Corrib and Atlantic Ocean from the top of the building, too.

5pm — people-watch at Tigh Neachtain

The corner perches at this cosy pub, bang in the middle of the medieval quarter, are the best places in the city to watch the world go by. Sample a local Soulwater IPA or oatmilk stout while you’re at it.

7pm — Michelin Star Magic

Galway has two restaurants taking local ingredients to Michelin-starred heights: Aniar and Loam. “We’ve the best ingredients; we just need to present them in the best possible way, and that’s often the simplest way,” says J P McMahon, chef-patron at Aniar, where simple descriptions like ‘brill, sea beet’ and ‘potato, lovage’ belie the sophistication of the creations they refer to. From €89 (£74) per person.

11pm — Rock on at Róisín Dubh’s

A gig at this music/comedy venue on Dominic Street could throw up Irish indie acts like Delorentos or La Galaxie, or emerging local acts. Strange Brew is a classic indie night on Thursdays.

Jordan Bailey and Majken Bech-Bailey, co-owners of Aimsir restaurant, foraging in a wood in Enniskerry.
Photograph by Shane O'Neill

RISING STARS

Since opening in May 2019 at Cliff at Lyons hotel, County Kildare, Aimsir restaurant has already picked up two Michelin stars. Husband and wife owners Jordan Bailey and Majken Bech-Bailey say their 15-course menu aims to ‘put Ireland on a plate’. Local produce ranges from lamb, seafood and cheeses to oysters, garlic and even rare Irish nashi pears  

Jordan: “We spent months on the road before we opened, travelling around Ireland looking for suppliers, craftsmen, fishermen, foragers and whatever else. We started with what we thought was a very extensive list, but once we spoke to one farmer, they’d refer us to another down the road, and it just went crazy after that.”

Majken: “We live in a world where it’s very easy to get everything year-round — you can buy strawberries in Tesco in December. But Jordan, as a chef, gets more creative when he focuses on pure ingredients, instead of having the whole world at his fingertips. It’s also about sustainability; there’s no reason to buy from across the world when you have everything here.”

Jordan: “One of the main reasons we came here was because it’s so untouched — that excited me. But you saw with last year’s Michelin Guide [18 restaurants on the island have one or two stars] that Irish restaurants are kind of taking over. We have amazing potential; it’s just about getting the right people to do the right thing and put it on a world stage.” 

Majken: “Jordan and I looked at over 100 different restaurant names and narrowed it down to three. The first thing about ‘aimsir’ [pronounced am-sheer] was that it looked and sounded beautiful. It means ‘weather’ and ‘time’ in Irish, which chimed with our idea of using seasonal Irish produce. 

Seasonal tasting menu €135 (£112). 

More info
Food tours available from galwayfoodtours.comgalway2020.ie and galwaytourism.ie 

Published in the April 2020 issue of National Geographic Traveller (UK)

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