Little city, lots of pubs.
I have written previously about my love for Galway, and one of its main charms is its personality. For such a small city, Galway will never fail to deliver when it comes to having a good night out. You can’t walk down a single cobblestone street without seeing at least one or two pubs. But with such choice, how can you be sure to find the best pubs in Galway? Being the generous person I am, I took one for the team and spent many months making my way around dozens of places throughout the city to find the best experiences in Galway, and I’ve got one for every night of the week.
This list, though far from a comprehensive pub guide, should give you plenty of ideas for your next night out in Galway. No matter when you visit, there is always something going on. If you’re after sipping a pint in a true “Old Man’s Pub” or dancing the night away, you can find the perfect spot for an evening out, and you’re bound to make some new friends. The weather may be crap, but it just gives you an excuse to bunker down by the fire in your friendly neighborhood local.
Monday – Classic Trad at Tig Chóilí and Taaffes
Seeing traditional Irish music, or trad, is at the top of most people’s lists when visiting Ireland, and Galway is known for its music scene. You can’t walk down the street without hearing two or three buskers. Most pubs have live music every night, but some lean more towards rock or indie songs. If you are looking for some good old-fashioned trad then head down to Tig Choili or Taaffes in the city center.
The first time I heard music in Tig Choili was on a dark winter evening on my way home from the Galway Library where I had been working. An older gentleman in a flat cap was standing by the windows framed by the red trim singing “The Town I Left Behind”. Go on and give that song a listen and tell me that had to be a dream.
Taaffes may not look as bright and colorful from the street, but you will be sure to find warm lighting and the cheerful buzz of conversation inside. To compare, my first music experience here was on a night out with two girls I had just met from my hostel. We ended up making friends with a middle-aged local guy and a few boys on a night out and spent the rest of the evening making our way through the city’s pubs listening to their favorite live bands.
Tuesday – Silent Disco at Róisín Dubh
Róisín Dubh is on most people’s lists of best pubs in Galway, and it’s easy to see why. The front pub is small and cozy warmed by a real fireplace on those cold, rainy nights. Between the back event space and the second floor stage, there are events, concerts, and comedy gigs throughout the week.
Located on the other side of the river, it can sometimes feel like it is worlds away, but it is worth the trek. The back room is always open late into the night, late for Galway anyway, with a DJ and dancing. At 5 euros to get in, it is cheaper than any of the other clubs in the city. If you want to try something a little different, head over there on a Tuesday night for a silent disco.
Silent Discos have become quite a thing recently, at least in Europe. If you have never been, it is definitely a novel experience. When you enter the room, you are given a headset with two channels linked to two separate DJs, so you can listen to whichever set you prefer. There is nothing quite like the sight of dozens of people jumping around and singing at the top of their lungs with no music playing.
Wednesday – Salsa Night at Monroe’s
When you think Galway, salsa is probably not the first thing that comes to mind. Well, think again. Every Wednesday night a live band and a few dance teachers take over Monroe’s. Most of us are just in awe watching the really good dancers, but people of all skill levels join in. The teachers will lead a little mini lesson a few times over the course of the evening, but it is definitely not your typical dance class. It’s fun and loud and goofy, and the atmosphere is so much less creepy than the majority of clubs. I used to go every week when I lived in Galway, so I highly recommend checking it out.
If salsa isn’t really your speed, Monroe’s also has set dancing on Tuesday nights. If you’re feeling brave, go on and join in.
Thursday – Being Classy at The Black Gate Cultural Centre
If you are looking for something a little more subdued, check out the events at the Black Gate Cultural Centre. The back room feels like a country library someone turned into a wine bar. With everything from folk artists to jazz singers, the Black Gate is perfect if you want to spend a night sipping wine and watching people who are very good at what they do. Check out their website for a list of upcoming events.
Friday – Drink Like The Locals
Sometimes you just want to sip a pint without the hubbub and distractions of a more raucous crowd. You need a good old-fashioned Old Man’s Pub. Whether you want a place to sit and chat with a few friends or you want to make a few new ones, these are the spots that foster a low-key atmosphere.
Murphy’s Bar is the head of the class in this department. Everything from the bright red exterior to the dark wooden furniture feels like a pub should. This is definitely a locals joint, but everywhere in Ireland is incredibly welcoming. Just don’t go in there if you are hoping for a wild night out. No one wants to see that.
Tigh Neachtain has one of the strongest pub aesthetics I have ever seen. The outside is painted blue and yellow – bold choice – and the interior is filled with old posters and newspaper clippings. It’s very small, so go early if you want a seat in one of the dark wooden booths. Otherwise you’ll have to make do with the tables spread about the main room stuck in little alcoves or pushed in the corner. This one is a little more popular with the tourists, but it still maintains an old school vibe.
Saturday – Old and New
For Saturday night we are going to veer off the main streets of Galway. Situated right across the street from each other, Barr An Chaladh and McSwiggans together offer the perfect match of old and new.
Barr An Chaladh is a one room pub filled with the perfect cross-section of society. Some nights you will find hen dos or students on a night out sitting next to a few middle-aged guys at the bar talking shop. Photos and witty signs with funny slogans crowd every wall (and the ceiling too). It is a true feast for the eyes – and ears. Live musicians play most nights with selections from British indie pop, rock, and even some acoustic covers of old rock songs.
McSwiggans is much less colorful, but still chock full of character. The dark wood counters, railings, and accents contrast with the light walls. A surprisingly young crowd can be found here often with local buskers playing well into the evening. It’s got your old school pub vibes with a fun twist.
Sunday – Open Mic Night
The busking culture and community in Galway is amazing. It is no surprise that Ireland has produced so many incredible artists because they take their music – well, I was going to say they take it seriously, but that is hard to say when it looks like people are having the time of their lives. If you want to see a fun mix of everything the city has to offer then Open Mic Night at our old pal Róisín Dubh is a good place to start.
The event starts at 8:30 PM every Sunday in the intimate second floor bar. These things are always a little hit or miss, but I guarantee you’ll see at least a couple really good songs and maybe even a comedian or two. The banter of the MC with the regulars truly makes this feel like a bunch of friends getting together to have a good time. Who knows? Maybe you’ll want to join in, too.
Moral of the story?
There is no shortage of good pubs in Galway, and everyone’s favorite pub will be different. Even for someone who doesn’t like a wild night out, I bet there is a place you could enjoy, too. These are a few ideas for you to try out, but this list is far from comprehensive. There is something wonderful about walking into a random pub to get out of the wind and rain. Irish people know how to have a good time no matter the weather, and a pub makes a perfect refuge on a cold night.