Unlike the nightmare of finding accommodation in Dublin, Galway is a dream. Considering the size of the city and the amount of travelers it receives, there are plenty of hostels, and below is a partial selection. For more info on hostels in Galway and in Ireland as a whole, check out Independent Holiday Hostels of Ireland and the Irish Youth Hostel Association.
If you’re coming to Galway for the long-term, accommodation is difficult to find only during late August and through September, as students are returning to town. On Wednesday at 2 p.m., go to the offices of the Galway Advertiser (on Church Lane, next to Eason’s on Shop Street) and put down your 50p for the classified supplement (the paper itself comes out Thursday). Once you get the supplement, start phoning immediately, because flats and rooms start going before the ink even dries. You can also find the accommodation supplement on the Advertiser’s website.
Barnacles Quay Street House
Quay Street, 091-568-644, IHH-listed.
Clean, bright and big, with comfy beds, a nice staff, Bureau De Change and good late-night security. Not much of a common room, though. Farther from Eyre Square, but closer to the river and therefore to all the cool pubs on the left bank of the Corrib. A light breakfast (toast, coffee and juice) is included. High season rates: dorm, IRÃ¯Â¿Â½10; 4-bed, IRÃ¯Â¿Â½13.50; twin/double, IRÃ¯Â¿Â½17.50. If Dublin and Cork are included in your travels, there are Barnacles in those cities as well, and staying in one can get you a discount on your first night in the next.
Eyre Square Hostel
Eyre Street, 091-568-432.
Okay, I think they’re cheating a little: the hostel is actually kinda far back from the top of Eyre Square, but there’s no need to nit-pick. Has 45 beds, from IRÃ¯Â¿Â½9 (decent-sized rooms, but some are a bit cramped). L-shaped kitchen and sitting room are small, but open 7-1 a.m. Booze and smoking not allowed. Laundry service, IRÃ¯Â¿Â½3. Not a bad-looking place, but it wouldn’t be my first choice.
Great Western House
Across from bus station, 091-561-139. IHH-listed.
I’ve heard conflicting things about the Great Western, but I haven’t stayed here myself. The good things focus on some of the hostel’s unique offerings (such as a spa), and the bad ones have tended to focus on not-nice rooms, and that people would only stay here because it’s across from the station. Check it out if you wish, and let me know what you think. High season rates are IRÃ¯Â¿Â½8.50-12 for dorm, IRÃ¯Â¿Â½16 for twin/double.
Merchant’s Road (across from Tourist Office), 091-565-244. IHH-listed.
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A location on Eyre Square makes this a popular hostel. Celtel, an Internet and phone center, is downstairs. If there are large groups in, though, the place can fill up fast. Breakfast included. High season rates: dorm, IRÃ¯Â¿Â½10-12.50; twin/double, IRÃ¯Â¿Â½14.50-20 per person.
Salmon Weir Hostel
3 St. Vincent’s Ave., Woodquay, 091-561-133.
In the city centre, but far enough away to be quiet; also close to the university. Friendly staff, booze is allowed, and Ã¯Â¿Â½4 gets your laundry done. Large common room. Rooms aren’t huge, but they’re not too cramped either. Breakfast isn’t included. Doesn’t accept large groups. High season rates: 4-bed dorm, Ã¯Â¿Â½10; 6-bed dorm, Ã¯Â¿Â½9.50; 12-bed dorm, Ã¯Â¿Â½8; twin and double rooms, Ã¯Â¿Â½12.50. I’ve not stayed here, but I did check it out, see rooms, and chat with the guy at the desk; to my mind as well, the more postcards and pictures hung up around the place, the better and more personable the hostel, so I think I can safely, highly recommend the Salmon Weir.
Woodquay is a small residential area, close to the city centre but just far enough outside to be a bit calmer (there’s a nice wooded area for walking). Big common room (with TV and stereo) and kitchen, and nice, comfy dining room. Bureau De Change. Also has a curfew. Bright rooms and nice beds; costs about a tenner a night, but breakfast isn’t included. I’ve not stayed here, but I’ve heard it’s a decent place.
As far as small cities go, Galway is pretty multi-faceted: one of the fastest-growing cities in Europe (though the present population is about 60,000), a cultural capitol of Ireland, a seaport, the capitol of County Galway, a student town, etc, etc.
For traveling the west of Ireland, it’s a good city to base yourself in, or at least set out from, as places such as the Burren, Connemara, and the Aran Islands are all easily accessed from Galway.
The River Corrib runs through Galway and empties into Galway Bay to the south; the river also separates the city centre from the Claddagh, an old fishing village on the west.
To the northwest of the city centre is the National University of Ireland Galway (NUIG). The city centre itself is compact and pedestrian friendly (most of it is pedestrian access only), and a local bus service is provided to suburbs.
Prices are a bit lower in Galway than in Dublin (you’ll pay about IRÃ¯Â¿Â½2.20 for a pint, instead of at least IRÃ¯Â¿Â½2.50), and the city itself feels more like a small town that has gained the sophistication, but not the crime and dinge of a larger city. Coffee shops and cafes abound, and in the summertime Galway is the epicenter of many cultural festivals. Many local pubs nightly feature live music, usually traditional Irish.
This is an eclectic place; much of the architecture is Spanish, as from the 13th to the 17th centuries Galway conducted a lot of trade with Spain. Fishermen walk around with professors, and once June arrives salmon swimming upstream can still be seen from many of the city’s bridges (such as the Salmon Weir Bridge).
Though more so in the county than in the city, Galway, despite all its European and American influences, is also one of the main Irish-speaking regions in the country.
The most annoying thing about Galway is the weather. Winters are said to be miserable, and during the summer months (as opposed to the ‘summer season’) expect it to be sunny and hot one day, raining and cold the next. You’ll soon get used to wearing shorts with your winter coat, however, and sunglasses with your umbrella.
For help in getting around town, go to Eason’s bookshop (O’Connell Street in Dublin, or Shop Street in Galway) and put down IRÃ¯Â¿Â½3.50 for the Galway Street Atlas, a small, pink, spiral-bound indexed street atlas published by Ordnance Survey Ireland.