Galway, Ireland – Pubs and Clubs


No matter when you get off the bus, after dropping your gear at the hostel you know you’ll want to make the pub one of your next stops – or first, depending on just how much you like your Guinness! Sooner or later, depending on how much you have in the pub, you’ll probably want a night on the dance floor as well.

Average price for a pint is about IR�2.20; getting in the club will set you back about four quid during the week (IR�6 on weekends), with one exception which I’ll get to later. This isn’t exactly complete, because I’m mainly detailing places I’ve been to (if I haven’t been but list it anyway, it says so), but in a nutshell here’s where to go and where (and when) not to bother:

Pubs

Barcuba – Prospect Hill (top of Eyre Square)

Not only is this where Huey and Fast of the Fun Lovin’ Criminals played a DJ set after their June 5 concert, but Barcuba also generally has a cool Latin scene, and is just a nice, vibrant place for getting psyched up for a night-out (especially since the club Cuba is the next door down – the only annoyance being that you’ll still have to pay entry to the club). Mondays are a dedicated jazz night, with the bar’s own 17-piece big band.

Blue Note – William Street West

I’ve not made it here yet, but it strikes me as a cool place, mainly because it’s one of the few clubs in Galway that is solely dedicated to jazz, blues, acid jazz, funk, etc.

Busker Brown’s – Cross Street
Quite possibly the most deceptive pub in Galway. From the street, Busker’s looks a bit like a posh, yuppie wine bar or restaurant. And it looks small. Once inside, however, you will find that Busker Brown’s has about four or five different levels (one of which, when I was there, was blasting some serious house), and the top, with it’s couches, dim lighting, and axe-and-spear decor, is one of my favorite places to go to relax with a nice pint.

The Crane Bar – Sea Road
If heaven has a band, they practice here, seven nights a week after half-nine, and again on Sunday afternoons after 2. This is one of the first pubs many backpackers and tourists find out about, but it’s still one of the best places to go in town.

The King’s Head – Shop Street
Personally, I can’t stand this place – it’s always far too packed – but it’s also one of the most popular pubs in Galway, as well as one of the most touristy, as it’s smack on the high street. It’s big inside, but with three doormen the outside is part of what bothers me, as I tend to avoid any pub that has more than one guy on the door. Nonetheless, you should probably check it out; hell, it’s not as if you have to stay long.

Le Graal – Dominic Street
One of Galway’s only wine bars, and has plenty of the expected pretentiousness, but it’s still fun and worthwhile, especially for the red-upholstered, rough stone, dark gothic feel yet one of the best things about Le Graal are all the Latin nights. It’s also usually open pretty late (for Galway) until 1 or 2, and on Thursday nights hosts a salsa dance class.

Neachtain’s – corner of Cross & Quay streets
Galway’s oldest pub, Neachtain’s is not pronounced ‘kneech-tanes’ but ‘knock-tins,’ and is proof that the Irish language sounds nothing like it looks. If you go at night, get there as early as possible, because the place will soon be too packed even for standing. Still, there are open fires, and you and your friends (or just someone special) can be anti-social in one of the ‘snugs,’ walled-off sections for those wanting to enjoy drink and craic in private. There are also trad sessions (from 9, Mon, Wed, Fri, Sat, Sun), a jazz session on Thursdays from 9, and my friend Jacinta says it’s great to go here during the day, when it’s quieter, and relax with a cuppa coffee.

The Quays – Quay Street
Three levels on the inside (the top is a wraparound mezzanine), and often a good venue for cool bands. When the weather’s nice, there is also outside seating, and people usually fill up the street, talking and drinking and having fun. As it’s across from Barnacles Hostel, when you do want to go to your bed it’s nice not to have to stagger far.

Roisin Dubh – Dominic Street
Once again, the deceptiveness of Irish rolls its tongue. Pronounced “row-sheen dove,” this is one of my favorite pubs in Galway, and can always be relied on for awesome live music. Roisin’s does feature some trad musicians, but it also is a venue for rock, alternative, reggae, folk – you name it. Still want a drink, but don’t fancy music? No worries. Roisin’s is actually more two pubs rolled into one. The first is a regular pub; the second has its own bar and seating in front of the stage. Be sure to go here.

The Skeff – Eyre Square
Like Busker Browns, another deceptive pub: six bars and, after a few drinks, seemingly twice as many labyrinthine floors, as to the weird arrangement of steps. Excellent just for relaxing after work with y’mates, but also good for lunch: carvery, 12:30-3 p.m.; sandwich bar, 11 a.m.-4:30 p.m.; pub grub, 4:30-9 p.m.

Hole in the Wall – Eyre Street (another entrance on Shop Street)
Four rooms, three bars, a beer garden, live music every night – what more do you need? How about some kickass specials, such as IR�1.50 Corona? Works for me everytime!

Clubs

Alley Nightclub – William Street Upper
Seven nights a week, over-21s. J.J., the goldsmith at my work, swears by this place, but I’ve not yet had a chance to go myself – something I think I’ll need to rectify soon.

CP’s – Upper Abbeygate Street
Officially, CP’s stands for Central Park, but unofficially, and as far as I’m concerned, it stands for ‘cesspool.’ I’ve never been drunk enough, blackmailed or otherwise coerced into setting foot in the place, but if your idea of fun – and not one person I’ve spoken to has given me a good opinion – is standing in a sweltering, packed club where it takes 20 minutes just to get up to the bar to place your order while listening to shite chart music, then by all means go. I sure as hell won’t see you there, though.

Church Lane Club – Church Lane
Open Wed.-Sat. Shite. Unless you have a craving for Britney Spears and S-Club 7 that is, and don’t mind being in a place that could only be more of a meat market if there were blood on the floor. This is the exception to the admission prices listed at the top; during the week, Church Lane generally gives away passes for free admission – because even when they’re drunk, people would still rather pay to get in somewhere else, that’s nice and doesn’t play music exclusive to the CD collection of today’s 13-year-olds.

Clubmix
The List bills this as having gay, lesbian and bi nights every Friday (IR�5) and Sunday (IR�4), doors from 10:30 p.m. However, The List doesn’t bother to list where the hell it is. To find out, drop an e-mail or phone up at (353) (0) 86 863 7451 or (353) (0) 86 863 7449.

Cuba – Prospect Hill (top of Eyre Square)
Two levels, ClubCuba and CubaLive, make for double the fun in my favorite Galway club. Music ranges from live bands to indie to Abba tributes to funk to dance to house – with nary a today’s Top-40 in earshot. Though Ireland isn’t exactly a place you go to for the sake of the clubs, if you’re in Galway and just have to dance, this is the place to throw down.

GPO Nightclub – Eglinton Street
GPO is popular, and the theme nights (including 80s, 70s and the scary-sounding but strangely reputable ‘Shite Nites’) are cool, but I’ll never forgive the bastards for watering down the Goldschlagger. Three shots (and a bottle of wine before going out) should’ve wrecked this lightweight as surely as a 3-hour storm wrecked the S.S. Minnow, but I finished the night sober. Go at your peril. However, GPO isn’t just a nightclub; it also has a pub (which is cool), an offie (always a good friend) and a comedy club, whose features have included acts such as Ardal O’Hanlon (Doogal, from ‘Father Ted’), and these are still worth checking out. Just don’t order the Goldschlagger.

General Info

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 IR�2.20 for a pint, instead of at least IR�2.50), 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 IR�3.50 for the Galway Street Atlas, a small, pink, spiral-bound indexed street atlas published by Ordnance Survey Ireland.

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