Galway (Irish: Gaillimh), has a population of over 70,000 and is Ireland's fifth largest city and a major hub for visits to West Ireland. It has long been known as "The City of the Tribes" and this title could not be more appropriate these days, given the multicultural vibrancy of present-day Galway.
City of the TribesEdit
Galway is an important tourist centre and a gateway to the scenic areas of the county. Beginning in the 15th century, Galway was ruled by the leading 14 merchant families, which were known as "tribes". The names of these mostly Anglo-Norman families were Athy, Blake, Bodkin, Browne, D'arcy, Deane, Font, ffrench, Joyce, Kirwan, Lynch, Martin, Morris, and Skerritt. Only two of the families were Celts.
The families built many castles throughout County Galway. Many streets and landmarks bear the names of these early "tribes".
Galway is a bustling town with fantastic nightlife. It's short on common tourist attractions such as museums, but the charming pedestrianised streets and numerous pubs and cafes are sure to keep you occupied.
By bus or trainEdit
- Iarnród Éireann operates ten trains per day (six on Sunday) from Dublin Heuston. For central Dublin, get a ticket for city centre not Heuston, as this will include the onward tram fare and save a couple of euros over separate tickets. Five trains a day (four on Sunday) run to Galway from Limerick via Ennis, two hours.
- Bus Éireann buses run frequently from destinations through the country.
- CityLink buses provide direct services to Cork, Dublin and Dublin Airport.
- GoBus buses provide direct one stop services to Dublin and Dublin Airport.
National bus and rail arrive at the same station, just east of Eyre Square on Station Road. CityLink and GoBus buses arrive and depart from the Galway Coach Station, which is 100 metres north of the CIE bus/rail terminus.
1 Shannon Airport (SNN IATA) is the largest airport serving the West of Ireland. It is served by an hourly bus to Galway, and car rentals are also available. It is about 1½ hours in the bus to Galway, but about an hour by car.
- Others: many people going to Galway travel via Dublin, Cork or Ireland West (Knock) airports This page has detailed about public transport between Galway and all airports.
- From Dublin, there is a toll motorway all the way to Galway. Take the M4 west and then continue along the M6. Follow the M6/N6 for the rest of the trip. Travel time is around 2 hours depending on traffic.
- As in most places in Ireland, parking is expensive. However there is long term parking next to the cathedral available for €5/day, and if you are leaving in the morning, many pay and display; lots of places offer cheap or free overnight parking (18:00-06:00).
Central Galway is easily accessible on foot, and Salthill (a popular tourist area) is a lovely 20-30 minute walk from the centre of town. The Promenade (Prom), stretching from The Claddagh to Blackrock is a very popular walk with locals and visitors.
Bus Éireann and CityDirect run local bus networks.
GalwayTransport.info is a public-transport-information source for Galway City and surrounding areas. It has a summary map of city bus routes, a detailed map of each individual route, and links to timetable information. It also has maps of the taxi ranks in the city, industrial estates in the area, and detailed directions for reaching a number of popular places using public transport.
Taxis are convenient, although they can be a bit expensive. There are taxi ranks in Eyre Square and Bridge Street.
Avoid taking a car when going to or anywhere near the town centre as parking can be expensive, and the city can have very heavy traffic levels at times. A very popular car park close to the centre is that at the Dyke Road, just off the Headford Rd., which is a 5-minute walk to Eyre Sq.
Galway is a perfect base for seeing West Ireland, but it is also worth a visit. Although it has only a few typical sightseeing spots what makes it a wonderful place to stay is the atmosphere, the culture, the people, and the events.
- 1 Lynch's Castle. Lynch's Castle on Shop Street is probably the finest mediaeval town house in Ireland. It is now a branch of Allied Irish Banks.
- 2 Cathedral Church of Saint Nicholas and Our Lady Assumed into Heaven. The church was consecrated in 1965 and is a large, imposing building constructed from limestone. It has an eclectic style, with renaissance dome, pillars and round arches, and a Romanesque portico that dominates the main façade – which is an unusual feature in modern Irish church building. It was suggested by a church in the city of Salamanca in Spain.
- 3 Saint Nicholas Collegiate Church, Lombard Street, ☏ . The Church of Ireland St. Nicholas' Collegiate Church is the largest medieval church still in everyday use in Ireland. It was founded in 1320 and enlarged in the following two centuries.
- 4 The Hall of the Red Earl (Halla an Iarla Rua). The Hall of the Red Earl can be viewed through a protective glass wall off Flood Street. It is the earliest medieval settlement fragment surviving within the walls of the city. It was built by the de Burgo family in the 13th century and was a key municipal building for the collection of taxes, dispensation of justice and hosting banquets. It was the medieval equivalent of tax office, court house and town hall.
- 5 The Eglinton Canal. The Eglinton Canal, named after a former Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, joins the River Corrib to the sea, and, flowing for just more than a kilometer, is a very pleasant walk from the University to the Claddagh.
- 6 Spanish Arch. In the southwest of the city at the south end of the pedestrian streets, is the Spanish Arch, one of the few remaining parts of the town's ancient defences. Walk through the arch and south west along the riverside and you will find a plaque commemorating Michael Walsh who was murdered by the Black and Tans in 1920. His dead body was dumped in the Corrib here. The park adjacent to the arch is a popular place to sit and relax, while watching the Corrib flow out into Galway Bay.
- 7 Galway City Museum, Spanish Arch, ☏ . Tu-Sa 10:00-17:00. This museum focuses primarily on the history and heritage of Galway City, but the displays and exhibits will appeal to anyone with a broad interest in Irish history and material culture. Free admission.
- 8 National University of Ireland. The original Quadrangle building of National University of Ireland, Galway which was erected in 1849 during the Great Famine (An Gorta Mór) as one of the three colleges of the Queen's University of Ireland. The university holds the UNESCO archive of spoken material for the Celtic languages.
- 9 Eyre Square. The pedestrian shopping area south of Eyre Square is a pleasant place to stroll around.
- 10 Seapoint Promenade. The Promenade in Salthill is a fantastic place to people watch on rare warm, sunny days. People walk and roller blade along the prom and kids and adults alike jump off the concrete diving board into the frigid Atlantic Ocean.
- Enjoy walks along the banks of the River Corrib and the Eglington Canal.
- Walk along the bay to the nearby resort of Salthill. Along the way you can, weather permitting, walk along the causeway to Mutton Island on which is a 19th century lighthouse. However access to the island requires prior arrangement. Nearby a stone commemorates the Great Famine. As you arrive in Salthill you may want to stop at a children's park named in memory of Celia Griffin who died in the Great Famine. The park is a memorial to those who died in that famine and those who left Ireland because of it.
- Check local free paper the Galway Advertiser for up-to-date info on cultural events, concerts and plays, as well as the latest local news. Available on Thursdays it is usually snapped up quickly.
- 1 Town Hall Theatre, Courthouse Square, ☏ (Box Office). This theatre features plays and musical performances and is often used as a venue for Galway's major festivals. The theatre aims to regularly show the best of national and international talent to its audiences.
- 2 Galway Atlantaquaria, Seapoint Promenade, Salthill (Follow the R336 (Griffin Road) southwest from the town centre), ☏ , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. A must-see if you are interested in the sea and its inhabitants. It is not the usual tropical fish collection that you might find anywhere, but they have beautifully mirrored the life around the Irish coasts and show the animals and plants in a realistic environment, just as you might find them 50 m outside of the building in the real sea. Be sure to ask one of the staff about the 300 mm large but harmless giant crabs on the second floor, he might just pick one out of the basin and put it into your hands, an experience you´ll never forget! Or pet the flounders and rays in the "touch pool".
- Galway Tours. Run scheduled walking tours of Galway City.
- Corrib Princess, Woodquay Galway, ☏ . 90-min guided cruise of the River and Lough Corrib on a modern luxury river cruiser. Departs from Woodquay in the heart of Galway City dail from April - October.
- Galway Arts Festival, July 11th- 24th, ☏ . Ireland's best-loved cultural event features music, theatre and exhibitions for two weeks in July.
- 3 Kayakmor, ☏ , ✉ email@example.com. 09:00-21:00. Guided kayaking tours along the West Coast of Ireland. Many beautiful views can be had that way. start from €40.
- 4 The Legend of the Claddagh Ring, 26 Shop Street, ☏ , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. Delve into the history and lore of this iconic ring at the Legend of the Claddagh Ring museum and visitor centre, where you can learn where the ring first came from and what it has come to represent.
- Watch Rugby Union ie 15-a-side. Connacht Rugby are one of the four Irish professional teams playing in Pro14, the top European (predominantly Celtic) tournament. Their home stadium is The Sportsground, capacity 8000, a mile northeast of the centre.
The main shopping area runs south from Eyre Square towards the Corrib. This pedestrian zone includes Williams St, Shop St, High St, Mainguard St and Quay St. Along it you can find all kinds of high street and artisan shops, pubs and restaurants. The historical buildings and busy atmosphere also make this area one of the attractions of Galway.
Middle Street, which runs parallel to Shop Street, is a particularly good street for finding a range of inspiring and creative local enterprises, including the Irish-speaking theatre "An Taibhdhearc," the Cocoon designer studio, Charlie Byrne's Bookshop, and Kenny's gallery among others.
- 1 Galway Market, Church Ln (beside St. Nicholas Church). Sa 08:00-18:00; Su 14:00-18:00. This market features a small number of local artisans and their handmade crafts. There is a special Christmas edition of this market, which runs annually from mid-December to just before Christmas.
- Eyre Square Centre. A modern shopping centre almost entirely hidden behind a historical façade. Entrances can be found on the south side of Eyre Square and on Williams Street.
Galway is a very popular destination with tourists and the range of restaurants extends from traditional, to ethnic to the usual fast food outlets.
For those on a tight budget, check out the supermarket in Eyre Square Centre (closes at 17:00) or the Tesco on Headford Rd (open 24 hr). On Saturdays (08:00-18:00) and Sundays (14:00-18:00), you can head to the outdoor Galway Market in Church lane beside St. Nicholas Church where you can find locally-grown produce, cheese, bread and affordable prepared foods like curries and crepes.
- 1 Ard Bia at Nimmo's, Spanish Arch (Long Walk - the restaurant is directly behind the Spanish Arch), ☏ . Cafe Tu-Su 10:00-15:30; Restaurant 18:00-22:00. Delicious food based on local sourcing. Wonderful atmosphere. If you're not looking to splurge at this restaurant, head to the cafe for the lunch specials which are more reasonably priced.
- 2 Kirby's Restaurant, ☏ . Cross St. Offers superb food, attentive service, generous portions with a modern twist. Offers a value dining menu, two courses €22.50, three courses €24.95, both including a drink of your choice next door in Buskers.
- 3 Fat Freddy's Famous Pizziera & Bistro, The Halls, Quay St, ☏ . One of Galway's longest established restaurants, synonymous with Quay Street in Galway City near the Spanish quarter. Known for the excellent atmosphere, service and, of course, food. Great for kids.
- 4 McCambridges, 38-39 Shop St, ☏ . 08:00-19:00. This gourmet grocers has a deli counter for take away sandwiches which is quite good.
- 5 Sheridan's Cheesemongers, Kirwans Lane, ☏ , fax: , ✉ email@example.com. A great place to get wine, pates, bread, and cheese of course.
- 6 McDonagh's Seafood, 22 Quay St, ☏ . Famous for its fish and chips, and has very good prices on takeaway.
- 7 McSwiggans, 3 Eyre St, ☏ . Restaurant on the two floors above the bar. Open M-W until 22:30, Th-Su 23:00. The food is varied, includes curries, seafood and steaks. Main courses €12-20.
- 8 Oscar's Bistro, Dominick Street Lower, ☏ . 18:30-21:30. Looks unassuming enough from the outside, but offers some of the best food in town. Their Seafood Platter has to be seen to be believed!
- 9 La Salsa. Does delicious and reasonably priced Mexican food.
- 10 Conlons Seafood Restaurant, Eglinton St (Off Eyre Square), ☏ . Established seafood house with Art Deco ambience, great service, good food and reasonable prices.
- 11 Costellos Kebab House, Dominick Street Upper, ☏ . Does extremely cheap, greasy and tasty post-pub food. A substantial feed of Guinness is recommended before consumption of Kebab House fare in order to ensure full satisfaction.
- 12 Lohans Cafe Bar Restaurant (Lohans), 232 Upper Salthill Road, ☏ . 08:00-21:00. The menu is mainly traditional Irish dishes such as Guinness & Beef Stew, Bacon & Cabbage and hearty sausages & mashed potato. Other lighter seasonal dishes and seafood are also available.
- 13 Grain & Grill, Sandy Road, Headford Point, Eircode: H91 ET6N, ☏ , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. 08:00-21:00.
The Galway City Pub Guide is a good resource for checking out pubs and clubs in Galway. The guide includes reviews, photos and videos, as well as a list of the top ten pubs in Galway. You can add your comments about the pubs you visit. Drinking in public is not allowed in Galway but enforcement of this rule is not feasible during summer months and well behaved groups are usually left alone. Don't mingle too near to obviously drunk people though as the authorities will likely confiscate all visible alcohol.
- 1 An Pucan, 11 Forster St. (beside the train and bus stations), ☏ .
- Busker Brownes and Kirbys Restaurant, Cross St, ☏ . 4 bars, 1 venue and over 400 years of history. Live bands Sunday - Thursday & late night DJ at the weekends. Adjacent to Buskers is Kirby's Restaurant serving the best of modern food with a contemporary twist.
- [dead link] Cookes Thatch Pub. One of only two remaining Thatch Pubs in Galway. Dating back to the 1600s, the trad music sessions on Wednesday and Sunday night are unmissable.
- 2 King's Head Pub, 15 High Street, ☏ . 10:30-23:30. Has decent prices and a nightly cover band. Popular with students and tourists alike, this place is always lively.
- 3 Freeneys, 19 High St (Near the King's Head Pub). It is a fine "old man" establishment with some of the best Guinness in town. also popular with students who want to drink a few quiet ones.
- 4 Monroe's Tavern (Dominick Street Upper), Dominick Street Upper (south of the Corrib and visible from the Spanish Arch), ☏ . For the more traditional minded. Has traditional music every night and set dancing on Tuesdays. Highly Recommended if you're in town on Tuesday night.
- 5 Roisin Dubh, Lower Dominick Street (near Monroe's), ☏ . 17:00-02:00. Perfect for those who like alternative and rock music, and on Wednesdays hosts a popular comedy night showcasing local and international acts.
- 6 The Quays, 11 Quay Street, ☏ . Warm and offers good live folk music and as well as cover bands.
- 7 The Crane Bar, 2 Sea Rd, ☏ . You'll find live Irish music nightly at the Crane. Take your pick from the locals playing traditional music downstairs or the musicians playing various types of music upstairs.
- 8 Taaffes Pub, 19 Shop St. Great authentic Irish experience. You can find traditional music there almost any night and there's a friendly, welcoming atmosphere.
- 9 Tigh Neachtain, 17 Cross St, ☏ . A local favourite.
Galway is a very popular destination with tourists. There is a large selection of accommodation, ranging from budget two-star to luxury five-star hotels.
- 1 Coolin House, Threadneedle Rd (close to Promenade at Blcakrock), ☏ . Coolin House is a family-run bed and breakfast, just off Salthill's famous Promenade. Coolin House is close to several amenities, including Leisureland, Atlantaquaria and the bustling bars in Salthill. Private parking is available. Tea and coffee making facilities and television in all rooms.
- 2 Barnacles Quay Street House, 10 Quay St (In the heart of the Galway City), ☏ , fax: , ✉ email@example.com. Barnacles is in the heart of the action in Galway on a pedestrianised street. It is on the same street as all the pubs & restaurants you came to Galway for. The perfect location and young staff who are full of helpful knowledge - it's a great place to start your Irish experience. Check out the other Barnacles hostel in Dublin.
- 3 Galway City Hostel, Frenchville Lane, Eyre Square, ☏ , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. Frenchville Lane, A really nice place, with competitive prices. Straight across the train station, next to Eyre Square. Great staff. Free tea and coffee all day. It doesn't have the best luggage storage facilities, and the place can feel a little cramped. But it is the best hostel to meet people and party at.
- 4 Kinlay House Hostel, Merchants Road, Eyre Square, ☏ , fax: , ✉ email@example.com. Merchant's Road, on the south-east corner of Eyre Square is an affordable, clean and central hostel. Included with a bed is a breakfast of unlimited tea and toast.
- 5 Sleepzone, ☏ , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. Bothar Na mBan, is a large hostel (more than 200 beds) in central Galway, just off Eyre Square. It is quite new and has modern kitchen facilities, and a free internet cafe (and wireless, too). It's very clean, and well-run. Everyone from school groups to backpackers to families stay here. The staff are amazing and available at all hours if you need anything. Additionally, they provide a shuttle service to their affiliated hostel in Connemara, departing at 11:00 and 19:00 daily, for €5. (This shuttle only runs in the summer.) They also offer day-long bus tours of The Burren and Connemara. These tours are mostly for those in their 20s, but would be enjoyable for all ages.
Bed and breakfastsEdit
Even by Irish standards, Galway has a ridiculous abundance of B&Bs. Two particular clusters can be found on College Rd, within easy walking distance of the centre and the train/bus stations, and in Salthill, where you'll probably want your own car.
- 6 [dead link] Ard Mhuire Bed & Breakfast, ☏ . Ard Mhuire is a beautiful family run B&B a 5-minute walk from the famous Salthill promenade. It is ideally situated for guests who wish to tour Connemara and the Aran islands from a base close to Galway City (which is 2.5 km away). The house has all the modern facilities that you'd expect to find in a 1-star hotel, but still maintains the familiar charm of a home away from home, with a home cooked breakfast from fresh local produce. Ample car parking is available on site.
- 7 Desota House Bed & Breakfast, 54 Newcastle Road, Cookes Corner, ☏ . Desota House is a renovated bed and breakfast which is a pleasant 5 minutes walk from Galway City Centre. All rooms are en suite. €79 per night.
- 8 Ashgrove House, 6 Ash Grove Road, ☏ . Close to NUI Galway (Galway University) and Galway Hospital. It is also 10 minutes walk from the centre of the City. €95 per night.
- 9 Coolin House B&B, ☏ . Coolin House, Threadneedle Road, Salthill +353 91 523 411 Coolin House is a family-run bed and breakfast, just off Salthill's famous Promenade. Coolin House is close to several amenities, including Leisureland, Atlantaquaria and the bustling bars in Salthill. Private parking is available. Tea and coffee making facilities and television in all rooms.
- 10 Claremount House B&B, Salthill Upper. Opposite Spinnaker Hotel, ☏ . Family-run bed and breakfast adjacent to Galway Golf Club and Salthill's Promenade. All rooms are en suite.
- Ocean Bed and Breakfasts. 4 quality bed and breakfasts on College Road. All rooms are spacious in these large modern homes.
- 11 Asgard Guesthouse, 21 College Rd, ☏ , ✉ info@GalwayCityGuestHouse.com. Pleasant B&B 5 minutes walk away from Eyre Square in the city center, with a sunny dining room and impeccably clean and tasteful guest rooms. Good breakfast spread, TV in every room, free Wi-Fi, credit cards accepted. €90 per night.
- 12 Dun Aoibhinn House, 12 St. Mary's Road, ☏ . Dun Aoibhinn House is a beautifully restored period style Guesthouse in Galway City. It is a pleasant 5-minute walk from the City center, National University of Ireland Galway (NUIG) and University College Hospital Galway (UCHG). It is also within easy walking distance of Salthill Beach and attractions, on St Mary's Road in the heart of Galway City. There are ample private safe parking facilities
- 13 Almara House, 2 Merlin Gate, Dublin Rd, ☏ . A ten-minute drive outside the city center, Almara House is winning people over with its charming hosts and classy rooms. There's a wide variety of breakfast items to choose from. €64 per night.
- 14 Tara House, 138 Salthill Road Lower, ☏ . 138 Lower Salthill. Tara House Bed and Breakfast in Salthill is in 200 metres from promenade and famous Galway Bay. It is close to golf clubs, fishing, tennis, leisureland and Pearse GAA Stadium. Bus stop to the Centre is directly outside main entrance (or 10-minute walk to Quay Street). Family-owned bed & breakfast with private car park. En suite rooms have multi-channel TV, direct-dial telephones, wireless internet, hairdryer, ironing, tea and coffee making facilities. Ground floor accommodation available.
- Marless House, 8 Threadneedle Road, Salthill, ☏ . A Georgian-style family home in a quiet residential area of Salthill, 100 m from the beach and 3 km from Galway city with frequent bus service and off-street parking.
- 15 Westwood House Hotel, Upper Newcastle, ☏ . Dangan, Newcastle. Four-star hotel.
- 16 Jurys Inn Galway City, Quay St, ☏ , ✉ email@example.com. €109 per night.
- 17 The Menlo Park Hotel, Headford Rd, ☏ . Hotel with great bar and restaurant, friendly staff and lovely rooms. 15 minutes walk from city centre. €64 per night.
- 18 Imperial Hotel Galway, Eyre Square, ☏ . In the heart of Galway City, the closest hotel to Galway University NUIG. Rooms start at €99 per night.
- 19 The G Hotel, Dublin Road, ☏ . A five-star hotel, just outside the centre. The interiors are swanky and decadent and the service is professional, if a little slow at times. Rooms start at €140. €200 per night.
- 20 The Meyrick Hotel, Eyre Square, ☏ . An elegant 4-star Victorian hotel, in a fashionable part of the city centre. Rooms start at €140 per night.
- 21 Park House Hotel, Forster St, ☏ . This hotel is close to the bus and train station. This hotel has clean rooms and a friendly staff. Ask for a back room, as the noise from Eyre Square can be a bit loud on weekends. Rooms start at €80 on weekdays. Rooms start at €80 on weekdays..
- 22 Galway Bay Hotel, The Promenade, Salthill, ☏ . In scenic Salthill, Galway Bay Hotel is a popular choice for tourists and conferences. The large hotel has a spa and leisure center.
- 23 Forster Court Hotel Galway, Forster St, ☏ . While the rooms are a bit small, the location is excellent and the staff are accommodating. €79/night.
- Crescent Close Galway City Self Catering, Sea Rd. 3-star self-catering apartments in Galway City Centre.
- 24 Travelodge Galway Hotel, Joyce Roundabout Tuam Road, ☏ , fax: , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. Check-in: 15:00, check-out: 12:00. From €54 per night.
- 25 Salthill Hotel (on the Salthill Galway Promenade overlooking Galway Bay), ☏ . Has a leisure centre. €79 per night.
- 26 Eyre Square Hotel, Forster Street, ☏ . 3-star hotel in the centre of Galway City beside the famous Eyre Square. Train & Bus station are just around the corner. €113 per night.
- 27 Victoria Hotel, ☏ . A city centre 3-star hotel on Eyre Square directly behind the city's Train and Bus stations.
- Wards Hotel, ☏ . A small family-run traditional hotel in Galway between Salthill and Galway City Centre.
- Rockbarton Park Hotel (Salthill area), ☏ . An excellent restaurant and cheap Galway Hotel accommodation.
- Radisson Blu Hotel & Spa, ☏ . Overlooking Galway Bay and close to the city centre.
- 28 Maldron Hotel Sandy Road, Sandy Road, Headford Point, Eircode: H91 ET6N (GPS 53.286025, -9.045067), ☏ , ✉ email@example.com. Check-in: 15:00, check-out: 12:00. A few minutes from Galway City Centre, with free car parking and easy access from the M6 and M17.
Galway is safe town by any standards. It's a small town compared to Dublin, and it luckily doesn't have to deal with most of the problems big cities have.
With that said, it is a party town and the weekends can get pretty crazy. Keep your wits about you, and stay in groups if you don't know the area. Despite Galway's reputation as a safe place, like everywhere Galway has a troublesome element.
Like most towns in Ireland, there are some run down areas. For its size, Galway does not have many but there are still some suburbs that are better avoided by anyone unfamiliar. These areas are all off the beaten track of the tourist areas.
The River Corrib runs through Galway. It is a very powerful river, especially after a few days of rain, and drowning deaths do occur. Use caution when walking on the river banks and walkways, especially after a night of drinking.
Nimmo's Hostel has had a reputation for being unsafe, but its door is locked, and can only be entered using a regularly updated code. Despite its former reputation, it is a safe, if 'colourful' place to stay.
Stay away from the public toilet areas in Eyre Square late at night, it attracts a lot of drunks.
Galway is the ideal base for trips throughout western Ireland. Hiring a car is a good way to see attractions in the surrounding area. Alternately, day tours of The Burren and the Cliffs of Moher, and of Connemara are available at the tourist office.
If you wish to hear Irish being spoken as a first language, visit towns like Carna, An Spidéal, Carraroe, Barna, all west of Galway City in the Connemara area. English is also spoken in these towns if you are not confident enough to speak Irish just yet, but as a visitor you can appreciate hearing the Irish language being spoken in one of the few areas where it is a thriving first spoken language and has priority over English
Several outlets around town and at the tourist office sell ferry tickets to the Aran Islands.
For hitch hikers hoping to see the rest of Connacht, the best place to catch rides is near the Galway Shopping Centre, north of the city centre. There are several roundabouts nearby, so it should be easy to pick the road heading in the same direction as you are.
Word of mouth may be useful for catching a lift to Dublin and other destinations. Ask around in your hotel or hostel.