What to see and what to do on a winter's day in Galway - Ireland's cosy West Coast capital which has been named one of the friendliest cities on earth.
10am: Breakfast by the Corrib
With its fire engine red doors and country charm, the quaint Ard Bia at Nimmos is a gorgeous cafe tucked into Galway's old customs office and a fantastic place to start the day breakfasting on local produce served with a view of the crashing River Corrib. A cup of smooth coffee and a big bowl of home-made granola with fresh seasonal fruits will set you up perfectly for a day exploring the gorgeous Connemara region.
In and around the area: Spanish Arch, Galway City Museum or kayaking on the Corrib.
12.30pm: Waterfront Lunch
The wild Connemara Coast from Spiddal right up to Clifden makes for a pleasant half day drive and is also where some of Ireland's delicious crabs, oysters, mussels and other seafood comes from. You can soak in the coastal views while dining on plump oysters served on the shell at O'Grady's on the Pier, a short drive up the coast from Galway city at Barna. With its wooden interiors and polished chrome hand-rails, multiple seating decks and beautiful plate-glass windows overlooking the bay, the restaurant manages to do maritime-themed in a classy rather than cheesy fashion. A must-visit!
In and around the area: Strolling along Salthill Promenade on a sunny day to take in the view of Galway Bay, getting a lesson in local sealife (and feeding rays!) at the interesting Galway Atlantaquaria.
7pm: Christmas Craic
Galway's central Eyre Square has in recent years played host to a cosy Christmas market filled with seasonal treats. Grab a glass of mulled wine or mulled whiskey (after all, you are in Ireland!) and browse through the motley collection of stalls selling everything from Belarussian Christmas ornaments to crystal-activated hand warmers to ward off the wintry chill.
8.30pm: Dinner in the West End
If you haven't had your fill of seafood, head to the inventive Oscar's Seafood Bistro for a candlelit dinner and a chance to savour some regional gems off their "Catch of the Day" menu. From hot oysters served with deepfried dillisk (a Northern seaweed) to a meaty slab of ray fin with salted gooseberries and lemony sea purslane sauce, Oscar's puts a truly local spin on classic flavour combinations. (And the dim tent-like interior done up in shades of teal and lobster red is very inviting on a damp Galway evening.)
For something a bit more bohemian, the buzzing Kai Cafe + Restaurant also in the city's West End is a great pick as much for its stylishly rustic interiors as for its top menu. The tightly packed aubergine tables give the restaurant a snug and lively vibe and a great selection of wines and elegantly executed dishes made this my favourite restaurant in Galway. Kai Cafe is run by Kiwi chef Jess (Kai is Maori for food) and her Irish husband David and presents a regularly changing menu of simply and creatively prepared.regional ingredients. Highlights of our meal included a hearty pheasant dish served with bread sauce and a caramelized onion gravy and a suitably seasonal gingerbread creme brulee.
10.30pm: Trad End
Ireland's folk music scene is alive and kicking in Galway City and a stroll around the pubs in the Latin Quarter will give you plenty of opportunity to sample a selection of the local music scene, with many places hosting daily Trad sessions. Duck into Taafes Bar to catch some Irish folk ballads played by professional and amateur musicians while sipping on that traditional late-night treat - a sweetly steaming mug of Irish coffee.
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