Eat, Drink, and Be Merry will cover the restaurants and food of Galway, the best Irish pubs, and the places to be merry …. In reverse order.
The Irish culture is on display every place you look in Galway, but is most apparent in the music and dance of Ireland, thus the reason for starting with the “be merry” part of “eat, drink, and be merry”. This blog describes a few of my favorite venues in Galway for music and dance. I'd welcome others comments and opinions on this subject. If you have ever been to Galway, you have an opinion.
Trad on the Prom – This is an Irish music and dance review in SaltHill. All our visitors rate this as a MUST SEE. It has a heavy portion of dance (think Lord of the Dance), Traditional Music (think jigs and reels), and Irish Folk Music. I could write a whole blog on Irish music, but this show about covers it all. There is only one negative; It currently has shows only on Tuesday, Thursday, and Sunday nights during the tourist season, and the tickets sell out early. Be sure to arrive early to get a good seat. The bar will be open before the show for a drink, and you can order your interval (intermission) pint of Guinness … before the show.
The show is in the ballroom of the Galway Bay Hotel in Salthill, an area or district of Galway City. This is a 35+ minute walk or a short taxi ride from a central point in Galway, The Spanish Arch (next blog). The walk is gorgeous, and worth the time if the weather is good. For those of you who know the Galway Girl song, the walk to the hotel would be along “the Salthill Prom” mentioned in the song.
Tunes in The Church – We’ve seen this show a couple of times, and it has not disappointed. This show is low key compared to Trad on the Prom, and is more focused on Trad Music. The venue is the Collegiate Church of St. Nicholas that was founded in medieval times and adds significantly to the experience.
Tunes In the Church
Tunes in the Church: Dancing
Tunes in the Church: Harp
Saint Nicholas Church is just off Shop Street (a pedestrian only street) where it splits into High Street and Mainguard Street (also pedestrian only streets). This is about a 5 minute walk.
Crane Bar – This is my favorite place for Trad Music and they have it every night at 9:30 as well as other times. Check out the website since there are occasionally special concerts and programs. My favorite session is the Sunday afternoon session; it isn’t as crowded or as late as the other sessions. If you are remotely interested in Trad music and the culture around the sessions, then the Crane Bar is a MUST SEE.
The Crane Bar has music upstairs and downstairs. Downstairs tends to be more informal with musicians randomly joining in. The upstairs room is called the “listening room”…. You are expected to listen… if you don’t want to get shooshed, then you’ll need to be quiet while the musicians are playing. I really like all Trad music, but even if you don’t, the people watching of the musicians is great…. More on this when I get to my Trad Music blog.
The Crane Bar has “character”. This is not your polished wood and chrome or brass type of bar, but you will find cut flowers on the tables ….a dog sitting at his master’s feet … and a lovely pint of Guinness. The location is slightly out of the way on Sea Road, but only a short 10+ minute walk.
Western Bar - The Western Bar has a great Trad session on Thursday’s during the tourist season. It’s a traditional Trad session with musicians coming and going, …. for a smoke, a drink …. or just to greet someone they know in the pub. We’ve seen more than two dozen musicians at one time, and every instrument known to Trad sessions, including the uilleann pipes. We’ve also seen dancing and singing from the audience. Saturday night features Irish Folk singing that I've heard is very good. The Western Hotel and Bar is a 10 minute walk, but is right off Eyre Square.
Dancing at the Western Bar
Just Some of the Musicians at the Crane Bar
For all the Trad Sessions, I suggest showing up a little early, but not too early. If the sign or bartender says the music starts at 9:30, check with them. Is it 9:30 sharp or 9:30-ish?. … or is it really 10:00? These are informal affairs. It may be worth showing up a little early to get a seat with a back …. Yes, I’m getting old…. But also ask where the musicians play. They usually have a “usual table” and you will be nicely evicted if you chose that table prior to their arrival…. everyone JUST KNOWS that’s the booth or table where the musicians sit.
Monroe’s Tavern - This is a larger venue and has some Traditional Music as well as a lot of other Rock and Alternate music from Ireland and around the world … and the pub food is pretty good too. We've been to a few excellent Trad concerts here during the Art’s Festival. Monroe's is within sight of the Spanish Arch.
Trad Performance at Monroe's
There are certain festivals during the year when Galway City becomes even more alive. If you are coming near the Art’s Festival, The Galway Races, or The Oyster Festival, be prepared for a lot more people and a lot more events.... and a lot of fun.
With a little walking and planning, you will find more than enough to keep you busy for two evenings in Galway. Of course you will want to prepare yourself for the entertainment with a good meal and possibly a few drinks. This will be the subject of Part 2.
See You In The Pub!
Jet Lag Jack