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10 Best things about Christmas in Galway

Poster: Ciara Geraghty

There’s just something about Christmas in Galway… I don’t know if it’s the character of the medieval streets decked out in lights or just the general atmosphere created by the people but there’s just something special about it. A few of us were chatting about the topic this week and came up with a list of the best things about the festive season in Galway:

1. Going for the cheeky Hot Port or Irish Coffee after Christmas Shopping

Hot Ports

Hot Ports in the Galway Christmas Market

It’s customary after an exhaustive few hours of Christmas shopping to stop in on one of the ‘old man pubs’ for a cheeky beverage to unwind. Taaffe’s on Shop Street is always a great choice, right in the heart of the action, with an open fire and a trad session to liven things up. In most cases you might just have the one, but it’s not uncommon to see shopping bags tucked under the tables into the late hours belonging to those few who forgot to go home…

2. Galway Christmas Market

Christmas in Galway

Galway Christmas Market. Photo: Alex Zaradov.

I think there’s a little part of all of us that loves street food and nosying about the  stalls even if you don’t have a penny in your pocket. Sure who doesn’t love a good nosy?! This year the market has extended down to Spanish Arch spreading the festivities all around the city. We recommend a visit to the Black Forest Bar at Spanish Arch, it’s decked out in Christmas decor and they have live music on selected nights which is a great addition.

3. The Beer Tent

Beer Stein

A litre stein of German beer at the Beer tent at the Christmas Market.

It’s not Christmas in Galway without at least one visit to the beer tent in the Christmas Market in Eyre Square! Cheesy Christmas tunes and steins of German beer of course add to the merriment…

4. Buskers

Shop Street is filled with choirs by day and buskers by night bringing music to the streets. Photo: Hugh Sweeney.

Shop Street is filled with choirs by day and buskers by night bringing music to the streets. Photo: Hugh Sweeney.

Carol singers join the ranks with the buskers along Shop Street and High Street to bring some festive cheer to the throngs of people doing their Christmas shopping. My favourite busker at Christmas was always a guy who played Christmas songs on the saxophone like “White Christmas” near around Treasure Chest. I haven’t seen him around in years but his tunes were always the best.

5. Ice Skating

Galway City on Ice. Photo Galway City on Ice Facebook.

Galway City on Ice is located in Salthill this year. Photo: Galway City on Ice.

Ice Skating is a relatively new phenomenon to the people of Ireland. It always looks so graceful when you see it on TV, but in reality, seeing as we don’t get much practice at it year round, we tend to spend more time on our bottoms than standing upright. But hey, it’s all in the name of fun! This year Galway City on Ice is located here beside Galway Bay Hotel in Salthill so we’ll have to get some practice in!

6. Christmas Lights

The Christmas lights and trees on High Street.

The Christmas lights and trees on High Street.

Galway’s Christmas lights are something special – the lovely green garlands covered in fairy lights down High Street and Quay Street make you feel like you’re exploring Diagon Alley straight out of the Harry Potter films. I can’t leave out the decorations at Brown Thomas or on the Santa Express train either. When it comes to Christmas decorations both of them pull out all the stops every year.

The Santa Express Train desked out in lights. Photo: Galway Christmas Market.

The Santa Express Train desked out in lights. Photo: Galway Christmas Market.

7. Christmas Day Swim and Walking off the Christmas Dinner on Stephen’s Day on the Prom

Cope Galway Annual Christmas Day Swim is on to it's 26th Year.

The Cope Galway Annual Christmas Day Swim is on to its 26th Year. Photo: Cope Galway.

As is the tradition in many other places around the country – Galway has a Christmas Day Swim which takes place here in Salthill at the Blackrock diving boards. It’s a tradition for many families to start off their Christmas Day with a charitable dip in the sea in aid of Cope Galway followed by a drop of whiskey or brandy to warm the bones! Some people wade in and out again but then there are the others that bravely take the plunge off the diving boards. I can’t say that I’ve been amongst the latter… It’s scary enough jumping from Blackrock when the water is warm let alone freezing!

The Salthill Prom is the place to work off that Christmas Day dinner.

The Salthill Prom is the place to work off that Christmas Day dinner.

The next day brings another tradition for Galwegians – walking off the Christmas day feed with a walk on the Salthill Prom. It makes us feel that small bit less guilty for the late night bailey’s coffees or crackers and cheese that we over-indulged in the previous night…

8. The 12 Pubs of Christmas

The new Black Forest Bar located at Spanish Arch. Photo: Galway Christmas Market.

The new Black Forest Bar located at Spanish Arch. Photo: Galway Christmas Market.

Where this tradition started, nobody knows…
In Galway, there’s always a bit of planning involved… Do you start at Eyre Square and work your way down, do you just go to the old man pubs, do you target the pubs you never normally go to for a change, or do you just do the west end?? Too many options!

9. The People

Ireland and Connacht's Robbie Henshaw and Santa pictured wiht some fans at the launch of Galway Christmas Market on Friday Evening. Photo: Reg Gordon

Ireland and Connacht’s Robbie Henshaw and Santa launching the Galway Christmas Market. Photo: Reg Gordon

There’s just a good vibe in Galway in the run up to Christmas. Everyone is in great form enjoying the carol singing, the markets and bumping into people home from abroad who you haven’t seen in years on Shop Street.

10. Last orders on Christmas Eve

Christmas Eve drinks in Tig Coili's is a tradition for many.

Christmas Eve drinks in Tig Coili’s is a tradition for many.

Everyone has their meeting place on Christmas Eve where they meet old friends for a Christmas drink. For my own group of friends it’s Tig Coili’s on Mainguard Street. It’s central so you can grab the last few bits of shopping if you’ve suddenly realised you’ve forgotten about someone and there’s always a trad session going on to keep everyone in the festive spirit.

These are my favourite things about Christmas in Galway, do you think I have left anything out?

Ciara Geraghty is a Sales & Marketing Executive at Galway Bay Hotel.

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Galway Bay Hotel • November 30, 2015


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