7 Best Pubs in Galway for Trad Music
Poster: Ciara Geraghty
Where trad musicians go to hear trad music…
It’s not a rare sight to see the likes of Frankie Gavin, Sharon Shannon, Martin Hayes, Mairtin O’Connor or Dessie or Johnny O’Halloran sitting in on one of the twice daily sessions – 6.30pm & 9.30pm (Mon-Fri) and 2.30pm & 8.30pm on Sunday’s. The sessions take place at the front of the pub where the tunes pour out into the street magnetically luring in more customers by their ears. The number of musicians taking part can range anything from 2 to 10 or more and sometimes a dancer or two if you’re lucky!
Tiġ Ċóilí’s bar staff are in a league of their own, although it’s a small bar, there could be 3 feet deep of people in front of you at the counter but the staff still manage to pick you out of the deep and get a drink in your hand quicker than any other pub I’ve been to. They’re also some of the nicest bar staff you’ll come across. I’d be surprised if you don’t leave here on a first name basis with them…
The last little thing which makes Tiġ Ċóilí a powerhouse for music is… NO TV’s!! Yes you heard me! Patrons either have to talk to each other or simply enjoy the jigs and reels provided by the musicians. The way it should be in a music bar.
Taaffes/Tigh Fox Trad House
Run by the Lally family, Taaffe’s is one of those pubs that no matter what day of the week it is you’ll always find a crowd and some atmosphere. With twice daily trad sessions, the earlier being more informal at the front of the pub and the late session being on the little stage in the back. Most nights you’ll have to dance your way through the crowds to make it to the bathrooms in the back.
Taaffe’s is a favourite for American tourists also; I’ve overheard many describing the late session like being in a scene from the movie “P.S. I love you”.
But it’s not just the tourists that visit this pub, there’s always a crowd of colourful characters who make Taaffe’s feel like it’s a country pub even though it’s probably in the busiest location in the city at the bottom of Shop Street.
The newest member of the family is Tigh Fox Trad House located just off Eyre Square in the heart of Galway. Like its older sibling, Tigh Fox offers trad sessions twice a day at 5.30pm and 9.30pm. The staff are friendly and great for a chat too. Fox’s is a great addition to this side of the city especially for the trad music scene with most of the other pubs on this list being located west of Eyre Square.
Between Eyre Square and the bottom of Shop Street, Garavan’s is the only pub you’ll come across. They have made some great changes in recent years, re-decorating both the exterior and interior while still keeping the traditional look and feel. They have also become known as a great whiskey bar along Galway’s Whiskey Trail with an award winning whiskey menu and tasting menu.
Garavan’s have great traditional music Friday – Sunday. The thing I like about the sessions here is that you feel like you’re almost in someone’s house listening to a group of friends playing a few tunes and enjoying the craic. There is no stage, airs or graces… just good music!
Perhaps one of my favourite things about Garavan’s is the stairs to the ladies bathrooms upstairs… Hold on – let me explain… I always feel like I’m in my Grandparent’s house going up the old carpeted staircase with the aged wallpaper and picture frames on the wall. There’s just something about it.
Sorry lads but unless you’re brave, it’s only the ladies who get to experience this little bit of nostalgia!
Monroe’s is located in Galway’s West End just over the River Corrib. It’s a large but warm pub with loads of seating and places to perch yourself for the night.
Although Monroe’s has live music 7 nights a week, it is their Tuesday night line-up that has built up a reputation. Tuesday night is Set Dancing night which is popular for both locals and tourists alike. If you’re courageous enough to join in, the dancers are very encouraging, however if you’re like me and have a fear of going flying or stepping on someone’s toes then you’ll be enjoying from the sidelines…
P.S. if you come here on an empty stomach you will end up eating pizza… There’s a pizza place next door where you can order to dine in the pub but the smell of the pizza drifts in and there’s just no escaping it – just give in to it!
The Crane Bar
The Crane Bar would be the most renowned Irish traditional music venue in Galway. Like Tig Coili’s this is another pub where musicians come to both listen and sit in on their nightly sessions. It’s where the serious music lovers go!
Their Sunday morning session with Sean Ryan is the longest running in Galway by quite a bit, over 30 years at this stage… You’ll often see people who have nipped out to the shop for some bread or milk, sitting with their shopping bag beside them in the pub, having been pulled in by the music.
There is music both upstairs and downstairs, with the upstairs bar being a more intimate spot to soak in the music. You really have to make sure you get here early if you hope to get a seat as the place fills up quickly. It’s well worth it though – trust me!
Club Árus na nGael
Unless you speak Irish, play music or you are from Galway, chances are that you haven’t heard about this place. Tucked away through a wooden gate on Dominick street, the Irish Social Club has been in action for nearly 30 years.
It’s a great place to go if you’re an Irish speaker or even just looking to brush up on the cúpla focal. They run different events throughout the week such as Sean-nós dancing, Learners night and Thursday is their student night. If you are solely interested in the music then you should pay them a visit on a Saturday night where there’s always a lively session from 9.30pm.
Ciara Geraghty is a Sales & Marketing Executive in Galway Bay Hotel.