Galway City is famously home to some of the best music pubs in Ireland. Acclaimed artists perform live gigs, impromptu sessions delight and the buskers that get your toes tapping are set to be the next big thing. And the city’s pubs provide something even rarer: a chance to savour a rich musical experience that speaks so eloquently of Ireland’s soul.

Two buskers play in front of the red facade of a barbershop in Galway. People pass in front of them, blurred by the camera. Galway, Ireland.
Galway's long musical heritage makes it a perfect place to catch a show © Atlantide Phototravel / Getty Images

A musical tradition

Music pours from the pubs and flows through the streets of Galway. And in this city, it’s utterly authentic – from the music shops selling sheet music and Irish instruments to spontaneous pub performances and scheduled gigs.

Along with the tunes, listen out for two words. The first is craic: the ultimate Irish entertainment experience. Broadly meaning fun, music, jokey exchanges and good times, Galway provides it in abundance. The second word is trad: traditional Irish folk music, a melodious swirl that could feature any combo of flutes, fiddles, whistles, pipes, guitars, banjos, squeezeboxes and hand-held drums. These mesmerising refrains resonate through the city’s age-old pubs and linger in the memory long after you leave.

Where’s the craic?

Galway is a city that feels like a village, a people-sized conurbation packed with quality trad music pubs that are easy to explore on foot. Much of the action focuses on the streets leading southwest from Eyre Sq, down William St, and along Shop St, High St and Quay St, with bridges leading over the River Corrib to Galway’s West End. For many Galwegians this district is the true city, where cafes, restaurants and bars showcase the real rapport between music lovers and musicians.

People walk down a crowded historic street lined with shops and bars. Pennants zig zag between the buildings above the street. Galway, Ireland.
Shop Street is part of Galway's cultural center © Powerofforever / Getty Images

 Tour Galway’s best music venues

If it feels like music is everywhere in Galway during the day, wait till the evening comes. Everything steps up a notch after 5pm, as office workers pour into the pubs and nightly music sessions get underway. Pretty much any walk around the city centre reaps musical rewards, but following the following route ensures a stellar night out.

Eyre Sq

Start with a stroll from Eyre Sq down William St (pausing for selfies at the statue of Oscar Wilde and Eduard Wilde) to appreciate the buskers bringing top-notch music to the city’s streets. The bars of Shop St might tempt you, but keep walking for some early-evening music at one of Galway’s most beloved music pubs.

A group of musicians play Irish instruments in front of the red facade of Tig Cóilí. Galway, Ireland.
Musicians play in front of Tig Cóilí © Walter Bibikow / Getty Images


Stone-fronted Taaffe’s is renowned for nightly Irish music at 5.30pm that starts off any evening in fine style. In warm weather the front terrace fills up fast, but head into the bar itself to experience some classic craic – a buzzing atmosphere, bantering crowds and irresistible tunes. It’s a spot to sip the Guinness, join in the jokes and let the friendships flow.

Tig Cóilí

It’s sad when the live music stops playing at Taaffe’s, but don’t worry, another performance is about to get underway just over the road at Tig Cóilí. This bright-red music pub is famous for the two hugely-popular live trad sessions held each day at 6pm and 9.30pm. While you listen, check out the photos of those who’ve played here – they form a timeline showing just how deep the city’s music tradition is. 

People walk around in front of The Quays in Galway © jacquesvandinteren / Getty Images
The Quays in Galway © jacquesvandinteren / Getty Images

 The Quays

Your next musical pit-stop is a quick walk down bustling High St. En route, drop by one of the city’s best pubs, Tigh Neachtain, to soak up the atmosphere and admire their 130-plus whiskeys. Next, continue down Quay St to The Quays. This enormous tavern boasts striking décor – the Gothic arches, burnished beams and stained glass here once adorned a French medieval church. The maze of rooms offers great vantage points for watching the regular live rock, country and trad gigs.

Monroe's Tavern

Next, it’s time to cross the River Corrib and enter Galway’s lively West End. Head down Quay St and over the Wolfe Tone Bridge before turning right along Raven Terrace. You’ll soon spot the classic two-storey black-and-white façade of Monroe's Tavern. It’s been at the epicentre of West End nightlife for more than half a century, and it still delivers a buzzing vibe, live music nightly and an eclectic range of acts.

A concert at Monroe's Music
Monroe's in Galway © Getty Images

Crane Bar

A quick walk up Upper Dominick St and along William St W leads to an atmospheric, always crammed two-storey pub. The Crane Bar stages music every night on both levels and is one of the best spots in Galway to catch an informal céilidh, a session of traditional music and dancing.   

Róisín Dubh

Retrace your steps back towards the Wolfe Tone Bridge to find your final musical port of call. Róisín Dubh not only offers a hugely popular roof terrace, but is also the place in Galway to see emerging acts before they hit the big time. Watch out for open-mike nights and the eclectic music mix that is Strange Brew. It’s a fitting spot to end your tour of Galway’s best venues, an ideal place to start planning your text trip to a city with music at its soul.

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