Galway, Ireland, is ranked the “No. 1 Friendliest City in the World” by both “Yahoo Travel” and “Travel & Leisure.” When you walk through the streets of the city, feeling a bit lost, you can start to understand why it is the friendliest city. Ask any local in a shop for directions, and they will either ask if they should call a friend for you or they will walk you a few blocks away to wherever you need to go.
My first week in Galway in January, for my five months abroad, I casually stopped in Dough Bros with my study abroad friends. The staff at Dough Bros were very friendly, making the offer to stop by whenever any of us need anything. I didn’t realize it at the time, but everyone in Galway would soon be very welcoming to me.
Galway is a little bigger than Saratoga in size, and has a walking-friendly downtown. Galway’s biggest street in town is Shop Street. Shop Street is Galway’s only pedestrian-only street, with lots of pubs, Aran sweater shops, and tourist shops.
Walking around Shop Street is always an adventure, especially for your ears. Every few feet on Shop Street, there are street performers (or buskers, as the Irish call them). Some musicians have violins, some are playing keyboards, some are playing the Irish tin whistle, some are playing the guitar, and there are even some bands performing in the streets.
The music doesn’t just stop in the streets. At nights, there is live music in many of the pubs. The live music is always local performers, playing either contemporary or traditional Irish music.
This constant theme of Irish music is something I have come to appreciate as I traveled to other cities. No other city here has nightly live music like Galway does, and I have yet to find another city that has as many musicians performing in the streets.
One time, when I was at Quay’s Pub with my friend from National University of Ireland Galway, standing on the second floor balcony, I started dancing with a man I didn’t even know. He put his arm around my shoulder, and I leaned on my friend who was next to me. Together, the three of us danced while the band was playing music in front of us.
It is moments like this that remind me why Galway is so special. Galway is a place where men dance with anyone in a pub and where one can have some Gino’s Gelato while listening to some guitar music.
For those days that I miss the mountains, I only have to take a half hour drive out of the city to a region called Connemara. Like Albany, Galway is right next to a rural mountainous area.
Some say Connemara is the most beautiful place in the world, but these folk have not seen the Adirondacks. Connemara is a rural area where all the residents of this region are self-sufficient, growing their own food, and surrounded by mountains.
Having a rural area like Connemara so close to Galway city is another aspect that makes this city so unique. From the people who dance with you in pubs to the helpful people in restaurants such as Dough Bros to the lively music on the streets, it is not hard to see why Galway is the friendliest city in the world.