One of my favorite parts of studying abroad when I was in college was being able to buy a cheap ticket and hop on a flight to various parts of Europe. One of the first places on my list to go to was Ireland. Of course, one of the most popular destinations within Ireland is the capital, Dublin. And yes, I did go to U2’s stomping grounds and drink the mandatory pint of Guinness, but I also wanted to see the green pastures, the side of Ireland everyone dreams of.

Introducing Galway, Ireland. Known as Ireland’s “Cultural Heart,” the city only has about 75,000 residents, which makes it look and feel more like a quaint Irish town than the fifth most populated city in the country. So quaint in fact, that after a few days I even started to recognize a few familiar faces around town.

IrelandGalway

In Galway you’ll be able to eat amazing homemade, hearty Irish dishes like Irish stew. You’ll be able to walk through the bustling downtown of the city and then leisurely stroll through the neighborhoods. Despite the often gloomy climate, the beautifully painted houses brighten up the city.

If you’re looking for true Irish countryside, I’d recommend also visiting the Aran Islands. It only costs 13 euros for the ferry ride to get there and once you arrive you’ll really feel you’re in Ireland. There are cows, cottages, and lots of green pastures! However, what impressed me even more are the cliffs. Similar to the Cliffs of Moher, they are entirely breathtaking. While there, it’s easy to imagine when the first settlers arrived on the Aran Islands recently exiled from the East Coast by the Catholic movement.

CastleGalway

I was last in Ireland about three years ago, but since then my aunt and her family have taken a trip out there to reconnect with our old lineage. If you’re considering making the trip yourself, I would strongly recommend booking vacation packages. This will help keep the price down especially when visiting an international destination. My aunt booked her flight, hotel, and car rental together and it worked out perfectly.

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