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The basics
Ireland: Destination Guides

The ultimate student guide to Galway

Galway is artistic, bohemian and filled with history, offering world-class university courses and a buzzing nightlife to those looking to immerse themselves in everything Ireland has to offer.

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There are several reasons you might call Galway the jewel of Ireland. Firstly, it sits at the centre of the wild, rugged west coast, which crowns the country and reaches out into the Atlantic Ocean. Second, it’s small – but packed with history, culture, and beauty. Lastly, it crystallises everything there is to love about Ireland, attracting visitors from all over the world who come to enjoy the food, music and people that make the country what it is.


Colourful pubs spilling over with traditional music, live performances and local food or drink line the streets in Galway, a compact city where you can spend most of your time walking or cycling as you take it all in. History is everywhere, with medieval town walls, fortified mansions or churches appearing where you least expect them.


Dramatic coastlines, isolated islands and outdoor pursuits lie in every direction beyond the city, while the capital, Dublin, is just several hours’ drive away. Surfing, white-water rafting and dolphin spotting are just some of the things that await you on the water, while inland walking and cycling trails dive will take you through mountains and forests, coastal paths, and pre-historic sites.


Galway is an award-winning Irish city, having been made a European Region of Gastronomy in 2018 and awarded the title of European Capital of Culture in 2020. It’s the 6th biggest city in the country and a university town to its core, with almost a fifth of the population being students during term time.


Find out what Ireland has to offer international students.


What is Galway like?


Location and demographics

Galway is a coastal city on the western coast of Ireland, about halfway up. It sits at the point where the River Corrib joins the Atlantic Ocean, on the northern shore of Galway Bay. The city enjoys a mild climate due to its oceanic location and is one of the warmest cities at that latitude anywhere in the world.


Galway has experienced an increasing amount of migration over the last decades that, in combination with its popularity as a student destination, has led to almost 20 per cent of the population identifying as non-Irish.


You can research what it takes to get a student visa in Ireland and how to qualify for a post-study work visa


Culture and history 

Galway has been a settlement for hundreds of years and in 1270 became a walled city under Anglo-Norman settlers. It thrived due to its ideal port location, trading with various countries and exporting a wide range of goods throughout its history. Today, it’s a popular tourist destination and a hub for the arts, religion and cultural activity and was one of the fastest-growing European cities in the 2000s.


Find out how you can apply to study in Ireland


Which universities are in Galway?


Galway is widely regarded as the best student city in Ireland. This is partly due to the city being the home of the University of Galway and several other prestigious higher education institutions. Between them, you’ll be able to find a great course in whatever your subject or professional discipline.


The University of Galway is rated as the 3rd best university in Ireland and 270th globally according to the QS World University Rankings 2023, placing it well within the top one per cent of institutions worldwide.


With over 175 years of educational history, Galway is one of the oldest universities in the country and boasts one of the largest student populations. It has a strong reputation for its teaching and research quality, and almost a fifth of its students are from overseas.


Galway is also home to the Galway-Mayo Institute of Technology, the Galway Business School, and St. Joseph’s Patrician College, which together offer a range of professional, technical, vocational, and academic courses for you to choose from.


Explore more universities in Ireland


What does Galway offer students?


What transport is there?

Galway is a pleasure to travel around – with its small streets and no-traffic areas, you’ll find that walking or cycling are ideal ways to get about the city. For those longer journeys, the city is served by an efficient bus network that serves destinations across the city and in the wider region. Knock International Airport is nearby, allowing you to get around Ireland, the UK, or the world with ease.


What about entertainment and food?

Galway is constantly developing as a global destination for food, with fine dining, unique cuisine and fresh local produce attracting visitors from around the world. Whether you’re wandering among market stalls bustling with delicious options or visiting one of the city’s best restaurants, great food is always around the corner.


Galway is also world-famous for its incredible entertainment, focusing on live music, festivals, and folk events – not to mention a huge range of pubs, bars and clubs that will never stop surprising you! 


Read more about the top five things you can do in Ireland.


Is there accommodation

The demand for housing is high in Galway, but it’s no surprise given its popularity with residents and international students alike. You don’t need to worry, though, as there are several living options to choose from.


On-campus accommodation is available through your university or college, and you’ll often be able to use university support services like accommodation search engines to help you search for off-campus living.


What public services are there for students?

As an international student living in Ireland, you’ll be able to access a range of services and resources offered through your university. This is monitored and supported by the Irish Council for International Students to ensure your rights are protected. You may also be eligible to work in Ireland during your studies or as a graduate.


How much does it cost to live in Galway?


The general cost of the city

Galway is a popular choice of city for students due to its lower cost of living compared to places like Dublin. Rent prices are particularly low relative to the capital, and in general, all your essentials should cost you less so you can take your student budget further.


Find out how much tuition fees in Ireland cost


Student budget

As a single international student living in Galway, you could expect to spend between EUR 150 and EUR 300 per week. This includes rent, utilities, food, transportation, and other living costs. Your budget will vary depending on your living arrangements, lifestyle, activities, and where in Galway you live.


Get more information on the cost of living in Ireland


Financial requirements

The Irish government asks that international students demonstrate that they have at least EUR 7,000 accessible for the first year of their studies and evidence of access to a further EUR 7,000 for each additional year of study. Evidence of an equivalent value scholarship or sponsorship from a family member is also valid. 


Our guide to the top scholarships in Ireland may help if you need financial aid. 


What are the main attractions in Galway?


Galway is a city deeply connected to its history and known worldwide as the spiritual centre of traditional Irish music and culture. In the downtime between your studies, you’ll have plenty of time to explore this magical place.


The city’s Latin Quarter is one of its most famous areas, known for its buskers, street performers and lively pub folk concerts, along with many other bars, restaurants, and shops. Local crafts and boutiques are just some of the things you’ll find here or on nearby Quay Street, another famous walkway that attracts traditional musicians and artisanal products.


As a coastal city, Galway provides its residents with year-round views over the Atlantic Ocean as it batters the Aran Islands, frozen in time and accessible by boat tour. Wildlife abounds, and when you aren’t spotting seals and whales in the region, you’ll be able to enjoy any number of waterfront restaurants along the Salthill Promenade.


Galway is at the mid-point of the Wild Atlantic Way, a 1600km coastal route that tracks the dramatic coastlines and quaint coastal towns of Ireland’s ancient western edge. You’re perfectly placed to explore this incredible route, where less than two hours’ drive will see you in two different national parks with stunning mountain ranges, unique glacial structures and ancient tombs.


Galway is one of Ireland’s most famous cities and a leading tourist destination. This jewel contains everything wonderful about Ireland, from dramatic coastlines to traditional food and an unbeatable folk music scene and friendly locals. Don’t forget that you can find your ideal study path in Ireland using our course matcher tool

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