An English language student at Christmas in Galway


How to spend the 2023 Christmas holidays in Galway

Posted 01 December

As the festive season draws near, we hope all our GCI and GBS students are eagerly preparing to switch into holiday mode. Christmas in Galway is a magical time of year, with the city transformed into a winter wonderland. For English language students, it's an extra special time to be in Galway, as they can experience the Irish Christmas traditions first hand.

Some of you might be scratching your heads wondering  - What are the best things to do over the holidays? Let us help you out with offerings of inspiration!

One of your GCI teachers has come up with a list of delightful ideas to make this season even more enchanting. Here are a few ideas for how to make the most of Christmas in Galway as an English language student:

Explore the Markets

December is a good time for picking up some unique, traditional or handmade Irish gifts for family, friends or for yourself! As well as the gift stalls of the Christmas market, which can be found in Eyre Square from the 10th November 2023 to the 7th January 2024, you can find some special gifts at the Galway indoor market which takes place every Saturday and Sunday in the lead-up to Christmas at the Cornstore on Middle Street. Outside the city in Spiddal Craft Village you can see artists make their creations from their own workshops. From pottery to paintings, scarves to jewellery, the items for sale here are perfect if you are local for an authentic and unique gift. For more commercial shopping, the high street and international stores will start their Christmas sales on the 26th December – expect these shops to be very busy at this time as discount shoppers hunt for bargains!

Try Traditional Irish Christmas food

If you’re skilled in the kitchen you could try cooking a traditional Christmas dish like roast turkey or ham, Christmas pudding or baking mince pies (find some recipes here: ). Or if you don’t feel like cooking, many of Galway’s hotels and restaurants will have a special Christmas menu over the holidays, so you can book a table for a festive lunch or dinner at places like the Galmont, the Clayton, the Connaught or the G Hotel.

Go to a Christmas carol service

There are many carol services held in churches and cathedrals throughout Galway. This is a great way to experience the Irish Christmas spirit and hear some traditional Christmas carols.

Galway Christmas Market

Galway Christmas Market

Host a Christmas Party

Why not organise an international celebration with your GCI friends over the holiday season. Bring a traditional food or drink specialty from your home country to share and discover some holiday traditions from abroad! Get everyone in the festive spirit with Christmas song karaoke, or challenge eachother in an international Christmas-themed quiz (for example

See a show

Theatres and concert halls are a great place to visit to get into the Christmas spirit. Irish people love to see pantomimes (musical comedy shows) – this year they are performing Cinderella at the Town Hall theatre and there is also an Irish language pantomime at the Taibhdhearc theatre. Traditional Christmas concerts are also very popular, and take place in theatres and churches around the city – the Acapella Knights are performing a classical concert in Galway Cathedral on the 9th December and the Galway Tenors will sing traditional Christmas carols in Knocknacarra church on the 20th December.

Have a movie night

If you can’t book a show at the theatre then bring the festive magic into your own home by having a Christmas movie party. Most of the streaming platforms will have dozens of Christmas movies over the holidays, so stock up on sweets, make some hot chocolate and get cosy in front of some festive films (see a list of viewing suggestions here:

Join in the traditional Christmas swim

The holidays aren’t only about curling up cosily on the couch – in Ireland we like to also get out to the forests and beaches for fresh air. A long-standing Galway tradition in taking part in the annual Christmas swim for the charity COPE on Christmas Day at the Blackrock diving boards in Salthill, so throw on your Santa hat as well as your swimsuit and join those going for a dip for the good cause. You can also try the winter solstice swim – an event that honours ancient Celtic rituals to mark the shortest day of the year- which will take place this year at Ladies beach in Salthill on Wednesday, December 21st at 8:49am. Whichever dip you decide to brave, make sure to bring your warmest clothes and a hot drink to thaw off afterwards!

Go for a nature walk

If you prefer dry land then a stroll in one of the many forests and parks around Galway could be a great way to spend your afternoon. You can hop on a bus from the city to Barna Woods, a peaceful trail only a short distance outside of Salthill. If you have the possibility to drive, take a trip to beautiful Rinville Park in Oranmore, Coole Park nature reserve near Gort or the mythical Cong Forest and Abbey, situated between the lakes Lough Mask and Lough Corrib.

See a rugby match

The Connaught rugby team will have three big matches over the Christmas season in Galway’s Sportsground stadium. You can see the local team take on Leinster in the United Rugby Championship on Saturday 2nd December at 7.35pm, or battle with French team Bordeaux Bégles on the 8th December at 8pm, before they challenge another provincial team, Munster, on New Years Day, 1st January 2024. Get tickets from

Connaught Rugby

Connaught Rugby

Catch some live traditional music

After a day of exciting activity in the city, find a cosy spot by the fireplace in one of Galway’s many pubs and soak up the atmosphere and possibly some live traditional music. Crane Bar, Taaffe’s, Tig Coili, Garavans, Tigh Neachtain and An Púcán are some of the many pubs that host live musicians almost every day in the city.

Whatever way you decide to spend your Christmas in Galway city, GCI and GBS wish you a happy holiday and wish you peace, joy and happiness for the New Year 2024.

If would like to study English in Galway next year, get in touch with us today! Have a look at our most popular English courses below. 

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