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Galway vs Cork: Which city is better for my next trip to Ireland

Are you planning a trip to Ireland and wondering if Galway or Cork is the better city to visit? In this guide we do a side by side comparison on everything you need to know including costs, attractions, safety, and much more. So here is a complete guide to Galway vs Cork.

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Galway vs Cork: Some background

Before we get into the whole Galway vs Cork debate, here is some background on each city.


Located on the west coast of Ireland, Galway is a harbour city, famous for its music and Irish culture. The city itself is located where the River Corrib meets the Atlantic Ocean, and is filled with cobbled streets, winding lanes and the remains of some medieval city walls. It is located in County Galway, which itself has 689 kilometres of coastline. This forms part of Ireland’s Wild Atlantic Way.


Cork City, which is of course located in County Cork, is located in the southwestern part of Ireland. It is the largest county in Ireland, and the second largest city behind Dublin. Although if you are looking at the island of island as a whole it is actually the third largest city behind Dublin then Belfast. It’s home to a lot of rugged coastline, mountains, and some incredible scenery.

Are you tossing up between Dublin and Galway instead? Here is a handy guide.

Galway vs Cork: which one is better for accommodation

Choosing your accommodation is an important part of any trip. Here we look at Galway and Cork to determine which one has the better accommodation options.


If you are planning to spend time in Galway you are best off staying close to the city centre. The best spots are the Latin Quarter, or the Docks. Both areas are close to lots of pubs and restaurants, and are also close to a number of tourist attractions.


If you want to spend some time in Cork then Cork City is a good place to base yourself. There are a lot of great attractions in the area, and you are close to a lot of food and drink options. If you are wanting to stay out further afield, there are quieter options like Bantry or Blarney. Bantry is close to the sea, which is great for a chilled out beach style holiday. Blarney on the other hand is a bit more rural and atmospheric.


Galway and Cork are both popular tourist spots in Ireland. Because of this both cities and counties have a lot of accommodation options.

Galway vs Cork: which one is better for attractions

If you are wondering if Galway or Cork is better for attractions here are some of the top things to do in each location.


Galway is a very traditional kind of city steeped in history. Here are some of the top things to do in Galway.

Listen to the buskers

One of the must dos in Galway is visiting Quay Street. Here you will find lots of buskers playing different types of music. It’s one of the things that Galway is famous for so you have to stop by.

Aran Islands

The Aran Islands, whilst not technically in Galway, are one of the best day trips to do from the city. If you are travelling from Galway to the Aran Islands, then you will need to make your way to Rosaveel which is just under an hour away from the centre of Galway. From Rosaveel you then need to hop on a ferry that will take you to Inis Mór.

The Galway Cathedral

The Galway Cathedral is one of the newer buildings in the city. It was built in 1965 and has since become one of the iconic parts of the city skyline.

Visit Salthill

Salthill is one of the lovely beach areas in Galway. I know that the country isn’t really famous for sunning yourself on the beach, but it does have some gorgeous coastal spots.

Connemara National Park

Connemara National Park is located in the north western part of County Galway. It’s one of the most beautiful national parks in the country and there is so much to see and do. One of our favourite things though are the hiking trails with boardwalks that you can follow.


Here are some of the best things to do in Cork.

Blarney Castle

One of the top sights in County Cork has to be Blarney Castle. This is of course home to the famous Blarney Stone. One kiss of the stone and it is proclaimed that you will have the gift of the gab.

To get to the stone you need to make your way to the top of Blarney Castle. Then you kind of lie on your back and lean over to kiss the stone.

Apart from the stone the castle and the castle grounds are worth exploring too.

The English Market

Located in Cork City you will find the popular English Market. Here you can feast on some locally produced foods. You can find anything from artisan cheese to fresh meats and seafood. There are also some quaint places to sit town for a spot of tea and some cake.

St Anne’s Church

Another favourite in the city centre is St Anne’s Church. If you want some 360° views of Cork, this is the perfect place to go. On your way up you will come across the church bells, which you can actually pull yourself.


Bantry is a picturesque and colourful seaside town that is definitely worth a visit. It is small but it is worth walking down some of the narrow back streets to get a feel for the place. It is also a really good place to sit down with some freshly cooked fish and chips and breathe in that sea air.


Cobh is a colourful seaside town with lots to see and do. Here you can explore the gorgeous streets, and visit the famous Deck of Cards (those colourful houses that you tend to see on Instagram).

Mizen Head

One of the most beautiful parts of Cork has to be Mizen Head. It’s a coastal area with rugged cliffs, a Maritime museum, and a whole lot of scenery.


Honestly both Cork and Galway have a lot to see and do. Cork is bigger than Galway so there is a little bit more to do, although you definitely need a car to experience it all.

Galway vs Cork: which one is prettier

If you are into aesthetics, this section is for you. Here we compare Galway and Cork to determine which one is prettier.


If the words of well known Irish poet William Butler Yeats are anything to go by then it is fair to say Galway is a beautiful place. He once described it as the ‘Venice of the West’ and while that might be a bold statement, it certainly does make you realise how picturesque it is.

The city itself is incredibly colourful, with a friendly atmosphere. It’s western seaboard location also makes it a prime spot for incredibly scenery and rugged landscapes.


Cork is also really beautiful. You’ve got these rugged and scenic coastlines, stunning beaches, and quaint country towns. Places like Mizen Head and even Cobh give you a real taste of the beauty that makes County Cork so famous.


Personally we think Cork is the slightly more beautiful spot. Granted it is bigger than Galway. But with some really great coastal spots and colourful towns Cork really is a magical place to visit.

Galway vs Cork: which one has the better vibe

Wondering if Galway or Cork has the better overall vibe. Here are our thoughts.


Galway has such a chilled out and relaxed vibe. It’s also incredibly creative, and almost bohemian at times. It’s full of colourful characters and welcoming people.


Cork also has an arty and relaxed vibe. It also feels incredibly European compared to Galway, with a very historical vibe going on. I don’t know if it is because of the architecture in the city or what, but Cork feels very unlike anywhere else in Ireland.


Personally we love the bohemian vibes of Galway. It’s a really good place to go for busking, street performers and traditional Irish music.

Galway vs Cork: which one is easier to get to

Getting to a city will obviously play a large part in your decision to visit. But is Galway or Cork easier to get to?


If you are wondering how to get to Galway, then your best bet is going to be via train. There is a train that goes between Dublin and Galway that takes around 2.5 hours. It also takes a similar amount of time to drive from Dublin to Galway.

If you are starting your Ireland weekend break from further afield, the closest airports to Galway are Knock in the north, and Shannon, which is south. They both take about an hour to drive to Galway from. You can also fly into Dublin and get the train over to Galway.


Cork does have it’s own airport and a number of European flights do land here. That being said these flights are slightly limited. Depending on where you are coming from you might actually be better flying to Dublin and then getting a train or bus to Cork.

From the airport itself Bus Éireann do a route to the city centre. This is usually every 30 minutes during the week, but every 60 minutes on weekends.


Cork is slightly easier to get to because it does have an airport. That being said though flights are very limited. So if you are travelling from Dublin, Galway is the easier city to get to.

Galway vs Cork: which one is easier to get around

Ease of getting around in a city is a big thing especially when it comes to choosing your next vacation spot. Here is a breakdown of Galway and Cork in terms of getting around.


Galway is a small city, so you won’t need to worry about using public transport unless you head out further into the county. In which case there is a solid bus network taking you to places like Rosaveel for example, frequently.

Realistically if you are wanting to see more of County Galway, you will need a car, as public transport can take a long time to get from a to b.


Similarly you won’t need to worry about public transport in Cork City. Although it’s bigger than Galway it is still quite walkable. As mentioned above you will need to look at hiring a car if you are wanting to explore places like Cobh or Blarney.


Galway and Cork are pretty on par when it comes to transport. And like much of Ireland having a car really is key.

Galway vs Cork: which one is better for beaches

If you are wanting to visit the beach during your trip to Ireland, you might be wondering if Galway or Cork is better.


As mentioned at the beginning of this article, Galway has 689 kilometres of coastline. So it’s probably fair to say that Galway has some pretty epic beaches. One of the closest beaches to the city is Salthill. It’s also an incredibly popular tourist spot.

In summer you will find people strolling along the sand, or diving into the water. There is a promenade here that kind of reminds us a lot of an old school beach resort. There are lots of shops selling random knick knacks and some pretty good ice cream too.


Cork has some excellent choices when it comes to beaches. And the good news is there is a little something for everyone. If you want to sunbathe, build sandcastles, or even go surfing you are sure to find a beach for you in Cork.


Both Galway and Cork have some pretty impressive beaches. Galway is our favourite though, especially around places like Salthill that are close to the city and easy to get to.

Galway vs Cork: which one is better for food

If you love your food you might be wondering is Galway or Cork the better destination.


Galway is a foodies paradise, and considering it is so close to the sea, it’s no surprise seafood is all the rage here.

If you want to make the most of your time in Galway we recommend doing a food tour which is a good idea for getting to grips with the culinary delights in the city.

If you don’t want to do a food tour our recommendations are the Quay Street Kitchen for some hearty meals at decent prices. Or if you are after seafood McDonagh’s is a good shout. It’s very casual and reasonably priced too.


Cork has a lot of gastronomic treats. In fact it is often referred to as the foodie capital of Ireland. So much incredible produce is available in cork such as artisan cheeses which are popular on menus around the city.

One of our favourite spots for a lunch is to stroll through the English Market. They do lots of treats like tea and cake, and also good quality cheeses and meats that you can buy to take home for later.


Considering it is the foodie capital of Ireland, Cork is undeniably the winner when it comes to food.

Galway vs Cork: which one is better for nightlife

Planning a night out? In this section we decide if Galway or Cork is the better option for nightlife.


Galway has some amazing nightlife and honestly the real charm of this city is it’s thriving entertainment scene. The Latin Quarter is one of the best places to enjoy this. There are so many cool traditional type pubs in the area. A lot of them also have trad music sessions which is a real treat.

The Quays is one of the best places to go especially for live music. The atmosphere is incredible, and it will give you a real taste of Irish culture. Or for something a little cosier try Tig Cóilí who do daily trad sessions.


Cork City as a whole is a fantastic place for a night out. It’s a university city so there are lots of cool bars from traditional pubs to quirky cocktail spots.

An Bróg Bar + Kitchen is one of our favourites for a wild night out. Another favourite is The Old Town Whiskey Bar at Bodega which is one of the most extensive whiskey bars in the country.


Galway and Cork are two fantastic cities when it comes to nightlife. Personally we prefer Galway because it’s a bit more chilled, and is better for trad music. But Cork is really good for those unforgettable (depending on how much you drink!!!!!) crazy nights out.

Galway vs Cork: which one is better for culture

If you are a lover of culture, you might be wondering if Galway or Cork is the better destination for you.


Galway has often been referred to as the cultural centre of Ireland. Spend 5 minutes here and it is easy to understand why. The city has a number of festivals held here each year, and it’s located on the doorstep of the Irish speaking Aran Islands.


Cork prides itself on having a vibrant and diverse cultural scene. It’s a very creative place and has inspired many artists, poets, writers and musicians.

There are many festivals in Cork, and live music and comedy events throughout the year. There are also many galleries and museums to visit in the city.


Considering Galway has earned itself the title of cultural capital of Ireland it is our clear winner.

Galway vs Cork: which one is better for safety

Safety is of course an important factor to consider when visiting a new place. But is Galway or Cork safer?


Galway is a small city, and there are no major issues when it comes to safety. You should have your wits about you when you travel anywhere, but you don’t need to take excessive precautions in Galway.


Cork is a relatively safe place to visit. As a tourist you really shouldn’t have any issues around safety here. As always you should exercise common sense, but you can walk around knowing that incidents are incredibly rare here.


Both Galway and Cork are relatively safe, especially when compared with Dublin for example.

Galway vs Cork: which one is better for couples

If you are planning on travelling as a couple you might be wondering if Galway or Cork is the better choice.


Galway has a very cosy and romantic atmosphere that is felt just by walking around the streets of the Latin Quarter. There are some great pubs and restaurants in the city that make for a great date night too.


Cork is also perfect for date night ideas. Like Galway there are lots of bars and restaurants to choose from. There are also some lovely spots in county cork like Bantry and Cobh for instance that are great for a romantic Irish weekend break.


Galway and Cork are both great for couples. The nightlife in each city is brilliant, and there are som beautiful towns in the counties that make for a romantic break.

Galway vs Cork: which one is better in summer

If you are planning to visit Galway or Cork in the summer months you might be wondering which one is better.


Summer in Galway is a fantastic time to visit. The temperatures average at around 25°C during the day. Rain is common in the summer months, although you do get some lovely sunny days. The day are long, with the sunrising at around 4am and setting at around 10pm-11pm depending on the month. Summer is the best time to visit Galway to take advantage of the beaches and enjoy the outdoors.


Summer is also peak time to visit Cork. Temperatures average between 11°C and 25°C. Days are bright for longer, and it is the perfect time of year to visit some of the beaches in Cork. Rain is still pretty common in the summer months (it is Ireland after all).


Summer is the best season to visit both Galway and Cork. The weather is mild and you get the opportunity to explore some of the natural beauty in each county.

Galway vs Cork: which one is better in winter

If winter is more your thing you might be wondering if Galway or Cork is the better option.


Winter in Galway averages between 3°C and 9°C. Snow is rare but rain in very common. Daylight hours are short. It’s usually light between 8.30am to 5pm. If you are visiting at this time of year you want to focus more on indoor activities like getting cosy in a pub or visiting a museum.


Cork is slightly warmer than Galway with temperatures averaging between 4°C and 10°C. Like Galway though daylight hours are reduced in the winter months. Again you are best off visiting and enjoying things like the pubs, indoor markets, and museums.


Winter isn’t an ideal time to visit Cork or Galway. That being said if we had to choose, Cork is probably the better option because it is a bigger city, which means there are more indoor activities to choose from.

Galway vs Cork: which one is for me

So you have made it to the end of this article and hopefully by now you have your own winner in the battle of Galway vs Cork. But here is a final recap if not.


Galway is a truly magical place to visit. It’s creative, vibrant, and so much fun. The food and drink scene here is very diverse, and the people are incredibly friendly.


Cork is also a fantastic place to visit. The city itself, is lively, and popular with students, tourists, and locals. But it’s not just the city that you should visit in Cork. It’s the seaside and country towns steeped in history that really make this county a true gem of Ireland.


Honestly Galway and Cork and two really great places to visit in Ireland. Galway is great if you only have a short time to visit, as things are close together and as a whole the city is more accessible.

Cork on the other hand is better for a longer trip where you can enjoy a real mix of city life, beach life, and country life.

We hope that this guide to Galway vs Cork has been useful for you. Don’t forget you can pin it for later below.

Happy Travels!

Galway vs Cork: Pin this guide to help you decide which one to visit

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