Cheer on oyster shuckers from around the world as they take part in the world’s oldest Oyster Opening Championships Every year, at the end of September, Galwegians put on a huge party celebrating their own native Galway Oysters. An extravaganza not to be missed, this festival is over a thousand years old and includes an […]Galway Oyster Festival 2023 11 St Joseph's Ave, Henry St, Galway, H91 V8WN, Ireland Galway Galway Ireland
Every year, at the end of September, Galwegians put on a huge party celebrating their own native Galway Oysters. An extravaganza not to be missed, this festival is over a thousand years old and includes an exciting opening night, the World Oyster Opening Championships, Mardi Gras Gala Dinner, and finishes nicely with Feile Bia Na Mara – a fun family fair held along the prominent Salt Hill, overlooking the windy and salty sea that Galway city is famous for.
A mixture of paid and free events come together over the weekend, with world champion oyster shuckers competing in championships and bringing their large posse’s with them, you never quite know what will happen.
“Salivate over the best oysters in the world, while dancing down the cobblestones of Galway city, as oyster shuckers serve you up the perfect seafood dish.”
An added benefit is that there is soo much going on in the city behind the festival site, with the iconic historic pubs filled with food, Guinness and music acts, the Latin Quarter cannot be missed during this amazing kickoff for the Oyster harvesting season.
Once you’ve found your accommodation you can head to any pub in the Latin Quarter and take your fill of world class music, oysters and Guinness. This combo is strongly advised by publicans, as Guinness is perfect for washing away the saltiness of the oysters and cleansing the palate for the next one!
Friday opening night kicks off in style with the crowning of the festival queen, she’s called the “Oyster Pearl” and she presents the Mayor of Galway with the very first oyster of the season. Once he consumes it, and gives everyone the ‘OK’ the festival is officially underway.
On Saturday the crowd goes wild for the Oyster Opening Championships. Cheering on the masters, shuckers have brought cohorts from their own country, who get the crowds riled up with flags and shouts of patronage to their country.
Still haven’t got enough of oysters? The Mardi Gras Dinner is on later that night. Fabulously social and a dressy occasion, the roving feast is an actual journey through the city.
Unwind and get in touch with your inner child on Sunday. Its the day of the family fun fair, all entertainment is free, which brings all the families, local and international, out in force. The carnival atmosphere right next to sea makes for such a relaxing, fun and enjoyable end to the trip.
Lucky for us all, the Galway Oyster Festival is located in one of Ireland’s most scenic outlooks to the Wild Atlantic Way. Past Claddagh Hill and down to Nimmo’s Pier is where you will find all the action. The festival site is situated right next to South Hill Park, providing ample room for marquees, music, cooking demonstrations and carnival attractions.
The best view of the actual championships in inside the festival marquee, where it pays to be there from the opening ceremony so you can stand right in the front to be up close to the action.
A stroll along the stunning esplanade to walk off the oysters is a must and nothing really beats the fresh air as it comes off the salty ocean, Even though many of the formal events are ticketed, there are a number of fun free events accompanying this to keep thousands entertained, so wherever you wander.there are free music side shows, entertainment, rocking artists, activities, food stalls so theres always something to keep crowds amused.
The formal Mardi Gras Gala Dinner invites you to dress up in your glittery finest, as flamboyance is rewarded at this mighty entertaining do. Prosecco is on offer, as guests wear masquerade-style masks as they traipse around 3 different venues for a delectable meal. Groups of masked extravagance wanders around the cobblestone roads of the Latin Quarter to each venue, it’s a sight to behold for sure.
Its the west of Ireland in September, so while the weather is usually pretty good at that time of the year, you never know when a shower will hit so:
Bring a medium-heavy jacket for seaside walks
Your best masquerade outfit
Travel sickness tablets – if you are heading across the water to the Aran Islands
Antacids – in case you overdo the feasting
Camera – because you might spot someone famous
Tickets are purchased from the Galway Oyster Festival’s official website. Each event located in the Festival Marquee requires a separate ticket.
The opening night ticket for Friday from 7pm onwards is €45.00. The ticket includes a drink and a taster plate or seafood dish.
The Oyster Opening Championship for Saturday ticket is a €80.00 and takes place from 2pm-7pm, it also includes a drink, a half dozen oysters, and two seafood plates.
Saturday night the ticket for the Mardi Gras Gala Dinner costs €120.00, it begins at 8pm at the Marquee but takes you around the historic part of the city. The ticket gets you a glass of bubbles, oysters, three course dinner and wine or Irish coffee. Band and dance floor also provided for partying into the night.
On Sunday there is a free event which you can get tickets for on the website, its for the food demonstrations called “Wild Atlantic Tastes” that is on throughout the day in the festival marquee.
So here’s the run down of the official events, remembering though that theres heaps on around town throughout the weekend from September 22-24, 2023.
Friday night – the official kick off party for 7pm onwards. The Seafood Queen and Claddagh King are crowned and the first official oyster of the season is presented to the Mayor. There is then dancing, oysters, and Guinness flowing for the night as crowds enjoy wonderful music on stage and indulge in the dance floor shenanigans.
Saturday – Oyster Opening Championships from 2pm-7pm. Be prepared for the raucous crowd and international patriotism.
Saturday night – Fancy and flamboyant the Mardi Gras Dinner from 8pm till whenever will knock your socks (and masks) off.
Sunday – family fun day with carnival elements and “Wild Atlantic Tastes” seafood cooking demonstrations.
Mmmm…what does it take to win the Oyster Opening Championships?
Well first off, these contestants are the cream of the crop, having won Oyster shucking titles in other countries and then have headed across to shuck the native Galway oysters for the world title.
The art of opening the oyster is the key. All contestants have their own technique.The best result is always the same, a perfectly opened shell with no shell and no grit, and nice flesh looking up at the lucky person about to consume it.
The proper way to eat oysters, according to Galwegians, is to savour them. One could spend half an hour enjoying the flavour of a really wonderful half dozen of the freshest native oysters in the world. Appreciation is the key.
Galway’s Oyster Festival boasts that it is the oldest oyster festival in the world. While oysters have been celebrated locally for over 1000 years in Galway Bay, the official festival began way back in 1954.
This formal event was established by Brian Collins, who was the manager of the Great Southern Hotel, when only 34 guests enjoyed the banquet feast of the first oysters of the harvesting season,
Nowadays its a highlight of Ireland’s social calendar, playing only second fiddle to Saint Patrick’s Day in Dublin. Over 20 competitors representing countries from all around the world compete in the championships to vie for this “World Champion” title.
Galway is renowned for its seafood, due to its location along the Atlantic Ocean.
Native Galway Oysters can only be found in Galway and are a local delicacy. Its unique flavour can be attributed to the waterways that flow through the bay.
You can also find local dishes featuring in the Latin Quarter, such as scampi, Irish stew, sausage coddle, Shepherd’s pie, colcannon (potatoes), and the boxty pancake.
Of course the selections of Irish whiskey, wines, stout and craft beers are wide in this area.
There are so many apartments, hotels, guest houses, and backpacker hostels in this tourist mecca, you can find all sorts of options for all kinds of budgets in Galway.
Flights come in daily from International Shannon Airport and its then a speedy 1 hr drive to Galway. Flying into Dublin, its 2hr and 30 min drive to Galway along the motorway.
Hiring a car is a great way to get around on the modern motorways and scenic drives around the county.
However, there is a great bus system that can get you from right outside the airports to all the major cities, called Citylink Express and Bus Éireann.
There are also trains from Dublin (Irish Rail) direct to Galway that leave roughly every 2.5 hours. The train service is mighty swish, with charging stations, tables and ala carte food service while on journey. The trains are spotlessly clean.
It’s quite easy to walk around Galway city itself. Ten minutes will get you from one end to the other quite easily from any hotel. There is a miniature tourist train doing the sightseeing circuit, sightseeing double decker buses and local Bus Éireann. Uber and Galway City Taxi’s also do local runs.
You’d be hard pressed to be bored in Galway. It’s a vibrant city with a cool mix of culture, fine food and wine, adrenaline and adventure, and a is world class seaside destination.
Head out to the Aran Islands to get a taste of remote irish living. Enjoy the simple life by taking a bike and travelling around the islands to see ancient stone forts, stunning wildflowers and wildlife before heading back to the little villages that dot the islands for a slap up pub meal with all the trimmings before heading back out across the ferry to the mainland.
Near the festival site, you must walk under Galway’s iconic Spanish Arch, which was built in 1584. It’s one of the last remaining features of the medieval walls that surrounded the city, which used to keep invading armies out. The Spanish ships would dock along the arch and the famous explorer Christopher Columbus visited Galway. The Arch sits right next to Galway Museum and The Long Walk tourist trail.
Galway Boat Tours invites visitors to take a ride on the traditional Galway Hooker, handcrafted boats, along the bay. There are also power boat excursions for the adventurous.
Plan ahead: Book your perfect trip with our Ireland travel guide and destination information. Does Ireland require a visa? Check the visa requirements before you get caught up during your travel.
Spend money wisely: Take public transport and dine in from time to time are common saving tips during traveling. How to spend money wisely in Ireland? Make use of technology. There’s an app for everything.
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