A Guide to Galway's Oyster & Seafood Festival

Find out the world record for who can open 30 oysters the fastest, the history of Galway Oyster Festival, plus some travel safety tips.

A man opens an oyster with a knife Photo © Getty Images/Alexander Spatari

Each year, at the end of September, thousands of tourists and local food enthusiasts gather to take part in the Galway Oyster Festival in Galway City, Ireland, one of the most celebrated festivals worldwide.  Guests compete for the record of who can open 30 of the slippery mollusks the fastest, with the current record from 1977 standing at one minute, 31 seconds.

The History

Back in 1954 Brian Collins, manager of the Great Southern Hotel, hosted the very first gathering of its kind with a modest guest list of just 34 people.  It’s held in September as a way to kick off the first month of oyster season, during which the local shelled delicacies are harvested from the waters of Clarenbridge and Brandon Bay after being left to grow plump and juicy for three years.  

The festival is held along what’s known as the Guinness Oyster Trail, where some thirty local pubs participate by handing out free trays of the slippery creatures along with pints of beer.  There is one designated person at each location named the opener, as well as plenty of others partaking in the festivities at the nearby World Oyster Opening Championship.


The competition is fierce with nearly twenty rules that the contestants must follow, such as age of the contestants and the use of only materials supplied by the committee.  There are even points awarded, or taken away, for the final presentation of the tray of opened oysters.  The judges base bonus or penalty points on how the tray would appear if it were to be presented to a customer in a restaurant.

The Galway Oyster Festival isn’t just about oysters, though.  Area businesses and restaurants join in the festivities offering local goods and delectable feasts of traditional and international foods to locals and tourists alike.  There’s even a beauty pageant and a parade to celebrate what has come to be one of the area’s most noteworthy attractions.

How to Stay Safe?

There are certain safety precautions that should be taken into consideration for those attending who plan to eat the raw oysters.  Serious illness, even death, can occur from consuming raw shellfish and people who are medically compromised are advised not to partake.  Should there be any issues that require medical attention, the Galway Clinic in nearby Doughiska is available to treat those needing assistance. You can call them on: 091 785000

For travelers seeking a new experience, The Galway Oyster Festival offers the perfect combination of food, fun and festivities.  You don’t have to like raw shellfish to enjoy this world-famous event, you just have to have an appetite for adventure and be prepared to party. It’s a unique experience not to be missed, and never to be forgotten.

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