Galway is a harbor city on the west coast of Ireland that sits at the confluence of the River Corrib and the Atlantic Ocean. The city is known for its Medieval architecture, coastal location, and friendly vibe. If you plan to visit Galway, you can enjoy a wide range of activities during your visit that will allow you to absorb yourself into the Irish culture and have a fantastic experience. Here are the 20 best things to do in Galway, Ireland.
20. Attend One of the Festivals
Galway is known for being the festival capital of Ireland, as it hosts a huge number of festivals and events every year. These range from music events to food festivals and Irish history or culture celebrations. Although the calendar of festivals changes every year, there is an average of 122 festivals annually, says Galway Tourism. It is almost impossible to spend time in this city without an event taking place during your stay. Check out what is on during your visit and add an event that takes your interest to your itinerary.
19. Go to the Beach at Dog’s Bay
For those who prefer a sandy beach to rugged cliffs, one of the most popular spots in Galway is Dog’s Bay, which is considered one of the area’s top beaches. Along this section of the coastline, there is a flat, sandy beach. Many people enjoy taking a stroll along the beach and admiring the scenery, while others take their kids along to play on the sand. You can extend your stroll to the neighboring beach at Gurteen Bay, which is just as pretty. Within walking distance of the beach, there are some small cafes where you can stop for lunch.
18. See The Wormhole
The Irish Road Trip says that you should include a viewing of The Wormhole in your vacation itinerary. Poll na bPeist, better known as The Wormhole or The Serpent’s Lair,’ is located on Inis Mor Island, just off the coast of Galway. It is a naturally formed hole in the limestone, although its rectangular shape means that it looks like it has been hand-carved from the stone. The natural phenomenon has been used as a venue for diving competitions, and it is a popular spot for tourists to photograph.
17. Hike Up Diamond Hill
If you enjoy spending time outdoors and want to see some breathtaking views, you should hike Diamond Hill. There are two hikes at Diamond Hill, so you can choose the one that best suits your abilities and available time. The first walk is Lower Diamond Hill, and this takes around 1.5-hours to complete. Alternatively, choose the Upper Diamond Hill walk, which takes approximately three hours to complete. Regardless of which option you choose, you can enjoy some of the best views of Connemara.
16. Check Out the Markets
One of the best ways to absorb yourself into the Irish culture and to enjoy the laid-back and friendly vibe of Galway is to check out the markets. The weekend market is held next to St. Nicholas’ Medieval Church, and there are stalls selling charcuterie, cheeses, and fresh fruit and vegetables. There are also food stalls selling dishes with international influences alongside Irish favorites.
15. Taste Your Way Through a Food Tour
Ireland magazine suggests tasting your way through a food tour to get a taste of Irish cuisine and culinary traditions. The food scene in Galway is fast-growing, and the food tours give you the chance to sample some of the best ingredients and dishes the city has to offer. Those on the tours can taste the work of the city’s top producers, chocolatiers, and brewers.
14. Eat a Medieval Feast at Dungaire Castle
It is believed that Dungaire Castle is Ireland’s most photographed castle. It is a 16th-century tower house that sits on an outcrop on the bay’s south side, just outside Galway. The castle is surrounded on three sides by water, and there is a wall circling the castle that was erected in 1520. Oliver St. John Gogarty restored the castle in the 1920s, and he opened it up to his notable and famous friends. The castle is now a tourist spot that is open in the evenings for medieval-style banquets that feature live entertainment during the summer months.
13. Take a Trip to the Aran Islands
If you want to take a trip out of the city, then consider taking a boat out to the Aran Islands. The Aran Islands are an archipelago of small, rocky islands that sit where Galway Bay meets the Atlantic Ocean. Many of the islands have prehistoric forts that sit on top of the cliffs. Visiting these islands is like stepping back in time to a simpler rural life, and the primary language spoken on the islands is Irish Gaelic. There is an inter-island ferry service that allows you to go island-hopping.
12. Hike or Drive the Atlantic Wild Way
Galway sits roughly at the halfway point of the Atlantic Wild Way, which stretches for 1,600 miles along the west coast of Ireland, from Kinsale Harbour to Malin Head. If you enjoy exploring the outdoors, set off on foot from Galway in either direction to complete small sections of the Atlantic Wild Way and enjoy the spectacular views of Ireland’s coastline and the Atlantic Ocean. To explore further along the coastline, you will need to drive.
11. Visit Lynch’s Castle
Lynch’s Castle is not a typical castle, as it is a large limestone house that sits on the corner of Shop Street and Abbeygate Street. Although the fortified house was built in the 14th-century, its current design was created in the 16th-century. It was lived in by the Lynch family, one of the 14 tribes of Galway, and the house gave them extra protection from raids. On the front façade of the house, there are the coats of arms of the Lynch family and Henry VII. The house has a unique and dark history, including James Lynch Fitzstephen hanging his son from a window in 1493 because he had killed a Spanish sailor.
10. Go to the Fishery Watchtower Museum
The Fishery Watchtower is the only building of its kind in Ireland. It is a neo-Romanesque-style draft netting station that was built in 1853. The tower’s purpose was to watch for illegal fishing on the river and keep an eye on fish stocks. After undergoing a renovation, the tower reopened in 2015 as a small museum. It contains exhibits of fishing equipment, tanks with young elvers and salmon, and black and white photographs of draft netting in the bay.
9. See the Spanish Arch
There are many interesting architectural landmarks to see in Galway, and one that you should not miss is the Spanish Arch. You will find the arch right outside the Galway City Museum, and it is the last surviving section of the Front Wall, also called the Ceann an Bhalla. It was built as part of the city’s defense of the Galway quays. The defense was built in 1584, and it suffered significant damage in the 1755 tsunami caused by the Lisbon Earthquake.
8. Take a River Cruise
The city’s location next to the River Corrib means that a popular activity is taking a river cruise. The Corrib River Princess embarks from Woodquay in the middle of the city and takes passengers to Corrib Lake. The lake is unusual as it has more than 1,300 small islands. A boat trip is a fun and leisurely way to see the sights of Galway and the surrounding area. Along the journey, passengers will see the pastoral countryside, heaths, bogs, and the ruins of the 16th-century Menlo Castle.
7. Go to St. Nicholas’ Collegiate Church
St. Nicholas’ Collegiate Church was built in 1320, and it is dedicated to St. Nicholas of Myra, the patron saint of seafarers. It is the largest medieval parish church in Ireland, and its grey limestone exterior is a magnificent sight. The Leabhar na nGenealach, the largest Irish genealogical record, was written at this church during the 17th century. The oldest feature in the church is a ledger stone that belonged to Adam Bures, dating back to the 1200s. One of the religious structure’s most noteworthy features is the baptismal font, which has a dog carved into its side.
6. See the Exhibits at Galway City Museum
One of Galway’s top attractions is the Galway City Museum. It is a free attraction to visit with exhibits covering Galway’s folk history, natural history, art, and archaeology. The exhibits include the Great Mace, which is a piece of ornamental silverware made in Dublin in the early 18th century, and a traditional Galway sailboat. An unusual exhibit is the Medieval Stone Collection, which has two 16th-century fireplaces, and pieces from the 16th and 17th-centuries, including coats of arms, chimney fragments, plaques, and corbels. Other exhibits include pub signs and a photography gallery.
5. Visit Galway Cathedral
One of Galway’s most notable and prominent landmarks is the Galway Cathedral. When you look at the cathedral, you may assume that it is hundreds of years old. You may be surprised to learn that the construction of the limestone structure only began in 1958, and it was not completed until 1965. It is built on the site of the former prison. There are Renaissance, Romanesque, and Gothic influences in the architecture and some of the interesting architectural features are the magnificent dome and the barrel vault. You should also try to spend some time admiring the artwork of the stained-glass windows, which British stained-glass artist Patrick Pollen designed.
4. Take a Stroll Along Salthill Promenade
One of the most scenic coastal views from the city is from Salthill Promenade, which is a one-mile stretch along the coast on the north side of the bay. If you walk along the promenade on a clear day, you can see The Burren in County Clare and the peaks of the Connemara. After strolling along the promenade and enjoying the views of the Atlantic Ocean and the natural landmarks, you can stop for a drink or a bite to eat, as the promenade is lined with seafood restaurants, bars, and cafes.
3. Go for a Drink on Quay Street
All around Galway, you will find traditional Irish pubs with live music. One of the best places to head for a drink and entertainment is Quay Street, which is just down the river from the Latin Quarter. The street is filled with shops, restaurants, Irish pubs, and bars with terraces. Many pubs have live acts playing traditional Irish folk music, and some have space for the customers to dance along.
2. Shop at Eyre Square
Eyre Square is Galway’s main public space, and it was once a town green that was originally used for markets. It is now a modern part of the city, as it underwent an expensive redesign in the early 2000s. The square is surrounded by more than 70 high street chain shops, so it is the best place for shopping. In addition to the shops, there are art installations, such as the Quincentennial Fountain and a bronze statue of Padraic O’ Conaire.
1. Spend Time in the Latin Quarter
According to The Crazy Tourist, the best thing to do in Galway is to spend some time in the Latin Quarter. It is the oldest part of the city, and some of the original Medieval city walls remain. The Latin Quarter sits on the banks of the River Corrib, just along from the Spanish Arch. It is a great area for shopping, and it is also home to some of the city’s most popular pubs and restaurants. As you walk around this part of the city, you can enjoy the street performers.