Things To Do In Galway City
The city of Galway is steeped in history and is yet constantly buzzing with contemporary energy. It is a city located along the western coast of Ireland and a thriving, cultural icon on the country’s map. It is often regarded as an important tourist centre in West Ireland and claims to offer a diverse range of experiences for different visitors. On one hand, the city is made up of rugged coastlines, barren fields and stark mountain ranges, but on the other hand, it manages to retain an interesting ambience complemented by the lively pub scene, street theatres and the quintessential Irish buskers. From enjoying a lovely sunset over the Galway Bay or taking a stroll down Salthill promenade, indulging in local cuisine or shopping at the markets, there is plenty to explore in this fascinating city. Here are our recommendations with the top things to do in Galway.
Walk the Salthill Promenade
This 3-km long promenade is situated in the little coastal village of Salthill in Galway, right alongside the Atlantic Ocean. Perfect for seaside strolls and frequented by both locals and tourists alike, Salthill Promenade tradition calls for a kick on the wall at the end of the walk, which is believed by locals to bring good luck. Below the walkway is a beach, which is also a popular hangout spot in the region. There are plenty of bars, cafes and restaurants along the promenade to keep one engaged for long. One of the best things to do here is to grab some delicious fish and chips from the nearby café and relax on the beach while watching the skies change over the Atlantic.
Explore Medieval Galway
When you visit Galway today, it is not very difficult to imagine what the town might have been like in its medieval heyday. What started as just a small fishing village grew to become a prosperous walled city in the 13th-century that was ruled by 14 merchant families. These tribes were the reason why Galway is still often referred to as the ‘City of Tribes’. While it has come a long way from its ancient roots, one can still admire the remnants of Galway’s historical past within the old city walls that remain to this day. These walls have now been incorporated into a shopping centre at Eyre Square. Visit St. Nicholas’ Collegiate Church dating back to the 14th-century that garnered even more fame after a visit from Christopher Columbus in 1477.
One of the most iconic parts of Galway is the Spanish Arch, which was built in the year 1584. It was originally known as the ‘Blind Arch’ and was constructed as an extension of the medieval city’s walls, for protection of the ships that would be moored at the quays nearby. While a portion of it was destroyed in the Lisbon earthquake of 1755, a substantial part still remains intact. The area is now home to the Galway City Museum and also reverberates with street drummers and buskers, with locals and visitors gathering here on the lawns and riverside on warm sunny days.
Attend the Local Festivals
Galway during festival season, which is predominantly during the summers, and you’ll understand why the city has a reputation of a party town. Every year, the city comes alive with the celebration of numerous festivals that draw large crowds of locals and international talent alike. The Galway International Arts Festival is a two-week-long extravaganza of theatre, comedy, music and art where you can catch exhibits and performances by top theatre groups, bands, musicians and comedians. Additionally, the Galway Film Fleadh in July and the Galway International Oyster Festival in September are some of the greatest events in the city.
Plan a Day Trip to Remember
Day trips from Galway are an exciting activity to pursue while on vacation here. Some of Ireland’s most stunning attractions are situated right at Galway’s doorstep. The Aran Islands are located just a short ferry ride away from the city and feature beautiful and ancient monuments. The Dun Aonghasa here is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and dates back to the early 12th-century. The Cliffs of Moher are situated around 76 km away from Galway and stretch for a distance of almost 14 km. The height of the highest point is at 700 feet above sea level, and the views of the surrounding sights from here are absolutely spectacular. Then there is the Connemara National Park, which is one of the most beautiful ones in Ireland. Not only is it home to a diverse range of wildlife, but visitors can also catch a glimpse of the country’s prehistoric period through the numerous ancient megalithic and Neolithic burial mounds and tombs. It is also a wonderful place to go trekking, with different types of trails present here suitable for different ages.
Indulge in Local Flavours
The food scene in Galway is truly incredible. The numerous bistros, cafes and fine-dining restaurants use some of the best local ingredients and contemporary techniques to create delicious food that will leave you wanting for more. The Michelin-starred Aniar and Loam have stunning food options, with Kai serving flavours that has a large and loyal following. At Dough Bros, you can enjoy amazing Irish-style pizzas, or opt for some hearty cuisine at Ard Bia instead. Mc Donagh’s is best known for its fish and chips, which is frequented by both locals and tourists. Interestingly, with Galway Food Tours, you can also try out a culinary walking tour where you will be introduced to brewers, local food producers and chocolatiers who have turned Galway into a gastronomic gem.
Enjoy a Traditional Music Session
Traditional music is Ireland’s heart and soul, and Galway is one of the best places to experience it. Endless trad sessions – as it is commonly known here – can be enjoyed in most of the pubs here in the form of live music. These performances are often spontaneous and the crowds usually end up joining the session along with the musicians. Bars such as Tigh Coili, Taaffes, The Crane Bar and An Pucan are some of the best places to enjoy the traditional music sessions. Moreover, the buskers – or street musicians – make Galway a city that lives and breathes music.
Drive Through the Wild Atlantic Way
The Wild Atlantic Way is a tourist trail along Ireland’s west coast that extends from the northernmost point in Malin Head in Donegal, passing through nine counties, to Kinsale Harbour at Cork in the south. The trail is 2500 km long and Galway is situated at the very centre of the route. Travellers can embark on a tour of the trail from Galway towards either north or south direction and still be guaranteed a wealth of sights to see. Spectacular castles, the famous Cliffs of Moher, vast golf courses, the Connemara National Park with its four mountain ranges; these are just some of the attractions in store for you when you travel through this route. Don’t forget to the check out the largest stalactite in the North at Doolin Cave on this trail. The Burren in County Clare has an astounding landscape that is full of beautiful rock formations.
Visit the Local Markets
Some of Galway’s best vibes can be experienced at its weekend markets. There are plenty of colourful stalls to shop from and incredible flavours to try, which include charcuterie, local cheeses, sushi and all types of Mediterranean favourites. The Galway Market specifically has a very bohemian spirit, and it has been around for centuries. Saturdays are always about great food; farmers come out with their fresh produce and set up alongside other stalls selling ready-to-eat delicious items. It is also a great place to pick up jewellery, arts and crafts, clothing, fresh flowers and other sundry items. It’s a constantly bustling market that is fun to stroll through even if you don’t buy anything. There are even buskers here that add to the very festive ambience.
Corrib Princess River Cruise
The Corrib Princess River Cruise runs between May to September. The boat is taken from the River Corrib to the Lake Corrib. The cruise is a 90-minute trip that sails twice a day – one at 12.30 pm and the other 2.30 pm – charming visitors with beautiful views of the green, pastoral countryside, lovely farms on the southern and eastern shore of the lake and bogs and heaths on the west and north. An extra trip at 4.30 pm runs in the months of July and August. The lake also has more than 1300 islands, which is one of the most fascinating features of the region. Visitors will get to see the ruins of the 16th-century Menlo Castle that was burnt down in the year 1910.
Spend an Afternoon at Eyre Square
Eyre Square is officially known as John F. Kennedy Memorial Park. It was named after the President when he visited the square in 1963 and gave a speech here. However, both locals and tourists still prefer to address the square by its old name, which has been around since the 17th-century. Eyre Square is essentially a vast expanse of green gardens right in the heart of the city. There are various sculptures here like the bronze statue of Padraic Ó Conaire, a bust of Kennedy, and the Quincentennial Fountain that is one of newer ones added recently. Eyre Square is one of the most popular hangout spots in the city and is constantly bustling with crowds of people even during the winters.