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Tourist Places To Visit In Galway City
Ireland’s fifth-largest city, Galway is situated at the meeting point of River Corrib and the Galway Bay in West Ireland. As small a city as Galway is, it is packed with a wealth of natural beauty and tourist attractions that could keep you engaged for days at a stretch. While historical structures like the Spanish Arch and the city’s churches and castles offer a glimpse into its rich past, places like the Salthill Promenade and the Galway Market allow you to enjoy yourself just like a local. Moreover, the opportunity for day trips from the city to places like the Aran Islands or the Cliffs of Moher adds even more appeal to taking a trip to the wonderful city, Galway. Read on to know more about some of the best places to visit in Galway.
Salthill is a small village in Galway situated right along the Atlantic Ocean. The beaches of Salthill are easily one of the most popular hangout spots in Galway. There are numerous small beaches here that are great for swimming or even just relaxing along the shores during the summer season. Ranked as a Blue Flag Beach – one of the highest standards in safety and quality – Salthill is one the most laid-back places in Galway to enjoy some time in. The Salthill Promenade is located just along the beaches and locals and tourists alike love to stroll through the walkway on warm afternoons and evenings. There are plenty of cafes and restaurants here as well where you can hop in for a bite or two when you have had your fill of the sun and sand.
The Spanish Arch
The Spanish Arch is a 16th-century structure that was originally a part of medieval Galway’s defensive walls. It was constructed as an extension of the walls and was meant to protect the ships moored at the quays from looting. While it was initially known as the ‘Blind Arch’, its name was changed when the Spanish traders started using the quays. During the Lisbon earthquake of 1755, a portion of the arch was damaged but a majority of it still remains intact. It now stands as one of the most iconic medieval structures in the city and for history lovers, it is definitely a must-see. There is a wooden sculpture here known as the Madonna of the Quays. The Galway City Museum is also located here.
The Dunguaire Castle is a 16th-century tower house that was constructed by the O’Hynes clan along the south-eastern coastline of Galway Bay. It is located just a short walk away from the town, and after being refurbished by the literary figure Oliver St. John Gogarty in the 1920s, it became a meeting house for Celtic culture revivalists like George Bernard Shaw, W.B. Yeats and Lady Gregory. Currently, the castle is owned by the government and is open to visitors throughout the year. Often considered to be the most photographed castle in Ireland, the building hosts lavish medieval-style feasts, known as the ‘Dunguaire Castle Banquet’, with live entertainment during the summer months.
The Aran Islands are a group of three islands located just a short ferry ride away from Galway Bay. Known as Inishmaan, Inishmore and Inisheer, the islands serve as a great getaway from the town and are filled with amazing historical monuments and attractions. There are many ancient ruins of monuments and churches here, and visiting the islands often feels like stepping back in time before commercialization in the region changed everything. Breath-taking views of the Atlantic Ocean, pubs with traditional Irish music, and shops that sell interesting handmade crafts are some of the best things to look forward to here.
The Aran Islands is a place that showcases Ireland’s culture and history and where the hospitable locals still speak in Irish Gaelic. There is plenty to do here with activities like cycling, swimming, hiking etc., but one of the most popular sites to visit here is the UNESCO World Heritage Site, Dun Aonghasa. Set on a 100-metre-high cliff edge at Inishmore, it was constructed in 1100 BC and is the largest prehistoric stone fort here.
Cliffs of Moher
The Cliffs of Moher are probably one of the most iconic sights in Ireland and are situated just 76 km southwest of Galway. The stunning scenery of the cliffs stretches for 14 km and at its highest point, stands at a height of more than 700 feet above sea level. Spectacular views of the Maumturk Mountains and the Galway Bay can be enjoyed from the top of the cliffs, including those of the Blasket Islands and the Dingle Peninsula. There are three viewing platforms here that offer different panoramic views from different directions, along with the O’Brien’s Tower that was built in the year 1835. Travellers visiting between the months of April and July will be able to witness the Atlantic Puffins, who nest on Goat Island during this time and are a spectacle to watch from the cliff. The visitor centre here showcases interactive exhibits and also has a virtual reality tour of the cliffs with a birds-eye-view.
The Galway Cathedral is one of the most imposing structures in the city. In comparison to other stone cathedrals in Europe, it is a relatively new building and was only completed in the year 1965. However, its architecture and construction style give it the appearance of a much older building. Situated at the site of a former prison, the church building now echoes with hymns and songs being rehearsed by the choirs in addition to other melodious Irish music. The wonderful interiors of the cathedral contain lovely mosaics, intricate decorations on the dome and Romanesque arches.
Eyre Square is a public park located in the very heart of the city. Officially known as John F. Kennedy Memorial Park – in memory of the President who gave a speech here in 1963 – the original park dates back to the 17th-century and is still referred to as Eyre Square by tourists and locals alike. It was redeveloped and re-landscaped in 2006 and is now one of the most beautiful locations in the country.
The square is bustling with people all through the year; even during the harshest of weather conditions. The beautiful green space has just as lovely sculptures that line the square. One of the newly added ones is the Quincentennial Fountain that depicts one of Galway’s typical sailboats. There is also a bronze statue of Padraic Ó Conaire and a bust of Kennedy, along with flags bearing the family colours that represent the 14 Tribes of Galway. The Browne Doorway situated towards the upper side of the square is an imposing structure that dates back to 1627 and was relocated here in 1905 from Abbeygate Street.
Connemara National Park
There are six national parks in Ireland, and Connemara is one of the most beautiful ones. It was opened in 1980 and covers an area of almost 3000 hectares. A vast expanse of lush grasslands, majestic mountains and thick forests, the national park is home to a wide and diverse range of birds. It isn’t surprising that the park has often been described as a paradise for bird watchers. You can also catch a glimpse of Ireland’s prehistoric period with a large number of ancient Neolithic and megalithic burial mounds and tombs located here. It is also a great place to enjoy hikes amidst amazing views of the moors and bogs.
One of the most popular trekking trails here is the Lower Diamond Hill Walk, with other shorter and longer trails present as well depending on your preference. The nature trail will prove specifically fun for kids, where they’ll find the herd of pure-bred Connemara ponies. The visitor centre provides an overview of the park’s ecology and history.
St. Nicholas' Collegiate Church
The St. Nicholas Collegiate Church has been around since the 14th-century and is the largest medieval parish church in the country that is still in use. Dedicated to the patron saint of seafarers, St. Nicholas of Myra, the church has been built in the signature grey limestone of Galway. It has many historical artefacts like a 400-year-old baptismal front, the Leper’s Gallery, which leads to the belfry and a 13th-century grave marker. Christopher Columbus once visited this church in 1477 and has since become the most famous person to have walked through its doors. A lot of the carved figures inside are in a sorry state, which can be blamed on the Cromwellian troops who housed their horses inside the church during the siege of 1652.
Galway City Museum
Galway City Museum is situated on the banks of the River Corrib and offers brilliant insight into the cultural, political and social history of Galway and its people. The set of exhibitions showcased here are ever-changing and focus on the many aspects of development and local heritage of the city. It helps gain an understanding of Galway’s unique regional flavour that embodies Western Ireland, which is so distinct from the rest of the country. Interesting artefacts include prehistoric tools, modern art pieces, a traditional Galway ‘hooker’ sailboat, a stone axe-head dating back to 3500 BC, and the Medieval Stone Collection, which includes plaques, corbels, coats of arms, chimney fragments etc. A photography gallery here documents the city’s progression from 1950 onwards with artefacts from the city’s pubs.