Galway City, located on the west coast of Ireland, is a vibrant and charming destination that offers a unique blend of history, culture, and natural beauty. With so much to see and do, it can be difficult to know where to start. In this article, we’ll take you through the top 15 things to do in Galway City to help you plan your trip and make the most of your visit – of course if you have other suggestions of things to do while exploring Galway City, be sure to let us know in the comments!
1. Explore Galway’s Latin Quarter
The Latin Quarter is the heart of Galway’s historic center, and it’s a must-visit for any visitor to the city. This charming neighborhood is full of narrow cobblestone streets lined with colorful buildings, cute cafes, artisan shops, and lively pubs where you can hear traditional Irish music. Visitors can immerse themselves in the local culture by browsing the independent boutiques, admiring the street performers, and sampling the delicious cuisine from the local eateries. The Latin Quarter is also home to some of Galway’s most iconic landmarks, such as the Spanish Arch and St. Nicholas’ Church. Whether you’re interested in history, culture, or just soaking up the atmosphere, the Latin Quarter has something for everyone.
2. Visit the Galway City Museum
The Galway City Museum offers a fascinating insight into the history and culture of the city. The museum’s exhibits include archaeological finds, paintings, and photographs that tell the story of Galway from its medieval origins to the present day. Visitors can admire intricate Celtic art, learn about the Spanish Armada shipwrecks off the coast of Galway, and explore the city’s role in the medieval trade network. The museum also hosts temporary exhibitions, events, and educational programs for visitors of all ages.
With its engaging displays and knowledgeable staff, the Galway City Museum is a fantastic resource for anyone who wants to learn more about this fascinating city and its rich heritage. Admission to the museum is free, and it’s a fabulous way to uncover the history of Galway, especially on those rainy days (of which there can be a few in the West of Ireland!).
3. Take a stroll along the Salthill Promenade
The Salthill Promenade is a beautiful seaside walkway that offers stunning views of Galway Bay. The promenade stretches for about two kilometers along the coast, offering stunning views of the Atlantic Ocean. Along the way, visitors can stop at the many cafes and restaurants, ice-cream parlors, and amusement arcades that line the route. They can also take a dip in the sea or dive off the iconic Blackrock Diving Tower. The promenade is also an excellent vantage point for admiring the sunsets over the bay. Whether you’re a visitor or a local, a walk along the Salthill promenade is a relaxing and refreshing way to enjoy the natural beauty of Galway – and be sure to kick the wall at the end!
4. Discover the Galway City Markets
Galway City is known for its bustling weekend market, so a visit to the market is a must-do activity. The Galway Market takes place every weekend throughout the year, and from Wednesday to Sunday during July & August, and offers an eclectic mix of artisanal foods, handmade crafts, and vintage treasures. Located in the heart of the city, the market is a popular destination for locals and visitors alike. Vendors sell a wide variety of goods, from fresh seafood and organic produce to handmade jewelry and vintage clothing. The market also features live music performances, street performers, and a lively atmosphere that adds to its charm.
Visit Galway Cathedral
Galway Cathedral is a striking landmark that dominates the city’s skyline with its towering spire and imposing facade. Built in the mid-20th century, the cathedral is one of the youngest cathedrals in Europe and is a relatively new addition to the city’s historic architecture, but it has quickly become an icon of Galway. The cathedral is a stunning example of neo-renaissance architecture and its interior is just as impressive as its exterior, with beautiful stained-glass windows and intricate mosaics. Visitors can attend a mass to experience the cathedral’s peaceful ambiance, or just wander through it and appreciate the skill and craftsmanship that went into its construction.
6. Enjoy a pint and a traditional Irish music session at one of Galway’s traditional pubs
Galway is famous for its traditional pubs, many of which have been serving locals and visitors for generations. For a pint of the black stuff (Guinness!), you’ll find many amazing pubs throughout Galway City that will serve up a delicious creamy pint. Galway is renowned for its traditional Irish music scene, and there are plenty of pubs throughout the city where you can enjoy live music performances by local musicians. If you’re seeking out some great pints along with some live traditional Irish music, then be sure to head to Taaffe’s, Tig Coili’s, Barr An Chaladh or The Crane Bar to soak up some authentic ‘craic agus ceol’.
7. Take a day trip to the Aran Islands
Taking a day trip to the Aran Islands from Galway City is a wonderful way to experience the rugged beauty and unique culture of Ireland’s west coast and offers a fascinating insight into traditional Island life. Located just off the coast of Galway Bay, the Aran Islands are a group of three islands – Inis Mór (Inishmore), Inis Meáin (Inishmaan), and Inis Oírr (Inisheer) – known for their stunning landscapes, ancient ruins, and traditional way of life.
Visitors can take a seasonal ferry from Galway City (typically running from April to September) or an all year round ferry from Rossaveal Pier. Alternatively, a short 10-15 minute flight from Connemara Airport is also an option, where you can then spend a day exploring the islands on foot or by bike, admiring the breathtaking views of the Atlantic Ocean and the fascinating karst landscape of the Islands. The islands are also home to a number of historic sites, including the prehistoric fortress of Dún Aonghasa, the ancient church of Teampall Chiaráin, and the rustic cottages of Inis Meáin. With its rugged beauty and rich cultural heritage, a day trip to the Aran Islands is a must-do for anyone visiting Galway City.
8. Explore the Claddagh neighborhood
Exploring the Claddagh region of Galway is a delightful way to experience the city’s rich history. Located just outside the city center, the Claddagh is a historic neighborhood in Galway that was once a fishing village filled with traditional thatch cottages, and which offers up wonderful waterfront views across to the iconic and colourful Long Walk. The area is also home to the iconic Claddagh Ring, a traditional Irish ring that symbolizes love, loyalty, and friendship, known across the world.
Be sure to pay a visit to Katie’s Cottage, a prime example of the traditional Irish thatched cottage that was once found all over the Claddagh. The cottage museum provides visitors with a glimpse into the daily life of a traditional Claddagh family of years gone by. Visitors can find displays of artifacts, photos, and furniture from the era, and experience the cozy atmosphere of the cottage while learning about the rich history of the Claddagh. The Claddagh and Katie’s Cottage offer a unique glimpse into Ireland’s past and a chance to experience Galway’s rich cultural heritage firsthand.
9. Explore the City Walls & take in some shopping
Although only sections of the original wall can still be seen today, Galway City’s historic walls are an integral part of the city’s rich cultural heritage. The walls date back to the 13th century and were originally built to protect the city from invasion. Today, visitors can still see sections of the original walls at the iconic Spanish Arch, and within the Eyre Square Shopping Centre, where a sixty metre curtain wall and two of the original towers, Penrice’s Tower and the Shoemaker’s Tower, can be seen. The walls are a testament to the city’s long and storied history and offer a glimpse into its medieval past.
While at the Eyre Square Shopping Centre, why not do a spot of shopping while you’re there. Galway City is a fantastic destination for shopping, offering a range of boutique shops and artisanal markets. The city’s main shopping district is located around Shop Street, a bustling pedestrianized street that is home to a variety of shops selling everything from high-end fashion to traditional Irish crafts. Visitors can also browse the shops in the various shopping centres throughout the city to include; the Eyre Square Shopping Centre, Corbett Court Shopping Centre, the Corrib Shopping Centre, the Galway Shopping Centre and many more.
10. Go on a food tour of Galway
Galway is a food lover’s paradise, with a vibrant culinary scene that showcases the best of Irish cuisine. From fresh seafood and traditional stews to artisanal cheeses and craft beers, Galway’s diverse food offerings are a feast for the senses. Visitors can sample these delights on an amazing food tour of the city with Galway Food Tours, which offers a chance to taste the best dishes from the city’s top restaurants and markets. A typical food tour might include stops at the Galway Market, where visitors can sample locally produced cheeses and cured meats, as well as artisanal bread and pastries. Other stops might include traditional pubs serving hearty stews and fresh seafood restaurants offering the catch of the day. A food tour is the perfect way to experience the unique flavors of Galway and learn about the city’s culinary heritage from local experts.
11. Visit the National University
Visiting the National University of Ireland, Galway is a fantastic way to experience the vibrant student culture of Galway City and explore one of Ireland’s top academic institutions. Founded in 1845, the university has a rich history and stunning architecture that reflects its long-standing academic excellence. Take a stroll around the beautiful campus and witness the beautiful architecture of the iconic Quadrangle building, a stunning example of neo-gothic architecture, with its beautiful sandstone walls and ornate carvings, or or visit one of the university’s museums or galleries, such as the James Mitchell Museum of Geology. Visitors can also explore the campus’s many green spaces, including the picturesque riverbank walk along the River Corrib.
12. Explore Galway’s Westend and walk the canals
Exploring Galway’s Westend is a must-do activity for any visitor to the city. Located just a short walk from the city center, the Westend is a vibrant and eclectic neighborhood that is home to some of Galway’s best bars, restaurants, and shops. Visitors can stroll along the picturesque canal or through the narrow streets and discover hidden gems such as artisanal food markets, vintage boutiques, and trendy cafes. The Westend is also known for its lively nightlife, with a variety of pubs and music venues offering live music and entertainment every night of the week. The area has a bohemian vibe, and visitors can expect to encounter street art, colorful murals, and unique local characters as they explore.
13. Visit the Galway Atlantaquaria
The Galway Atlantaquaria is Ireland’s largest aquarium and is home to a wide range of marine life, including sharks, rays, and seahorses. Visitors can discover a range of aquatic creatures and learn about the diverse marine life found in the Atlantic Ocean. The aquarium features a variety of interactive exhibits, including touch tanks where visitors can get up close and personal with starfish, crabs, and other creatures. One of the highlights of the aquarium is the Ocean Tank, which features a variety of colorful fish, rays, and even sharks. Visitors can also learn about the history of fishing in Galway and see traditional fishing boats on display. Galway Atlantaquaria is a great activity for kids and families, with plenty of hands-on activities and educational exhibits that will engage visitors of all ages.
14. Explore the city’s street art scene
Exploring the street art of Galway City is a unique and exciting way to experience the city’s vibrant arts scene. Galway is home to a variety of stunning murals and graffiti artworks, which can be found throughout the city center. Visitors can take a guided or self-guided tour of the city’s street art, discovering hidden gems such as colorful murals, whimsical illustrations, and thought-provoking political statements. One of the best areas to explore is the Westend, which is home to a variety of street art installations that reflect the neighborhood’s bohemian spirit. The Latin Quarter is also a great destination for street art enthusiasts, with a variety of colorful artworks on display. Exploring the street art of Galway is a great way to discover the city’s creative spirit and connect with its vibrant artistic community.
15. Take a guided walking tour of the city
Join a guided walking tour to explore the highlights of Galway’s historic centre, learn about the city’s history and culture, and discover hidden gems that you might otherwise miss. A walking tour typically takes visitors on a leisurely stroll through the city’s narrow streets and charming alleyways, with a knowledgeable guide providing fascinating insights into the city’s past and present. Visitors can learn about Galway’s medieval heritage, explore its iconic landmarks such as the Spanish Arch and Claddagh, and discover hidden gems such as tucked-away bookshops and historic pubs. A guided walking tour is a great way to get a sense of the city’s unique atmosphere and to discover the sights and sounds that make Galway such a special destination.
In conclusion, Galway City is a vibrant and charming destination that offers something for every type of traveler. From exploring historic landmarks such as Galway Cathedral and the Claddagh region to experiencing the city’s vibrant arts scene through street art and food tours, there is no shortage of things to see and do in Galway. Whether you’re a history buff, foodie, or art enthusiast, Galway City has something to offer. With its friendly locals, bustling city center, and stunning natural surroundings, it’s no wonder that Galway has become one of Ireland’s top tourist destinations. Whether you’re visiting for a day or a week, make sure to check out these top 15 things to do in Galway City to make the most of your trip.