Galway is prime position along the western coast of Ireland stands out as a key factor contributing to the city’s widespread appeal among tourists. Its convenient proximity to Ireland’s finest beaches and natural wonders ensures an extensive array of activities for visitors.
In this compilation, I’ve curated a selection of 22 top-notch attractions within and around Galway. Ranging from historical landmarks nestled in the city center to breathtaking natural wonders situated just beyond its borders, this comprehensive list encompasses all the captivating facets of Galway that are sure to pique your interest.
Whether your aim is to delve into the rich tapestry of Irish culture and folklore or to immerse yourself in the enchanting landscapes that Ireland has to offer, Galway has it all. Whether you’re planning a brief visit or an extended stay, rest assured that boredom is simply not an option in this vibrant city, regardless of the duration of your stay!
Best Things To Do In Galway, Ireland
Galway captivates with its splendid beaches, enchanting Irish castles, and charming historic town structures. I’ve explored the most renowned landmarks and attractions within the city, along with hidden gems just a short drive from this port city that are equally worth experiencing.
Walking Tour Of Galway Old Town
Embarking on a walking tour through Galway’s old town provides the optimal introduction to this Irish city. Explore medieval edifices, stroll along cobblestone alleys adorned with vibrant storefronts, and challenge yourself to spot the numerous statues peppering the route.
Guided walking tours of medieval Galway prove especially beneficial for first-time visitors, offering a deep dive into the city’s rich history. Local guides weave captivating tales and legends, leading you to the most noteworthy spots in the city.
For those preferring a self-guided experience, it remains a rewarding way to discover Galway. By visiting key locations and delving into local history, you can almost replicate the insights gained from a professional guide. Don’t miss iconic sights like the Latin Quarter, Lynch’s Castle, Eyre Square, Quay Street, Shop Street, and Galway Cathedral in the enchanting Galway Old Town.
Excursion To Aran Islands
The Aran Islands constitute a trio of limestone isles located just off the western coast of Ireland. Conveniently reachable by ferries departing from Galway County or even through scenic helicopter flights from Connemara International Airport, these islands offer a unique experience.
Traveling around the Aran Islands can be challenging if dependent on buses, and in such cases, I recommend opting for a guided tour. Personally, we chose the plane route for our journey, finding it to be the fastest and most straightforward option. However, ferry rides are also available.
Among the three islands, Inishmore stands as the largest, boasting ancient ruins and captivating landscapes. Notably, Dun Aengus, a prehistoric site perched on the island, provides breathtaking views of the Atlantic Ocean and served as a filming location for the Banshees of Inisherin film.
Tour Galway Cathedral
Galway Cathedral stands as one of the city’s most impressive structures, making it a noteworthy inclusion on any comprehensive city tour. Nestled on Nuns Island in the River Corrib, just northwest of Galway’s historic center, the expansive building commands attention in the northern part of the river island. Its significance is aptly reflected as one of the key landmarks in the entire city.
Beyond its imposing exterior, the cathedral’s interior surpasses expectations in grandeur. Adorned with stunning stained glass windows, intricate ceilings, and exquisite paintings and statues on the walls, it rightfully claims its status as the most significant religious edifice in the Irish city. Notably, the interior features a mosaic tribute to John F. Kennedy, who briefly visited Galway approximately five months before his tragic assassination.
See The Lynch Memorial Window
Legend holds that in the late 15th century, James Lynch fitz Stephen, the mayor of Galway, took a drastic step by hanging his own son from a window in response to the son allegedly killing a Spanish soldier. Although scant evidence supports this narrative, it remains one of the most enduring tales of Galway. The Lynch Memorial Window, discovered at the site on Lombard Street where the tragic event supposedly occurred, stands as a poignant reminder of this intriguing story.
The stones associated with the incident were initially showcased at Dublin’s Great Industrial Exhibition in the mid-19th century before finding their current placement along the boundary wall of St. Nicholas Collegiate Church. Despite the lack of concrete evidence, the legend of James Lynch’s drastic action continues to be embedded in the folklore of Galway.
Day Trip To Connemara National Park
Encompassing a vast expanse of 7,000 acres, Connemara National Park stands out as the ultimate haven for outdoor enthusiasts in Galway. Boasting hiking trails, picturesque vistas, mountains, and abundant wildlife, it indisputably ranks as the premier destination for nature excursions near Galway. For those with a car in Ireland, the national park is conveniently less than a 90-minute drive away.
Connemara is particularly renowned for its birdwatching opportunities, with a notable focus on its puffin population. The prime breeding season for these charming creatures spans from March to August, presenting optimal conditions for witnessing these adorable avians in their natural habitat.
The national park offers a plethora of incredible hiking options, featuring trails that cater to various difficulty levels, ranging from easy strolls to highly challenging routes. Notably, Kylemore Abbey, an architectural gem within the park, invites exploration with free tours of its Victorian gardens, adding a touch of history to the natural splendor.
See The Ruins Of Merlin Castle
Nestled on the eastern fringe of Galway City, you’ll find the remnants of Merlin Castle, surrounded by an expansive park adorned with intricately landscaped walking trails. While the castle tower stands as a focal point within the park, the joy of discovering it amidst the meandering paths is an equally delightful experience.
Visit this location to immerse yourself in the natural splendor of Irish landscapes, wandering through vast woods that lie in such proximity to the city. While Merlin Castle may not be a breathtaking attraction in itself, catching a glimpse of this historic landmark becomes a rewarding conclusion after a few hours of exploration along the enchanting forest paths.
An Evening At The Pub
Indulge in the quintessential Galway experience by spending an evening immersed in the soulful melodies of traditional Irish music, all while savoring a pint or two of Guinness. It’s more than just an activity; it’s a cherished ritual in Galway and an ideal way to cap off a day brimming with exploration of the city’s rich history and breathtaking natural landscapes.
Ireland’s pub culture is integral to its identity, providing an opportunity to engage in time-honored city traditions. Quay Street, home to some of Galway’s finest and oldest pubs, emerges as a vibrant destination for a lively and enjoyable night out.
Sunset Walk Down Salthill Promenade
Discover the allure of Salthill Promenade, a charming seaside walking path nestled along Galway Bay. With enchanting views of the sea on one side and the city of Galway on the other, this promenade stands out as one of the city’s most romantic destinations. Abundant opportunities for delightful detours ensure that entertainment is never in short supply along the way.
Palmers Beach, situated opposite both Funfair and Leisureland, adds to the vibrant atmosphere of Salthill Promenade. Leisureland boasts a mini-golf course and an indoor pool, offering a mix of recreational options. Meanwhile, Funfair introduces the excitement of theme park rides, making it an ideal diversion during your stroll. Don’t miss the chance to take a scenic ride on the Ferris Wheel, adding a touch of magic to your Salthill Promenade experience.
Walk Under The Spanish Arch
Nestled adjacent to the Galway City Museum, the Spanish Arch stands as a significant historical landmark in the city. Added to the 16th-century city walls during the 18th century, it represents one of the two surviving arches of Galway’s Front Wall.
While the Spanish Arch remains a crucial piece of the city’s history, the activities around this area are somewhat limited. Visitors can stroll beneath the arch and perhaps explore the quayside promenade for a pleasant experience. At one point, the Galway City Museum found a home within a section of the Arch, but in 2006, it transitioned to a separate building.
Explore Saint Nicholas Collegiate Church
Saint Nicholas’ Collegiate Church stands as the largest medieval parish church still actively in use in Ireland. This historic site is renowned for a local legend asserting that Christopher Columbus attended a worship service there during his visit to Galway in the 15th century.
Open to all visitors for a nominal entrance fee, the church invites exploration of its interiors adorned with breathtaking stained glass windows and captivating artwork. Additionally, every Saturday, the church hosts a vibrant farmer’s market, offering a fantastic chance to acquire local souvenirs to cherish and bring a piece of Galway home with you.
Visit Galway City Museum
The Galway City Museum stands out as the premier destination in town for delving into the rich history and traditions of this Irish city. Spanning from prehistoric eras to the present day, the museum’s exhibits weave a comprehensive narrative of Galway, with a particular focus on its history during World War I.
A noteworthy segment of the museum is dedicated to Pádraic Ó Conaire, a celebrated Irish writer born in Galway. His novel “Deoraíocht” holds acclaim as the earliest piece of modern fiction in the Irish language.
Visitors to this museum can immerse themselves in the significant events of the city, explore the lives of notable individuals, and gain insights into the experiences of locals throughout various ages. Perhaps most remarkable is the absence of an entrance fee, with the museum encouraging a voluntary donation (not exceeding €5) from visitors who appreciate the exhibits.
Cross The Mutton Island Causeway
The Mutton Island Causeway links mainland Galway to Mutton Island in the vast expanse of the Atlantic Ocean. While access to Mutton Island itself is restricted by a locked gate at the end of the causeway, the scenic views along the journey are undoubtedly worth the walk, particularly in pleasant weather conditions.
As the home to Galway’s sewage treatment plant, Mutton Island remains off-limits to the general public for obvious reasons. Nevertheless, the causeway enjoys popularity as a favored route for walking, cycling, and even serving as a picturesque backdrop for proposals and romantic dates.
Stroll Down Quay Street
Quay Street, weaving through the Latin Quarter in the heart of Galway’s historic center, stands as one of the city’s pivotal thoroughfares. Flanked by restaurants and pubs on both sides, it epitomizes the ultimate destination in Galway for shopping, enjoying drinks, and engaging in some prime people-watching.
While any tour of Galway’s old town naturally leads you through Quay Street, this is a locale worth revisiting. Whether it’s a nighttime sojourn for a laid-back experience in an Irish pub or an afternoon escapade to witness street performers and explore medieval buildings adorned with street art, Quay Street offers a multifaceted experience.
As it transforms into High Street, seamlessly flowing into Shop Street and eventually becoming William Street leading to Eyre Square, strolling the entire length of this cobblestone thoroughfare becomes a highlight and an essential part of any trip to Galway.
Excursion To Cliffs Of Moher
The Cliffs of Moher stand as one of Ireland’s most renowned natural landmarks, adorning the country’s west coast. Teaming up with the Burren, these two wonders collectively shape the Burren & Cliffs of Moher UNESCO Global Geopark, spanning an expansive area exceeding 530 square kilometers.
A visit to this site promises a feast for the eyes, showcasing some of Ireland’s most awe-inspiring scenery. On clear days, the distant Aran Islands become a picturesque backdrop. Various walking paths offer diverse perspectives of the Cliffs of Moher, with the viewpoint near O’Brien’s Tower standing out as particularly noteworthy.
For an enriching experience, consider combining your visit with a trip to the Aran Islands, as the ferry departure point at Doolin Pier is just a brief 15-minute drive from the UNESCO site. This highly acclaimed journey from Galway encompasses both the Cliffs of Moher and the captivating Burren, ensuring a breathtaking exploration of Ireland’s natural beauty.
Attend Galway Races
The Galway Races stand out as the highlight of summer events in County Galway. Hosted at Galway’s Ballybrit Racecourse, this horse-racing extravaganza marks the longest festival of its kind in Ireland, commencing on the last Monday of July.
An iconic spectacle in the city, the Galway Races draw a diverse crowd, attracting both locals and visitors alike. Wednesdays and Thursdays emerge as particularly bustling days at the track, with Wednesday featuring the prestigious Galway Plate and Thursday being celebrated as Ladies’ Day. The event has become a cherished tradition, capturing the enthusiasm of horse-racing enthusiasts and creating an electric atmosphere throughout the region.
Christmas At Eyre Square
Exploring Galway in the winter provides the opportunity to immerse yourself in the enchanting atmosphere of the Galway Christmas Market. The primary venue for this festive event is located at Eyre Square in the heart of the city, turning Galway into a captivating winter wonderland.
From William Street to Quay Street, the entire stretch is adorned with festive decorations, elevating its charm to a level even more magical than usual. Christmas in Galway is truly a special occasion, and a winter visit during the holidays provides a distinct insight into local traditions. It’s an experience that may just leave you eager to return every December, captivated by the unique festive spirit of the city.
Wild Atlantic Way Road Trip
The Wild Atlantic Way stands as one of the world’s most extensive coastal road journeys, tracing the entirety of Ireland’s western coast from the Inishowen Peninsula to Kinsale in Cork County. Whether Galway is just one stop among many in your Irish itinerary or your sole destination, exploring even a segment of this epic route promises an unforgettable experience.
This remarkable road trip showcases Ireland’s top sights, featuring towering cliffs, pristine beaches, and picturesque lighthouses. Galway holds a strategic position at the midpoint of this scenic route, providing convenient access to some of the most captivating attractions along the Cliff Coast. Whether you embark on a short excursion or venture further, the Wild Atlantic Way promises a journey filled with breathtaking landscapes and memorable moments.
History Lesson At Dunguaire Castle
Nestled on the rugged shores of Galway Bay, Dunguaire Castle stands as a historic gem in Kinvara. Originally commissioned by the O’Hynes clan in the 16th century, the castle was initially comprised of a defensive wall and a tower.
In subsequent years, both the tower and the wall underwent meticulous reconstruction, now welcoming the public to explore their historical significance. Dunguaire Castle opens its doors for visits during the summer, offering a unique opportunity to partake in a banquet dinner within its walls. This experience provides a fabulous means of immersing oneself in the rich history of this Irish landmark while surrounded by its picturesque coastal surroundings.
Sail On Lough Corrib
Lough Corrib, the largest lake in the Republic of Ireland, is a captivating destination easily accessible from Galway. The southern shore, in close proximity to the city, can be reached through scenic walking paths. During the summer, there’s the delightful option of booking a river cruise from Galway to explore the lake.
For an even more enjoyable experience, consider taking guided tours of the upper parts of Lough Corrib. These tours offer glimpses of castles on the northern lakeshore, boat rides to islands with temples, and the opportunity to visit equestrian centers for horseback riding along the picturesque shores. Embracing the entirety of Lough Corrib ensures a memorable exploration of its natural and historical wonders.
Swim At Dog’s Bay
Dog’s Bay stands out as one of Ireland’s premier beaches, conveniently located just an hour and a half outside Galway. This horseshoe-shaped beach is celebrated for its pristine white sand and tranquil waters, creating an idyllic setting. With its gentle waves, Dog’s Bay is a perfect spot for swimming and a popular destination for water-based activities during the summer. Its lack of significant waves makes it particularly suitable for children and those new to swimming.
While limited public transport access is available, the beach is most easily reached by car or through tours from Galway, ensuring it remains a relatively uncrowded haven. For those seeking a more secluded experience, smaller beaches in the vicinity can be accessed via hiking paths, providing the opportunity to have a slice of paradise all to oneself.
Tour Glengowla Mines
Merely 30 minutes northwest of Galway lies the fascinating Glengowla Mines. Nestled on a farm, these abandoned silver and lead mines welcome the public for tours during the summer months, offering a unique glimpse into Ireland’s mining history. On-site, a small museum showcases mining tools, adding an informative dimension to the experience.
This excursion from Galway proves to be one of the most captivating. Beyond the walking tours through the abandoned mines, visitors to the family farm can partake in demonstrations of traditional Irish turf cutting and sheep herding, providing a comprehensive and enriching exploration of rural Irish life.
Marvel At Menlo Castle
A mere 10-minute drive from the heart of Galway city, Menlo Castle stands as one of the most noteworthy historic landmarks in close proximity. Nestled along the riverfront, the castle ruins, adorned with ivy, create a picturesque scene in their pristine natural surroundings. When seeking a respite from the hustle and bustle of the city, Menlo Castle emerges as a perfect escape.
Consider packing a picnic basket and making your way here for a leisurely afternoon amid lush greenery. Immerse yourself in the soothing sounds of the rushing river and the melodic chirping of birds, all while appreciating the 16th-century castle with its enchanting ivy-covered walls. It’s a tranquil destination that offers a delightful break from the urban crowds.
Is Galway Worth Visiting in Ireland?
Absolutely, a visit to Galway is highly recommended when exploring Ireland. This medieval city boasts a wealth of historic landmarks, a captivating history, and some of the most stunning scenery along the western coast of the country.
What is Galway in Ireland Famous For?
Renowned for its vibrant nightlife, rich cultural scene, and breathtaking landscapes, Galway stands as a captivating destination. Positioned with convenient access to the Cliffs of Moher and the Aran Islands, Galway serves as the gateway to some of Ireland’s most picturesque natural wonders.
How Many Days in Galway is Enough?
A recommended timeframe for a visit to Galway is around three days, providing ample time to explore the city’s key attractions and even squeeze in a day trip to nearby landmarks. This duration allows for a well-rounded experience, ensuring you can fully appreciate Galway’s charm and venture beyond its borders to discover the surrounding attractions.
Why is Galway City so Popular?
Galway City is renowned for its distinctive culture and its advantageous position on the western coast of Ireland. Many of Ireland’s most iconic landmarks are conveniently reached from Galway, making it a prime hub for exploration and discovery.
Tips And Information For Visiting Galway
Best Time To Visit
Galway welcomes visitors throughout the year, offering diverse experiences in every season. Summer is ideal for warm weather and the excitement of the Galway Races, while winter casts a magical spell with the enchanting Galway Christmas Market and snow-covered landscapes that add a special touch to the city’s charm.
Spring and autumn each bring their own appeal with mild (albeit potentially wet) weather and fewer crowds. Early fall, in particular, stands out as a favorable time for both warm weather and the lively spectacle of the Galway Races, set against a backdrop of stunning autumn landscapes.
Presently, the most optimal travel route involves flying to Dublin and subsequently taking a bus to Galway. Ireland boasts four primary airports, with Dublin Airport offering the most extensive international connections, making it a likely point of arrival. From Dublin Airport, a bus journey takes approximately two and a half hours to reach Galway.
Train services operate exclusively from Dublin and are a viable choice if you intend to spend a day or two in the capital city. Another option is Shannon Airport, situated northwest of Limerick and closer to Galway. However, it is serviced solely by Ryanair and Aer Lingus.
Opting for a car is the most effective means of transportation in Ireland. You can conveniently compare car rental prices here. Although Ireland boasts a decent railway network, it may not be as advantageous for exploring Galway and its environs. Given that Galway is a compact city with much of its areas easily accessible on foot and buses available for attractions outside the city center.
However, if you have plans for day trips and wish to explore the extensive west coast of Ireland, renting a car emerges as the optimal solution. While organized tours to nearby attractions are available, driving provides the flexibility to explore at your preferred pace and enjoy the ultimate freedom of your journey.
How Much Time Do You Need
The ideal duration for your stay in Galway hinges largely on your planned activities. If you aim to explore the city’s landmarks and undertake one or two-day trips, three days should suffice.
However, if your ambitions extend to a more extensive exploration of the west coast of Ireland, perhaps following the route of the Wild Atlantic Way road trip, a stay of two weeks or more might be in order. A sweet spot for capturing the essence of Galway and uncovering the top sights along the western coast typically falls within the range of five to seven days.
Where To Stay In Galway
Opt for accommodations in Galway city center to enjoy convenient walking access to all of the city’s prominent landmarks. If you plan an extended stay and wish to explore beyond the city, consider lodging along the shores of Lough Corrib or even in proximity to Connemara National Park for access to other areas within Galway County.