Colorful, bohemian Galway is the gateway to Ireland’s heart and soul. Irish folk music fills the air and its winding cobblestone streets host artsy shops, traditional pubs and year-round festivals. Brimming with cosmopolitan flair while clinging to its medieval roots, Galway invigorates the spirit of all its visitors.
Perched along the world-renowned Wild Atlantic Way, Galway is the premier launching pad to discover the rugged beauty of western Ireland. Sandy beaches, crystal clear bays and rocky outcrops highlight its unmatched coastal scenery. Wander the beach promenade, dine on succulent seafood or simply bask in the laid-back vibes of Ireland’s cultural oasis.
Top Things to Do in Galway
Galway is one of the best destinations for an authentic Irish experience. Many of the top things to do in Galway encapsulate Ireland’s culture and history. Here are a few recommendations for an unforgettable trip to Galway.
Experience the Pub Culture
Nothing beats the feeling of having a pint of Guinness inside an Irish pub. Stroll through boisterous squares and alleyways to find rows of bright, creative facades. Creaky wooden floors, decorative ornaments and that gracious Irish hospitality delightfully await each guest.
Tigh Neachtain is a local icon and a visit here gives you an intimate connection with Galway’s flourishing art and music scene. Tig Coili gives you a taste of traditional Irish music with your pint. Drop by Murphy’s for low-key vibes and visit Bierhaus for an unmatched selection of beer, spirits and ciders.
Listen to Traditional Irish Music
Galway prides itself on keeping its local customs alive in the modern world. Buskers fill the streets, pubs host sessions featuring local talents and spirited festivals inject crowds with infectious energy. In a town that lives and breathes music like Galway, you’re never too far from a riveting performance.
Head to An Púcán or Taaffes for entertaining tunes, or visit in July for the Traidphicnic Festival in the nearby village of An Spidéal.
Stroll Along the Salthill Promenade
Galway’s picturesque location against the sea has shaped its character for generations. The roughly 3-km Salthill Promenade gives you a mesmerizing vantage of Galway Bay. Walkers and joggers flock to the seafront path during the summer and brave souls swim in the chilly waters.
The promenade is bustling with activity and is a local favorite for heavenly seaside sunsets. To partake in local tradition, make sure to “kick the wall” at the end of the promenade for luck.
Relax in Eyre Square
This popular gathering spot sits in city centre and provides an excellent hub to explore shops, restaurants and pubs. Its spacious, grassy areas are delightful spots to enjoy the sunshine and there is a playground for the kids.
Seasonal markets mingle in the square and the Eyre Square Centre features an eclectic selection of over 70 shops.
Discover Medieval History
Galway has a rich history as a walled city dating back to the 13th century. The town gained prominence as a fishing village and much of its medieval architecture can be seen today.
Walk down Kirwan’s Lane for a glimpse of life within the old city walls and see buildings from the 16th century. The views of Lynch’s Castle and St. Nicholas’ Collegiate Church imitate a time portal peering hundreds of years into the past. See the iconic Spanish Arch and learn how its strategic position along the Corrib River defended Galway in medieval times.
Best Day Trips from Galway
Galway is positioned along the wild Atlantic Ocean and its most exciting day trips include dramatic cliffs, scenic islands and mountainous landscapes.
A day trip to the Aran Islands is a journey to a place where time has remained frozen for centuries. Just a 40-minute boat ride separates you from three ancient islands where traditional Gaelic culture continues to flourish.
Gaelic remains the primary language spoken, thatched-roof cottages and Celtic artifacts dot the landscape and life flows at a gentle pace. Inis Mór (Inishmore) is the largest of the Aran Islands and features the archaic Dún Aonghasa, one of western Europe’s oldest archaeological sites.
Cliffs of Moher
Ireland’s most famous natural attraction, the Cliffs of Moher tower high above the Atlantic Ocean and offer jaw-dropping coastal vistas. Drive south on the Wild Atlantic Way from Galway and you’ll reach the precipitous cliffs in roughly two hours.
Watch the sunlight glistening against the Atlantic waves as the furious wind pummels your face. The exhilarating views of sea stacks, blooming flowers and rugged coastlines are a testament to Mother Nature’s power. If you plan on visiting the Cliffs of Moher you can easily hike or walk the trails and visit for free.
Connemara National Park
Situated approximately 80-90 km northwest of Galway, Connemara National Park contains some of the harshest landscapes in Ireland. Craggy mountains, dense bogs, sweeping grasslands and sparkling lakes are among its prominent features. The park is home to an abundance of wildlife including majestic Connemara ponies, foxes, red deer and a wide range of bird species.
Connemara is a hiker’s dream with numerous routes that traverse through isolated trails. The mountain peaks here are not dramatic in height, but, nevertheless, offer sensational vistas of the unforgiving terrain.
Places to Stay in Galway
The g Hotel & Spa (Luxury)
Galway City’s only five-star hotel pampers you with rejuvenating spa treatments, elegant rooms and gastronomic pleasures from Gigi’s Restaurant.
Galway Bay Hotel (Mid-Range)
This cozy hotel sits right along the Salthill Promenade, provides access to its pool and leisure centre, offers discounts to local shops and delivers a homely atmosphere for families.
Sleepzone Galway City Hostel (Budget)
Sleepzone has spacious accommodations, a large kitchen, friendly staff and day tours to popular sights in western Ireland.
Places to Eat in Galway
Aniar Restaurant (Luxury)
The terroir based, Michelin-star restaurant features an exceptional tasting menu and wine pairings by incorporating the richest local flavors from the west of Ireland.
Ard Bia at Nimmos (Mid-Range)
This locally beloved restaurant offers riverside views, a delightful ambiance and elegantly merges traditional Irish recipes with international tastes.
This iconic, family-run chippy has been in business for over a century and serves a variety of fresh fish and other seafood delights.
- Galway is nicknamed “The City of Tribes” in reference to the 14 merchant families who ran the city during the medieval period.
- Galway was named one of the 2020 European Capitals of Culture.
- Galway is the festival capital of Ireland hosting over 100 events per year.
- Galway is home to the country’s largest Gaeltacht (Irish language) community.
- Eyre Square’s official name is John F. Kennedy Park due to the former U.S. President’s visit to Galway.