Are you looking for the best things to do in Galway, Ireland? This Irish city is the fifth largest in the country and a major vacation destination for those visiting Ireland. As it is one of the best places to visit in Europe, it’s drawn us back three times, and we know we will be back again in the future.
While many visitors flock to Dublin, I prefer Galway’s vibe. It’s known as “The City of the Tribes” and feels much more Irish to me than the capital. There are so many things to do in Galway City center, and even some epic day trips from the city. A visit to Galway should be on every Ireland itinerary.
Where is Galway?
Galway is a historic port city on Ireland’s West Coast in the province of Connacht. Galway lies 200km west of the capital city, Dublin. It is the sixth most populous city in Ireland and the fourth most populated in the Republic of Ireland.
Galway is a significant tourist destination and a great jumping-off point for those driving the Wild Atlantic Way. It’s only a two-hour drive from Dublin and is one of Ireland’s most culturally interesting places to visit. If you want to understand a little better, head over to this map of Galway.
Best Things To do in Galway, Ireland
Explore The Latin Quarter
Historic cities come with rich and intriguing histories. Galway, dating from 1124, exhibits much of this historic architecture and is a notable attraction when visiting this city. Most of it centers around the hook-shaped district of the Latin Quarter.
Galway’s original settlement has defensive walls, and many still stand today – some in very peculiar places, such as the citadel and wall section inside a shopping mall. Across the district, you can find some of the city’s best pubs, restaurants, bars, shops, and galleries. It’s the heart of the city, with the majority of the streets limited to pedestrians, perfect for exploring on foot.
The Spanish Arch
The Spanish Arch sits in the Latin Quarter is one of Galway’s top things to do. It dates back to 1584 and tells a story about its past. The arch is a former gate from when the city was walled to protect the city’s quays.
It sits on the bank of the River Corrib, where the latter meets the sea. It helped to prevent foreign ships from passing through and looting merchants. Along with notable points in the wall and the Spanish Arch, you’ll find informative plaques giving context and information on the ancient stonework.
Eyre Square is a public park located in the heart of Galway City. It’s one of the best free things to see in Galway, and being in a bustling part of town, it offers a vibrant nightlife and a wide array of shops, restaurants, bars, and cafes. Its location sits on the former “The Green,” a medieval landmark at the city’s gate. Townsfolk would congregate here to pass the time, much as they do today.
The park has undergone several redevelopments throughout its lifetime, complete with name changes. While it is widely known as Eyre Square, it was officially renamed as John F. Kennedy Memorial Park since the US President had made a speech there during his term in office.
The square is home to statues and public art (there is a beautiful sculpture of the Galway Hooker boat on display) and was even the site of the third most extended Occupy Camp movement globally, at 216 consecutive days.
Buy a Claddagh Ring
If you are still wondering what to do in Galway, Ireland, why not check out a Claddagh ring shop? A highlight of our trip to Ireland was learning how they make a Claddagh Ring. It’s a traditional Irish ring representing love, loyalty, and friendship!
The heart represents love, and the crown represents loyalty. The ring originated in Galway and has been produced there since the 1700s. You can find shops selling the ring around the city center, and sometimes you can even find them making them.
St Nicholas’ Collegiate Church
The St Nicholas’ Collegiate Church is a medieval Anglican church in the center of the town. It is steeped in nearly 800 years of history, making it a must-see on the endless list of things to do in Galway City.
As a church, its hallowed interiors have seen many facets of life in the city. During the reign of the 14 tribes of Galway, it was the location for mayoral election deliberation and voting. A widely-circulated belief is that Christopher Columbus prayed here during his stopover in Galway en route to the New World.
Though Sunday Mass may not be for you, there’s no denying it’s part of life and culture in Galway; this church’s mass often welcomes up to 300 churchgoers for the 11 am service.
Quay Street is your best bet if you’re looking for things to do in Galway City that are a mix of fast-paced and laid back. Quay Street is perfect for an afternoon wander through the best combination of shops, restaurants, cafés, and pubs (it is Ireland, after all).
Once you’ve had your fill of food & bevies, a little shopping may be in order. If you’re more of a take-it-all-in kind of person and love to people-watch, just wandering through the winding cobbled streets is always a great way to spend time in this part of town.
Live music, street performers, and buskers are all over, giving this little gem in the heart of Galway a beat and personality all its own.
Tips For Quay Street
- The most iconic pub to have a beer on Quay Street is Tigh Neachtain. It dates back to 1894 and has amassed over a centuries worth of charm and decor thorughout the years.
- If you’re hungry, the area boasts excellent local oysters; you can wash them down with a pint from a bar (or two!) that comes highly recommended, such as Tig Coili or O’Connell’s Bar.
Architecture remains from many different designs, styles, and construction eras in a city as old as Galway. The Lynch’s Castle is one such edifice, erected in a classic Irish gothic style that looks deceptively unassuming from outside despite its predicted age of around 500 years. It even houses a bank in a fitting unity of old and new.
Lynch’s Castle was once home to one of the most powerful families in the area, one of 14 tribes who ruled the region. The castle was their refuge from raids and features many architectural intricacies, such as gargoyles, window carvings, and detailed moldings.
The Lynch family crest features prominently on the outer facade. One of only a few earthly treasures from Galway’s past still standing today, it is a building worth seeing, though only the first of its four floors are open to public perusal.
If you’re into castles with a side of mystery and folk magic, Menlo Castle is a must-visit and a unique Irish castle. It was home to the wealthy and powerful Blake family, who owned land in many regions. The ivy-ridden, overgrown ruins that remain today are a glimpse of the magnificent structure that once stood.
Its history is shrouded in lore, with tales of faerie rings and lights spotted by a midwife shortly before the fire overtook the Lord and Lady’s daughter’s bedroom, presumably claiming her life (they never found remains). Some years later, the Blake baronet who inherited the land was dead.
This spot on the list is more of a self-service visiting point, as the castle is now in ruins, and no museum nor guided tours operate on the grounds. However, it does make for a lovely walk (or bike ride) and some beautiful pictures, particularly with the greenery overtaking the crumbled stone.
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While most European cities are exciting in their own right, with a diverse array of museums, restaurants, bustling neighborhoods, and vibrant city streets, sometimes the purest joys of traveling come from the quiet days where you can slow your pace.
Barna Woods – located only three miles from Galway’s city center – offers a respite from the city’s fast pace. With creeping moss, oak trees, old stone bridges, and a forest floor carpeted with fallen leaves, Barna Woods gives off an aura of ancient magic and lore—how very Irish!
It’s a beautiful spot for an afternoon bike ride, a picnic, or even just a stroll, but be sure to bring boots as there is often mud.
One of the best things to do in Galway is to check out Mutton Island. No need to hop on a boat to access this island; Mutton Island is connected to Galway City’s South Park by a long causeway of about a mile and offers some pretty spectacular views the whole way there.
Bonus: you can begin your walk along the banks of the River Corrib by South Park before turning onto the causeway; this gorgeous path is full of old houses and beautiful greenery.
Though being the base of a sewage treatment plant, Mutton Island has no permanent residents, and it hosts plant workers daily. A path follows along the plant’s perimeter, with sweeping views out to sea.
This beauty makes the causeway and the island a popular spot for marriage proposals, so if any ladies are traveling with a partner in tow, cross your fingers!
25 BEST Things To Do In Galway, Ireland
Take A Cruise On The Corrib Princess
In the summer months, the Corrib Princess sails up the river from Galway to Lough Corrib. Along the way, you’ll follow the historic waterway used by local boats for centuries. It’s a beautiful waterway that moves through the verdant countryside with a wealth of wildlife and tranquility.
The ship is a leisure cruise carrying passengers faithfully along the river for years. Along the way, the boat’s guides explain the history of the region, share landmarks, and teach you about the local flora and fauna. As this is Ireland, you can also have a pint on board while passing through the countryside.
- Season — May to September
- Tour Length — 90 Minutes
- Website: — Link
With Ireland being famous for its shorelines, it’s no surprise that Galway Bay is on the list of things to do in Galway City. Bring your camera because the views you’ll see from here are among some of the most beautiful in the region, mainly if you capture the brightly colored houses dotting the shoreline.
The bay is also well-known for the Galway Hooker, an all-red traditional sailing craft from the years leading up to the Great Famine.
25 Ireland Travel Tips to Know BEFORE You Go
Visit the Aran Islands
If you have an extra day or a little spare time, Galway is not too far from the bay to the Aran Islands, well-known for its natural beauty and ancient structures.
The island’s 1200 inhabitants, while fluent in English, speak primarily Irish Gaelic since the region is a part of the Gaeltacht. If you happen to be interested in brushing up on your Irish Gaelic, this would be an excellent place to take a quick lesson!
Galway Cathedral of Our Lady Assumed into Heaven and St Nicholas
Though not particularly old, the Cathedral of Our Lady Assumed into Heaven and St Nicholas (commonly referred to as the Galway Cathedral) is among the top things to do in Galway City. Interestingly, it was initially the location of the city prison. Upon its completion in 1965, it became the last stone cathedral built in Europe.
Mass is daily, and the inside of the cathedral is worth seeing for its stone walls, rose and glass mosaic windows, and impressive dome and pillars done in Renaissance style. If you happen to be near the Spanish Arch, it’s not much farther to walk here.
Another one for the list for those seeking outdoor activities, the Salthill Beaches are among the top outdoor things to do in Galway, no matter the weather. There are several beaches ranging from sandy to rocky. Blackrock Beach and Ladies Beach are the top ones to visit.
If you’d rather keep your distance from the chilly water, there’s a lovely promenade winding along the shoreline that is popular with runners and walkers.
Whether you’re there for a wintry stroll or plan to spread out and enjoy a summer day, the ocean breeze and perfect beachcombing make the Salthill Beaches a memorable way to spend the day.
Day trip to the Cliffs of Moher & the Burren
It would be a shame to visit Ireland and not pay a visit to the famous Cliffs of Moher. To get to the Cliffs of Moher from Galway will take you less than two hours drive. It’s a perfect day trip opportunity, and you will find many tour companies that offer this service.
The Cliffs themselves are astounding. From walled areas for those afraid of heights to un-walled sites for thrill-seekers, the views you will get of the crashing sea below, the endless skyline, and the famed Irish shorelines are among some of the most beautiful you will see in your lifetime.
The entire region surrounding the cliffs is the Burren; taking a scenic drive through this region will show you the impressive bedrock formations that coat the ground.
Leftover from the last Ice Age, they are now permanently a part of the environment here. Mesolithic and Megalithic peoples once called the region home. Most notable are the Megalithic people, who built many of today’s tombs.
Day trip to Kylemore Abbey & Connemara National Park
Kylemore Abbey is only an hour and a half drive from Galway City, a beautiful and elegant estate home built in 1868 for a wealthy family. Later, it became a Benedictine monastery in 1920. Located on the edge of Pollacapall Lough and backdropped by a fertile green hillside, it is a famous landmark in the region (and makes for some beautiful photography).
Today, its neo-Gothic church, Victorian walled gardens, and ancient mausoleum are some of its most popular features. It is not far from the town of Clifden and is just minutes from Connemara National Park, which boasts nearly 3,000 hectares of grassland, forests, bogs, and mountains – perfect for all you hikers and outdoor enthusiasts. Additionally, it houses remnants from early human civilization, including megalithic tombs over 4,000 years in age and a 19th-century cemetery.
Galway City Museum
Museums are often a promising way of spending an afternoon, especially in a city such as Galway, where history is so diverse. The Galway City Museum, located right beside the Spanish Arch, offers a multitude of fascinating exhibits, both permanent and temporary.
Among the permanent exhibits offered by the museum are the history of prehistoric Galway and Medieval Galway, providing a fascinating insight into how tiny ancient settlements grow into thriving cities over many hundreds of years.
With a country so steeped in history as Ireland, you can bet that each city’s history is just as enchanting, and Galway is no exception. The museum is relatively new (only open since 2006), but its collections and exhibits are worth visiting.
Hall of the Red Earl
The building is one for the history buffs visiting this city. The Hall of the Red Earl is one of the unique things to do in Galway. Richard, the Red Earl, had his hall built in the 13th century to entertain guests; while much of the building is lost, the foundations remain.
Even more fascinating is that these stone foundations lay undiscovered until the 1990s, when they were found unexpectedly during an expansion of the main building.
The remains are encased in glass for visitors to admire. Some of the fascinating artifacts also found among the ruins are displayed (including items such as pipes and gold cufflinks). Entry is free, so it’s an excellent spot to visit if you’re feeling a little more frugal towards the end of your trip.
Enjoy the Galway Oyster Fest
The native Galway Flat Oyster comes into season every September through April. There’s no better Irish way to celebrate this wild Atlantic and salty oyster than with a giant festival, a few pints of Guinness, and live Irish music in Galway Bay Harbour. In celebration of the season, the Galway Oyster and Seafood festival happens every year on the last weekend of September and has over the previous 66 years.
It may have started as a gathering of a few dozen people, but since has grown to include several thousand people and truckfuls of oysters. While you can enjoy oysters all year, like Oyster Pacific Oyster or Giga, the festival highlights the native flat and is quite the party!
Galway Oyster & Seafood Festival • What You Need to Know
It’s a well-known fact in Ireland that Dunguaire Castle is one of the most famous castles in Ireland. Located on the shores of Galway Bay, Dunguaire Castle is as picturesque as they come (not to mention there are some stunning views from the castle towers of the lush green countryside below).
The castle was constructed in 1520 and has been the site of many battles and sieges during that time. It came to a well-known local surgeon and author in 1924, who, being friends with poets & writers such as Yeats, is credited with a literary revival in the region.
The castle’s interior retains all the charm of medieval decor, with a banquet hall that hosts regular summer feasts for visitors. Its tower stands at 75 feet and looks out over the nearby town of Kinvarra, which is about 30 minutes away from Galway. Tickets to enter the castle cost £7.
11 Amazing Castles In Ireland To See!
Lough Corrib is the largest lake in Ireland and is one of the best fishing lakes in Europe. Its unique geography means there are 365 islands on Lough Corrib. One island for each day of the year. It’s a beautiful lake that offers plenty of recreational activities.
For most, a walk along the shore and some time relaxing on its shores will suffice. We spent some fantastic time on the lake after visiting the town of Oughterard, which is about a half-hour outside of Galway. One of the best things to do in Galway County is to head here after some fresh mussels at Powers Thatch Bar and Restaurant nearby!
Go Fly Fishing For Brown Trout
Hire a local guide and head out to catch brown trout, pike, or salmon. Lough Corrib and the river are well known for their healthy fish populations. Thanks to the healthy fly hatches, clean water, and limestone bottoms, fishing here is well known in Ireland.
If you’d love to get out in the countryside and catch some local fish, it’s best to hire an experienced guide. They’ll know the best spots, handle local regulations, and supply the equipment.
Head Out to Cnoc Suain
Cnoc Suain may be the best cultural experience you can have in the Galway region. And that’s in an area that is brimming with cultural experiences! Cnoc Suain is a collection of small cottages set on a hill. It all plays well to the name since Cnoc Suain means “restful hill” in Irish, although we still can’t pronounce it!
Your hosts, Dearbhaill and Charlie, could not be more welcoming and eager to teach more about the property’s history and Irish culture. The two teach you about Irish food, history, music, and the surrounding landscape.
If you have rented a car in Ireland and can visit Cnoc Suain, it’s well worth it, although I would call first to make sure Dearbhaill and Charlie are available. It’s best as an overnight with dinner and cultural experiences enjoyed from your guesthouse.
Enjoy a Festival!
The city of Galway has been dubbed “Festival City” and is well known as the festival capital of Ireland. Throughout the year, the city draws in visitors from all over the world for world-class events, like St. Patrick’s Day in March, the Galway Races in the summer, Galway Jazz Festival, the Comedy Festival, and Galway International Arts Festival in October.
A lot is happening in this little Irish city, and that extends beyond the song “Galway Girl” and enticing pubs they’re world-famous. Besides the Galway Oyster Fest, we could visit the Halloween Festival and see one of the best Halloween Parades on this planet!
12 Amazing Irish Festivals to Attend
Best Things To Do In Galway Map
Where to Stay In Galway?
It’s tough to get a better location than the Jury’s Inn. It’s located smack dab in the middle of Galway, only a few minutes to about everything.
The Galmont Hotel & Spa
A posh waterfront hotel that is set on the Lough Atalia. It is only 230 m from the Galway railway station and a 5-minute walk from Eyre Square.
The Best Galway Restaurants
- Aniar Restaurant & Boutique Cookery School: Michelin Starred restaurant located in Galway’s West End. A contemporary twist on Irish cuisine. Reservations are needed!
- Ard Bia at Nimmos: Near the Galway City Museum this is one of the best restaurants in Galway housed in one of the most beautiful spaces. Reservations are highly recommended.
- The Dough Bros: If you’re in the mood for the best pizza in Ireland, you will absolutely love this place.
- The Quay Street Kitchen: One of the best restaurants in Galway center that serves Irish food and a few vegan options.
The Best Restaurants in Galway
Quick Ireland Travel Tips
- ‘Hello’ and ‘Thank You’ in Gaelic: “Dia dhuit” and “Go raibh maith agat”
- Currency: Euro – (EUR) – €
- Visa: The Republic of Ireland & Northern Ireland are separate countries on the island of Ireland. The Republic of Ireland, known as ‘Ireland, ‘ grants 90-day visas. Northern Ireland, a part of the United Kingdom, also grants 90 days.
- Weather: Expect lots of weather! Ireland is known for having rapid shifts and lots of rain – the only reason a country like Ireland remains so green and fertile. See our full packing list here.
- When is the best time to visit Ireland? Ireland is a fantastic country to visit year-round. However, you’ll find crowds during the summer. My favorite time to visit Ireland is in September when the weather is cool and the low crowds. You can read all about the weather in Ireland here.
Ireland Travel Planning Resources
- Packing Guide — Check out our Ireland Packing List to help pack your bags and ensure you don’t leave anything at home.
- Rent a Car — We suggest most visitors consider renting a car for the best trip possible. Try Discover Car Hire to compare quotes from different rental agencies. Check the Price Here!
- Protect Your Trip — We don’t travel without travel insurance, and neither should you. You never know what can happen while traveling, so it’s best to be prepared. HeyMondo provides excellent short-term and long-term travel insurance plans.
- Tours in Ireland — Check out our list of the best tours you can enjoy in Ireland!
- Travel Adapter – Make sure you find a suitable adapter to keep your electronics charged. Otherwise, you may be paying for a cheap one once you land. Purchase one here.