16 Spectacular Things to do in Galway

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Galway is the cultural hub of West Coast Ireland and one of the country’s most exciting destinations to visit. There are plenty of things to do in Galway and despite the city’s small size, the lively streets of Galway can easily keep you captivated for days.

You can stroll through the historic avenues of the Latin Quarter, enjoy the bustling cafe culture and spend late evenings listening to live music in ramshackle pubs and taverns.

The city also makes for a great base for exploring the Wild Atlantic Way. You can stand in awe on top of the staggeringly high Cliffs of Moher, join boat trips along the Corrib River or travel out to the remote Gaelic stronghold of the windswept Aran Islands.

Don’t leave home without: Lonely Planet Ireland (Travel Guide)

16 Spectacular Things to do in Galway

Kylemore Abbey, Galway, Ireland

1. Kylemore Abbey

One of Ireland’s most romantic castles is Kylemore Abbey, a can’t miss stop when visiting Galway. It has a truly remarkable story both as a Castle and Abbey.

You could easily spend a full day here enjoying its grounds with woodland walks, endless gardens, fascinating history, beautiful architecture, and do not forget to grab a bite to eat or just enjoy a tea from its restaurant.

The Kylemore Abbey is open year-round to visitors and areas you simply cannot miss in the Abbey are: the Gothic Church, the Victorian walled gardens, the craft shop, pottery studio, The tea rooms, the woodland trails and the lake.

Delve into the rugged wilderness of Connemara, an Irish county thronged with historic monuments and natural splendor, on a full-day tour from Galway City. Accompanied by a knowledgeable guide, explore the perfectly preserved Franciscan friary of Ross Errilly Friary and enjoy some leisurely free time in Cong, a picturesque village.

Eyre Square, Galway City, Ireland

2. Eyre Square

Eyre Square is the modern center of Galway, and it’s the perfect place to start your tour around the city if you’ve just arrived. From here, you can walk to almost anywhere else in the center, and the square itself is a delight to stroll through.

This has always been the historic heart of the city, but in recent decades, Eyre Square was completely refurbished and redesigned, giving it a modern feel. It’s wide, spacious and partly pedestrianized, and you can kick back in the green spaces and people watch to your heart’s content before moving on to explore the rest of Galway.

3. Latin Quarter

Visiting the Latin Quarter is one of the best things to do in Galway, as the preserved streets of old are the perfect place to get acquainted with the rustic charm of the city. The streets date back to the medieval era, and you can still find ramshackle, cobble-stoned walkways that are full of history.

This is also the touristy center of Galway, and you’ll find street performers and buskers playing to small crowds along the avenues, while lining the streets are old pubs serving classic, hearty Irish food and plenty of drinks.

Live music in Galway

4. Live Music in Galway

Another beautiful quirk of Galway is the fact that you can find live music almost any time of the day across the city. The city has long attracted artists, musicians, and creatives, and there’s nothing better than sitting back in the cafes or pubs and listening to local bands playing.

During the day you can find street musicians and buskers in the historic center, while at night, you can find at least one venue hosting a live music evening.

5. Charlie Byrne’s Bookshop

This is a city of quirky little secrets, and one of the best things to do in Galway is to call in at Charlie Byrne’s Bookshop. This colorful little bookshop is stuffed full of second-hand books that literally overflow from the shelves.

You can find almost anything hidden away behind the stacks of novels, history books and ancient tomes that are for sale, and it’s a wonderful local establishment, beloved by all in Galway.

6. Galway City Museum

To learn more about the city, then one of the best things to do in Galway is to call in at the excellent Galway City Museum. This is the best museum in the city, and the best part about visiting is that it’s completely free.

There are several floors with dedicated exhibitions that take you through the history of the city, from the prehistoric era through to modern times and you’ll find some real historic gems on display here, from ancient archaeological finds to medieval relics.

Don’t leave home without: Lonely Planet Ireland (Travel Guide)

things to do in Galway - coastline

7. Galway Bay

The city is built around the wide expanse of the Galway Bay, which opens out into the stormy Atlantic Ocean. It’s a sheltered retreat from the wilder ocean and a beautiful piece of scenery.

You can watch the sunset over the bay, or you can even join boat trips out onto the water to explore further. From the city, a promenade also leads out to Mutton Island, which is found in the bay itself, and this is the perfect place to watch the sun go down.

8. Salthill Promenade

One of the best things to do in Galway, if you are looking to get out of the city center itself, is to take a trip along to Salthill Promenade. This long walkway follows a beautiful stretch of coastline and gives you the chance to take in the sea breeze and in summer, to take a swim in the ocean too.

You can find a few cafes and restaurants along the promenade as well, making this is a great day out from Galway.

Seagulls swimming in Corrib river and Galway Cathedral in background, Galway, Ireland

9. Galway Cathedral

The Galway Cathedral, while not the most historic of the city’s churches, has become a real icon and landmark on the skyline. The cathedral was built in the mid 20th century, but its rustic appeal and stunning location on the waterfront have ensured that it’s quickly become an emblem of Galway.

While relatively new, the cathedral replicates older styles prevalent in the Renaissance era, and it easily blends in with the more medieval elements of the city that surround it.

Castle in Ireland

10. Corrib River Cruises

Another great day out from Galway is to take a cruise along the Corrib River. From Galway, the cruise takes visitors along the river towards the huge lake nearby.

Along the route, you’ll enjoy beautiful views on either side and have the chance to spot local wildlife. There are ancient castles standing on the banks, and it’s one of the best things to do in Galway by a long stretch.

11. Galway Market

One of the best things to do in Galway is to call in at the local market if you are around on the weekends. The bustling, lively market is located on Church Lane, and you’ll find the street is packed out with crowds every weekend through the year.

In summer, if demand is high, the market might even be held on a few weekdays too to cater for the extra tourists in town.

You can find a great array of food stalls at the Galway market, from local cuisine to international street food, and it’s a great place to indulge on the weekends.

12. The Spanish Arch

Medieval Galway was built as a walled city in order to fortify the bay that it overlooks and to provide a safe haven during times of trouble in a riotous period of Irish history.

While much of medieval Galway’s heritage has been preserved, unfortunately, many of the sections of wall have been lost over the centuries. One small section that does remain is the Spanish Arch, which was built to defend the port from attack.

The arch dates back to the 16th century, and it’s a great piece of preserved history to visit. You can walk underneath the historic stones and marvel at how they’ve withstood the test of time.

Divergent Travelers at the Cliffs of Moher, Galway, Ireland

13. The Cliffs of Moher

The Cliffs of Moher are a must-visit sight when you are staying in Galway. Located along the Atlantic Coast to the south of the city, they make for a dramatic day trip. The cliffs rise to over 120 meters in some places and below there is nothing but crashing surf and powerful waves smashing into the rocks.

You can hike along the cliffs to take in the entire 14-kilometer length if you are feeling adventurous, and if it isn’t too windswept for you.

Marvel at the natural majesty of the UNESCO-listed Cliffs of Moher on a full-day trip to one of Ireland’s most popular attractions from Galway. Accompanied by a professional guide, travel south by luxury coach and pass through quaint fishing villages like Doolin and Kinvara. 

14. Lynch’s Castle

Another piece of great history to visit in Galway is Lynch’s Castle. This is a medieval townhouse built by the important Lynch family, who held prominent positions throughout local Galway history. The ‘castle’ dates back to the 15th century and is a prominent landmark in the old town.

You can also explore the Lynch family history by visiting the Lynch Memorial Window, which is found near the St Nicholas Church. Local legend has it that when a Lynch family member committed murder, his own father, the magistrate, had him hanged from the window.

Local stories say that this is where the term ‘lynching’ originated from, although it’s a disputable claim.

Horses outside of Galway, Ireland

15. The Aran Islands

The Aran Islands are found far out in Galway Bay, and this small archipelago is one of the most remote locations in Ireland. The stormy seas and isolation have ensured that the locals have retained the local Irish culture and language in a way that has in many places been lost on the mainland.

You can take a boat trip out to the Aran Islands, to discover ancient ruins and to learn more about the local heritage and traditions of these remote communities.

Visit the Aran Islands and the Cliffs of Moher in one day on this full-day tour from Galway. Travel along the Wild Atlantic Way with your guide, through pretty villages including Ballindereen, Clarenbridge, and Kilcolgan. Take the ferry from the fishing village of Doolin to Inisheer Island and enjoy free time at your leisure.

Wild Atlantic Way, Ireland

16. The Wild Atlantic Way

The Wild Atlantic Way is one of West Coast Ireland’s biggest tourist draws, because the long coastline along the ocean is quite simply, spectacular.

The tourist trail takes in most of the west coast, and from Galway, you can explore much of the route either north or south of the city. Rent a car, hire a bike or strap on your walking boots and explore Ireland’s most dramatic and beautiful scenery.

Journey along Ireland’s Wild Atlantic Way on this full-day tour from Galway. Marvel at the mighty Cliffs of Moher and enjoy ample time to explore the visitor center, hike the dramatic Cliffs of Moher Coastal Walk, and admire views that span Galway Bay, Connemara, and the Aran Islands.

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Things to do in Galway


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About Lina Stock

Lina is an award-winning photographer and writer that has been exploring the world since 2001. She has traveled to 100 countries on all 7 continents. Member: SATW, NATJA, ATTA, ITWA

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