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Once a quiet fishing village on the west coast of Ireland, Galway is now the country’s fourth-largest city. It’s central location on the stunning “Wild Atlantic Way” makes it one of Ireland’s best places to visit.
Of course, that’s not all it has going for it.
Oozing a vibrant and festive energy, Galway brilliantly blends a mix of traditional culture with its breathtaking natural surroundings. From historic castles, to scenic wonders, to lively nightlife, Galway has a little something to suit every traveler’s taste.
Want to learn more? Here 15 of the best things to do in Galway, Ireland. Enjoy!
1) Wild Atlantic Way
Galway sits at the midpoint of Ireland’s “Wild Atlantic Way” – a 2,500 km (1,500 mile) road that winds its way from North to South along the Emerald Isle’s western coast. This rugged coastline is known for its rocky headlands, dramatic cliffs, and spectacular views.
A stay in Galway makes a great home base to explore the area, or you can use Galway as a layover while passing through. Either way, the natural beauty of the area won’t disappoint.
2) Connemara National Park
In the northwest corner of County Galway lies a section of the Wild Atlantic Way called Connemara National Park. Oscar Wilde described the area as a “savage beauty,” and it is easy to see why.
Filled with marvelous mountains, bogs, and grasslands, the easiest way to soak up this 2,000 hectare park is by driving the 45 km Connemara Loop. As one of six national parks in Ireland, a visit to Connemara National Park is easily one of the best things to do in Galway and well worth your time.
3) Dunguaire Castle
This castle’s 75-foot tower and stone walls have imposingly guarded the shores of Galway Bay since 1520. These days, the castle is known more for its beauty than for its might. In fact, Dunguaire Castle is the most photographed castle in Ireland.
Originally constructed by the O’Hynes clan, the castle passed to the Martyn clan in the early 17th century. The Martyns possessed the castle until 1924, when it was later restored and used as a retreat by literary greats like George Bernard Shaw, W.B. Yates, and others.
Today, the castle is open to the public for daily tours. Guest can also attend medieval banquets, which feature entertainment and locally sourced food, from April through October.
4) Latin Quarter & Quay Street
In the historic center of Galway lies the Latin Quarter. Home to many of Galway’s top pubs, restaurants, and shops, visiting the Latin Quarter is one of the top things to do in Galway.
Quay Street runs right through the heart of the Latin Quarter. This vibrant pedestrian strip buzzes with energy and is a great spot for an early evening drink or snack.
Enjoy listening to the sounds of street performers as you ramble along the cobblestone pathways. Then drop in to one of the area’s pubs to grab a pint!
Looking for some traditional Irish arts and crafts to bring home as souvenirs? The Latin Quarter is a great place to find it. Check out the Galway Woolen Market for some authentic Irish knitwear, or drop by the Wooden Heart to peruse their hand-crafted wooden toys.
5) Eyre Square
Eyre Square is the main public space in Galway. Located in the center of the city near the Latin Quarter, the square makes a great place for locals and tourists to simply catch their breath.
Officially known as John F. Kennedy Memorial Park, this town square actually features a bust of the former American president. Visitors can also enjoy the Quincentennial Fountain while they relax. Banners remembering the city’s 14 tribes – who dominated the politics and commerce of the city from the 13th through the 19th centuries – also hang here.
There are also plenty of restaurants, pubs, and shopping areas nearby. The park is just steps from over 70 shops located in the Eyre Square Centre, the largest shopping mall in the city center. Eyre Square is also just a few minutes walk to High Street in the Latin Quarter. Or, head a few blocks west to Brasserie on the Corner for some locally sourced seafood and steaks.
6) Salthill Promenade
If you’re seeking some romance, a stroll along the Salthill Promenade is one of the best things to do in Galway. This seaside pathway is the perfect spot to wander hand in hand with a special someone.
The 2 km promenade provides some lovely views of the scenic coastline, including a glimpse of Connemara. Need a drink? Pop into the one of the numerous bars or restaurants for a sip or a snack before continuing on your journey. Oh, and don’t forget to kick the wall at the end of the promenade for good luck!
7) Discover Galway’s Medieval Treasures
Although it may not be super obvious at first glance, history buffs will find plenty of things to do in Galway. This historic fishing town is home to several sights from medieval times that you shouldn’t miss.
Inside the Eyre Square Centre, hidden in plain sight, lie the remnants of Galway’s medieval city walls. These walls were originally built by the Normans, and you should definitely check them out while you’re in the shopping center. You’ll also want to visit the Spanish Arch. Although this was built in 1584, the arch is actually an extension of the original walls.
Ramble down Kirwan’s Lane and visit St. Nicholas’s Collegiate Church for some more medieval thrills.
8) Taste the Local Flavors
You can’t come to Galway and not get a taste of the food! Galway is the culinary capital of western Ireland, and seafood is on the menu everywhere.
Grab some fish and chips at one of the local eateries or drop by Oscar’s Seafood Bistro to enjoy some delicious seafood, meat, and vegan dishes. Make a short trip out of town and visit White Gables Restaurant in Moycullen to taste some traditional Irish favorites.
Even better, taste your way through a Galway foodie tour! This allows you to sample dishes from several of Galway’s top restaurants. Learn more here.
9) Listen to Traditional Music
A trip to Ireland wouldn’t be complete without sipping on a pint while listening to live music. Galway has several bars that feature traditional Irish music, so you shouldn’t have to search too hard.
Some of the city’s most famous music pubs include Tigh Neachtain, Taaffe’s Bar, Tigh Coili, Garavans Bar, and Monroe Tavern. The Crane Bar also features traditional music seven nights a week!
Enjoying traditional Irish music in an authentic Irish pub is one of the best things to do in Galway. Honestly, it doesn’t get much better than that!
10) Aran Islands
Visiting the Aran Islands makes for a great day trip and is one of the top things to do in Galway. Situated at the mouth of Galway Bay, these three small and rocky islands offer visitors the chance to step back in time. Hop a ferry and enjoy the ride.
Residents on the island still speak Irish Gaelic as their first language, and rural landscapes are dotted with historic forts and ruins. Dún Aonghasa (located on the island of Inishmore) is probably the most famous, with its semi-circular stone walls perched protectively over a 300-foot cliff.
>> Plan: Compare Aran Islands Tours Here
11) Attend a Festival
Galway is known as the “Festival Capital of Ireland” and it isn’t hard to understand why. The city hosts over 120 festivals and live events each year, which is kind of amazing when you think about it.
From the International Oyster Festival to the Galway Christmas Market held in Eyre Square, Galway is the place to be. (Of course they have a St. Patrick’s Day Festival too!) So, check the local festival calendar to see what’s happening and enjoy at least one festival while you’re in Galway!
12) Galway Cathedral
The Galway Cathedral may look old, but construction on the building was actually finished in 1965. Still, its size and impressive appearance make it one of the most popular places to visit in the city. If you’re looking for things to do in Galway, wander through the cathedral or enjoy mass here daily.
13) Kylemore Abbey
Located in the heart of the Connemara, Kylemore Abbey is a spot that castle lovers don’t want to miss. Resting peacefully beside the shores of Lough Pollucapal, this Victorian castle turned abbey is still home to an order of Benedictine Nuns. The grounds also feature a stunning walled garden that covers about six acres.
Just a five minute walk down the shore, you’ll find the abbey’s stunning neo-Gothic church. Soak up the church’s beauty, or – if you’re lucky – enjoy one of the musical performances or poetry readings held here.
14) Galway City Museum
With over 1,000 objects on display, a visit to the Galway City Museum is well worth your time.
Located by the River Corrib and overlooking the Claddagh Village and Spanish Arch, the museum allows you to wander through the exhibits and learn about Galway’s ancient and recent past. Be sure to check out the traditional “hooker” boat, the Galway Civic Sword, and the Great Mace.
Rain or shine, a visit to the City Museum is one of the best things to do in Galway.
15) Menlo Castle
If you like beautiful views of ruined castles, a trip to Menlo Castle may be just what you need. Nestled against the shores of the Corrib River, this castle was built by the Blake family in the late 16th century.
The castle’s interior was destroyed by a tragic fire in 1910, claiming the life of three people – including Lord and Lady Blake’s disabled daughter. All that remains are the ivy covered walls of the castle’s exterior, which still are a stunning sight to see.
Touring the castle grounds is currently not allowed due to some ongoing conservation work. However, taking a Corrib river cruise offers a relaxing way to leisurely float by the castle and grab some great pictures.
>>Plan: Ireland Travel Guide
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