Known as the City of the Tribes, Galway sits perched on the roaring River Corrib overlooking the Atlantic Ocean, at the heart of the Wild Atlantic Way touring route along Ireland’s western seaboard.
A short stroll down the winding streets of this walkable small city brings you into another world. The home of Galway International Arts Festival is filled with history, music, arts and culture ready for you to discover.
A Living History
Galway’s rich history is evident at each turn, from the 13th-century walls that once defended the city from attack - now part of the bustling Eyre Square Shopping Centre - to the 16th-century Spanish Arch on the banks of River Corrib.
Close to the Spanish Arch is Galway City Museum, one of the most popular free attractions in Ireland. With three floors dedicated to archaeology, history and sea science, it’s the perfect place to begin your exploration of Galway’s past.
Nearby is the free-entry Hall of the Red Earl, a fascinating archaeological site in the heart of Galway City, close to the iconic Druid Theatre. Linked to the founding of Galway, the site dates to the 13th century and gives an insight into the many secrets hiding beneath Galway’s city streets.
Just a street away is the Claddagh Ring Museum, where visitors can learn about the world famous Claddagh ring, a beloved symbol of the city. Popular as a wedding ring, the band features a crown for loyalty, hands for friendship and a heart for love. A short walk away is the Claddagh itself, a former fishing village where the ring was first made in the 17th century. Home to the much loved Claddagh swans, the scenic area features Katie's Claddagh Cottage, an old world thatched cottage in the heart of a modern community. One of Galway's most popular heritage attractions, this unique heritage centre also showcases quality Irish designs.
On your way back from the Claddagh, stop to enjoy the sights and sounds of Quay Street, the top-rated city centre location on TripAdvisor. At the heart of the Galway experience, here you can listen to street musicians, dine in acclaimed local restaurants and shop in quirky independent stores like vintage haven Twice as Nice or traditional toy store Wooden Heart. You can also indulge in a beverage in one of Galway’s best-known bars, Tigh Neachtain, home to a collection of historic Galway International Arts Festival posters.
City of music
Galway’s streets and bars are filled with music year-round, with the Festival Big Top at the Galway International Arts Festival becoming the epicentre during the summer. The city’s buskers and buzzing nightlife has inspired, among others, American singer Steve Earle and English pop star Ed Sheeran, who both penned songs dedicated to a ‘Galway Girl’. Sheeran busked on the city's streets as a teenager and returned in recent years to film his very own ‘Galway Girl’ music video in some of Galway’s iconic bars - O’Connor’s in Salthill and O’Connell’s on Eyre Square.
A short walk from Quay Street is the popular Galway Market, the best place to truly experience the best of Galway, including tasty home-baked treats, locally sourced fish, cheeses at Sheridan's Cheesemongers & Wine Bar and much more. After you’ve had a bite to eat, the Market is also a great place to browse the work of talented local artists, including an array of handcrafted jewellery.
For true foodies, a two-hour culinary walking tour is available with Galway Food Tours for those who want to learn more about West of Ireland food. On the tour, you can meet artisan producers and sample some delicious produce.
St Nicholas’ Collegiate Church
Nestled beside Galway Market is the 14th-century St Nicholas’ Collegiate Church, the largest medieval parish church in Ireland in continuous use as a place of worship. Filled with history, the beautiful church welcomes visitors. It even hosted explorer Christopher Columbus during a visit to Galway in the 15th century.
Galway Cathedral, meanwhile, is the youngest of Europe's great stone cathedrals, opened in 1965 on the site of the city’s former prison. Dedicated to Our Lady Assumed into Heaven and Saint Nicholas, the stunning building - located close to the walkways of the River Corrib - is popular with visitors to Galway.
No trip to Galway is complete without a stroll along the city’s canals, following the route of the River Corrib. Visitors can cruise on the river on the family-run Corrib Princess boat, which allows cruisers to enjoy spectacular views of the River and Lough Corrib.