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 Rich Heritage
Galway’s long and rich history is evident in each and every corner of our city, from the 13th-century walls that once defended the city, to the 16th-century Spanish Arch on the banks of River Corrib. If you’re keen to learn more about the heritage of our hometown, Galway City Museum should absolutely be first on your list. One of the most popular free attractions in Ireland, this iconic museum has three floors dedicated to the history of the area, archaeology, and sea science – it’s the perfect place to begin your exploration of Galway’s past.
Nearby is the Hall of the Red Earl (free to visit), a fascinating archaeological site in the heart of Galway, 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.
Continuing our historical tour of the city, and 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. Imbued with historical meaning, 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 a must-visit for anyone interested in Renaissance architecture.
As you move through the city, stop to enjoy the sights and sounds of Quay Street in the Latin Quarter. The bustling heart of the Galway experience, here you can listen to street musicians, dine in renowned local restaurants and shop in local independent shops including the magical Wooden Heart toyshop and the famous Aran Sweater Market. If you’re in the market for a unique, local gift to take home with you, Cloon Keen creates award-winning perfumes that capture the poetic spirit of Ireland, while Lazlo Jewellers (further down the road) is a treasure trove of antique Irish-made jewellery.
Quay Street is also where you’ll find one of Galway’s most-loved pubs, Tigh Neachtain, home to the perfect pint of Guinness, traditional Irish musicians and 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 Heineken Big Top at the Galway International Arts Festival becoming the epicentre in July. The city has long been synonymous with talented buskers, street performers and a buzzing nightlife, inspiring, among others, American singer Steve Earle and English pop star Ed Sheeran, who both penned songs dedicated to the ‘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 the city’s iconic bars – namely O’Connor’s in Salthill and O’Connell’s on Eyre Square.
A Foodie Hotspot
Alongside its thriving creative scene, Galway has long been known as an exciting destination for cutting-edge culinary experiences. Chef Jess Murphy serves up laid-back Kiwi-inspired comfort food at Kai (the Maori word for food), drawing food enthusiasts from across the country with her locally-sourced ingredients. A short walk from Quay Street is the popular Galway Market, the best place to truly experience the best of Galway and the Wild Atlantic Way, 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 and artisans, including an array of handcrafted jewellery. Next on our culinary tour is Dough Bros, pop in for award-winning, wood-fired pizza and a delicious array of craft beers. For true foodies, a two-hour culinary walking tour is available with Galway Food Tours. On the tour, you can meet artisan producers and sample some delicious local food and drink.
Art from the Heart
Galway has long been known for its support of independent artists, with local galleries such as Galway Arts Centre often curating exhibitions by Irish talent, as well as playing host to many internationally-renowned works. Don’t miss 126 Gallery, an artist-led, not-for-profit organisation run voluntarily by professional artists & curators, as well as Outset Gallery, Art in Mind, Kenny’s Gallery and Engage studios – all must-see galleries for any art lover.
A Symbol of the City
Another not-to-be-missed cultural landmark is the Claddagh Ring Museum, where visitors can learn about the world-famous Claddagh ring, a beloved symbol of our city. Popular as a wedding ring, and recently written about in The New York Times, 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 attractions, this unique heritage centre also showcases quality Irish designs.
Photographs courtesy of Chaosheng Zhang, Professor of Geography at University of Galway