Whenever I told Irish people I was visiting Galway, they would get this twinkle in their eye and say something like “oh, I just love Galway. It’s so nice there.” No other information was provided or travel suggestions were made. I simply trusted the process, and wow, am I glad I did!

Galway is one of those places where there aren't necessarily ‘must-see attractions’ or ‘things to do’. There is a subtleness and peacefulness to Galway that makes it enjoyable.

There is a nice vibe to the city that you'll feel right away. As you chat with the extremely friendly locals, you’ll start to feel the dynamics that characterize the Galway spirit. My advice is simply to go and wander around. Like everyone told me, you’ll enjoy it! 

The historic old town is lined with colorful building facades, each holding a cute shop, lively pub or delightful restaurant. Meandering along the canals and Corrib River is peaceful, especially as you make your way out towards the harbor and coastline. Watching the tide roll in and out on Nimmos Pier or taking in a sunset along the shores of Salthill are both lovely.

Everything You Should See, Eat and Do in Galway Ireland

About Galway

Galway, often referred to as Ireland's cultural heart, is a vibrant and charming city that effortlessly blends history, culture, and the sea. Galway traces its origins back to the 12th century when it began as a small fishing village. It gained prominence under the rule of the Anglo-Norman de Burgh family and eventually became a bustling medieval trading port. Throughout its history, Galway has maintained a strong connection to the sea, evident in its thriving harbor and maritime culture. 

Nestled on the west coast of Ireland, this bustling city offers a unique blend of traditional Irish charm and contemporary flair. Galway is a city that captures the essence of Ireland's rich history, vibrant culture, and natural beauty. Whether you're exploring its cool neighborhoods, enjoying live music, or embarking on exciting day trips, you'll find that Galway's charm is irresistible. 

What to See in Galway

Galway Harbor

Given Galway’s deep connection to the sea, a wander along Galway’s picturesque harbor is a must. It has been the heart of Galway's maritime activity for centuries and remains a bustling area where you can watch fishing boats come and go. It's also a great place to take a leisurely walk, enjoy the fresh sea breeze, and perhaps indulge in some seafood at one of the nearby restaurants.

Eyre Square

Eyre Square is a central hub in Galway, steps away from the main train and bus stations. There is a good chance you’ll pass through this square at least a few times during your visit. This vibrant public space is surrounded by shops, restaurants, and historic buildings. It's a perfect spot to relax, people-watch, or enjoy a picnic. The square often hosts events, markets, and performances.

Galway Cathedral

Galway Cathedral, or the Cathedral of Our Lady Assumed into Heaven and St. Nicholas, is one of the city's most impressive landmarks. Completed in 1965, it stands on the site of the old city prison and boasts stunning architecture, including a beautiful dome and intricate stained glass windows. 

Cool Areas of Galway

Quay Street

Quay Street is the beating heart of Galway's Latin Quarter. This lively street is lined with colorful storefronts, cozy cafes, traditional pubs, locally-owned boutiques, and delicious restaurants. Quay Street is always buzzing with activity, making it a must-visit for anyone exploring Galway. It's the perfect place to soak in the city's vibrant atmosphere, shop for souvenirs, and enjoy some traditional Irish music. 

Galway West End

The West End of Galway is known for its eclectic mix of pubs, restaurants, and entertainment venues. It's a trendy and vibrant area where you can experience the city's nightlife, listen to live music, and enjoy delicious food. The West End is a favorite among locals and visitors alike, offering a more laid-back and bohemian atmosphere compared to the busier city center.

Things to Do in Galway

Watch Live Music

Galway is renowned for its live music scene. From traditional Irish folk to contemporary tunes, the city offers a diverse range of musical experiences. Pubs like The Crane Bar, Tigh Neachtain, and Róisín Dubh are popular venues where you can enjoy live performances by talented local musicians. My favorite place for traditional Irish music is Monroe’s on Galway’s West End. I’ve always had a good time there and I find it has lots of locals. Maybe you’ll even catch some spontaneous Irish dancing! 

Shop for Claddagh Rings

You probably already know what a Claddagh Ring looks like, even if you don’t know the name or story. The two hands on the Claddagh ring represent friendship. The heart signifies love, and the crown is a symbol of loyalty. Together, these virtues form the perfect relationship: one based on friendship, love, and loyalty.

The Claddagh ring has its origins in Galway. The Claddagh village, located just outside the city center, is where this iconic ring was first crafted. These rings have been popular ever since! A Claddagh ring can be worn by anyone; however, your relationship status dictates how you should wear the ring.

  • Single: Wear the ring on the right hand with the heart facing outward from your body
  • In a Relationship: Wear the ring on the right hand with the heart facing inwards
  • Engagement: Wear the ring on the lift hand on the third finger with the heart pointing outwards
  • Wedding ring: Wear the ring on the lift hand on the third finger with the heart pointing inwards

Enjoy Street Buskers

Galway's streets are alive with the sounds of talented buskers, especially around the Latin Quarter. These street performers add a unique charm to the city, entertaining passersby with their music. It’s absolutely incredible to just walk around and take it all in. The buskers here are usually fantastic, so make sure to drop them a tip if you hang out and watch for a few minutes. 

Where to Eat in Galway

From traditional Irish fare to international cuisine, Galway boasts a wide range of dining options that might even surprise you. I found the restaurant scene in Galway to be especially impressive, given its small size. There is a dedication to local ingredients and seasonal food, prepared with care and intention. I enjoyed it so much that I wrote a separate restaurant and food guide to Galway! I would strongly recommend having seafood at least once while in Galway, because it is so fresh and bountiful. 

Day Trips from Galway

Aran Islands

The Aran Islands, a group of three islands located off the coast of Galway, are known for their ancient stone forts, traditional cottages, and vibrant Gaelic culture. I am kind of obsessed with these little islands. You can get a sense why I loved it on my Instagram Reel highlighting our day trip to the Aran Islands.

Departing from the Galway City Docks twice per day, there are multiple ferry routes with stops on the Aran islands. You can book ferry tickets ahead of time online. The Aran islands are sparsely inhabited with only about 1,500 residents across the three islands. This population obviously balloons in the summer with tourism, so it is important to spend your money at locally owned businesses to support the community. The Aran islands are famous for their wool sweaters and blankets, many of which you can buy at cute boutiques in the heart of town.

Cliffs of Moher

Located just 90 minutes drive away, the Cliffs of Moher are an absolute must-visit place when in Galway. These majestic sea cliffs offer breathtaking views of the Atlantic Ocean and the rugged Irish coastline. It is the most visited natural attraction in Ireland for good reason! With their dramatic beauty and fascinating geological history, the cliffs provide an unforgettable experience.

The cliffs rise dramatically from the sea, creating a stunning natural spectacle. Visitors can explore the cliffside paths, visit the informative visitor center, and take in the awe-inspiring scenery. The Cliffs of Moher are more than just a scenic viewpoint; they are a place of natural wonder, historical significance, and unparalleled beauty.

The Burren

The Burren is a mesmerizing and unique geologic region that covers approximately 100 square miles. This karst landscape is renowned for its vast stretches of limestone pavement, intricate rock formations, and a remarkable variety of flora and fauna. Hiking in the Burren offers a chance to immerse oneself in its enchanting beauty. I can strongly recommend a guided tour with Tony Kirby. He is a fascinating local character who leads private walks through the Burren, complete with fun facts, geologic tidbits and poetry. It was a lovely experience!

Other things to do in the Burren include:

  • Sheepdog Herding Demonstration: Visit a working sheepdog kennel at Caherconnell Fort, where you can see how the Border Collie dogs listen to whistle and voice commands as they herd actual sheep. Check my experience at this kennel on my Instagram Reel about it!
  • Aillwee Cave Complex: Because the karst rocks in the Burren are dissolvable, there is a massive network of caves beneath this region. Discovered in the 1940s, Aillwee cave offers a fascinating journey through its underground wonders, including stunning stalactites and stalagmites, vast caverns, and a dramatic waterfall.
  • Poulnabrone Dolmen: one of Ireland's most iconic and ancient megalithic monuments. This impressive portal tomb, dating back to the Neolithic period around 4200 BC to 2900 BC, consists of a massive capstone supported by slender upright stones, creating a striking silhouette

Where to Stay in Galway

Galway offers a wide range of accommodation options to suit all budgets and preferences. I think the best little place to stay in Galway is The Stop. Run by a pair of Millennials, this B&B is a cozy, minimalist place full of charm and personality. The breakfast is delightful! 

Another favorite hotel in Galway is Hyde Hotel. Located closer to the city center, I find the staff are SUPER friendly here and the breakfast is amazing. The rooms are rather spacious too. 

Have questions or thoughts about visiting Galway? Tell me in the comments!

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