As one of the most vibrant and exciting cities to visit in the Emerald Isle, Galway is one of West Ireland’s most popular tourist destinations. This is a city renowned for culture, history, and food; and its coastal location means that it’s within easy reach of some of Ireland’s most spectacular scenery.
You can explore the charming city streets, indulge in an array of culinary delights — both local and international — delve into museums, visit historic castles, and travel along the Wild Atlantic Way. There are remote islands to see, rugged national parks to hike through, and picturesque lakes to admire.
Just two of our small-group tours of Ireland that visit Galway include The Ultimate Ireland 10-Day Tour Package and the Emerald Explorer 7-Day Ireland Tour. Check out our itineraries to discover more about exploring this incredible city and its surrounding areas.
To further inspire your Irish getaway, we have used our local expertise to put together this ultimate list of things to do in Galway. Scroll down to get started! If you have any questions for the Overland Ireland team, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.
Dive into Galway’s History, Culture, and Food
Galway is brimming with culture and history — and as an added bonus, it has an incredible food scene to help fuel your exploration in the tastiest way possible! You can find live music being played almost any night of the week in the many bars and cafes across Galway, while buskers take to the streets to play to the crowds.
There are intriguing museums that tell the tale of Galway’s history and traditions — like the Galway City Museum and the Galway Fisheries Watchtower Museum — and some wonderful castles and heritage buildings to explore too. These include Merlin Castle and Lynch’s Castle, to name only two.
And as a city of gastronomic delights, you’ll never be far away from a mouthwatering meal! But the best way to taste the finest Irish offerings in the city is to join one of our own small-group tours of Ireland that includes the Walkin’, Talkin’, Tastin’ tour of Galway led by one of our local friends! These include the Ultimate Ireland 10-Day Tour, Emerald Explorer 7-Day Ireland Tour, Wild West & North Ireland 6-Day Tour, Magical Southern 5-Day Ireland Tour, and Full Irish 11-Day Zest Tour.
Go Deeper on a Walking Tour of Galway…
A great way to start your trip to the city is to join a walking tour of Galway. The city center, with its maze of historic streets, quirky surprises, legends, and hidden history, is perfectly suited for exploration on foot. With a local guide showing you around, you’ll learn much more about the city than you ever could on your own.
Be sure to keep building your dream Ireland itinerary when you have finished reading this blog. Our team is full of amazing ideas for how to spend a week in Ireland for the first time.
…Or Cover More Ground with WeWheel eBike Tours in Galway!
Whether you want to cover more ground in your time in Galway, or you simply prefer a more active, energetic approach to discovering a new destination, WeWheel’s eBike tours of Galway allow you to explore the city on two wheels!
But WeWheel’s Galway eBike tours have an added unique quality — they’re as much about games and having fun as they are about seeing the city. Galway’s five boroughs can become your playing zone while you and your friends become the team players!
With guided, self-guided, and fully custom-built options too, you can enjoy a truly unique experience that simply isn’t possible on foot and in a car or bus.
Explore Galway’s Latin Quarter
The Latin Quarter is one of the most historic parts of Galway, and it’s a great place to soak up local culture and history. The medieval streets have retained much of their unique character and heritage, and you can wander past old buildings and shops while enjoying the bustle of the narrow roads. You’ll find great cafes, bars, and restaurants in the Latin Quarter, and there are always some exciting events taking place here.
Relax in Eyre Square, the Heart of Galway
Eyre Square is a central, public square in Galway that’s always buzzing with people, tourists, and locals alike. Part of the square is completely pedestrianized, making it a wonderful place to stroll through and to people-watch. There are green, grassy areas and, when the sun is out in the city, it’s a happening place to be. This is also the venue for Galway’s famous Christmas market.
Step Back in Time at the Galway City Museum
The Galway City Museum is the best place to visit if you want to immerse yourself in the city’s fascinating history. Best of all, it’s completely free. Located in the historic center of Galway, the museum has several floors of exhibitions that take visitors through chapters of the city’s past.
You can learn about pre-historic Galway, the first humans to settle along the west coast of Ireland and discover how the modern city developed from its walled medieval days through to the present. The museum also hosts many temporary exhibitions, which change regularly but generally focus on unique cultural or historical aspects of Galway.
Pass Under the Spanish Arch
Found next to the Galway City Museum, the Spanish Arch is one of the most iconic sights in town. The large stone structures were built during the medieval period to protect the banks of the River Corrib against attack, and the two adjacent arches are some of the last surviving examples of the extensive fortifications that once surrounded the city.
Marvel at Galway Cathedral, Inside and Out
Galway Cathedral is one of the must-see buildings in the city. The huge structure overlooks the river and its huge dome and pillars dominate the skyline. The cathedral was designed to architecturally replicate the Catholic Renaissance styles popular in past centuries across the continent, but it only dates back to the mid-19th century. It’s a fully functioning place of Christian worship, but visitors are welcome to explore the beautiful interior.
Find Your Art Fix at the Kenny Gallery
The Kenny Gallery offers visitors to Galway the chance to view one of the most impressive collections of contemporary Irish artwork. The gallery, established back in the 1940s, immediately became one of the premier locations for exhibitions in the city, attracting work from some of the best artists across the country and overseas. The gallery also acts as an art shop; you’ll find many great local works for sale here.
Step Inside a City Centre Fortification at Lynch’s Castle
Lynch’s Castle is one of the best-surviving examples of a local town castle, which was popular in the late medieval period. The fortified stone building stands out amongst the rest of the street, dominating its surroundings in the center of Galway. It was built by one of the most powerful local families in the 15th century, as a way to protect them in an often-turbulent period of Irish history.
Peer Up at Galway’s Lynch Memorial Window
Found close to the St Nicholas Church in the historic part of the city, the Lynch Memorial Window has an unusual story behind it. The Lynches — the same family who built the iconic Lynch’s Castle — were a prominent noble family in Galway. In the late 15th century, James Lynch Fitzstephen was both mayor and magistrate. When his son killed a merchant in the city, the family was caught up in a murder case.
The father condemned his son to death and went as far as to personally hang him from what is now called the Lynch Window. Local legend insists that this is where the English term ‘lynching’ is derived from, but it’s unclear if this is true.
Soak Up the Beauty of Galway Bay
Galway Bay has long stirred the imagination of poets, musicians, and artists because it’s one of the most picturesque locations along the west coast of Ireland. Many a song has been written about the bay, and when you visit for the first time you’ll quickly realize how it’s garnered such romantic connotations.
The city is built along the edge of the bay, and you can find beaches, a windswept coastline, and incredible views out to sea. You can even take boat tours across the bay to fully explore its natural beauty.
Walk the Causeway Out to Mutton Island
Mutton Island is a small island situated in Galway Bay. It’s close to the mainland, and you can easily see it from the city being battered by the tides. A long causeway leads out from the coast for over one kilometer, allowing visitors to walk across from Galway to Mutton Island. There’s not much to see on the island itself, but it makes for a great viewpoint.
Eat and Shop at the Bustling Galway Market
Galway’s busy open-air market has been held in the city for hundreds of years. It’s a vibrant, bustling place to be, and you can find the vendors set up on Church Lane, next to St Nicholas’ Church. If you are looking for a few souvenirs from your time in Galway, the market has a fantastic selection of locally produced handicrafts.
If you are a foodie, then you can find plenty of great street food stands here where you can indulge in some local fare. The Galway Market is held every Saturday and Sunday from morning through to the afternoon. During the summer, the market is sometimes open on extra days throughout the week, to cater for an increase in tourist numbers during the high season.
Stroll Along Galway’s Salthill Promenade
Head to the seaside just outside Galway to visit the popular Salthill Promenade. This two-kilometer boulevard follows the coast along Galway Bay and is a great place to catch some fresh air and enjoy the outdoor scenery. It’s busy all year round, but particularly so in summer, when locals and tourists are out enjoying the sunshine. You can find plenty of great bars and restaurants overlooking the water, making it a great place to spend the day and escape the city center.
Make a Day of It at Lough Corrib
Lough Corrib is the largest lake in the Republic of Ireland, and it makes for a great day trip from Galway. The Corrib River is the main river in the city, and it connects the city to the lake, which is found just to the north of Galway.
A local company, Corrib Cruises, runs daily boat trips that take visitors across the lake, passing crumbling castles and offering the chance to spot wildlife on the water and the surrounding banks.
Discovery Living History at Dunguaire Castle
Dunguaire Castle is one of the most iconic landmarks found anywhere in Ireland and is located just along the coast from the city of Galway, on the other side of the bay. The medieval castle dates back to the 16th century when it was built to protect Galway Bay, and ultimately the city too.
It’s found in a dramatic location and is a wonderfully restored example of Irish, medieval construction. You can tour the ramparts and the tall defensive tower, and explore the castle grounds, on a short day trip from Galway.
For even more historical inspiration, head over to our blog What are the Best Castles to Visit in Ireland? when you have finished here.
Revel in Live Music in Galway
Galway is a cultural paradise and the city attracts musicians from across the world looking to play for the local crowds and tourists. Most nights of the week – and more so in summer, peak season – you’ll find live music events being held in at least one location somewhere in the city. Usually, you’ll be spoiled for choice, as there are a great many bars, pubs, and restaurants entertaining the crowds with performers.
Read our blog Why is Galway Known as Ireland’s Cultural Heart? to learn more about this wonderful side of the city’s character.
Treat Yourself to a Galway Food Tour!
Galway is great for foodies, with a huge selection of local and international food on offer across the city. Taking a food tour is the perfect way to experience the culinary delights of Galway, as you’ll be taken to some of the city’s best local locations, serving up some of the tastiest traditional Irish fares.
If you want food to play a key role in your Irish experience (and you absolutely should!), check out our Gastronomic Guide to Ireland and our blog Ireland is the Ultimate Destination for Seafood Lovers and Pescatarians.
Adventurous Things to Do in Galway
As well as the food, history, and culture, Galway is a great base to explore the surrounding region, and you’ll find plenty of opportunities to take on adventurous challenges in the rugged Irish outdoors.
The Cliffs of Moher
The Cliffs of Moher are one of the most dramatic sights to be seen anywhere in Ireland. For almost 10 miles, the windswept cliffs are battered by the Atlantic Ocean as they extend along the coastline, forming part of what’s known as the Wild Atlantic Way. You can hike along the edge of the Cliffs of Moher if you don’t mind braving the tumultuous weather and the heights, as the cliffs reach a maximum height of 120 meters in some places.
Just south of Galway is The Burren, one of the most spectacular national parks in the region. This barren land is as sparsely populated as it is rugged, and it’s this sense of isolation that gives The Burren its real beauty. There are great opportunities for hiking through the karst landscapes and getting to grips with the wild nature of West Ireland.
The Aran Islands
Far out in Galway Bay are some of Ireland’s most remote communities. A trip to the Aran Islands is about as adventurous as you can get, as you brave the stormy waves to reach this collection of three small, windswept islands.
Aside from the dramatic vistas, the Aran Islands are unique because most of the locals still speak a local dialect of Irish as their first language. Due to their isolated location, the islanders managed to retain more of their culture than on the mainland, making this an intriguing destination to visit.
The Aran Islands, the Burren, and the Cliffs of Moher all make our list of the five best wild places in Ireland!
Connemara National Park
To the northwest of Galway, Connemara National Park offers the chance to enjoy pristine nature in dramatic surroundings. This large, protected area is home to mountains, rivers, forests, and bogs, and it’s an excellent location to strap on hiking boots and walk along the network of trails that crisscross the landscape.
Book Your Ireland Tours Featuring Galway with Overland!
We hope this ultimate list of things to do in Galway has inspired you to visit the Emerald Isle. Remember, Galway is just one of many incredible destinations we visit on our small-group tours of Ireland. Browse our itineraries and find the perfect fit for you.
If you have any questions, contact Overland Ireland today.
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