Galway, a city also referred to as the “City of the Tribes” is one of the best cities in Ireland which has many canals on its Corrib River.
From the 13th to the 19th centuries, the politics and trade of Galway were controlled by 14 families, this gave it the nickname, the city of the Tribes.
You will find this beautiful city interesting, and also notice hints of the tribes and families which controlled the city in time past.
For example, you will notice the Lynch’s Castle which is a 16th century fortified limestone house, it has the Lynch Coat of arms on its front as a symbol of these families.
Irish songs are harmonious, Galway is a hotbed of traditional Irish music where you get to hear lots of them as a walk through the lively pedestrian streets of the Latin Quarter, you will also hear more when you visit the pubs.
Another activity you can indulge when you visit Galway is sailing to the verdant Arab Island which is beautified by the Atlantic.
On getting to the land, you can stroll through the Wild Atlantic Way which leads straight to two National Parks that are at the center of this wonderful city.
Let’s look at the best things to do in Galway.
1. Galway Cathedral
If you take a glance at Galway Cathedral, you might assume that this very reputable building must be so many centuries old, however, that would be a wrong assumption.
Construction began in 1958, it was completed in 1965, the very site where it was built was once the site of Galway’s old city prison.
Having a big jumble architecture, you will find Romanesque influences both on its narrow semi-circular window arches and its plain walls.
The building consists of several architectural styles, for instance, above its main portal, the cover is Gothic.
The cathedral’s barrel vault was made using the Renaissance architectural pattern, the magnificent dome will remind you of II Duomo di Firenze.
Its Windows was made by Patrick Pollen who was a British stained glass artist.
He also produced the mosaic depicting the crucifixion and that of St Joseph the Worker.
The image of the Virgin Mary which you will notice in the compound of the cathedral was made by Imogen Stuart who was a German-Irish sculptor.
All these make the cathedral a sight to behold, and a visit here makes one of the best things to do in Galway, Ireland.
2. Galway City Museum
Located just by the Corrib River, a place worth adding to your checklist of top things to do in Galway, is the Galway City Museum.
Galway City Museum is a free and multifaceted attraction that covers all of Galway’s art and natural history, archaeology, and folk history.
In the museum, you will find Galway’s traditional sailboat, which is known as “hooker”. You will also find a “Great Mace” which is a significant and magnificent ornamental silverware piece that was produced in the 18th century at Dublin.
You will be shown the “Medieval Stone Collection” which contains fragments from the 16th and 17th centuries.
Some of these fragments include plaques, coats of arms, chimney fragments, and two complete fireplaces from the 16th-century.
You will also find a photography gallery that documents the city starting from 1950 to this day.
Galway’s Pubs dating between 19th and 20th centuries are not left out, for their bottles and Tom signs are kept in this museum.
3. Kirwan’s Lane
Kirwan’s lane was named after one of the 14 Tribes in Galway, this lane can be found inside Galway’s former city walls, this makes one of the things to see in Galway Ireland.
The lane has a very tight pedestrian street and it curves through a lot of rustic stone houses which still have some elements in them that date back to the 16th and the 17th centuries.
In Kirwan’s Lane you will find restaurants, cafes, pubs, arts and crafts shops. You might also find some tables and chairs with people relaxing on them in a good weather.
Check out Busker Browne’s Pub, you will find vestiges of the Dominican Slate Nunnery which was donated to them in 1686 by John Kirwan.
4. St Nicholas’s Collegiate Church
One of the oldest churches in Ireland, St Nicholas’s Collegiate Church is a place that should be added to your list of places to visit in Galway.
St Nicholas’s Collegiate Church was built in the year 1320 and it still waxes strong till today.
It hosts regular services and it is the largest medieval parish church in Ireland.
A sight to behold, this amazing structure is dedicated to St Nicholas of Myra who is the patron amount of seafarers. The building was made using grey limestone that is peculiar to Galway.
It is worth noting that the largest body of Irish genealogical lore, Leabhar and Genealach, which records the history of families across Ireland was written in this place during the middle of the 17th century.
It’s going to amaze you that most of the architectures in this church are from the 14th and 15th centuries when the church was enlarged.
Quite a landmark, keeping proves of events, Inside the church, you can still find evidence of iconoclasm which the Puritan Oliver Cromwell’s troops carries out during the 17th century.
Check out the baptismal font which has the image of a dog carved on its side, you will be amazed it has been there for centuries.
Don’t forget to view the oldest ledger stone that is in the church, this ledger dates as far back as the 1200s and it belongs to a man called Adam Bures.
Be sure to come with a camera when visiting this awesome place, you might want to take pictures of what you’ll see.
5. Walk Through Spanish Arch
Making one of the best things to do in Galway Ireland, is the walk through Spanish Arch situated at the front of Galway City Museum, an amazing place to check out.
These Spanish arches are the last surviving arches of the Ceann a Bhalla, which is the Front Wall.
This structure that is also known as the Spanish Arch was erected as a part of a defense mechanism that runs from the old Martin’s Tower to the Corrib River.
It was set up in a bid to defend Galway’s quays.
Though these arches are not extraordinary, don’t forget the fact that they have been erected and firm since 1584.
Most of the damages you will find on them were caused by a tsunami which was a result of the Lisbon Earthquake that happened in 1755.
6. Latin Quarter
Just in the old center of Galway, you will find a district made up of cobblestone streets, the way the Street are clustered gives the district a hook shape.
Located on the left bank of River Cotton from O’Brien’s Bridge down to the Spanish Arch, A visit to Latin Quarter should make your checklist of fun things to do in Galway Ireland.
You will find some of Galway’s favorite restaurants, galleries, pubs, bars, and shops in this district.
Other things about this district which will interest you are the Irish arts and crafts, and traditional knitwear
For traditional knitwear, Galway Woollen Market is filled with both knitwear and local pure cotton, if you will need some for your project.
As yoh indulge in window shopping, bar hopping, or sightseeing in the Latin Quarters, you will get to hear Street Performers and entertainers as they entertain all who are around with constant folk soundtrack.
7. Eyre Square
Just up from the Latin Quarter, you will find Galway’s main public space called Eyre Square.
Eyre Square today was formally a free town at the front of the old gates which was used for markets.
In the year 2000, the space was reshaped and made into this modern plaza known as Eyre Square.
You will find works of art in Eyre square, One of which includes the Quincentennial Fountain that has an abstract depiction which shows typical Galway’s Sailboats.
There is also a statue of one of Ireland’s foremost Irish-Language writers that is cast in bronze.
You will also find a statue of John F. Kennedy who helped secure Galway’s freedom.
Here, you will notice 14 flags in the Square each representing one of the 14 Tribes of Galway with their family colors.
Check out the Eyre Square Center which is on the southern border of the square.
This center is Galway’s prime center for it has over 70 high street chains and restaurants.
8. Quay Street
As you slope down towards the river in the Latin Quarters, you will find Quay Street, this makes one of the things to see in Galway Ireland.
A fun and friendly pedestrian street, Quay Street has very colorful trendy shops, storefronts, restaurants, and bars.
You will find one or two street performers performing some sweet notes.
The pubs are quite fun as they present live music, you can visit here if you desire to have a dance.
Check out some of the stores in the street like “Twice as Nice” where you can get some good vintage clothes and wool.
If what you desire to make is some traditional wooden toys, you can visit the “Wooden Heart” which is just beside “Twice as Nice”
9. Salthill Promenade
As you head southwest of the city center you will see the Salthill Promenade.
Salthill Promenade is a two-kilometer long area, that has a very beautiful scenery around it. I suggest you add this place as one of your top things to do in Galway, Ireland.
If you want to see the beauty of Salthill Promenade, take a walk on the Promenade when the skies are clear.
You will get to see the outline of The Burren down in County Clare, If you look northwest you will find the peaks of Connemara.
Behind the Promenade, you will notice a vast land, In time past, this land was set aside for farming.
It wasn’t until during the Great Famine that occurred in the 19th century that it was discontinued.
Later in 1860, with the arrival of the Eglinton Hotel, this land space was set up to be used for tourism. You can still find the Eglinton Hotel here today.
Try out one of the seafood restaurants, cafes, and bars that line up the Promenade.
10. Aran Islands
Located right where Galway Bay joins the Atlantic, you will find an archipelago of small rocky Islands, this makes what to do in Galway for outdoor lovers.
You can get to these Islands by ferry, during summer times, you can move from one of these Islands to the other by the handy inter-island service they offer.
There are farming communities on the Aran Islands this is because of the fertile nature of the land.
Since the Aran Islands is kind of isolated, it shouldn’t surprise you that the communities there keep a quiet rural character that you won’t find in modern Europe.
You will notice that the first language in these islands is still Irish Gaelic.
Prehistoric forts like the awesome Dún Aonghasa still defend the Island to date.
See if you can explore some of the hiking trails you will find around, they lead to cliffs and beaches battered by the Atlantic.
You will find your visit to this island quite interesting as explore its environs.
11. Dunguaire Castle
The Dunguaire Castle is undoubtedly the most photographed in all of Ireland, this castle is a 16th-century tower house which is quite picturesque this makes one of the things to see in Galway Ireland.
You can easily find the Dunguaire Castle on an outcrop on the Southside of the bay just half an hour from Galway.
This is a 23-meter tower, this tower and the wall that encircles the compound was built in 1520, It was constructed by the Hynes Clan who had been in this region for ages.
In the 1920s, Oliver St John Gogarty, a great literary restored the house to the form it is today.
Some top literary figures which visited the house after it was restored include Lady Gregory, George Bernard Shaw, and W.B Yeats.
The Dunguaire Castle Banquet Holds during the summer, you can visit Galway during this period to join in the celebration.
12. Omey Island
A visit to Omey Island makes one of the fun things to do in Galway, Ireland.
The island is not hidden, you can easily find it in Connemara, at Claddaghduff.
It’s worth noting that you can only reach the island when the tides are low, therefore, make sure that you check the tides in advance before coming to Omey Island.
Some of the ways you can reach the island is by bike, by foot or by car, you will find other tourists heading towards that direction.
Omey Island is not as busy as the main city itself, but it is an area of immense natural beauty. These and the fact that it is very airy makes it a perfect spot for relaxation.
You may decide to follow any of the different walkways to see some of the beautiful places in Omey Island.
Some of the things you will encounter as you go on a walk include some ancient sites, beaches, and endless scenery.
13. Corrib Princess River Cruise
Corrib River is a famous river in Galway, a visit to this River is worth an add to your checklist of fun things to do in Galway, Ireland.
From May to September, you can take a boat from Corrib River to Corrib Lake.
The Corrib River Princess Cruises take people from Woodquay which is in the middle of the city on a 90-minutes trip to a green pastoral countryside.
At the lakeshore, you will find at the South and east, large farms, while on the north and west of the lake you will find health and bog.
You will love this cruise for it is quite exciting, It’s worth noting also that this lake has more than 1,300 islands.
During the cruise, you will pass the ruins of Menlo Castle which is a 16th-century mansion that was burnt down in the year 1910 and today, it has completely been recovered.
Don’t forget that Corrib Princess set sail at 12.30 pm and 14:30, in July and August, there is an extra trip by 16:30.
14. Fishery Watchtower Museum
A museum of its class which is also situated on a one of kind a building, Fishery Watchtower Museum makes one of the fun things in Galway you should not miss out on.
The Fishery Watchtower is a Victorian “draft netting station” which was built in 1853 using the neo-Romanesque style architecture.
The reason why this tower was built was to keep an eye on fish stock and also spot anyone who fishes on the River illegally.
The term “Draft netting” was a way aimed at catching salmon by suspending a single net between a rowboat and ashore.
Though it was later abandoned, the water tower was later reopened in the year 2015 after it was renovated.
During its renovation, it was turned into a small museum featuring fishing equipment, black and white photographs, and tanks which hold elvers and young salmon.
15. Lynch’s Castle
Lynch’s Castle is located just at the corner of Abbeygate Street and Shop Street, i visit to this place makes what to do in Galway for historical architecture lovers.
This building is a robust limestone house, you will notice that it stands apart from every other building that surrounds it.
The Lynch’s Castle is a fortified house that was built as far back as the 14th century. It was later renovated in the 16th century to the design it bears today.
Built with defense in mind, this castle afforded extra protection to the lynch family who owned the house. During those times, they were faced with the issue of raiders.
It’s worth noting that the Lynch family was one of the 14 Tribes that ruled Galway for centuries, the family has an Anglo-Norman root.
You will still see the Lynch Family coat of arms on the main facade of the building. Take to notice also another panel which bears the cost of arm of Henry VII who was the ruler of Ireland from 1484 to 1509.
16. Wild Atlantic Way
Wild Atlantic Way is a 2,500 kilometers road that starts from Ireland’s northern area at Malin Head in town to Kinsale Harbour which is in the south.
You will find Galway just in the middle of this road, you can decide to take a road trip from the north to the south along this part, this however depends on where you are coming from.
You may as well decide to head down into the Burren that is in County Clare. Do come with a camera, you might love to capture some of nature’s display of beauty here.
You might also decide to head down to the Connemara National Park which has more than 50 parks in its four mountain ranges.
Also check out the cone-shaped Diamond Hill that is from the Village of Letterfrack which has so many Ireland’s best hikes.
You will also go pass a 5,000year-old tomb as you go up to a summit to witness its wonderful views.
17. Sky RoadDriving or cycling along the magnificent Sky Road after you have had a coffee from one of the cafes in Clifden is one of the unique things to do in Galway Ireland.
The best time to go on this trip is on a cool winter morning, I assure you, this is indeed a special feeling.
You might also find other tourists doing the same, many visitors confirm that Sky Road is truly one of the biggest Galway tourist attraction in the Connemara region.
The Sky Road is a circular route, and it is about 11 km long. going through this road will take you out west from Clifden.
You will find some of the best sceneries in Galway along this path, don’t forget to come along with your camera to save some of nature’s finest as you spin along Sky Road.
Sky Road is truly a place with raw beauty and a vast range of scenery in all of Ireland.
18. Poll na bPeist “The Wormhole”.
The Wormhole, also known as Poll na bPeist, and The Serpent’s Lair’ is a large hole that is naturally formed by limestone which is on the Inis Mór Island.
Red Bull Cliff Diving event held back in 2004, brings a popular memory of Poll na bPeist.
In this diving event, divers jump from a diving board on the cliffs above down into the water below, mind you, this water is quite chilly.
A look at the Wormhole might make you think that it is man-made, for it looks well created with precision with the aid of a very big machine.
Well, that’s not so, for it is the work of Mother nature.
Take to having a view of this sight during your visit to Galway.
19. Kylemore Abbey
Kylemore Abbey which is in Connemara is one of the most iconic places you should see while you are in Galway, this makes what to do in Galway for nature lovers.
A fairy-tale-like place, Kylemore Abbey is like someplace you can only find in a Disney movie.
The wonderful place was built as a gift for Margret Henry in the year 1867 and since its construction, this place host an endless number of tales of innovation, romance, tragedy, and spirituality.
Today, Kylemore Abbey is now home to the Benedictine nuns who started living there since 1920.
You are free to go inside Kylemore Abbe, all you need is permission from the nuns which is always given upon request.
If you don’t want to explore its interior, you can get a decent view of the Abbey near the car park.
20. Murphy’s Ice Cream
The Murphy’s make some of the best Ice Creams in galway Ireland.
Though their ice cream is ridiculously expensive, nonetheless, it’s worth it, for it has a pleasant taste.
But if you are on a budget I suggest you check out other ice cream sellers which sell along Quay St. and Shop St.
You can decide to grab an ice cream to get a chill. After you have gotten enough relaxation, you can head down to the Spanish Arch.
A place worth mentioning, the Spanish Arch is just an extension of the medieval city walls of Galway. And they were installed for one purpose, to protect mooring ships which are at the nearby quay as they unloaded their goods.
Some of the ice creams flavors which the Murphy’s offer include, strawberry, chocolate, and vanilla flavors, try them out, you will love them.
21. Galway City Christmas Market
What makes Galway special is the fact that regardless of the time of the year you visit, there are a lot of fun Galway activities to engage in.
The city which is forever abuzz seems to be more alive during her Christmas markets
Galway City Christmas Market is witnessed each year in late November and lasts till early January.
Although it is a periodic market, whenever it comes, it adds another layer of brilliance to the City.
You will tend to find Christmas trees and light at almost every corner.
You can get everything you need for Christmas celebration from this market, this cut across foodstuff, clothes, Christmas trees, Christmas light, etc.
22. Hyde Bar and Gin Parlour
If you will love some alcoholic drinks, then I suggest you check out Hyde Bar and Gin Parlour for some refreshment.
You will find, inside of the walls of this pub, a large collection of gin.
Hyde Bar and Gin Parlour has over 500 gins which are obtained from different places across the world.
You can make a choice from any of them.
Also try out some of the dishes they serve in this place, meals served are quite delicious and also affordable.
23. Tigh Neachtain
One of the best pubs in Galway is Tigh Neachtain, this makes it rare to find a couple of free seats in this pub.
Therefore, if you arrive at Neachtains pub and you find a free seat, hop on them for they might soon be taken.
Seats are also kept outside Tig Neachtains but It’s also a struggle to get a seat outside on a normal day, hence if you are planning on visiting this spot, try getting there early.
It is known that the reason for the rush is how perfect their dishes taste and how chilled they keep their beers.
Try getting a sit outside to be able to capture all of Galway’s beauty as you enjoy your meals.
24. McDonagh’s Fish and Chip
McDonagh’s fish and Chip is a popular name amongst locals in this area and it makes one of the best places to visit in Galway.
McDonagh’s fish and Chip is the best chipper in all of Galway.
They are rated the best for their delicious chips amongst other companies that offer the same product in the area.
You can grab a bag of chips, fish or any other thing on the menu.
There is a spot where you can eat them there, you may also decide to take them along with you as you tour through Galway.
Do get these chips for your friends and family when leaving Galway.
25. Blackrock Diving Tower and Board
As you walk along Salthill Promenade, you will notice the Blackrock Diving Board.
If you are seeking for adventurous things to do in Galway, let hopping off this diving board be on your top list of things to do in Galway.
It is worth noting that the Blackrock Diving Tower where the Blackrock Diving Board is located is a now-iconic feature in Galway.
The Tower was erected in 1942 when a diver nearly died. Before the diving board, what was initially installed in this place was a springboard.
There are also live guards to save you if there be any complication.
If you can brave the chilly depths of Galway Bay, then I suggest you put on your swimming gear and take a dive on this board.
26. Garvan’s Bar
Garvan’s serve the best whiskey in all of Galway, If you know nothing about whiskey, I suggest you visit this cozy pub, for they know all about it and also offer it in the best condition.
If you would like some whiskey tasting, they offer such at a decent value.
When serving it, they serve it on a little platter which is accompanied by a small information booklet that tells you all you need to know about each whiskey.
In a platter you can find:
Redbreast 12-Year-Old Whiskey (delish x 50), Tullamore Dew 12-Year-Old Whiskey (delish), Connemara Peated Whiskey, and so on, just for €13.
If you are a fan of Whiskey or you want to have a taste of it, then I suggest you try out the whiskey tasting with Garvan’s.
27. Get a Pizza at Dough Bros
Dough Bros do make very tasty Pizza that can brighten up your day, they are makers of some of the best Pizzas in Galway.
I suggest you get Pizza from this spot during your visit, their pizzas which are of very high quality can be gotten for a very reasonable price.
They also offer chilled beer with which you can take with the Pizza.
Though they offer varieties of Pizza, I suggest you try out their ‘Peter Stringer’ pizza which is made using Irish Margherita with Gubbeen Smokehouse Chorizo, fresh chili, double garlic, kiced with a good drixxls of Joel’s Hot Honey.
28. Pub Tour
Galway has her fair share of pubs, there is truly no end to the number of bars in this city.
If you are visiting Galway with your friends, you may decide to go on a pub tour that will take you right around the City.
It’s going to be fun, for you will get to taste some of the best beers in the city and you will also get to see some of the cities most beautiful spots.
Some of the pubs you could visit include the Front Door, Garvan’s, Neachtains, O’Connell’s, and the Crane Bar.
29. Hardiman Hotel
Hardiman Hotel is the perfect place to lodge in while you are in Galway, a nice, classy and affordable place.
You will find a Jacuzzi in this Hotel, this and their nice customer service makes it a good relaxation spot in Galway.
The hotel is also nicely situated for it points out towards the sea, you can try out the outdoor Canadian Hottub they have.
A stay in this Hotel will help you enjoy Galway to its fullest.
30. Food Tour
Have you ever experience a food tour around a city? its one of the best of tours as you meet amazing local meals, as for that, Galway Food Tours got you covered.
Galway Food Tours aims to guide you to know the city through food, this makes what to do in Galway for food lovers.
The tour will last for 3 hours, in those three hours you will get to explore Galway city’s award-winning restaurant and bars.
You will also get to taste delicious food made by Family-run businesses and artisanal producers.
You can as well experience oyster and whiskey tasting on this tour. Also, your payment gets you the best of craft beers during this tour
31. Thomas Dillion Hold Jewellers on Quay Street.
If you are looking for something unique to do in Galway, visit Thomas Dillion Hold Jewellers which is on Quay Street.
Though there are so many retailers in Ireland who claim to be very first makers of the Claddagh Ring, the truth remains that Thomas Dillions bore original design.
Thomas Dillion started far back in 1750 and they are the only producer who gets ‘Original’ stamps on each of the Claddagh Ring they make from the Irish Assay Office which is situated in Dublin Castle.
32. Galway Festivals
The best time to visit Galway is during her festivals, Within a year, the city does hold more than four festivals.
These festivals range from film and movie festivals like the Film Fleadh, to the Oyster Festivals.
There is also the international Arts Festival and the Galway Races, all of which you might love to attend.
The Galway Oyster Festival does holds in September while Galway Film Fleadh and the Galway International Arts Festival holds in July.
Would you like to explore Switzerland?, this guide on the things to do in Interlaken, Switzerland brings the best attractions and activities in Interlaken, Switzerland.
Start Planning Your Trip to Galway
With all the castles and ancient landmarks like the Spanish Arch, Galway City looks like a modern version of places you see in Viking and Saxon themed movies.
But in conclusion, you can’t deny the fact the fun which it has in stock is unending, making it a city worth returning to from time to time.