22 Amazing Things to Do in Galway in 2021
Few cities can rival the acclaim Galway has received in recent years. Not only is it perfectly located for discovering the incredible natural vistas of the 2,500 km Wild Atlantic Way, but it is also one of just a handful of cities to be both a European Capital of Culture and a European Region of Gastronomy.
Alive with a newly found pride, its year is dotted with festivals. Galway’s ancient shopping streets are a constant flurry of activity, while for a quieter life there’s no shortage of sailing opportunities on Galway Bay or Lough Corrib just a short distance away.
Let’s jump straight into the best things to do in Galway: this guide has been written from a local perspective so you won’t probably find suggestions you’ve already found everywhere else. Instead, you’ll have real insights on the best things to do in Galway, the most unusual ones, and a series of resources to plan your trip at its best.
If you need to organize your trip to Galway and Ireland and you are looking for local support directly from Ireland, get in touch with us. Sign up for the newsletter and contact us via email to tell us about your trip to Ireland and ask us everything you need.
- Best Things to Do in Galway City
- Unusual Things to Do in Galway City
- Best Things to Do in Galway City with Kids
- Best Places to Eat in Galway
- The Best Hotels in Galway for Every Traveller
- Best Organized Tours in Galway
- Is Galway worth visiting?
- Things To Do in Galway: FAQs
- Travel to Ireland: a few resources for you
- Best Ireland Travel Guides
Best Things to Do in Galway City
Blending a traditional spirit with contemporary cool, Galway has developed into one of Ireland’s best-loved cities. One of many reasons for this is the incredible array of things to do in Galway City. Here are the sights and sounds you just shouldn’t miss.
1. Explore the Latin Quarter
Galway’s loosely defined Latin Quarter is a great place to start exploring what the city has to offer. Leading from leafy Eyre Square in the north (right beside the railway station) to the Spanish Arch on the bank of the River Corrib, the quarter encompasses much of the medieval-era city. Also, home to many of the city’s best places to eat, drink and shop, be sure to stop by cobblestone Kirwans Lane as well as the High Street for a real sense of what modern Galway is all about.
2. Take in St Nicholas’ Collegiate Church
Towering over the Latin Quarter is St Nicholas’ Collegiate Church. Founded more than 700 years ago in 1320, it was constructed by the Knights Templar. It was partly paid for by the Tribes of Galway – the name given to the city’s 14 top merchant families in the era. Said to have been visited by Christopher Columbus before his world-changing journey to the Americas, each Saturday you’ll find a thriving market that’s ideal for loading up a picnic basket. You’ll find both traditional Irish flavors and some new takes on much-loved combinations.
3. Enjoy the city’s multitude of festivals
Bookending the main tourist season, the spring, summer, and autumn in Galway are filled with enticing festivals. April sees the arrival of the seven-day Festival of Literature, which has previously attracted such luminaries as Edna O’Brien and Seamus Heaney, winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature. Meanwhile, the International Oyster Festival takes place in September and is well worth visiting even if you’re not a fan of the bivalve. In between, you’ll find July’s Galway Arts Festival and Galway Film Fleadh. The season comes to an end with a Halloween Parade through the center of the city.
4. Delve into thousands of years of history
With a commanding position next to the Spanish Arch, Galway City Museum is the place to head for a better understanding of Galway’s long and illustrious history. Its collections span several thousand years, from the prehistoric era of roundhouses to the social changes of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Alternatively, just stop by the café on the ground floor, and enjoy a slice of cake with views of the Spanish Arch.
5. Stroll the Salthill promenade
Running for roughly two kilometers, the Salthill neighborhood’s promenade is a popular place for a walk at any time of day. Experiencing the full force of the Atlantic Ocean, you might even spot a hardy soul taking a dip. For good luck, you’re supposed to ‘kick the wall’ at the end of the ‘prom’. We recommend you don’t leave without also taking in lunch in one of the welcoming traditional pubs that can be found along its length. While in the area, listen out for the roar of the 34,000 seat capacity crowds that fill Salthill’s Pearse Stadium for hurling and Gaelic football matches.
6. Take in the beautiful surrounds of Menlo Castle
A short distance north of central Galway, Menlo Castle was destroyed by fire in 1910. Home to 16 generations of the Blake family, they were never to return. The structure was built in 1569, and together with its position in attractive countryside on the banks of the River Corrib, the remaining ivy-clad ruins provide a spectacular location for all manner of countryside pursuits, from fishing to walking.
7. Discover the region around Galway with a daytrip
While you could easily fill a vacation of any length in Galway itself, it would equally be a shame to miss attractions including the Cliffs of Moher and the Aran Islands given their proximity to the city. There are plenty of reputable companies who offer organized day trips if you don’t have your own transport. If you don’t make it to Menlo Castle, you can pass its ancient walls as part of a scenic cruise along the River Corrib to the Lough (Lake) of the same name on the Corrib Princess.
Unusual Things to Do in Galway City
So, you’ve followed our recommendations for the things to do in Galway City, and are now looking for something a little more unusual to round off your trip. What unusual attractions does the city offer? Keep reading to find out!
1. Visit Moycullen Bogs
A bog might not sound like a promising place for a great day out. However, Moycullen Bogs are not only important but also inspiring enough to have been declared a Natural Heritage Area. Liberally speckled with old fishermen’s homes and drystone walls before receding into an unspoiled landscape of grasses and gorse, they can be explored both on foot and by bike.
2. Unearth the legend of Claddagh’s rings
Back in the heart of Galway on Quay Street is the Claddagh Ring Museum. It sits at the back of the Dillons and Sons jewelry store. Laying claim to being one of the smallest museums anywhere in Europe, its small collection of wedding rings includes examples dating back 350 years, making them some of the earliest Claddagh rings in existence. Passed down from mother to daughter over generations, the beginnings of this tradition are lost in the mists of time. But one story suggests a Galway sailor by the name of Richard Joyce was captured by Algerian pirates and sold in slavery. He learned the art of goldsmithing before being freed and returning to his birthplace as a jeweler.
3. Read up on the region’s literary culture
You don’t have to be in town during April’s Festival of Literature to get your fill of Galway’s way with words. Grab a route map from the tourist office and let 20 bronze and stone plaques lead you around the city. Each one links to its location and contains poetry from some of Ireland’s most important voices, including James Joyce’s She Weeps Over Rahoon at Rahoon Cemetery and WB Yeats’ At Galway Races at Ballybrit Racecourse.
Best Things to Do in Galway City with Kids
Galway is an excellent destination for kids, with a wide range of family-friendly attractions in and around the city. In addition to those already mentioned, here are some specific ideas on things to do in Galway City with kids.
1. Build sandcastles on Grattan Beach
A glorious expanse of light clean sand, Grattan Beach lies off the Salthill promenade. On sunny days it’s soon packed with families enjoying the shoreline, and even on cloudier days, it’s a great place for kids to run around unhindered. Once they’ve had their fill of sandcastle building, there’s a variety of traditional beachfront stores to check out, including a fish and chip shop.
2. Have a close encounter of the underwater kind
Also in the Salthill neighborhood, Galway Atlantaquaria is Ireland’s national aquarium. The country’s biggest dedicated to native species, it reveals usually hidden underwater worlds. Spread across two floors, children and adults alike will discover ecosystems as diverse as the Atlantic Ocean after which the aquarium is named, as well as lakes and rivers. Live exhibits include sharks, rays, and jellyfish, while other highlights include a 60-foot-long skeleton of a fin whale and traditional forms of the boat including a local dugout canoe.
3. Go wild at Wildlands Adventure Sports Centre
Situated within 20 acres of mature woodland, Wildlands Adventure Sports Centre sits between Ballyquirke Lough and the Wild Atlantic Way just a short distance west of Galway City. Combining a number of indoor and outdoor activities, it has been specially designed for all ages. Indoors, kids will find brightly colored climbing walls, while outside activities include archery, disc golf, bushcraft skills, and the literally unmissable raised zipline and canopy walkways.
Best Places to Eat in Galway
Advising on the best restaurants, bars, and pubs in Galway is not an easy task. The city is very well known for the quality of its food and selecting just a few can be hard. The following list includes places that we personally like and recommend to everyone; it’s not a definitive list but it’s been put together based on our own taste and our own experiences.
- Kai Restaurant: a Michelin Bib Gourmand restaurant serving European cuisine with local and seasonal ingredients. Almost heaven for vegetarians, unmissable on Sunday at brunch time.
- The Dough Bros: if you are in the mood for pizza, this is the place to go. They make Neapolitan style pizza with Toonsbridge mozzarella from Cork. Do not expect to pay the same price you would pay in Naples, though.
- McDonagh’s: for the best fish and chips in town, we recommend this place. Do not expect anything fancy but if you’re looking for good and a comforting food, this is place to go.
- Ard Bia: from breakfast to dinner, this place has everything you may want. An easy and relaxing atmosphere contributes to its fame.
- Handsome Burger: burgers are a staple and this place makes amazing burgers served with fries. Try the maple bacon fries. They also won the award as best burgers in Ireland.
- Sheridan’s: it is located upstairs from the cheese shop with the same name and it serves wine with charcuterie and cheeses. If you want to avoid the crowd, this is definitely the place.
The Best Hotels in Galway for Every Traveller
There is an excellent range of hotel and accommodation options in Galway from budget stays to high-end luxury. The majority lie close to the action within easy reach of the Latin Quarter, while the rejuvenated docks area undoubtedly has the best ocean views.
You’ll get a little more for your money further out in Salthill. The Claddagh area is great for a romantic getaway. If your trip to Galway coincides with one of the many festivals which take place, make sure to book your hotel in plenty of time to avoid disappointment.
The following list includes hotels that we personally like and recommend to everyone. It’s not a complete list but it only includes hotels and accommodation we’ve visited and keep visiting every time we are in Galway, and places that we personally suggest to people traveling to Ireland. We don’t recommend sleeping in the city center because it can get crowded and noisy; given Galways’ size sleeping a little bit far is the best solution if you want to avoid not sleeping at all.
- Glenlo Abbey Hotel: our first choice in Galway is Glenlo Abbey. Read our detailed review of this 5 Star Luxury Hotel in Galway for a better overview. This hotel is not on the cheap side but the reason why we think it’s worth spending money to stay at Glenlo is all in the service and in what you get: great food and the chance to eat aboard the Orient Express carriages, amazing rooms, an incredible Spa and more. Read our review of Glenlo Abbey Hotel and book your accommodation.
- Salthill Hotel: located in the Salthill area, the Salthill Hotel is a comfortable accommodation far from the tourist spots. It’s quiet and calm, offers big and spacious rooms and it’s close both to the city center and the scenic route to Connemara National Park. Book you stay at Salthill Hotel.
- Sea Breeze Lodge B&B: if you prefer experiencing an Irish bed and breakfast in Galway, go for Sea Breeze Lodge. It is located just 3.5 km from Galway’s city center, on the main coast road in Salthill, and offers spacious rooms and a delicious full Irish breakfast included in the price. Book your stay at Sea Breeze Lodge B&B.
Best Organized Tours in Galway
If you do not want to waste your time trying to figure out what to do when in Galway or if you want to meet other travelers, the following organized tours are just the best choice out there. Have a look, click on the link to get more information, and book your tour, if you wish.
- Aran Islands & Cliffs of Moher Tour with Cruise from Galway
Experience 2 of the best things to see in the Wild Atlantic Way in a single day on a visit to the Cliffs of Moher and Inisheer Island from Galway. Take a boat cruise of the base of the cliffs, weather permitting, and enjoy the experience. Check the details and the prices.
- Scenic Cruise of Corrib River and Lake
Cruise along the majestic River Corrib to Lough Corrib onboard a luxurious, all-weather boat. Take in beautiful views of wildlife, castles, and historical sites and enjoy the nature surrounding Galway. Check the details and the prices.
- Connemara & Cong: Full-Day Tour from Galway
Leave Galway from one day and explores Cong, Killary Fjord, romantic Kylemore Abbey, and other places along the way. A stop at Lough Nafooey, home to Ireland’s own lake monster, is included as well. Check the details and the prices.
- Full-Day Cliffs of Moher & Burren Tour from Galway
This tour to the Cliffs of Moher and the Burren region includes a 2hr stop at the Cliffs of Moher and visits to Kilfenora and the Poulnabrone Dolmen. Check the details and the prices.
Is Galway worth visiting?
Awash with culture, indebted with thousands of years of tradition, yet also modern and contemporary, Galway has visitors returning year after year. There are a huge variety of things to do in Galway City, whether you’re a museum dweller or someone who’s always looking to get outdoors. As suitable for a family escape as a romantic weekend, it’s hard to beat the wonders of Galway.
Things To Do in Galway: FAQs
Below you’ll find the answers to the most common FAQs linked to the top things to do in Galway City, helping you get your trip to Ireland’s west coast off with a bang rather than a whimper.
1. What to do in Galway when it’s raining?
On the very edge of Europe, Galway is prone to rain showers much of the year. If you’ve got an umbrella or a raincoat, a passing shower is very unlikely to alter your plans to any significant degree. However, if rain does stop play outdoors, there are still plenty of indoor attractions to relish, from the City Museum to the climbing walls of Wildlands Adventure Sports Centre.
2. How many days should I spend in Galway?
You can take in the attractions of the Latin Quarter in a day if you’re pushed for time. But to really become immersed in all Galway City can offer, you’re much better off taking your time over its ancient streets with at least 2 or 3 days. Decide to stay for a week, and you’ll still find plenty to do.
3. How far is Galway from the Cliffs of Moher?
The shortest route by road from Galway City to the Cliffs of Moher is around 75 km via the N67. This skirts Galway Bay on its way south and can be completed in around 1.5 hours. You can jump on an organized tour to visit the Cliffs on Moher when in Galway: check this tour, inclusive of the Cliffs and the Burren region.
4. How far is Galway from the Aran Islands?
Visible from the Cliffs of Moher, the Aran Islands are best reached from Rossaveel Harbour. This lies at the opposite end of the R336. This road follows the coastline west out of Galway for around 40 kilometers (or 45 minutes). The nearest of the Aran Islands, Inis Mor, can then be reached on a ferry journey of between 30 and 40 minutes. Join a tour from Galway and explore the Aran Islands: check this tour, inclusive of the Cliffs of Moher and Inisheer Island.
5. What is the best time of the year to visit Galway?
Like most of Ireland, Galway City experiences a temperate oceanic climate. This means the city enjoys relatively mild overall temperatures given its latitude and there’s never a bad time to visit. This is just as well if you’re interested in experiencing the city’s Halloween Parade at the end of October. That said, the summer months of June to August are the warmest, with average daily temperatures of 14-16°C. These are also the driest months of the year, although a shower is still a possibility.
6. Is Galway expensive to visit?
The average visitor to Galway spends approximately €90 per day, making it a little cheaper than Dublin. The majority of this is spent on accommodation, with a single room costing around €50. Meals can be enjoyed for as little as €10 per dish, while a pint of Guinness will cost around €6.
7. Is Galway safe for tourists?
By international standards, Galway City is incredibly safe for tourists. Take the usual precautions, such as taking extra care of your possessions in crowded places, and you’re very unlikely to be the victim of a crime.
Travel to Ireland: a few resources for you
If you’re planning to book a giveaway to Ireland, these are a few resources we recommend:
- Booking.com – Book accommodation safely, without paying a deposit, and get 100% reimbursed if you cannot travel (terms and conditions apply). Click here for more information.
- EuropCar – Rent a car to travel and avail of a special discount and special conditions. Click here for more information.
- GetYourGuide – Book the best experience in Ireland and visit the Emerald Island at its best. Click here for more information.
Best Ireland Travel Guides
If you want to plan your trip to Ireland, these are the travel guides we recommend:
Get in touch with us for customized tours, travel tips, itineraries, and everything you need for your trip to Ireland: no one better than those who live on-site can advise you and make you experience Ireland like a real local.
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