Galway’s excellent location on the western coast of Ireland is one of the main reasons for the city’s popularity with visitors. With easy access to the best beaches and natural landmarks of Ireland, the list of things to do in Galway is neverending.
I’ve managed to narrow it down to 22 of the best attractions in and near the Irish city. From historic landmarks in the heart of town to fantastic natural attractions just outside the city, this list covers everything of interest in Galway.
Whether you’re looking to discover Irish culture and legends or spend your trip exploring Ireland’s prettiest landscapes, Galway delivers. And it doesn’t matter if you’re in town for a couple of days or a couple of weeks because there’s no way you could be bored here!
Best of Galway, Ireland Quick Guide
Must See: Galway Cathedral, Saint Nicholas Collegiate Church, Lough Corrib, Salthill Promenade, Quay Street, Eyre Square Where To Stay: Woodquay Hostel, The Hardiman, Glenlo Abbey Hotel & Estate – where we stayed Fun To Do: Wild Atlantic Way Road Trip, Pub crawl, Galway Races, Connemara National Park Day Trips: Aran Islands, Dog’s Bay, Cliffs of Moher Must-Try Foods: Irish stew, soda bread, seafood, Colcannon, Barmbrack.
Best Things to Do In Galway, Ireland
Fabulous beaches, mesmerizing Irish castles, and quaint old town buildings are some of the things that will enchant you in Galway. I’ve covered all the city’s best-known landmarks and attractions, as well as all the fantastic places worth visiting that are only a short drive away from the port city.
1. Walking Tour of Galway Old Town
A walking tour of the old town of Galway is the best way of getting acquainted with the Irish city. Discover the medieval buildings, see the colorful storefronts in the cobblestone alleys, and try to spot as many statues as you can along the way.
Guided walking tours of medieval Galway are great for first-time visitors because you can learn a lot about the city’s rich history. Local guides will tell you about the tales and legends of Galway while taking you to all the best spots in the city.
A self-guided tour is also a good way to see the city. You can hit all the main spots, and if you read up on the local history, it will be almost as if you were guided around by a professional. The Latin Quarter, Lynch’s Castle, Eyre Square, Quay Street, Shop Street, and Galway Cathedral are sights not to miss in Galway Old Town.
Practical Information: Walking tours of Galway take between 1 and 3 hours.
2. Excursion To Aran Islands
Aran Islands are a group of three limestone islands just off the west coast of Ireland. They’re easily accessible by ferries from Galway County, and even by scenic helicopter flights from Connemore International Airport.
Traveling to the Aran Islands won’t be a piece of cake if you have to rely on buses to get you around, and I would recommend arranging a guided tour if you are in this situation. We went to the Aran Islands by plane, and that is the fastest and easiest. But you can take a ferry as well.
Inishmore is the largest of the three islands, and as such is home to the most ancient ruins and the best dramatic landscapes. Dun Aengus is on this island, the prehistoric ruins that overlook the Atlantic Ocean and which served as one of the filming locations for the Banshees of Inisherin film.
Practical Information: A ferry from Galway City to Inishmore takes approximately 90 minutes. One-way tickets for adults are €35.
3. Tour Galway Cathedral
Galway Cathedral is one of the city’s most imposing buildings and a worthy stop on any city tour. It’s situated on Nuns Island in the River Corrib, just northwest of Galway’s historic centre. The vast building dominates the northern part of the river island. As it should, since it is one of the most important landmarks in the entire city.
The cathedral’s interior is even more grand than its exterior. With stunning stained glass windows, ornate ceilings, and gorgeous paintings and statues on the walls, it’s easy to see why this is the most important religious building in the Irish city. There’s even a mosaic of John F. Kennedy, who visited Galway for a short time about five months before his assassination.
Practical Information: Galway Cathedral is open daily from 8:30 AM until 7-9 PM depending on the day. Entrance to the church is free.
4. See The Lynch Memorial Window
Legend has it that James Lynch fitz Stephen, the mayor of Galway in the late 15th century, hanged his son from a window in his house. Supposedly, the son had killed a Spanish soldier, and when the mayor learned about this, he hung him from the window.
There is little to no evidence to support this story, but it’s one of the best-known tales of Galway. The Lynch Memorial Window, which was uncovered at a house on Lombard Street where the murder took place, serves as a reminder of the tale.
The stones were displayed at Dublin’s Great Industrial Exhibition in the mid-19th century, and after they were moved to their present location at the boundary wall of St. Nicholas Collegiate Church.
Practical Information: The Lynch Memorial Window is a free attraction to visit at any time.
5. Day Trip to Connemara National Park
Spanning an area of 7,000 acres, Connemara National Park is the best destination for all outdoor lovers in Galway. With hiking paths, scenic views, mountains, and wildlife, this is by far the best place for nature excursions close to Galway. And if you have a car in Ireland, it will take you less than 90 minutes to reach the national park.
Connemara is popular for birdwatching, mostly because of its puffin population. Their breeding season is from March to August and it offers the best chances to see the adorable creatures.
The national park has some incredible hikes and you can choose from a variety of trails ranging in difficulty from easy to extremely challenging. Kylemore Abbey is one of the national park’s best historic buildings, offering free tours of its Victorian gardens.
Practical Information: Connemara National Park is approximately an hour and a half from Galway by car, but nearly 4 hours away by public transport.
6. See The Ruins of Merlin Castle
The eastern edge of Galway City is home to the Merlin Castle ruins. The tower is in a vast park, which offers a plethora of beautifully landscaped walking trails. And although the castle tower is the highlight of the park, the experience of finding it while weaning through the park’s walking paths is just as wonderful.
Come here to discover the natural beauty of Irish landscapes, and roam around the expansive woods so close to the city. Merlin Castle itself is not an astonishing attraction, but the sight of the historic landmark is rewarding after a couple of hours of roaming around the forest paths.
Practical Information: Merlin Castle is accessible in approximately 40 minutes by bus from Galway city centre.
7. An Evening At The Pub
Spend an evening listening to traditional Irish music while sipping on a pint or two of Guinness. It’s practically a rite of passage in Galway and a great way to conclude a day filled with exploration of the city’s history and natural beauty.
Pub culture is big in Ireland, so you still get to participate in activities traditional in the city. Quay Street houses some of the best and oldest pubs in Galway, and it’s a great destination for a fun night out.
Practical Information: Many pubs in Galway are open until 2 AM.
8. Sunset Walk Down Salthill Promenade
Salthill Promenade is a seaside walking path in Galway Bay. With captivating views of the sea on one side and Galway on the other, it’s one of the city’s most romantic destinations. And with plenty of opportunities for detours, entertainment is abundant along the way.
Funfair and Leisureland are both opposite Palmers Beach on the Salthill Promenade. Leisureland has a mini-golf course and an indoor pool, but Funfair offers theme park rides. A Ferris Wheel ride with scenic views is the perfect detour during walks on Salthill Promenade.
Practical Information: It takes approximately 45 minutes to walk the entire Salthill Promenade, from Claddagh Quay to the Blackrock diving tower.
9. Walk Under The Spanish Arch
The Spanish Arch is a historical city landmark situated next to the Galway City Museum. The arch was added onto the 16th-century city walls in the 18th century, and it’s one of only two remaining arches of Galway’s Front Wall.
Although the Spanish Arch remains an important historic landmark in the city, there’s not much else to do here besides walk under the arch and maybe explore the quayside promenade. The Galway City Museum was housed inside a part of the Arch for a while, but it was relocated to a separate building back in 2006.
Practical Information: The Spanish Arch is accessible by public transport at any time of the day, free of charge.
10. Explore Saint Nicholas Collegiate Church
Saint Nicholas’ Collegiate Church is the largest medieval parish church still in use in Ireland. The church is famous for a local legend, which states that Christopher Columbus worshipped there during his visit to Galway in the 15th century.
Anyone can visit this church for a small entrance fee. Go inside to see the stunning stained glass windows and beautiful artwork. Also, the church sets up a farmer’s market every Saturday, which is a great opportunity to buy some local souvenirs to take home.
Practical Information: Saint Nicholas’ Collegiate Church is open from 10 AM until 4 PM. The entrance fee is €5 or €4.
11. Visit Galway City Museum
Galway City Museum is the best place in town to learn about the history and tradition of this Irish city. The museum exhibits tell the story of Galway from prehistoric to modern times, with a special exhibit on the city’s history during World War I.
Another part of the museum’s collection is dedicated to Pádraic Ó Conaire. The Irish writer was born in Galway and his novel Deoraíocht is acclaimed as the earliest piece of modern fiction in Irish.
Come to this museum to learn about important city events, notable people, and the lives of locals through the ages. What’s most impressive is that there’s no entrance fee for the Museum, but visitors are encouraged to leave a small donation (no more than €5) if they enjoy the exhibit.
Practical Information: Galway City Museum is open from 10 AM to 5 PM, Tuesday to Thursday. It’s free to enter.
12. Cross The Mutton Island Causeway
The Mutton Island Causeway connects mainland Galway with Mutton Island in the Atlantic Ocean. You can’t actually make it onto Mutton Island because there’s a locked gate at the end of the causeway, but the views along the way are absolutely worth the walk. Especially in nice weather.
Mutton Island is home to Galway’s sewage treatment plant, which is one of the reasons why it’s off-limits to the general public. But the causeway is still very popular for walking, cycling, and even proposals and dates!
Practical Information: Walking the Mutton Island Causeway can be done at any time, free of charge.
13. Stroll Down Quay Street
Quay Street stretches through the Latin Quarter in Galway’s historic centre and it’s one of the most important streets in the city. Lined with restaurants and pubs on either side, it’s the best place in Galway for shopping, drinks, and people-watching.
Any tour of Galway’s old town will take you through Quay St., but it’s a place you should visit more than once. Come here at night for a relaxed evening at an Irish pub, or in the afternoon to see the street performers and discover the street art on the medieval buildings.
Quay Street turns into High Street, which turns into Shop Street, which then becomes William Street leading onto Eyre Square. Walking the entire length of this cobbled street is a must and one of the highlights of trips to Galway.
Practical Information: It is accessible at any time free of charge.
14. Excursion to Cliffs of Moher
Cliffs of Moher is one of the most famous natural landmarks on Ireland’s west coast. Together with Burren, the two landmarks form the Burren & Cliffs of Moher UNESCO Global Geopark, which spans an area of more than 530 square kilometers.
Come here to admire some of Ireland’s most breathtaking scenery. On clear days you can enjoy views of Aran Islands in the distance. Walking paths in the area allow you to experience multiple perspectives on the Cliffs of Moher, but the viewpoint near O’Brien’s Tower is one of the best.
I recommend combining this visit with the trip to the Aran Islands because the ferry at Doolin Pier is only a 15-minute drive from the UNESCO site. This highly rated trip from Galway takes you to the Cliffs of Moher and the Burren which is a breathtaking destination in Ireland.
Practical Information: Cliffs of Moher are 90 minutes by car or two and a half hours by bus from Galway.
15. Attend Galway Races
Galway Races are the most popular events in the entire County Galway in the summer. Galway’s Ballybrit Racecourse is home to the longest horse-racing festival in Ireland, which kicks off on the last Monday of July.
This is an iconic event in the city, which attracts as many outsiders as it does locals from Galway. Wednesdays and Thursdays are particularly busy days at the track; Wednesday for the Galway Plate, and Thursday because it’s Ladies’ Day.
Practical Information: The Races are accessible in 45 minutes by public transport from the city centre.
16. Christmas at Eyre Square
Visiting Galway in the winter allows you to experience the Galway Christmas Market. The main area for the event is set up at Eyre Square in the city centre, transforming the Irish city into a winter wonderland.
William Street to Quay Street is decorated throughout, appearing even more magical than it usually does. Christmas is truly a special time in Galway, and visiting the city during the holidays offers a unique perspective on local traditions, one which will make you want to come here every following December.
Practical Information: Eyre Square is at the center of Galway’s old town, accessible by walking paths and public transport.
17. Wild Atlantic Way Road Trip
Wild Atlantic Way is one of the world’s longest coastal road trips. Stretching from the Inishowen Peninsula all the way to Kinsale in Cork County, the epic route follows the entirety of Ireland’s western coast. If you’re staying in the country for a while and Galway is just one of the destinations you’re visiting, discovering even a section of this route is an epic experience.
Towering cliffs, incredible beaches, and lighthouses are some of the top sights of Ireland’s best road trip. Galway is at the halfway point of the route with easy access to some of the top sights along Cliff Coast. Read more: Where to Stay on the Wild Atlantic Way
Practical Information: Wild Atlantic Way is a road trip route 1600 miles (2600 km) long. It’s divided into 14 stages, and stages 8 and 9 can be done from Galway. Compare car rental prices here.
18. History Lesson at Dunguaire Castle
Set on the rocky shores of Galway Bay, Dunguaire Castle is a historic building in Kinvarra. The O’Hynes clan ordered the construction of the castle in the 16th century, and it comprised a defensive wall and a tower.
The tower and the wall have since been reconstructed and opened to the public. Dunguaire Castle is open for visits in the summer, and it’s even possible to attend a banquet dinner inside the castle. It’s a fabulous way of experiencing this Irish historic landmark with its picturesque surroundings.
Practical Information: Dunguaire Castle is accessible by bus (60 minutes) and boat (30 minutes) from Galway. Tickets start at 6€ for adults.
19. Sail on Lough Corrib
Lough Corrib is the largest lake in the Republic of Ireland. The southern shore of the lake is very close to Galway and easily accessible by walking paths from the town. In the summer, it’s even possible to book a river cruise from Galway to the lake.
But the upper parts of the lake are even more fun, which is why I recommend going on proper tours of Lough Corrib. See the castles on the northern lake shore, boat to the island with a temple, and visit one of the equestrian centers for horseback riding on the shore.
Practical Information: Public transport from Galway to Lough Corrib is limited. Driving is the best and quickest mode of travel.
20. Swim at Dog’s Bay
Dog’s Bay is one of Ireland’s best beaches and it’s only an hour and a half outside Galway. The horseshoe-shaped beach is known for pristine white sand and a calm sea. It’s suitable for swimming, and a popular spot for some water fun in the summer. Because there are no big waves here, Dog’s Bay is great for children and beginners at swimming.
The beach is most easily accessible by cars and tours from Galway because of limited public transport access, so it’s rarely very crowded. And smaller beaches in the area are accessible via hiking paths, where you can have an entire slice of paradise all to yourself.
Practical Information: Dog’s Bay is a 90-minute drive from Galway. The closest bus stop is at Ballinafad, a 20-minute drive from Dog’s Bay.
21. Tour Glengowla Mines
Just 30 minutes northwest of Galway you’ll find the Glengowla Mines. The abandoned silver and lead mines are on a farm, and open to the public for tours in the summer months. A small museum with mining tools is also available on-site.
This is one of the most interesting excursions to be done from Galway. In addition to the walking tours of abandoned mines, visitors to the family farm can also witness demonstrations of traditional Irish turf cutting and sheep herding.
Practical Information: Glengowla Mines are accessible by car and bus from Galway.
22. Marvel at Menlo Castle
Menlo Castle is a 10-minute drive from Galway city center and one of the best nearby historic landmarks. The riverfront castle ruins are covered with ivy in pristine natural surroundings. If you ever feel like you need to escape the city crowds, Menlo Castle is a great destination for a break.
Pack a picnic basket and come here for a relaxed afternoon in lush greenery. Enjoy the sounds of the rushing river and chirping birds, while admiring the 16th-century castle and its ivy-covered walls.
Insider Tip: Feel free to jump the fence to get closer to the castle if you want, everyone does it.
Practical Information: Menlo Castle is accessible by car and bus from Galway City.
Is Galway Worth Visiting in Ireland?
Yes, Galway is worth visiting in Ireland. The medieval city offers historic landmarks, a rich history, and some of the best scenery on the western coast of Ireland.
What is Galway in Ireland Famous For?
Galway is famous for its lively nightlife, excellent culture, and stunning landscapes. With easy access to the Cliffs of Moher and the Aran Islands, Galway is the gateway to some of Ireland’s prettiest nature.
How Many Days in Galway is Enough?
Three days should be enough for Galway. It’s enough time to see all the top sights in the city and make a quick day trip to the nearby landmarks.
Why is Galway City so Popular?
Galway City is popular for its unique culture and excellent location on the western coast of Ireland. Some of the country’s best-known sights are most easily accessible from Galway.
Tips and Information For Visiting Galway
Best Time To Visit
Any time of the year is a good time to come to Galway. Summer is the best season for warm weather and the Galway Races, but winter is most magical thanks to the Galway Christmas Market and snow-covered enchanting landscapes.
Spring and autumn are both equally great for mild (but wet) weather and fewer tourists. Early fall is a good time for warm weather, the Galway races, and stunning autumnal landscapes.
As it currently stands, flying to Dublin and then taking a bus to Galway is the best option. There are four main airports in Ireland, and the one in Dublin has the most international connections, so chances are you’ll land there. A bus will take you from Dublin Airport to Galway in approximately two and a half hours.
Trains run from Dublin only and are an option only if you plan to stay in the capital city for a day or two. Additionally, Shannon Airport northwest of Limerick is closer to Galway, but it’s serviced only by Ryanair and Aer Lingus.
The best way to get around Ireland is by car. You can compare care rental prices here. Ireland has a decent railway network, but it’s not that helpful for exploring Galway and its surroundings. It’s not a big city and much of it is walkable, with buses to take you to the attractions outside the city center.
However, if you want to go on day trips and explore more of Ireland’s west coast, renting a car is the best solution. Sure, organized tours to nearby attractions are always an option, but driving is better for exploring at your preferred pace and having the ultimate freedom.
How Much Time Do You Need
How much time you need for Galway depends greatly on what you want to do. If you want to visit the city landmarks and do one or two day trips, three days is plenty of time.
On the other hand, if you want to explore more of the west coast of Ireland and possibly even try to follow the path of the Wild Atlantic Way road trip, you can stay in Ireland for two weeks or more. Five to seven days is the sweet spot for seeing the best of Galway and discovering all the best sights on the western coast of Ireland.
Where To Stay In Galway
Stay in Galway city center for easy walking access to all of the city’s best landmarks. For a longer stay in the city and access to other areas of Galway County, consider staying on the shore of Lough Corrib or even closer to Connemara National Park.
Some of the best hotels in Galway for all budgets are:
Woodquay Hostel is a budget hostel close to the old town of Galway. The Hardiman is a polished 4-star hotel set in a 19th-century building on Eyre Square. Glenlo Abbey Hotel & Estate is a high-end hotel in an 18th-century abbey, closer to Lough Corrib than the Galway city center. We stayed at this hotel and it was simply divine.
So, there you have it. All the information you need to plan a trip to Galway in Ireland. This is truly a magical destination that can be a vacation on its own or on a more extensive Ireland road trip.
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