Great Castles of Ireland
If you’re planning to visit Ireland, you have to check out Galway. It’s known as the “City of the Tribes” in honor of 14 families that controlled all of its politics and trade for 6 centuries. Galway is a perfect blend of traditional irish culture and bustling modern day city life. It’s a pretty small city compared to others, but there are plenty of things to do and see. Whether you’re taking a day trip or planning to spend a few days, the city’s rich history and natural beauty will keep you entertained and in awe the entire time.

Before your trip, you should really familiarize yourself with what all there is to do so that you can prioritize and plan out your time. One day you might check out the national parks and another you might spend exploring the Latin Quarter. Here’s a breakdown of some of the best things to do while visiting.

Places to Explore in Galway Ireland

Quay Street

Quay Street is a lively pedestrian area in the Latin Quarter near the river. The street is lined with restaurants, outdoor bars and trendy stores. It’s a lovely, colorful area that’s perfect for taking pictures and just hanging out while enjoying the live local music.

All of the businesses are welcoming to tourists and everything is very reasonably priced considering that it is a tourist hotspot and you’d think they would want to capitalize on that.

Connemara National Park

If you’re in Galway and want to take a roadtrip to see some of Ireland’s natural beauty, this stunning National Park is just about 50 miles outside of Galway and stretches over 7,000 acres. You’ll enjoy great hikes and breathtaking views of heaths, moors and bogs. The longest and most popular hike is the Lower Diamond Hill Walk, which is 5 miles long. If you want something a little shorter there are plenty of easier, more family-friendly trails as well.

The visitor center at the park is full of helpful information and a great place to learn about the ecology history of the area.

Galway Cathedral

Although this cathedral looks like it could be centuries old, it was actually built in the mid-1900’s. You’ll see influences of Roman, Gothic and Renaissance architecture mixed into this cathedral, which makes it a truly unique building. The amazing mosaic windows are creations made by the British stained glass artist Patrick Pollen, who also made the crucifixion mosaic

Spanish Arch

Located just in front of the City Museum, this 16th-century arch is a very famous landmark in Galway. It’s a perfect photo spot that really commemorates your visit to the city. It’s thought to be a piece of the city wall in the medieval times. These walls were erected as protection for the ships that would bring in goods from Spain on the Corrib River. A tsunami destroyed much of this wall in 1755 after an earthquake that occured in Lisbon, Portugal.

Galway Market

This busy market has been up and running for centuries. It’s made up of hundreds of stands selling everything from flowers, fruits and vegetables, to jewelry and clothing. You can find almost anything at this market, and even if you aren’t looking to buy anything, it’s still great to place to explore and spend the day. Do keep in mind that the vendors at this market can vary from day to day, so some days might not have as big of a selection as others.

St. Nicholas’ Collegiate Church

This medieval parish church was built in the early 14th century and is the largest church in Ireland that’s still active today, hosting regular church services. This church was built to honor St. Nicholas of Myra who is the patron saint of seafarers. Visitors are transported back in time as they observe Leper’s Gallery, a 13th century grave marker and baptismal font that’s over 400 years old. It’s believed that Christopher Colombus visited this church all the way back in 1477.

It’s a great idea to tour the church on a Saturday because the Galway Market is right next to you and you can hit both in one day.

Eyre Square

Just down the street from the Latin Quarter, Eyre Square is one of the cities main areas and was originally an open area before the old gates where markets were set up. It’s now a modern plaza with a high end shopping and dining. In the center you can view the Quincentennial Fountain and other pieces of art including a bust of John. F. Kennedy and a statue of Pádraic Ó Conaire. 14 flags representing Galway’s 14 families are also displayed in Eyre Square.

Salthill Promenade

If you want to get away from the city for a day, the Salthill Promenade is just a little ways southwest. You can explore and walk along the two kilometer promenade where you’ll be able to see the Connemara mountains and the Burren. Next to the walkway is a gorgeous beach that is known for being extremely clean and well-maintained. Along the promenade you’ll find small cafes, lively bars and fresh seafood restaurants. While you’re there, check out the Galway Atlantaquaria which is a part of the National Aquarium of Ireland to learn more about the local sea life.

Aran Islands

The Aran Islands are a cluster of rocky islands located just off the coast of Galway County. The islands are called Inishmaan, Inisheer and Insihmore. A visit to these islands is perfect if you’re looking for a relaxing, romantic day trip. They’re peaceful, rural farming communities where Irish Gaelic is still spoken regularly.

There are stunning views of the epic cliffs, Celtic churches and medieval forts to explore. On a cliff on the Inishmore island, you’ll find Dun Aonghasa, the largest prehistoric stone forts on the islands that was built in approximately 1100 B.C.

If you visit the Aran Islands during the summer, you can use the inter-island service that allows you to easily go from island to island.

Activities To Do

Drive along the Sky Road

This is one of the best things to do while in Galway. This wonderful stretch of road takes you down to the Clifden village where you’ll find the very popular Sky Road view point. This is one of the most popular tourist activities in the area, and for good reason. The route is circular and just about 11 kilometers long, so you don’t have to worry about leaving the city and getting lost

The scenery all along this stretch of road is unreal that it’ll be forever imprinted in your mind. Once you make it to Cliften, be sure to stop at one of their local cafes for a coffee and pastry to make this little road trip really special.

Tour the Galway City Museum

The Galway City Museum was built in 2006 and is right near the Spanish Arch and River Corrib, so you can easily hit both of these spots in one day. A visit to this museum will give you an indepth look at the Galway’s history and culture.

You’ll find items dating all the way back to prehistoric and medieval times. Some of the visitor favorites in the museum include the “hooker, which is a traditional Irish sailboat, and the Great Mace which dates back to the early 18th century. There’s also a large collection of very old photos of the city as well as bottles and pub signs going all the way back to the 19th century.

The museum is a great place to check out early in your visit, so that you know a little more about the history and sites of the city during the rest of your visit.

Visit the Original Shop of the Claddagh RIng

Keep in mind that many places will claim to be the home of the Claddagh Ring, but there is only one. Thomas Dillon’s Claddagh Gold are the original founders and the shop has been making jewelry since 1750. In fact, they are the only jeweler that can have the Irish Assay Office in Dublin Castle give them the official “Original” stamp on every ring they make. So don’t be fooled if you’re looking for an original Claddagh ring, and be sure to stop by Thomas Dillon’s.

Take Drive down Wild Atlantic Way

If you’re looking for a road trip idea, this drive will take you along the western coast and runs through nine counties. It’s a real scenic drive all the way through. Along this route, you’ll find castles, Cliffs of Moher, amazing golf courses and you can even stop by the Doolin Cave to witness the Northern Hemisphere’s largest stalactite.

For directions and more information on all of the attractions on the route, download the Wild Atlantic Way app on your smartphone. It’s free and even works offline incase you’re in a spot with bad reception.

Take a Food Tour of Galway

The best way to ensure that you aren’t missing out on the best local cuisine is to have a local guide you. Galway Food Tours will take you out for 3 hours and show you around the best restaurants and award-winning bars around Galway. This will introduce to what the real Galway locals like to eat and some of the smaller, family-owned businesses that you might not have considered trying before.

Hike Diamond Hill

This is another one of the amazing natural beauties of the area. It’s located in Connemara and is best viewed from above. You have two trails to pick from to get the best view. First is the Lower Diamond Hill Walk, which is a 3 kilometer hike that does have a few small climbs throughout it. It takes about 60 to 90 minutes to complete, and you’ll have plenty of fantastic views of the coastline and countryside.

Your second option is the Upper Diamond Hill trail. This one is for those who want to take it to the next level and keep going past the Lower Diamond Hill Walk. Together these two trails add up to about 7 kilometers.

Try Zip-Lining

If you’re looking for some real action, about 12 minutes outside of the city you’ll find the Delphi Resort. You can schedule your zip-line tour online in advance to ensure that you’re able to get a spot. You’ll get your adrenaline pumping and see some amazing views of Connemara.