Galway is fast becoming one of the most popular cities in Ireland for visiting tourists both home and abroad. Dublin gets a lot of attention but soaring hotel prices and congestion means that many avid travellers are seeking a more cost-effective, cultured and authentic experience elsewhere.
There are many reasons why Galway should be on your radar if you haven’t already visited. Despite it being a relatively small city (around 80,000 inhabitants), there are plenty of sights and amusements to entertain and inspire, even if you’ve been here before.
There are seasonal events throughout the year – July being a particularly fun month, with the International Arts Festival and Galway Races – and there are plenty of attractions in and around the city for those who want to escape the hustle and bustle.
We decided to round up the top highlights that you simply must see when you visit the county.
Connemara National Park
2000 hectares of scenic mountains, expanses of bogs, heaths, grasslands and forests. For those who enjoy a more active pursuit, a trip to Connemara is just the tonic with clean air, layered slopes and amazing views in abundance.
There is a visitor centre and cafe at the entrance with four walking trails for the Diamond Hill peak which range in difficulty.
Best of all? Admission is free.
Wild Atlantic Way
A spectacular coastal route, 2600km in length, which winds its way all along the western coast of Ireland and features highly on many tourist bucket list items.
Galway is the perfect place to kickstart an adventure with easy travel options available either North or South of the city. There are many sites that can be quickly checked off, not least the Aran Islands (see more below), Connemara, the Cliffs of Moher and the Burren.
For convenience, Galway Tour Company cover the most popular destinations in full and half-day tours giving you plenty of opportunity elsewhere for downtime if your stay is brief.
The heart of the city, this narrow street is laden with shops, pubs, restaurants and live music courtesy of an eclectic mix of buskers and performers.
A busy throng of visitors ensures the colourful street is never quiet and with its convenience to the train and bus stations, it’s an excellent place to meet and make new friends.
Salthill Promenade and Beach
The long promenade stretching from the city centre to Salthill is beautiful, especially in the summer months with the cool sea air breeze gliding in from the Atlantic.
There are several small beaches along the way if you want to decamp and rest up with an ice cream or for the hardier souls, go for a cold water swim or dive off the Blackrock pier.
There is an excellent choice of restaurants and pubs in the latin quarter which is conveniently located at the end of quay street.
For those fortunate to grab outdoor seats, there are few better places in Galway to people-watch and enjoy the colourful characters that stream past.
50km long, Galway Bay stretches between County Galway and the Burren in County Clare. Cruises are available during summer and the Aran Islands are in close proximity.
Never a bad idea to grab a fish and chips, cast an eye over the mooring boats and ships and admire the view over Galway Bay as the sun sets.
A must-see on any visitor’s list, the Aran Islands are a small outcropping of islands guarding the mouth of Galway Bay.
Featuring Dun Aonghasa – a prehistoric hill fort and world heritage site – the locals speak Irish and English. Hiring a bike is a must-do and much of the ground can be covered in a few hours. There are shops, pubs (of course) and lots of snap-worthy views that will make you the envy of friends and family back home.
The Cathedral of Our Lady Assumed into Heaven and Saint Nicholas is the youngest of Europe’s great stone cathedrals. A modern building (1965) with beautiful design and architecture, a visit is well-recommended.
Within is a small gift shop where mass cards and religious items can be purchased.
Meeting point, shopping zone, place to people-watch – Eyre’s Square is the centre of the city and the starting point for many who arrive via the nearby train or dart station.
At various points during the year, the square is transformed to accommodate festivals and events.
During the summer season, there is an abundance of sun-worshippers lazing on the lawn. In December, Christmas stalls take precedence offering mulled wine, hot food and plenty of sugary treats.
If your stay is short, there are plenty of options inside the city. For those with an inclination for further exploration, we offer a range of short-term tours where you can visit more of the neighbouring sites all in a few hours.
To learn more about our day tours, please visit our tour page.