Considered by locals to be Ireland’s most Irish city, Galway is vibrant and charming. There is much to see and do. As you walk the medieval streets you will be seduced by the buzz and atmosphere for which it is famous.
Upon arriving in the city you can find the Tourist Office on Forster Street. There is also an information kiosk on Eyre Square. A number of bus tours are on offer, as well as a historic walking tour with a local guide. Some of the town walls still stand throughout the city. You will see substantial sections in the Eyre Square shopping centre, as well as the famous Spanish Arch down by the Quay. If you visit the Spanish Arch take the opportunity to pop into the nearby Galway City Museum (Tue-Sat 10am-5pm, Sun 12pm-5am). Admission is free, and the museum is a fantastic place to explore the archaeology and heritage of Galway. A short distance away on Dominick Street is the Galway Arts Centre (Mon-Thurs 10am-5.30pm, Fri 10am-5pm, Sat 10am-5.30pm). Again, admission is free.
The city offers a second free museum. Often called ‘Galway’s Hidden Museum’, the James Mitchell Museum is housed in the Department of Geology at the National Univeristy of Ireland, Galway (NUIG). The museum and its collections of rocks, minerals, and fossils primarily serve as an education resource for staff and students of the College and for national and secondary school pupils. A visit will prove to be very quiet! While there take the time to visit NUIG’s very pretty Quadrangal, known by students as ‘The Quad’. The Quadrangle first opened its doors to 63 students on 30th October 1849 and the University, then known as Queen’s College, was born. Built in local limestone in a Tudor Gothic architectural style, it is modelled on Christ Church at the University of Oxford.
While walking back into the centre of the town from NUIG you will be very likely to pass Galway Cathedral, identifiable by its distinctive green dome. Opened in just 1965, it is the youngest great stone cathedral in Europe. By contrast the Collegiate Church of St. Nicholas, located on Church Lane, is the largest medieval parish church in Ireland which is in continuous use as a place of worship. Built by 1320, the church has a rich architectural and social history; Christopher Columbus prayed here during a visit in 1477, while Oliver Cromwell’s troops used it as a stable after the sucessful seige on the city in 1652! Look out for both the fascinating memorials and the stone carvings outside the church, which include an ape, a dragon, mermaids, and gargoyles.
To find even more gargoyles in the city check out Lynch’s Castle. Located on the junction of Shop Street and Upper Abbeygate Street, it is a 16th century castle which was heavily altered in 1966 when it was converted into a bank by AIB. The gargoyles as well as the arms of Henry VII, the Lynch family and the Fitzgeralds of Kildare can be seen on the exterior. Historical material of the castle is displayed in the ground floor. Built in limestone in the Irish Gothic style it is the only complete secular medieval building left standing in Galway today.
If you enjoy a little retail, Gaway won’t disapoint. With three shopping centres and a number of department stores nestled in the city you will find all the typical shops. There are also many smaller businesses and boutiques that cater for everyone. Galway’s worst kept secret is Charlie Byrne’s Bookshop. For a book lover a trip to Galway is incomplete without a visit. Stocking both new and second-hand books, the shop offers a huge range of subjects in a number of languages, including Irish. Galway’s famous bustling Street Market has been trading by St. Nicholas’ Church for centuries, and offers a great variety of food such as madras curry, crepes, and japanese sushi, as well as well as local produce and crafts. This is open at weekends and Bank Holidays. Galway also hosts a very successful Christmas market in Eyre Square. Make sure to check it out if you visit in December.
It is worth making your way to Salthill, Galway’s seaside resort. Walk the promenade, brave the jump into the Atlantic Ocean from Blackrock Diving Tower, visit the National Aquarium of Ireland, or simply grab an ice cream! Salthill can be walked to from the Spanish Arch along Galway Bay through South Park in about 20 minutes, but make sure to wrap up warm as the weather can be blustery! Alternatively, the 401 bus leaves Eyre Square for Salthill every 20 minutes.
When visiting consider staying overnight, the city becomes very lively each evening. The night scene offers a friendly, relaxed atmosphere which personifies Galway, while its many pubs will offer live music to suit all tastes. Look for premises which offer outdoor seating where you can enjoy a pint and soak up the music from the buskers on the streets. You can find a guide on Galway’s pubs here. Most pubs also serve food, catering for a variety of tastes and budgets. Keep an eye open for the Quays Pub, which serves seasonal locally sourced produce. Their oysters are especially popular! There is also a wide range of restaurants available in the city. Highly recommended is Mc Donagh’s award winning Fish and Chip takeaway and restaurant, which serves a large variety of fresh local fish.
If you wish to explore the area further, popular destinations include Connemara and the Aran Islands. In easy distance of Galway City are two other Irish Walled Towns, Loughrea and Athenry.