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Best Things To Do in Galway

For a relatively small city, Galway has a wealth of attractions and natural beauty to keep anyone entranced for days. In town, places like the Spanish Arch and St. Nicholas' Collegiate Church are a testament to the city's rich history, while spots like the lively Galway Market and the Salthill Promenade offer a way to engage with present-day Galwegians. Easily accessible from the city, gorgeous natural wonders like the Cliffs of Moher and the Aran Islands are popular daytrips.

How we rank Things to Do

Updated January 11, 2018

  • #1
    Wild Atlantic Way
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    #1 in Galway
    Sightseeing, Tours, Free
    TYPE
    More than Full Day
    TIME TO SPEND
    Sightseeing, Tours, Free
    TYPE
    More than Full Day
    TIME TO SPEND

    This western coastal route, which begins in the north of Donegal and runs 1,500 miles through nine counties ending in the south of Cork, is a breathtakingly scenic experience. No matter how much of the route you choose to experience, you'll find a wealth of attractions along the way, including the famous Cliffs of Moher, castles, golf courses and the largest stalactite in the Northern Hemisphere at Doolin Cave, among many, many others. For an on-the-go guide to the route's highlights, consider downloading the free Wild Atlantic Way App (available for Apple and Android), which also works offline.

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  • #2
    Aran Islands
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    #2 in Galway
    Natural Wonders, Recreation, Sightseeing, Free
    TYPE
    Half Day to Full Day
    TIME TO SPEND
    Natural Wonders, Recreation, Sightseeing, Free
    TYPE
    Half Day to Full Day
    TIME TO SPEND

    The beautiful and romantic Aran Islands, composed of Inishmore, Inishmaan and Inisheer, sit off the coast of Galway County and are an immensely popular daytrip for visitors. Along with their medieval forts, Celtic churches and dramatic cliffs, the islands offer a glimpse into Ireland's history and culture, as this is a place where locals still speak Irish (and English). There are a variety of activities on the islands, from hiking to cycling to swimming. Probably one of the most famous attractions is the UNESCO World Heritage Site, Dún Aonghasa, set on a dramatic cliff edge on Inishmore. It is the largest of the prehistoric stone forts of the Aran Islands. Originally constructed around 1100 B.C., it was re-fortified around A.D. 700 to 800. Admission is 2 euros (about $2.50) for adults and 5.50 euros ($6.50) for a family.

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  • #3
    Cliffs of Moher
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    #3 in Galway
    Natural Wonders, Sightseeing, Tours
    TYPE
    Half Day to Full Day
    TIME TO SPEND
    Natural Wonders, Sightseeing, Tours
    TYPE
    Half Day to Full Day
    TIME TO SPEND

    One of Ireland's most iconic sights sits about 50 miles southwest of Galway, and according to travelers, can't be missed. Visitors describe the breathtaking scenery of the Cliffs of Moher as "stunning" and "simply awe-inspiring." Stretching for 5 miles, this natural wonder stands 702 feet above sea level at its highest point, offering views of the Aran Islands, Galway Bay and the Maumturk Mountains, as well as the Dingle Peninsula and Blasket Islands on a clear day. Between April and July, Atlantic Puffins nesting on Goat Island can be seen from the cliffs. There are three main viewing platforms, all of which offer different vistas, as well as O'Brien's Tower, which was built in 1835.  After you've walked the cliffs, stop by the visitor center, which houses interactive exhibits, a virtual reality tour of the cliffs from a bird's-eye point of view, historic images and much more.

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  • #4
    Connemara National Park
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    #4 in Galway
    Parks and Gardens, Recreation, Free
    TYPE
    2 hours to Half Day
    TIME TO SPEND
    Parks and Gardens, Recreation, Free
    TYPE
    2 hours to Half Day
    TIME TO SPEND

    Located a little more than 50 miles northwest of Galway, the more than 7,000-acre Connemara National Park offers stunning views of bogs, heaths and moors, as well as great hikes. Start in the visitor center for an overview of the area's history and ecology, then head out for a trek. One of the most popular routes is the 5-mile Lower Diamond Hill Walk, but there are shorter and longer treks, including a nature trail, perfect for kids. Look for the herd of pure-bred Connemara ponies that live at the park.

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  • #5
    Galway City Museum
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    #5 in Galway
    Museums, Free
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND
    Museums, Free
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND

    This free museum – located behind the Spanish Arch – traces the history of the city in meticulous detail, spanning from prehistoric Galway to the 20th century. The three-story facility is home to seven permanent exhibits and two temporary exhibit spaces. Topics covered include everything from archaeology to oceanography in the context of Galway. Highlights include a stone ax head carbon-dated to 3500 B.C. and a full-scale Galway hooker (a traditional Irish boat used for fishing and ferrying supplies).

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  • #6
    Salthill Promenade
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    #6 in Galway
    Recreation, Sightseeing, Free
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND
    Recreation, Sightseeing, Free
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND

    Salthill is a village of Galway located along the Atlantic Ocean. It boasts a 2-mile-long promenade, which is a popular place to take a stroll. Below the walkway is a beach, lauded by recent visitors for its cleanliness. After you've taken a stroll along the water, explore Salthill, which is home to all sorts of shops and cafes.

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  • #7
    St. Nicholas' Collegiate Church
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    #7 in Galway
    Churches/Religious Sites, Free
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND
    Churches/Religious Sites, Free
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND

    Completed sometime in the early 14th century, the Collegiate Church of St. Nicholas is the largest medieval parish church in Ireland in continuous use. Among its historical artifacts are a more than 400-year-old baptismal font, a grave marker that dates back to the 13th century and the misnamed Lepers' Gallery, which leads to the belfry. The most famous visitor to the church is said to be Christopher Columbus, who prayed there during a visit to Galway in 1477. In a more destructive visit, Cromwellian troops used the church to house their horses after the siege of Galway in 1652 and are blamed for the headless and handless state of most of the carved figures inside the church.

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  • #8
    Galway Market
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    #8 in Galway
    Sightseeing, Free
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND
    Sightseeing, Free
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND

    The popular Galway Market, which has operated for centuries, is not only the place to pick up all sorts of fruits, vegetables and flowers, but also crafts, jewelry, clothing and other sundry items. There are hundreds of stalls selling everything from freshly shucked oysters to paintings. Even if you don't want to buy anything, it's fun to browse through the bustling market, according to recent travelers.

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  • #9
    Spanish Arch
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    #9 in Galway
    Monuments and Memorials, Sightseeing, Free
    TYPE
    Less than 1 hour
    TIME TO SPEND
    Monuments and Memorials, Sightseeing, Free
    TYPE
    Less than 1 hour
    TIME TO SPEND

    The landmark 16th-century Spanish Arch is a popular photo op for every visitor to Galway. The arch is assumed to be part of the medieval city walls, which were built to protect the ships that came in with goods from Spain. It was partially destroyed by a tsunami following an earthquake in 1755 in Lisbon, Portugal.

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  • #10
    Galway Cathedral
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    #10 in Galway
    Churches/Religious Sites, Free
    TYPE
    Less than 1 hour
    TIME TO SPEND
    Churches/Religious Sites, Free
    TYPE
    Less than 1 hour
    TIME TO SPEND

    A newcomer as far as stone cathedrals in Europe go, the Galway Cathedral was completed in 1965. The architecture is modern and instead of the typical altars and stained-glass windows, there are mosaics. There's even one of John F. Kennedy.

    ...Read More »

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