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.
Updated January 11, 2018
- #1View all Photos#1 in GalwaySightseeing, Tours, FreeTYPEMore than Full DayTIME TO SPENDSightseeing, Tours, FreeTYPEMore than Full DayTIME TO SPENDRead More
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.
Recent visitors who drove along the route called it "wild and wonderful," with "spectacular scenery." Reviewers also noted that the route is well-marked.
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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.
Visitors call Dún Aonghasa "stunning" and "spectacular," but warn that the rocks are slippery and there's no fence, so it is good idea to wear proper footwear.
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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.
If you didn't rent a car in Galway, you can still easily reach the cliffs via public bus and coach bus. Bus Éireann offers five daily services to the Cliffs of Moher on its seasonal route 350 bus (available starting in May). If you'd rather take a coach bus, Galway Tour Company offers year-round tours and is well-reviewed by travelers.
- #4View all Photos#4 in GalwayParks and Gardens, Recreation, FreeTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPENDParks and Gardens, Recreation, FreeTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPENDRead More
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.
Recent visitors called the park a "must-do" and raved about the views. Reviewers also appreciated the varying hike lengths, saying it makes the park accessible to all sorts of visitors. Travelers were also quick to note that you'll want to wear sturdy shoes and bring plenty of water, snacks and layers as the weather can change quickly.
- #5View all Photos#5 in GalwayMuseums, FreeTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPENDMuseums, FreeTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPENDRead More
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).
According to past visitors, this museums offers a great introduction to the area's history. Visitors who recently toured the museum were impressed with the displays, and said it houses enough interactive exhibits to keeps little ones entertained. If you're a history buff, reviewers say you should plan to spend several hours here.
- #6View all Photos#6 in GalwayRecreation, Sightseeing, FreeTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPENDRecreation, Sightseeing, FreeTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPENDRead More
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.
Recent visitors said they enjoyed the "lovely, scenic" walk along the seashore, calling it relaxing.
- #7View all Photos#7 in GalwayChurches/Religious Sites, FreeTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPENDChurches/Religious Sites, FreeTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPENDRead More
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.
Recent visitors said touring the church is like taking a "trip back in time" thanks to its well-preserved interior. Many recommended visiting on a Saturday so that you can stop by the popular Galway Market before or after viewing the church as the market sets up right outside.
- #8View all PhotosfreeGalway Market#8 in GalwaySightseeing, FreeTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPENDSightseeing, FreeTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPENDRead More
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.
Several visitors who happened to be in town on a weekend called themselves "lucky" and said the market was "wonderful." However, some were underwhelmed with the selection of vendors, which can vary by day.
- #9View all PhotosfreeSpanish Arch#9 in GalwayMonuments and Memorials, Sightseeing, FreeTYPELess than 1 hourTIME TO SPENDMonuments and Memorials, Sightseeing, FreeTYPELess than 1 hourTIME TO SPENDRead More
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.
Visitors say it is an especially interesting sight to see for anyone who loves history. Others were less impressed and say it's not worth making a special trip.
- #10View all PhotosfreeGalway Cathedral#10 in GalwayChurches/Religious Sites, FreeTYPELess than 1 hourTIME TO SPENDChurches/Religious Sites, FreeTYPELess than 1 hourTIME TO SPENDRead More
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.
Recent travelers said a visit to the cathedral was well worth a stop, and described the interior as "wonderful," thanks to its intricately decorated dome and Romanesque arches. The cathedral's mosaics and stonework were also highlights for recent visitors.
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