1. MEDIEVAL MARVEL: Like your arts festivals with a large dose of history? Galway is packed with tales from its past as a walled medieval city. Check out the Spanish Arch, once a 15th century bastion, and the 13th century St Nicholas’s church (don’t miss the gargoyle waterspouts).
2. AWARD-WINNING FOOD: Dine out on fresh seafood at Oscar’s Seafood Bistro, sweet treats in the Secret Garden Café, Burren Smokehouse mackerel salad in Ard Bia, and culinary masterpieces in the city’s two Michelin-starred restaurants – Aniar and Loam. As always in Ireland, toasted cheese and ham sandwiches in the nearest pub is a quick and tasty fix.
3. LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION: Bang on the Wild Atlantic Way, away from the urban buzz are sleepy seaside villages, hidden coves and rugged landscapes. Take a beachside canter on a Connemara pony in Clifden or go-island hopping around the Aran Islands. Skip over to County Clare for a gander at the giant Cliffs of Moher and the lunar-like landscape of the Burren.
4. VENUES & VARIETY:
This festival packs in over 200 shows in 25+ locations over 14 days. As for the venues, no space is left untouched: buzzing galleries, intimate theatres, outdoor performances and, of course, the iconic Big Top tent, where the biggest names at the festival perform.
5. THE ARTISTS: Expect an eclectic mix of artists coming together to put on a show of the traditional, the contemporary and the controversial. Previous years welcomed the likes of David Byrne, Blondie, Bon Iver and loads more besides. This year, Villagers, Imelda May and Hothouse Flowers are just some of the acts you won't want to miss.
6. THE SPECIAL SPECTACLES: Death-defying stiltwalkers, surreal giant puppets, and monsters in the sky: you don’t know what you’ll stumble across walking through the city’s cobbled streets during the Arts Festival.
7. DRAMATIC TALES: Galway goes all in for drama with powerful plays from some of Ireland (and the world)’s most renowned playwrights. Expect humorous and compelling performances. This year, the festival offers an eclectic mix of classic drama and plays from up and coming names in both English and Gaeilge.
8. THE PEOPLE: Fact: people make the place. Galway is a lively, buzzing city all year round – and so are its people. Friendly, laid-back and charming, pull up a stool at any local bar and in no time you’ll be chatting with locals over a pint.
Juuuust in case you need more reasons than that to visit, here’s a big one: the Wild Atlantic Way.
The Galway International Arts Festival runs annually in July. Get the lowdown on the festival here.