Think of Galway City as Ireland’s playground. A place to unwind, kick back and enjoy yourself. Your wallet needn’t take a beating here, either. In fact, you can have a ball in the City of Tribes without spending a cent. Here are 10 things to do in Galway City for free (or next to nothing)…
1. Experience the hushed awe of Galway Cathedral
This colossal cathedral was first dedicated in 1965, making it the youngest of Europe’s great stone cathedrals. Inside columns shoot up into the ceiling, transforming into curved arches that support a gigantic dome. The cathedral displays an interesting mix of Renaissance, Romanesque and Gothic characteristics. Walk in for a stroll. Walk out amazed.
2. Learn the tale of Ireland’s famous ring
The story of Ireland’s famous Claddagh ring tells of pirates, lost love and great romance. Thomas Dillon’s Claddagh Ring Museum tells the story in fine fashion. They’ve also got curious exhibits of stone age axes, famine memorabilia and an interesting photographic collection of old Galway. Well worth a visit.
3. Galway City Museum
Whoever said museums are boring had obviously never been here. This powerhouse of education is home to residential exhibits such as Galway Within the Walls – a look at the thriving port town of medieval Galway. Ireland’s cringe-inducing dance hall days are also examined, as well as Galway & The Wars of Empire. All for free.
4. Experience trad music
The traditional Irish music session is the ultimate ‘Irish’ experience. And for good reason. In Monroe’s Tavern in the heart of the city, the music rarely stops. If you want to experience a genuine Irish trad session and maybe join in for a jig or two, you’re in the right place. With free entertainment every night of the week, Monroe’s is a must for Galway. They do a fine pint of Guinness, too.
5. A stroll along Salthill Promenade
After a busy day sightseeing in the city, why not take a leisurely stroll along Salthill Promenade? Winding along the coast, the walk offers gorgeous views of Galway Bay and, on a clear day, the hills of County Clare. There are little cafés and seats dotted along so grab an ice cream, take a seat and simply watch life flow by. Bliss.
6. Escape the City: Visit the Aran Islands
Just a short ferry ride from Galway Bay, the Aran Islands are made up of Inis Mor, Inis Meain and Inis Oirr. On the islands, the pace of life is set to leisurely. Getting around is easy, whether by foot or bicycle. With winding roads, historic ruins and cosy pubs, the islands are a little slice of Irish heaven.
7. Discover Medieval Galway
The Galway Civic Trust hosts a walking tour into Galway’s medieval past. Wander around key medieval sites and buildings such as, Lynch’s Castle, Eyre Square and the Hall of the Red Earl. It’s a great way to take in some of Galway’s best sites and there are plenty of interesting nuggets of info, too.
8. Stroll around the city
Simply strolling around Galway is a treat. The cobbled medieval streets are home to all sorts of pubs, craft shops and cafés. Take in the famous Spanish Arch before hitting Kirwan's lane. Be it musicians playing for the crowds or daredevil street performers defying danger, there's always something happening here. Kirwan's Lane is also home to relics of 16th and 17th century architecture. Without a doubt, this is the busking centre of the city.
9. The Galway Oyster Festival
The Galway International Oyster & Seafood Festival kicks off in September each year, bringing a whirlwind of foodie delights to Galway. The city is invaded by food lovers who come for the live cooking demonstrations, the ‘Oyster Olympics’, food talks and tastings by the shuck-load. All of this with some of Ireland’s best musicians providing the soundtrack. Make sure to pack your appetite!
10. Visit Eyre Square
You can't visit Galway and not visit Eyre Square. The area consists of the John F. Kennedy Park, which lies in the very heart of Galway City. The iconic Galway Hooker statue is here, honouring the seafaring traditions of the city. A walk around the park reveals twinkling fountains and statues all with busking musicians providing the soundtrack. This is the beating heart of Galway City, an oasis of calm and a must visit.