With a youthful population and a bohemian spirit, Galway’s charms are best enjoyed by strolling the city lanes and soaking up the atmosphere. There’s plenty to keep sightseers happy, too
1. Shop for some traditional Celtic jewellery
Call in and watch Jonathan Margetts tinkering with rings in Thomas Dillon’s shop. He’s an expert on the history of the Claddagh Ring, Ireland’s most famous traditional ring. The rings were originally made in the shop, which date back to 1750.
2. Savor the tastes
From fabulous farmhouse Irish cheeses at Sheridan’s to the irresistible McCambridge’s food emporium– you’ll find something to your taste in Galway. No visit is complete without calling in to the family-owned Griffin’s Bakery (going strong since 1876 and now in its fifth generation) for their unbeatable breads.
3. Experience a musical medieval church
Packed with curious corners and ancient tombs, Ireland’s largest medieval parish church, St Nicholas’s Collegiate Church, was built in 1320. These days, the traditional 'Irish Tunes in the Church' feature the rector on his concert flute on summer nights. Don’t miss the weekend Galway Market just beside it, too.
4. Kirwan’s Lane
The lane itself is named after one of Galway’s 14 Tribes, the Kirwans, who helped build the city into a bustling centre of industry in the 1500s. It’s said to be one of five existing medieval lanes out of a former 14 in the City of Tribes. A highlight of the current Kirwan’s Lane is Judy Green’s Pottery studio where Ms Green can be seen working away.
5. Traditional music on Quay Street
It might seem that Quay Street is home to most of the pubs, restaurants and cafes in Galway. It also has the best selection of live traditional music in bars such as The Quays, Tigh Neachtain and The Spanish Arch Hotel Bar. Sit in on a sessiún and enjoy the sounds of the bodhráns and banjos.
6. Visit the Spanish Arch
A true Galway icon, the Spanish Arch was built in 1584 and overlooks the River Corrib. The arches were used to access the quays from the town when Galway was a walled city and this is all that remains. Nearby, The Spanish Arch Hotel on the bustling Quay Street is the perfect spot to enjoy a locally brewed beer and some people watching from its outdoor seating.
7. Walking tour of the city
Galway city, while jam packed with sights, is easily walkable and by taking a guided tour, you’ll get the insider knowledge. You’ll visit most of the city’s iconic sights including the Galway Cathedral, Eyre Square and the Spanish Arch.
8. Galway Hooker boats
The Galway Hooker is a traditional fishing boat developed in the 18th century. Many of the boats have been restored by Hooker enthusiasts and can be seen during a festival in Kinvara. There’s also a locally brewed craft beer sharing the name, which can be found in many pubs in Galway and all over Ireland.
9. Take a cruise on the River Corrib
A cruise on the Corrib Princess glides out from Galway city into waterways surrounded by the lush green countryside. Sail by ancient castles, ruins and Ireland’s famously beautiful landscape. On board, enjoy a drink from the bar. P.S. they do an unbelievable Irish coffee.
10. Festival fun
Galway is a festival town, there’s no doubt about it. Literature is celebrated at the Cúirt Literature Festival; screens are filled during the Galway Film Fleadh; the Big Tent pops up for the Galway Arts Festival; the Galway Races gallop in at the end of July; and September sees thousands of oysters shucked and enjoyed. Bon appétit!