7 reasons to visit Galway in 2020

Diamond Hill, Connemara, County Galway

Have you heard the good news? Galway city is European Capital of Culture 2020, which means an extraordinary selection of events (most of them free) showcasing Galway's rich heritage and creativity all year!

1. European Capital of Culture 2020

There has never been a better time to visit this buzzing region, as this year Galway city is European Capital of Culture, one of the largest cultural celebrations in the world! County Galway is famous for its heritage, Gaeltacht (Irish-speaking region) and its wild, natural beauty, so it’s no wonder that the theme for the city's celebrations is landscape and language. In summer, highlights include the Galway Theatre Festival 2020 (May), the Galway Early Music Festival (May) and Poetry Matters. Autumn brings creative performances from the likes of Cie Carabosse’s Fire Garden (Aug) and a multi-arts festival dedicated to the life and works of Irish playwright JM Synge at Syngelines (Sept). Connemara Songlines (Oct) brings music and visual arts to Clifden. While budding designers can test their skills at It Takes a Village (Nov) – a fascinating workshop where participants can build their dream village with the help of 3D modelling sessions, lectures and discussions. And for the final spectacle, Lumiere Galway will transform the city into a twinkling wonderland full of artistic sculptures and creations (Jan 2021). Move over Paris – there’s a new “City of Lights” in town!

2. Delicious dishes

Galway is home to an abundance of artisan producers, incredible natural ingredients and award-winning restaurants. Enjoy dishes that look almost too good to eat at Michelin-starred Loam and Aniar, or go for seasonal delights in the rustic-chic surrounds of Kai. Sample the very best of Irish-style pizza at The Dough Bros, tuck into hearty dishes at Ard Bia or try traditional fish and chips at McDonagh’s. You can even take a culinary walking tour with Galway Food Tours, who will introduce you to the passionate producers, brewers and entrepreneurs that make this city such a gastronomic gem.

3. Festival fever

Galway is already known for its great festival programme but this year promises to be extra special! The month of July is jam-packed with incredible festivals each year. The Galway International Arts Festival turns the "City of Tribes" (as Galway is known) into a giant party with literature, drama, theatre and pop-up surprises. And did you know Galway is one of only five UNESCO Cities of Film in the world? The Galway Film Fleadh brings together a diverse range of filmmakers from all over the globe to experience the magic of film, and it has hosted some big names over the years, including Maureen O’Hara, Anjelica Huston and Peter O’Toole. In September, foodies the world over head to Galway for the Galway International Oyster & Seafood Festival for great seafood trails, oyster shucking contests and tasting events, as well as a Mardi Gras-style street extravaganza. October brings spooky events and a fantastical parade at Galway Abu Halloween Festival. And as the festive season approaches, you can enjoy ice skating (Nov-Jan), browse for gifts at the Galway Christmas Market (Nov-Dec) and experience a feast for the eyes at the Light Up Galway Festival (Nov-Dec).

4. The music scene

Galway is arguably one of the best places on the island of Ireland for traditional music. This is a city that lives and breathes music, from the buzzing street buskers on Shop Street to the endless traditional music sessions all over town. Step inside a traditional music pub, and you’re guaranteed an unforgettable night: we're talking live music, friendly locals and maybe even an impromptu céilí (Irish dance)! Check out great traditional music sessions in pubs such as Taaffes, The Crane Bar, Tigh Cóilí and An Púcán.

5. Wild Atlantic Way wonders

Fancy a day trip? You're in luck, as Galway is situated along the Wild Atlantic Way, one of the longest coastal touring routes in the world. From the city, you can get to the buttery coves, chestnut-coloured hills and fishing villages of Connemara, the soaring Cliffs of Moher and the limestone-karst landscape of the Burren. And it’s hard to think of a more beautiful place to be than the charming Aran Islands dotted in the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Galway. Traditional music, thatched cottages and dry-stone walls make these islands havens of traditional culture.

6. Medieval marvels

Did you know that Galway was once a walled city? You can still see segments – most notably at the famous Spanish Arch – where the original line of the town wall can be traced to the Galway City Museum. The old city walls are now incorporated into a modern shopping centre at Eyre Square. Roam the medieval Latin Quarter and sample 16th century architecture, bohemian cafes and idyllic local craft shops. The city is packed full of creative culture and tradition, from locally crafted Aran jumpers to ornate Claddagh rings.

7. The people

Galway is a lively, buzzing city all year round – and it's the people that make it such a dynamic place. Pull up a stool at any local bar, and in no time, you’ll be chatting with locals over a pint. After all, they don’t call Ireland the land of 100,000 welcomes for nothing! And in Galway, you'll find a welcome so warm, you may never want to leave.

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