Galway Ireland Travel Guide

By Morgan O’Callaghan

Galway: The City of Tribes

Galway is a county steeped in culture from Connemara in the west to Ballinasloe in the east. You will find it hard to find a town in County Galway where no historical event or celebration has taken place. Each has its own interesting story to tell.

My name is Morgan and I love my home city and county of Galway here in Ireland. Join me and discover more about Galway with a special emphasis on some of its history. I am a Tourism College student in Galway & Roscommon ETB.

In 2016, the city of Galway was designated the European Capital of Culture for 2020 along with Rijeka in Croatia. This will mean that during 2020 the biggest and most exciting events will take place in Galway.

Galway beat off stiff competition from Dublin, Limerick, Kilkenny, Waterford and Wicklow to win this achievement. Galway 2020 launched their plan for the year on the 18 of September 2019  Here you can see the programme of events for Galway 2020.

This will be a big boost to Galway. It will bring in millions of tourists and millions of revenue for the development of Galway’s already fantastic arts, culture and foodie scene. The year got off to a superb start, when on 2nd January 2020, the BBC Good Food Guide.placed Galway in the first position in their list of top destinations for foodies in 2020.

Galway city colourful street By C.Echeveste

Some historical nuggets about Galway

Galway as a town itself was first settled in around the 1100’s by the King of Connacht, Tairrdelbach Ua Conchobair. During this time the oldest part of Galway, The Claddagh was established as a fishing village. The men of the Claddagh all became fishermen while the women mended the nets. (The Claddagh area is in the photo below).

In primary school “the parochial School” which is now an office block, the boys learnt navigation, fishing and the basic rules of the sea, while the girls learnt to mend nets and look after the house.

More than a hundred years later, Galway was captured during the Norman Invasion of Connacht in the 1230’s by Richard Mor de Burgh, This led the locals to push for a defensive wall to be built around Galway and which was completed in 1562. Parts of the Galway Wall are still visible today in the Spanish Arch & Eyre Square Shopping Centre.

During the Middle Ages, Galway was controlled by fourteen families Athy, Blake, Bodkin, Browne, D’Arcy, Deane, Font, Ffrench, Joyce, Kirwan, Lynch, Martin, Morris and Skerritt. These are known as the Tribes of Galway and this is why Galway’s Gaelic Athletic Association teams are called the tribesmen, and of course, why Galway is known as the City of Tribes. The last of the remaining roundabouts in Galway all bear name to one of the fourteen tribes.

Two castles belonging to the tribes still remain to this day. Lynch’s Castle which stands on Shop Street (Galway’s main thoroughfare) and Blake’s Castle which is located close to the Spanish arch.

Claddagh area Galway

Things To See in Galway

The Spanish Arch

The Spanish Arch was the main fishing port in Galway. It is one of the only two places where the Galway wall is remaining. Two remaining arches were part of the extension of the city wall, designed as a measure to protect the city’s quays, which were in the area once known as the Fish Market (now Spanish Parade). It was constructed by Mayor Wylliam Martin in 1584.

In the 18th century the Eyre family of Eyrecourt, County Galway, created an extension of the quays called The Long Walk and created the arches to allow access from the town to the new quays. Despite being called ”Spanish arch” the spanish arch has no connection to Spain and was rather called so due to the amount of spanish boats that used to moor here. Until 2006, part of the Arch housed the Galway City Museum. At that time, the museum was moved to a new, dedicated building located just behind the Arch.

Did you know that Christopher Columbus moored here last before setting sail for the “West Indies”?

Here are 15 things to see in Galway.
Galway city things to see

Galway Ethnic Groups

Galway just like any city has thousands of ethnic groups. In schools “independence day” is a big event where all the cultures and nationalities in the school show off their traditions, cultures, food and clothing.

In my primary school which was in the Claddagh from 2005 – 2014 we had an independence day every year. In a school with 44 different nationalities. It was a day not to be missed!

crafts in Galway Irish spinner woman with wheel


Family is very important to Irish people, and that is definitely the case here in Galway. You will see when you come to Ireland that we are very friendly and treat everyone like one of our family. This is just in our nature. We are the friendliest people in the world.


Galway Crafts

Everything is made in Galway from woollen Aran jumpers, to delicious fresh brown bread to handmade rugs…everything can be found in Galway. There is a great history of spinning also. (See the photo above of the Irish woman at her spinning wheel.) There is a pre Christmas Craft Fair in Galway in The Black Box every year during November plus in the summer in Salthill, you can enjoy the Galway Food and Craft Fair in July. 


Galway Markets & Shopping

Galway Has a number of markets and shopping centres. Try not to miss the Galway Market located next St Nicholas Church, which contains lots of natural, local handmade products and takes place every Saturday and Sunday.

The Galway Christmas Market is on every year from the last Friday in November to the 22nd of December. Located in Eyre Square it is sure to be a place to get some nice Christmas presents and there is some delicious food available. Any trip to the Christmas Market must be topped off with a visit to the German Beer Tent with lots of Live Music and some good Craic (Fun).

Galway has two main Shopping Centres, which are Eyre Square Shopping Centre, that has over 70 shops and restaurants
The other one is the Corrib Shopping Centre which is a 5 minute walk from Galway City Centre.

Although there are some tourists based shops in both shopping centres including Aran Jumper Shops and some lovely Irish Craft Shops, most of the shops in the shopping centres are aimed towards locals.


Check out these
Wonderful Festivals


Cultural Highlights of Galway

Of course Galway is renowned for its amazing culture and creativity. One of the must see events in Galway is Trad On The Prom in Leisureland, Galway. This is a collection of Irish dancing and Irish Traditional music in a show that is not to be missed. 

Run and performed by a number of performers who have been involved in Riverdance, the Chieftains and Lord of the Dance. With its excellent performers and musicians, along with a number of world champion Irish dancers, it would make any trip to Galway one to remember. 

Trad on the Prom Galway (2)

Live Music in Galway

Galway and music go hand in hand. Home to such bands including the Stunning, Galway Street Club and Keywest, Galway has been the breeding ground of lots of home grown Irish music talent. Ed Sheeran himself even busked in Galway in his younger years.

Check out the feature on Live Music in Galway

Shop Street is the best place to see live music in the streets. It is a buskers paradise from the Good, the Bad and the Tone Deaf Dreadful – there is a busker in Galway City for everyone. If you get to witness one of Galway’s finest bands “The Galway Street Club” which is a collective of buskers from around Ireland and the world, you’ll understand why they sell out venues around Ireland.

For tourists interested in listening to some trad music, several pubs in Galway have Trad nights where you can listen to some traditional music with a lovely pint of pure Irish Guinness.

Our Canadian W.A.L.K.S writer, Emma Collard, give her own unique perspective on culture and where to drink in Galway.


Check out these
Great Music Pubs

Festivals in Galway

Galway has a number of festivals, many are which are known around the world. It is really a great city for festivals.

The main festival of the cultural calendar in Galway is The Galway Arts Festival. Happening over the last week in July, it is a great event filled with Music, Arts,Comedy and much more. The Galway Arts Festival has events taking place all over Galway and is one of the not to missed festivals in Ireland.

The Galway Races is a week long week of horse racing in The Galway Racecourse in Ballybrit, Galway which happens in the first week in August, Every year. The Galway Races which celebrated 150 Years, in 2019, is a festival for those who enjoy horse racing but is not really attended by locals due to its expensive pricing.

The Macnas Parade a one day parade which happens in October and is the main celebration of Halloween time in Galway, Attracting crowds of up to 50,000, this free to watch show passes through the streets of Galway in what can only be described as a spectacular show.

Galway Races

County Galway Landscapes

Galway is very hilly Coming from the East, Galway is surrounded by an Esker that formed as a result of the last Ice Age. East and North Galway is where are farming is done. The land is a lot better, and it’s easy for cattle to graze on these pastures. Farmers in East Galway may have sheep, beef or dairy cows.

Heading west, Connemara is a very mountainous area with boglands and a lot of wetlands. The landscape is beautiful however travelling beyond Oughterard (40 Minutes North west of Galway) will lead you towards Recess and Maum Cross, two beautiful small towns surrounded by the Twelve Pins mountain range.

However the land in the west is generally not that great for farming. In this area the farmers may have upland sheep that roam around the hills. This is why the woollen Aran Sweater was developed.

Be sure to check out some of our favourite Galway landscapes in this feature.

Day Trips from Galway 

  1. Cliffs of Moher

The Cliffs of Moher is one of Ireland’s must see tourist attractions. 1 hour and 40 minutes from Galway – a drive to the Cliffs of Moher will bring you through the Burren and along the Wild Atlantic Way. On a sunny day you may even see the Aran Islands.

Days tours to here leave from Galway’s Sean Duggan Coach Station. Tours are provided by the Galway Tour Company, departing from Galway at 10:00 and returning at 18:00. Other providers are:

Healy Tours: Departs Galway at 11:00 and Returns At 17:45
Lally Tours: Departs Galway at 10:00

Wild Atlantic Way Day Tours: Departs outside Kinlay Hostel on Merchants Road at 09:30

Cliffs of Moher Ireland-stunning Landscape and Seascape along the wild atlantic way

2. The Aran Islands

A trip to Galway is not complete without a visit to the Aran Islands. A tour to the Islands off the coast of Galway is like walking back in time down the small stone wall lined roads, beautiful cottages and wonderful limestone landscapes.

The Aran Islands consist of three islands, Inis Mhor (Largest Island), Inis Meain( Middle Island and Inis Oirr ( the Smallest Island). Legend says that two giants were fighting and throwing rocks and each other. One of the giants threw a rock that fell into the sea and broke apart to become the Aran Islands.

A journey to the Aran Islands is well worth the time. You can fly from Connemara Airport in inverin, Connemara or sail on the Aran Island Ferry from Rossaveal. Those wishing to fly can get a shuttle bus from Galway City .Those who wish to take the boat can take a shuttle bus from Galway City also.

Day tours are also provided by:
Galway Tour Company
Lallys Tours
Healys Tours
Wild Atlantic Way Day Tours

Galway beautiful places Aran Islands Inishmore Kilronana

3. Connemara

Connemara, The Home of the Irish Language – the Gaeltacht is a must see gem in Country Galway. The views along of the rugged landscape should not be missed along with the traditional simplistic lives of the natives. Connemara is a place not to missed, for these reasons and also for stunning views of South County Clare & The Burren,

Some of the best known sights are The Connemara National Park, Kylemore Abbey, Leenane and so much more besides. Connemara is just a true beauty.

Connemara is best seen in a hired car available to get in Galway in your own time, or else by bus or by day tour provided.

Our W.A.L.K.S writer, Aisling Conneely, guides you wonderfully through some of the highlights of Connemara.

Galway beautiful villages Connemara ponies

4. Cong

Cong is a town straddled between the Galway and Mayo border on the banks of the river Corrib. Cong was made famous for being the filming location of the “Quiet Man” starring John Wayne and Maureen O Hara.

Home to Ashford Castle and the 12th Century Cong Abbey. Cong is a beautiful spot. Cong is a 41 minute drive from Galway City. Day Tours are available from a number of tour Operators.

Cong Galway Ireland john-wayne

Food, Drink & Entertainment 

Cost of living in Galway

Although Galway is a cheap city by Irish standards, there are a lot of items that are quite expensive. Galway is generally cheaper than Dublin.

Guinness & Going Out In Galway

Don’t fall for the Temple Bar trap. If you want to try Guinness, wait until you get to Galway. A Guinness in Temple Bar in Dublin will set you back €9! You can get 2 for that price in Galway. The cheapest pint of Guinness is roughly around €4 and nearly every pub in the city will have???

Galway is not a party mad city. You could easily have a good night out as have many cash struck local students on €30. What does this include roughly?

Food in Galway

Food in Galway is quite cheap. To use the typical guide, the price of a McDonald’s Big MAC is around €8.90

A two course meal in a typical Galway Restaurant would be between €25 – €30. Galway has some very cheap, fantastic restaurants such as Finnegans which is located in one of Galway’s oldest buildings. I suggest the breakfast roll. Its gigantic and lovely.

Galway is not too expensive and like any city, our good friend McDonalds can be found there! It is in three locations in Galway and a large meal is around €10

Galway has a number of different cuisines on offer. The main genres are Spanish, Italian and Irish.

Be sure not to miss this more comprehensive guide by Eimear Birch about some of the best pubs in Galway and her suggestions of Galway’s best restaurants that also offer good value for money.

Cava Bodega is a popular Spanish restaurant serving tapas made from local Irish produce, Cava Bodega is part of the Eat Galway group along with Tartare Cafe & Wine Bar & the Michelin star award winning Aniar Restaurant & Cookery School. You can find Cava Bodega at Unit 1, Middle Street Mews, Middle Street, just off Shop Street.

Cava Bodga Galway
Cava Bodga Galway

Galway has a number of Italian Restaurants, One of the best known is Milano Pizzeria; the Galway branch of the Irish restaurant chain. This Galway restaurant is popular with locals due to the great taste of the pizza and the affordable price. The average pizza is around €20 – €25. Milano is located in the Cornstore, on Middle Street.


Galway of course has its fine share of Irish restaurants; the best of which is Finnegans. Finnegans is located in one of the oldest buildings in Galway and offers some fine Irish cuisine at very affordable prices.


Live Sports

If you’re interested in sports, catch a game of Connacht Rugby located 14 minutes walk minutes from Eyre Square and close to loads of B&Bs and hotels. Loving the 14 minutes!!!

A Single Adult ticket costs €25

Galway United, Galway’s Soccer team play in Eamonn Deacy Park, located just outside Galway City. A walk from Eyre Square is 20 minutes or you can catch the 407 Bus and take a 5 minute walk.

A single Adult ticket costs €12

Fancy watching Galway GAA (Gealic Athletic Association) – a game of Hurling Or Gaelic Football can be viewed in Pearse Stadium in Salthill, this is a 38 minute walk from Eyre Square or a 16 minute bus journey on the 401.

An Adult single ticket differs between matches but a regular ticket is between €30 – €40.

If you don’t fancy making your way to see some live sport, there are a number of great sports bars in Galway.


Galway has 4 Cinemas, the average price of a cinema ticket is €14. An average large drink and popcorn is €10


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Fun Festivals

English, Irish (Gaeilge)
Shannon, Dublin
100 euros

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