1 | The Spanish Arch
Stride through the Spanish Arch in the footsteps of the many arrivals who have passed underneath this gateway to Galway City. This surviving fragment of the city walls once served as a checkpoint for nautical travellers. Sitting on the grassy banks of the River Corrib, look across to the Claddagh village, a former fishing hub and home of the famous Claddagh Ring. Look out for the magnificent Galway Hookers, traditional Irish boats, sailing around the harbour out into the blue of Galway Bay.
With both the Arch and the Latin Quarter, where it’s located, named after the influence of Spanish galleons visiting in the Middle Ages, the area celebrates the resulting mix of cultures. Today quirky shops, serenading buskers and a diverse selection of restaurants bring the cobbled streets to life.
Take a free trip into the city’s medieval past at the 13th century Hall of the Red Earl. On Druid Lane (across from The Mick Lally Theatre), it’s the oldest building to be excavated within the city walls. Chosen as Lonely Planet's top attraction in Galway City, over 11,000 artefacts, from ordinary clay pipes to gleaming golden cufflinks, hint at what life was like here over eight centuries ago.
Take a self guided tour of St Nicholas' Collegiate Church and appreciate the architecture. Rich in history and dating from the 1300s, this church has presided over Galway as it developed from a tiny village into a busy city. Look out for the many monuments and memorials inside and outside of the church and its population of stone creatures. Will you be able to find the intricate mermaids, dragon, lion, dog and gargoyles?
Nestled just beside St. Nicholas’ Church, at the Galway Farmers Market every weekend you can meet the locals and savour the best of local producers. There’s bound to be a free nibble or two to try as you decide what you’d like to buy. In the end, you might select something creamy from Sheridan’s Cheesemongers, something crusty at The Happy Loaf, and perhaps a taste of Galway Bay fresh from the Oyster Man. Browse the arts and crafts stalls and pick up a painting or a hand-knitted hat as a reminder of your visit to last long after you return home.
Woodquay to the West End
5 | Waterways walk
The River Corrib flows from Lough Corrib to Galway Bay along a network of waterways inviting exploration. Start at Woodquay and follow along the Eglinton Canal, then continue to the West End with its lively pubs and top music venues. Move on to Claddagh, an ideal spot for a panoramic view of the sunset if you time it right. This easy stroll gives a taste of how Galway’s neighbourhoods formed and how local people have shaped the city.
6 | Galway Cathedral
When exploring the city's waterways, there’s the option to detour across the bridge and visit Galway Cathedral. Although the city has a complex history going back around eight centuries, this is a relatively recent addition. Completed in 1965 and built on the site of the former city jail, this makes it the youngest of Europe’s stone cathedrals. Under its domed roof, gaze at a variety of religious art with intricately sculpted statues, an elaborate Crucifixion mosaic and shimmering glass rose windows.
7 | Walk the Prom
Stretch your legs along 3km of Galway Bay coastline and look for the Burren hills across the water. Following local tradition, when you get to the end of the Promenade, kick the wall to celebrate the achievement of walking the Prom’s entire length. The scenery is stunning no matter the season, and there are plenty of benches along the way if you’d like to sit for a spell and gaze at the rolling waves.
Stop off in the Circle of Life National Organ Donor Commemorative Garden or Peace Park as it is known locally to enjoy a little tranquillity. Ideally located right on the Prom, it is a fitting spot for lunch or an early dinner. Look out to Galway Bay and enjoy an overnight stay at the nearby Galway Bay Hotel Conference and Leisure Centre.
8 | Blackrock Tower, Salthill
Sea swimming in Salthill is a ritual for locals, with brave bathers taking a dip from the early hours of the morning. An iconic part of the Galway landscape, photogenic Blackrock Diving Tower is a must for snapping and sharing. Warm up after a bracing paddle with a hot chocolate or coffee at Ground & Co. nearby to make your seaside visit complete. Alternatively, enjoy cakes and pastries made by a team of French bakers at Gourmet Tart Co. or stop off for a smoothie, milkshake or ice cream at the popular Jungle Beach Break.
Check out our Galway City destination page for great ideas on all the places you can visit when holidaying in this vibrant city.