Galway is an exciting city that needs to be on your Ireland travel itinerary. There are so many great things to do in Galway (and epic day trips), it really is a destination that has something for everyone.

Listen to live music, watch some street theatre, or spend an afternoon in a busy pub — there are so many fun pubs in Galway! If you’re not into music or performances, head to one of the many historical sites, markets, or amazing restaurants.

The college city of Galway (in the county of the same name) is the largest city on the West Coast and is arguably the centre of the Wild Atlantic Way.

If you’re planning an Irish west coast road trip, this guide will help you plan the things to do, and places to visit, during your stopover in Galway City — which truly is one of the top places to go in Ireland!

Here’s a list of the top 33 fun things to do in Galway City you won’t want to miss.

33 Things To See & Do in Galway

Let’s get started with this list. I’ve spent more than a year living and traveling around Galway and I can’t wait to share some of my favorite spots in and around the city with you.

1. Visit the Spanish Arches

The Spanish Arches are definitely one of the best things to do in Galway City that you don’t want to miss.

Built in 1584, The Front Wall (Ceann an Bhalla) was used to protect ships docked at the nearby quays of Galway, but today, there are only two arches left from the medieval city walls.

These 500-year-old arches (the Spanish Arch and the Caoċ Arch) are now a place where the young people of Galway sit and drink in the sun! This area is also one of the best places to stay in Galway during your holiday. 

While it’s illegal to drink outside in Ireland, usually the Gardai turn the other cheek and allow it — if you are respectful.

On a sunny day in Galway, this is the spot to be — with a beer in hand, while watching buskers perform, and kayakers gliding by on the river.

Speaking of sun, there are 232 rainy days on average in the city every year, so make sure you appreciate the sunny days when you travel Galway!

spanish arches galway

2. Join a Walking Tour

Walking tours are a great way to learn about the destination you’re visiting. Wander around the city of Galway with a small group while learning about the history of the city, and Ireland as a whole.

This is a great way to get orientated with the city, while learning some interesting anecdotes, myths and legends along the way. 

Europe is filled with these walking tours, and Ireland is no exception. Sign up for the walking tour here, it’s one of the best things to do in Galway when you first arrive — whether you’re visiting for a weekend, or longer.  

eyre square things to do in galway

Another option is the free walking tour which runs at 11:00am each day. Click here to sign up and secure your spot. While it’s free to join, the groups can be large and the tours are based on tips.

At the end, if you were happy with the tour, give your guide a tip (around €10 is the going rate).

3. Get A Hair Cut at One of The Oldest Barbers in Ireland

As you know, Ireland is a historical country. There are many shops, restaurants and pubs that have been around for quite a while…and barbers! Healy’s Barber has been in operation since 1939.

things to do in galway city

This isn’t a fancy hairdresser with all the thrills and spills, but it’s great for a quick snip to get you looking sharp for your holiday photos.

4. Dine at The Quay Street Kitchen

If you want to eat in a bustling location where you can sit outside and watch the vibrant city pass by, then The Quay Street Kitchen is for you. Of all the things to do in Galway City for foodies… Quay Street is top.

Expect tasty favourites such as chicken burgers, fresh Irish mussels, and lamb shank. Plus, some unique Moroccan dishes, spiced bean burger, and tasty tofu and halloumi.

While those all sounded great, I opted for the sirloin with a side of truffle mac and cheese — it was one of the best meals I’ve had.

This cozy restaurant sources its beef from Ireland, and all meals are made to order. The menu also changes based on seasonality, with mains at around 15 euros. Click here to find the Quay Street Kitchen on the map. ,

Food in Galway

5. Visit the Galway Cathedral

This renaissance style, Roman catholic cathedral may be unassuming on the outside, but the interior is stunning. With its mosaics, stained glass and marble flooring, it’s much more picturesque than its grey exterior.

Unlike most cathedrals in Europe, this one was completed in 1965, making it much more modern. Plus, you’ll find a mosaic dedicated to US president, John F. Kennedy, who personally visited during the building of the cathedral. 

Unless you would like to participate in mass, visitors are only allowed outside of those times. While it’s technically free to enter, they request a €2 donation. You can find the cathedral on the map, here.

galway cathedral

6. Hang Out in the Latin Quarter 

The Latin Quarter is the cultural center of Galway, and is an area of the city that you’ll fall in love with. It’s a place where wandering down the cobblestone streets leads you to a great restaurant, pub, arthouse, theatre or boutique shop. 

The main street in the Latin Quarter is Quay Lane, Shop Street and High Street (these 3 are all one road), spend some time here and enjoy the music-filled vibe. A visit here is one of the best things to do in Galway for couples. 

I actually went up and down about five times — there was too much to see and enjoy. I couldn’t get enough of all of the amazing street performances. The Latin Quarter is lively both day and night, don’t miss it! Find it on the map, here

Things to do in Galway

7. Visit An Púcán

An Púcán is a fantastic bar for a big crowd. It has live music and a massive beer garden out back which is perfect to dance the night away in this lovely pub.

It’s a great pub to visit if you are a sports fan as they usually will have a match on the big screen in the garden out the back. During the summer when the Gaelic Football and Hurling leagues kick-off, this place is hopping!

An Pucan Galway

No list of the best things to do in Galway would be complete without a pub, and An Púcán is definitely one of my faves. Not just in Galway City, but in all of Ireland.

8. Visit Charlie Byrne’s Bookshop

Charlie Byrne’s is one of Ireland’s most famous independent bookshops and has well over 100,000 books available for you to buy — which are found in the labyrinth of aisles and rooms. 

Look for some classics, new novels, travel guides, books about travel — basically, any sort of book you can think of!   

If you’re looking for free things to do in Galway (especially when it’s raining), this is a good bet.

Charlie Byrne’s Bookshop also won the best bookshop in Ireland back in 2014. It’s a must-see if you need a good book during your trip. Click here to find the bookshop on the map. 

Bookshop Galway

9. Stock Up on Picnic Food at McCambridge’s

McCambridge’s is a household name in Galway and offers a range of luxury foods and vegetables. I couldn’t tear myself away from the stunning cheese section but there is much more to choose from here.

They also have a lovely cafe upstairs that is well worth a visit.

Since there’s so much to do and see in Galway, is a great place to pick up some bits for lunch if you don’t want to sit down in a restaurant or pub for a few hours. Grab a pile of cheese, some meats, and bread and get going again! 

Bakery in Galway

10. Join a Food Tour

Food and travel go hand in hand. There’s no better way to interact with locals while learning about their culture than by sharing a good meal. Irish food is hearty and tasty, and Galway is one of the best places in the country to sample authentic, traditional food. 

Dine on stews, cheeses, and seafood, as well as Irish coffee and Guinness. Have a look at this walking and food tour, it’s one of the best things to do in Galway for foodies.

irish stew join a food tour in galway

11. Go To a Gig in The Roisin Dubh

The Roisin is almost a right of passage for Irish people. It is a great venue for a dance in the dark with some friends. I’ve been to a headphone disco there before and have also seen a few bands perform.

It is one of the most famous venues in Galway city, and actually, many bands will play there and nowhere else.

12. Eat Midnight Chip in Vinnies

Directly across from The Roisin Dubh is a little chipper called Vinnies. This place is absolutely perfect for when you stumble out of the Roisin after a couple of pints and want a delicious salt and vinegar flavour sensation! This is one of the best things to do in Galway after a night of drinking.

13. Experience a Festival

There’s always something going on in Galway! No matter what you’re interested in, there’s most likely a festival for you. Most of the festivals happen during the summer months (June – September), but St. Paddy’s Day is a big one in March.

st paddy's day festival galway

Here are a few other Galway festivals you won’t want to miss:

1. Galway Film Fleadh: founded in 1989, this film festival is on in July and showcases documentaries, shorts, masterclasses and more.  

2. Galway Races: if you’re into horse racing, you won’t want to miss this festival at the end of August. 

3. Galway Oyster Festival: this is the oldest oyster festival in the world and is one of the best things to do in Galway if you’re a seafood lover! Enjoy entertainment, shucking contests, food stalls and much more. This festival is in September. 

Speaking of oysters…

14. Eat Your Weight in Oysters

Learn all about oysters in this fun, informative (and tasty) tour. The family will teach you everything you need to know before shucking and eating the oysters. Wash it all down with a perfectly paired glass of wine while sitting around a family-style table. If you’re into oysters, don’t miss this 1.5 hour “Shuck Off” tour!

eating oysters things to do in galway

15. Eat at Kai

Kai is a very unique restaurant in Galway where you never know what to expect when you go, except that you will be eating excellent quality food. Their menu changes every other day. They have a phenomenal wine selection as well and Kai is regarded by many as one of the best restaurants in the city.

Where to eat in Galway

16. Eat Pizza and Drink Beer in Monroes

Monroe’s is another music venue in the city (in Ireland, nearly every pub is a music venue!) They have live music seven nights a week and their pizzas are HUGE and delicious… They also have a fantastic selection of beers too.

Monroe's Galway

17. Drink The Best Guinness in Galway at Tigh Neachtain (Naughton’s Bar)

This pub has the best Guinness in the city. Trust me, I’ve sampled a lot of them. Come for the pint, it’s worth it. The pub is split into a number of small rooms and in winter you can guarantee that a warm fire will be burning away in the corner of each room. It’s an incredibly cozy little spot.

Tigh Neachtain

18. Enjoy The Buskers

Galway has the best buskers in the country! They are fantastic, artistic, creative and a credit to the city. Expect to find musicians, break-dancers, theatre performances, Irish dancers, and more.

The group pictured here were probably my favourite during my trip to Galway. They played some gorgeous jazz and Spanish guitar mixes that really got the crowd going.

Buskers in Galway

19. Tour a Distillery and Taste Gin & Poitín

Ireland is known for its Guinness beer and whiskey, but what about gin and poitín?! What is poitín you ask? Well, it’s a traditional distilled beverage that was first made by Irish monks, ranging from 40% – 90% alcohol. Basically, it’s legal moonshine.

Join this tour at the Micil Distillery with a 6th generation poitín distiller, whose family has been making poitín for 170 years here in Galway. On top of that, you’ll get to sample their award-winning gin, which uses local botanicals. Click here to learn more about this distillery tour. 

20. Check Out The “Long Walk”

You would be forgiven for thinking that the Long Walk is just that, a long walk. However, this is a waterfront area is quite short, but is one of the top places to visit in Galway! Passing through the Spanish Arches, you’ll see colourful residential homes lining the bay. Saunter along here and take a moment to enjoy the sea life, and the sunset. 

the long walk places to visit in galway

21. Explore Galway’s Many Canals

Rivers and canals act as the veins of Galway, and in fact, one of Europe’s shortest rivers (the Corrib) runs through the city. It’s just 6 kilometers long but is a powerful force. If you’re feeling up to it, you can actually go kayaking on this river.

If not, wandering alongside the Corrib or one of the many canals is a great way to enjoy some quiet downtime after all of the action around the city. The canals are definitely the most peaceful places to visit in Galway City.

canals in galway

22. Visit the National University of Ireland in Galway

NUI Galway is a very magical place. It’s a cross between modern-day Galway and something out of a Harry Potter set. This university is simply stunning, particularly when the vines climbing up the exterior turn from green to red. Click here to find the university on the map. 

the university in galway

23. Join a Cooking Class

If you ever wanted to try your hand at a bit of baking or cooking, Galway is a great place to try. There’s a local woman running two cooking tours out of her lovely home, or her cafe. Learn how to make Irish Stew, or Irish Scones — two of the best Irish foods.

Why not learn how to make both?! This is one of the top things to do in Galway for foodies.

Growing up on a farm, the chef is knowledgable and passionate about food and is an excellent teacher. Classes are held either at her home (about 30 minutes from Galway center) or her cafe in Oranmore, which is about 25 minutes from the center.

If you have your own wheels, you can have the class in her home, but otherwise, public transport can bring you to the cafe. 

To learn more about the Irish Stew cooking class, click here. For more information on making homemade scones, click here

24. Jump off Salthill Pier

This is one not to be missed out on. When the tide is high and the weather is warm the people of Galway flock to jump off this pier. It is incredibly exhilarating and a beautiful thing to watch or take part in (I know which one I’m doing). If you’re visiting Galway in the summer, this is a great place to visit.

salthill pier galway

25. Visit The Galway City Museum

The Galway City Museum is a wonderful way to look into the past of such a historical city. Many different exhibitions are run throughout the year, spread out over 3 floors.

Learn about archaeology, history and sea science of Galway, plus see the weapons and armor that Irish people used back in ancient Ireland. This is one of the best free things to do in Galway. 

The Galway City Museum is open Tuesday to Saturday from 10:00 to 17:00 and from Easter to the end of September on Sundays from 12:00 – 17:00. Click here to find the museum on the map. 

things to do in galway

26. Catch a Rugby Game

Although Galway isn’t the traditional home of rugby in Ireland, the provincial team Connacht have had great success in the past few years.

The stadium is called the Showgrounds, which has been home to the rugby team since the 1920s. You can walk to the Showgrounds from the city center, making it a perfect way to spend an evening in Galway. Click here for the game schedule and to purchase tickets. 

27. Visit the Aran Islands

If time permits, a day trip to the Aran Islands makes for a great addition to your Galway itinerary. These 3 stunning islands offer a glimpse into Ireland’s past, with it being one of the only places where the residents still speak the traditional Irish language (Gaeilge).

Rent a bike, or take a tour and explore all of the many sites and ruins on the islands….and of course, the pubs.

aran islands day trip from galway

To get here from Galway, the easiest way would be to join a day trip tour. There are numerous companies to choose from but click here for a highly rated tour.

Other options for visiting the Aran Islands include booking a bus/ferry combination ticket, driving to the port and then walking on the ferry, or flying to the islands.

Check out The Aran Island Ferries website or go to their office just off Eyre Square right beside the train and bus station. A day trip to the Aran Islands is one of the best things to do in Galway.

To learn more, check out our detailed post on visiting the Aran Islands.

28. Salthill Promenade

Salthill Promenade is a seaside walking path in Galway Bay that offers captivating views of the sea on one side and Galway on the other. It’s one of the city’s most romantic destinations, perfect for a leisurely stroll.

Salthill Promenade Ireland Galway

Along the way, you can find plenty of entertainment options. Stop by Leisureland for mini-golf and an indoor pool, or head to Funfair for theme park rides. A ride on the Ferris Wheel provides a stunning view of the area and is a great detour during your walk.

29. Visit Menlo Castle

Menlo Castle, situated on the banks of the River Corrib, is a picturesque ruin covered in ivy. Once home to the Blake family, one of the richest families in Galway, the castle is now a serene spot for a stroll or a picnic.

Its location makes it easily accessible from Galway City, either by a short drive or a leisurely cycle. The castle’s romantic, overgrown aesthetic makes it a perfect spot for photography enthusiasts.

If you’re a historian looking for things to do in Galway City, then Menlo should be high on your list.

30. Explore Brigit’s Garden

Brigit’s Garden offers a unique experience with its beautifully designed Celtic gardens. Spanning 11 acres, the gardens are inspired by ancient Celtic heritage and are perfect for a peaceful retreat.

The site also features a nature trail, wildflower meadows, and a roundhouse, providing a wonderful day out for families and nature enthusiasts. The gardens are a great place to learn about Celtic culture and mythology while enjoying the serene natural surroundings.

31. Walk the Mutton Island Causeway

The Mutton Island Causeway connects mainland Galway with Mutton Island in the Atlantic Ocean. Although you can’t access Mutton Island itself due to a locked gate at the end of the causeway, the views along the way are absolutely worth the walk.

The causeway is popular for walking, cycling, and even romantic proposals. It’s a peaceful spot that offers a unique perspective of Galway’s coastline and is perfect for a relaxing walk.

32. Visit the Fisheries Watchtower Museum

The Fisheries Watchtower Museum is a valued architectural element in Galway and one of the city’s most identifiable historic structures. Built by the Ashworth Brothers, it was initially intended as a draft netting station.

Fisheries Watchtower Museum

Today, it houses an impressive collection of fishing gear and antique photographs, offering insights into the city’s fishing heritage. The museum provides amazing views of the River Corrib and is free to enter, with guided tours available.

It’s a great spot for history buffs and those interested in Galway’s maritime past and definitely a main attraction in Galway.

33. Take a Cruise on the Corrib Princess

In the summer months, the Corrib Princess sails up the river from Galway to Lough Corrib. This scenic cruise offers a unique perspective on Galway’s waterways and the surrounding countryside.

The cruise typically includes a guided tour, where you’ll learn about the history of the area, see local landmarks, and enjoy the abundant wildlife.

The boat features comfortable seating and an onboard bar, making it a relaxing way to spend an afternoon. Whether you’re interested in history, nature, or just looking for a peaceful escape, the Corrib Princess is a fantastic addition to your Galway itinerary.

Day Trips from Galway

We’ve already covered a lot of my favorite things to do in Galway City, Ireland. But there’s even more to do just outside of the city.

Galway is not only a vibrant city filled with cultural charm and historical significance, but it also serves as a perfect base for exploring some of Ireland’s most stunning landscapes and attractions. Here are some of the best day trips from Galway that you won’t want to miss.

The Cliffs of Moher

The Cliffs of Moher are undoubtedly one of Ireland’s most iconic natural landmarks. Rising over 700 feet above the Atlantic Ocean, these majestic cliffs offer breathtaking views and an unforgettable experience.

cliffs of moher to doolin walk

Located about 1.5 hours from Galway, the drive itself is scenic, passing through charming villages and beautiful countryside. Once you arrive, you can walk along the cliff paths, visit the Cliffs of Moher Visitor Centre, and take in the panoramic vistas that stretch all the way to the Aran Islands on a clear day.

The Aran Islands

A trip to the Aran Islands is like stepping back in time. These three rugged islands (Inis Mór, Inis Meáin, and Inis Oírr) are located off the coast of Galway and are accessible by ferry from Rossaveal or Doolin.

aran islands travel ireland places to visit

Inis Mór, the largest of the islands, is famous for its ancient fortresses such as Dún Aonghasa, stunning coastal views, and traditional Irish culture.

Rent a bike or take a guided tour to explore the island’s stone walls, quiet beaches, and quaint villages where Irish is still spoken as the primary language.

Connemara National Park

Connemara National Park is a vast and unspoiled landscape that offers a perfect escape for nature lovers. This is one of the best things to do in Ireland.

Just an hour’s drive from Galway, the park features rugged mountains, serene lakes, and dense woodlands.

Hike up Diamond Hill for spectacular views of the surrounding countryside, or simply enjoy a leisurely walk through the park’s scenic trails.

The nearby village of Letterfrack serves as a gateway to the park and offers charming cafes and pubs for a relaxing meal after your outdoor adventures.

The Burren

The Burren, a unique karst landscape located in County Clare, is known for its lunar-like terrain, rich archaeological sites, and diverse flora. About an hour and a half drive from Galway, this region offers a stark contrast to the lush green hills typically associated with Ireland.

The Burren Camping in Ireland

Visit the Poulnabrone Dolmen, a prehistoric portal tomb, and explore the Burren National Park with its network of walking trails. Don’t forget to stop by the Burren Perfumery, where you can learn about local botanicals and pick up some handmade products.

Kylemore Abbey

Kylemore Abbey, nestled in the heart of Connemara, is one of Ireland’s most picturesque attractions. This stunning Gothic-style abbey, set against a backdrop of forested hills and a tranquil lake, was originally built as a romantic gift.

Today, it serves as a monastery and tourist attraction, complete with beautifully restored Victorian walled gardens and a delightful tea house. The drive to Kylemore Abbey takes about an hour and a half from Galway and is filled with scenic views of the Connemara landscape.

Inishbofin Island

For a truly off-the-beaten-path experience, consider a day trip to Inishbofin Island. Located off the coast of Connemara, this small island is accessible by ferry from Cleggan, about an hour’s drive from Galway.

Inishbofin offers a peaceful retreat with its pristine beaches, dramatic cliffs, and friendly local community. Spend your day hiking the island’s trails, exploring ancient ruins, or simply relaxing and soaking in the island’s natural beauty.

Aillwee Cave and Birds of Prey Centre

Aillwee Cave, located in the Burren region, offers a fascinating underground adventure. Take a guided tour through the limestone caverns, complete with stalactites, stalagmites, and a subterranean waterfall.

Above ground, the Birds of Prey Centre provides an opportunity to see and learn about various raptors, including eagles, falcons, and owls. The cave and birds of prey centre are about an hour and a half from Galway, making for a perfect combination of natural wonder and wildlife experience.

Cong Village and Ashford Castle

The quaint village of Cong, straddling the border between County Galway and County Mayo, is best known as the filming location for the classic movie “The Quiet Man.”

Stay in an Irish Castle

Explore the charming streets, visit the Quiet Man Museum, and take a stroll through the scenic Cong Woods. Just a short walk from the village is Ashford Castle, a stunning medieval castle turned luxury hotel.

While staying at the castle might be out of budget for many, visitors can enjoy the beautiful grounds and gardens, or partake in activities such as falconry and boat tours.

Lough Corrib

Lough Corrib, Ireland’s second-largest lake, is a paradise for anglers, boaters, and nature enthusiasts. A short drive from Galway, the lake offers numerous spots for fishing, particularly for trout and salmon.

Take a boat tour from the village of Oughterard to explore the lake’s many islands and enjoy the serene beauty of the surrounding landscape. For a unique historical site, visit the ruins of Aughnanure Castle, a 16th-century tower house located on the shores of Lough Corrib.

Glenlo Abbey

Just a 10-minute drive from Galway City, Glenlo Abbey offers a luxurious retreat with stunning views of Lough Corrib. While primarily a five-star hotel, the estate features beautiful grounds perfect for a leisurely stroll.

You can also indulge in activities like falconry, archery, or golfing on the 9-hole course. For a unique dining experience, enjoy a meal aboard the Pullman Restaurant, housed in two original carriages from the Orient Express.

Dunguaire Castle

Situated on the shores of Galway Bay, Dunguaire Castle is a 16th-century tower house that offers a glimpse into Ireland’s medieval past. Located about 30 minutes from Galway City, the castle hosts medieval banquets where you can enjoy traditional Irish music, storytelling, and a hearty meal in an authentic setting.

Dunguaire Castle

The castle’s picturesque location and rich history make it a popular stop on a day trip from Galway.

These day trips offer a diverse range of experiences, from exploring ancient ruins and majestic landscapes to indulging in local culture and cuisine. Each destination provides a unique glimpse into the beauty and heritage of Ireland, ensuring that your time in Galway is filled with memorable adventures.

Now You Know What To Do in Galway City

It’s no wonder Lonely Planet listed Galway as one of the top 20 destinations in 2020, or that it was listed as the Cultural Capital of Europe for 2020!

There are numerous things to do in Galway to keep you busy for a few days. If you have the time, spend longer and soak up the local atmosphere here on the west coast — it’s some of the best.

Want More Galway Posts? Here are our best:

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Top 27 Fun Things To Do in Galway City
27 Fun Things To Do in Galway City