Planning a trip to Ireland and wondering if Galway is worth visiting? Having visited the Galway a few times over the years, I have compiled a list of the reasons you will just love it.
And to be fair, a few reasons why you might not love Galway. Located on Ireland’s west coast, Galway offers the perfect blend of history, vibrant culture, and breathtaking landscapes.
Stay for a few days to stroll through its charming narrow streets, immerse yourself in traditional music and lively festivals, and explore the nearby natural wonders like Connemara National Park and Cliffs of Moher.
The warm hospitality of the locals will make you feel right at home in this welcoming community. Galway’s allure promises an unforgettable experience you won’t want to miss!
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Galway, Ireland is it Worth Visiting?
Galway is unquestionably worth visiting! Much like Dublin, it’s an Irish city with a soul that just comes to life in its pubs and quaint squares. But Galway has a different vibe than other cities in Ireland.
Galway is filled with cobblestone alleys and historic landmarks (echoes of its medieval past). But it’s not just the history, Galway’s vibrant cultural scene is a force to be reckoned with (think traditional Irish music, lively festivals, and a thriving arts community).
And its vicinity to Connemara National Park and the Cliffs of Moher (one of Ireland’s most visited attractions), makes Galway a paradise for nature enthusiasts and adventure seekers alike.
Is Galway Safe?
I’ve had a great experience in Ireland traveling alone. Galway is generally a safe city for tourists (and even solo female travelers).
The overall risk of traveling throughout the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland itself is fairly low as it has a relatively low crime rate compared to much of the EU.
A tip for the female solo traveler: the locals are really friendly and you shouldn’t be afraid to talk to folks you meet.
However, no matter the situation, always use normal safety precautions.
Mind how much you drink, stick to well-lit areas, and if you feel uncomfortable then trust your gut.
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What Is Galway Known For?
Galway is lovingly dubbed the festival capital of Ireland. This fun-loving city on average hosts 122 festivals and events every year! There are always good times to be had in Galway to be sure.
Also, the Claddagh ring was first created in Galway. There are many shops that sell these rings, including the first shop that is still in business today.
So if you are in the market for a Claddagh Ring Galway is worth visiting for sure!
Why Visit Galway Ireland – 12 Reasons You’ll Love It
#1. It’s an Irish city cultural epicenter.
Galway is well-known for being home to traditional Irish music. And was even awarded the designation of the European Capital of Culture in 2021 (awarded annually by the European Union).
#2. Irish Speaking
It is also home to the largest Irish-speaking community (Gaeltacht) in Ireland. English is still the main language. But you’ll hear Irish spoken as well in these parts which I think is pretty cool.
#3. Friendly City
Galway has been voted as Europe’s friendliest city by Conde Nast Traveller Readers’ Awards (tho, I’d argue that Killarney can give it a run for its money on that distinction!)
#4. Live Music
Live music abounds at every turn. You simply cannot go a day in Galway without hearing great live music flooding the streets.
#5. Lots of Festivals
Festivals are a treasured experience in Galway. These locals love to celebrate life and share it with the world. Check out the Galway Folk Festival.
#6. Great Food
Restaurant lovers will not be lost for options in Galway. Being a city along the Atlantic Way, you can expect to find the freshest seafood choices.
But there is also great pizza and a variety of ethnic foods as well.
#7. The Pubs
The pubs are not to be missed in Ireland, and that holds true for Galway in particular.
There is truly something for everyone in this compact little city whether it’s a traditional pub atmosphere or a trendy cocktail bar.
#8. Maritime History
The history of “3 ships” is celebrated in Galway. Visit models of what are commonly called ‘coffin ships’ that were used to transport hundreds of thousands of Irish people to the United States during the famine.
This is a city with a strong maritime history dating back to the medieval ages.
And there are plenty of opportunities to discover its roots for the history-loving tourist. Check out the Maritime Museum in Galway.
#9. Literary Epicenter
Literary lovers will have plenty to appreciate in Galway as well. The Cúirt International Festival of Literature runs annually in Galway and is a pretty huge event.
It features a range of international and Irish writers for readings, workshops, and book signings. It generally runs in April and is a ticketed event.
#10. Art Festival
Art lovers too can expect a festival in Galway. The Galway International Arts Festival runs in July and is loaded with a variety of arts and entertainment.
#11. Close to Cliffs of Moher
Galway’s proximity to major sites such as the Cliffs of Moher and the Aran Islands is a major plus for any tourist.
It’s a great city to set as your base and then take a day trip out to your chosen attraction.
#12. Day Trip Opportunities
Great day trip opportunities are widely available to those who stay in Galway.
This is especially convenient for solo travelers who haven’t rented a car and aren’t too sure about taking public transportation to unfamiliar locations.
Simply book a day tour with a trusted tour guide company and take a little stress out. Check out this tour to Connemara & Kylemore Abbey!
5 Reasons You Might Not Love Galway
- It might be too touristy. There are a lot of shops and hot spots that cater to tourists. But if that isn’t your thing, you may be disappointed.
- Too loud/lively. This is not a low-key destination. If you’re looking for a relaxing stop, you may want to check other small towns in Ireland.
- Parking is scarce. It’s one of the smaller cities in Ireland. So if you rented a car, you may have trouble parking for the day or overnight.
- Small space. Since it’s smaller and a popular destination. It can get pretty crowded.
- It’s urban. While it’s close to some epic nature spots, Galway itself is an urban spot. There’s no denying it. Keep that in mind if you prefer the pastures.
All The Best Things To Do In Galway
There are so many fun things to do in Galway, such as visit natural attractions, check out all the historical sites, and let’s not forget, drink a Guinness at the best pubs in Galway, such as An Púcán.
Why not start your exploration in Galway on this 1.5-hour walking tour of the city?
Visit the Latin Quarter
One of the best places worth seeing in Galway is the Latin Quarter. It is a picturesque and bustling area at the heart of Galway. The streets are filled with colorful buildings, traditional pubs, and restaurants.
If you are into Irish culture this area has got an amazing history dating all the way back to the 1200s. And as you can probably guess, being dubbed the Latin Quarter, the Spanish and Portuguese played a huge role. I highly recommend taking a medieval walking tour.
Today, the Latin Quarter is a bustling hub of activity popular with tourists and locals alike.
The narrow streets are filled with shops selling locally-made crafts and souvenirs, with plenty of traditional Irish pubs playing live music in the evenings.
Stop at the Spanish Arch
While you’re in the Latin Quarter, stop at the Spanish Arch. It’s a must-see attraction for anyone visiting the city.
Dating back to medieval times, this historic arch was once part of the city’s walls and was used to protect merchants and their goods from invaders and pirates. Today, it stands as a symbol of the city’s rich history and heritage.
Visitors can explore the arch and the surrounding area which offers stunning views of the river and nearby waterfront.
In the summer months, this area around the Spanish Arch comes alive with musicians and vendors selling local crafts and souvenirs, making it a lively and entertaining spot to visit.
Take a Break at Eyre Square
Eyre Square is the beating heart of Galway City, Ireland’s cultural capital. It’s a large green area surrounded by important buildings including the City Hall, the Courthouse, and the National University of Ireland Galway.
The park was fully restored a few years ago adding water features, and it’s now a comfortable and inviting public space for visitors and locals. It’s a great spot to relax and unwind, take a stroll, or have a picnic.
During the summer months, there are often outdoor concerts and events held in the square, including the Galway International Arts Festival which is held annually. And in winter, this is where their popular Christmas Festival is held.
Eyre Square is the perfect place to spend an afternoon or just to sit and catch your breath for a minute while exploring Galway’s city center.
Walk Through Quay Street
Quay Street is the heart and hustle and bustling area in Galway, Ireland.
It’s another great spot to wander along the cobblestone streets, maybe stop in a pub or two, and definitely hop in a cute little shop.
Quay Street is particularly lively in the evenings when musicians and street performers (buskers) set up to entertain the crowds. There is always something to see or do in Quay Street, whatever the time, day or night.
The street is also home to a variety of restaurants and cafes serving delicious food and drink. It provides the perfect spot for people-watching and soaking up the atmosphere of this energetic city.
Explore the Claddagh
The Claddagh is a district in Galway, Ireland with a rich history. You’ll find it near the River Corrib.
In the past, it was a well-known fishing area. In fact, it’s one of the oldest fishing villages in Ireland. Some believe it was established by Spanish and Portuguese fishermen who settled in Galway Bay during the 16th century, which explains the Latin Quarter connection.
Others argue it has been a thriving fishing community since the 5th century. The name “Claddagh” itself signifies ‘the shore,’ a fitting nod to its location along the Corrib River and Galway Bay.
You can learn all about the area at the Galway City Museum.
In addition to its historical significance, The Claddagh is brimming with fantastic pubs and restaurants, offering you a delightful experience in this picturesque riverside locale.
However, The Claddagh’s true claim to fame lies in being the birthplace of the iconic Claddagh ring.
Then Learn the Claddagh Ring History
You can experience your very own bit of Irish history by paying a visit to Thomas Dillon’s Claddagh Gold Jewellers, located on Quay Street.
Dillon’s is regarded as the original maker of the iconic Claddagh Ring. Established in 1750, they boast the title of Ireland’s oldest jeweler.
Discover the history behind the Claddagh Ring as you walk through their museum. And then take home your own piece of jewelry. Each piece is stamped original and comes with a certificate of authenticity.
Visit the Galway Cathedral
For architecture and history enthusiasts, the Galway Cathedral is an absolute must-see.
It wasn’t erected until the1950s at the site of an old prison. But it was built in the classic architectural style that will leave you in awe. In fact, it’s designated as the last great stone cathedral built in Europe.
Both inside and out, the cathedral’s beauty is undeniable. It features the quintessential stained glass windows of any Catholic church as well as intricately carved Celtic crosses in its wooden features.
As a functioning church, you can also attend one of the masses if you wish, but regardless, it remains open throughout the day for visitors to admire.
Be sure to check the website for the varying times to plan your visit accordingly.
Enjoy the Surf at Salthill Promenade
The Salthill Promenade is about a mile and a half outside the city center of Galway (it’s adjacent to the Claddagh district).
Here you’ll find a stretch of coast that’s about 2 miles long and offers stunning views of Galway Bay. This is a great place for a stroll, and to relax and take in the views. But there are also water activities if you’re feeling adventurous.
The coast can get pretty crowded during the summer months on a nice sunny day. So if you’re traveling solo, this is a great spot to meet some locals and maybe make a new friend or two.
There are also some great pubs and restaurants nearby if you’re in the mood to just chill with a cocktail and soak up the views.
🚣♀️ Take a cruise on the Corrib River!
Things To Do Near Galway Worth Visiting
Believe it or not. You can surf in Ireland!
If you’re interested in windsurfing, Rusheen Bay Windsurfing Galway is the place to be. They cater to all levels, offering lessons, and group trips, and ensuring a family-friendly experience.
Whether you’re a beginner or a seasoned surfer, numerous schools and rentals are available, allowing you to fully embrace the exhilarating surf culture at your chosen beach.
Connemara National Park
Connemara is about an hour and a half drive from Galway City. I would recommend renting a car since it’s so close. It makes for an excellent day trip.
This is where you want to go for your hiking trips while staying in Galway.
Most of the paths are fairly easy and there’s only one entranceway into the park. So it’s fairly navigable for the female solo traveler.
Cliffs of Moher
Although I covered this in the reasons why Galway is worth visiting, it is worth mentioning again. The Cliffs of Moher is probably one of the most well-known tourist attractions in all of Ireland.
So add this to your Galway itinerary immediately.
Even if the weather is terrible, the cliffs are absolutely stunning. Which is good, because you never can tell with Ireland. I was lucky enough to experience both sun and a bit of rain when I visited.
On a nice clear day, you can really appreciate their enormity against the wild Atlantic. And there is just something about the bright green on the cliffs against the blue of the ocean on a sunny day. It’ll take your breath away.
But then too, on a windswept cloudy day when a little fog rolls in above the cliffs, it can feel a bit moody and romantic.
The Best Time of Year to Visit Galway
So the high season for Ireland as a whole is from late Spring to early Fall. And that falls in line with visiting Galway.
This is when the weather is the best, and the days are the longest. Now, granted, you’re always at risk of rainy days in Ireland. But your chances are better during these warmer months.
There are honestly festivals and sporting events almost year-round in Galway. Best to check Galway’s calendar for events of interest if you wanted to plan your trip around then.
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How To Get To Galway
You’ll most likely be flying into Dublin airport. And Dublin to Galway takes about 2 ½ hours.
There are a few ways you can get to Galway whether you are traveling with friends or solo. I recommend renting a car and taking a scenic road trip.
If you want to compare your options you can use Omino and let it give you transportation choices.
This site has bus, car, or train and then the distance in time estimates as well as cost estimates (which can really come in handy if you’re thinking about a taxi!)
From there, you’ll have to book your transport however you decide.
Thinking of making it a road trip? If you’re from the States, just remember in the Republic of Ireland, they drive on the left.
And I recommend getting full-coverage insurance for your rental.
You can also fly into the Shannon airport. This one is a lot closer to Galway (about an hour and 20-minute drive).
It might be worth it if you plan to stay on the west coast of Ireland.
When you are in Galway you can use public transit easily (Galway Bus Abú)
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What to Pack When visiting Galway
Well, for one: always pack a raincoat (or some sort of waterproof jacket with a hood). Ireland’s weather is changeable, to say the least. So the best advice is to always pack layers.
The pubs will be warm and the streets will often feel cool (unless it’s summer and they’re having a heatwave – which is nothing like a heatwave in the States, mind you.)
But after that the choice is yours! You can keep it casual or dress up if you like. You’re bound to fit in.
If you’re planning on a little hiking nearby, definitely bring sturdy shoes. But if you plan to keep to the city and nearby small towns, regular sneakers will do just fine.
I recommend avoiding canvas or mesh though just in case it rains a ton.
Is Galway Worth Visiting: The Conclusion
Well, if you were at all wondering if Galway’s worth visiting, I think it’s safe to say that it absolutely is a must-see.
Galway is an Irish experience unlike any other. There is something for everyone here – nature nearby, a fun-loving city vibe, city museums, and food and drink for all palettes.
It’s also a smaller, safer city that is welcoming to everyone.
And if you at all consider yourself a music-lover, then you need to go to Galway. You won’t be disappointed!