- Discover Galway
Eyre Square | Shop Street | The Claddagh | The Spanish Arch | Galway Museum | Lynch's Window | Kirwin's Lane | St Nicholas Church | Medieval Walls | Salthill | Silverstrand | Galway Races | Arts Festival | Lough Corrib | Kinvarra | Gort | Connemara
Galway, the city of the tribes and the capital of the west of Ireland, sits on the river Corrib (Abhainn na Gaillimhe) from where it gets its name. Galway is more of a large town than a city, but is one of the fastest growing towns in Europe. It's rapid growth has not affected Galway in a negative way, it is still an extremely friendly place. There is a young population bolstered by students from NUIG and GMIT. Galway is the home of the Arts, where you can catch a play in the taibhearc, or the town hall theatre. Visit for the Galway Arts Festival or just take a walk down shop street and be entertained by the buskers, magicians and other street performers.
Eyre Square park or John F. Kennedy Park, to give it its official name, is considered the centre of Galway city. It's a nice park to relax in on a sunny day. There is a fountain at the top of the park, its design is based on the sails of the Galway Hooker, a traditional Galway boat. Before the redevelopment in 2006, there was a statue of famous writer Padraic O' Conaire in the park as well as two iron cannons that dated from the Crimean War (1853-1856). However these have been moved to the Galway City Museum for safekeeping.
Just off Eyre Square is Shop Street. Shop street and the streets leading off it are the busiest areas of Galway city. Many shops, pubs and restaurants are situated here. It's also a great place to watch buskers and street entertainers ply their trade.
Claddagh is an Irish word for shore and The Claddagh was once a fishing village, which was independent from the rest of the city. The fishermen and their thatched cottages are long gone but the area remains popular for its close proximity to the centre of Galway as well as being situated right on the river Corrib with beautiful views of Galway Bay. Many people come here to walk along the coast or feed the swans. This area of Galway is also where the famous Claddagh Ring gets its name. The ring shows two hands holding a heart which wears a crown. The hands represent friendship, the heart; love and the crown; loyalty.
The Spanish Arch stands where the Corrib runs into the sea. It is the remainder of a 16th century bastion built to prevent merchant ships looting from the city. Many Spanish ships did trade with Galway and the name refers to this. Nowadays the Spanish Arch is a great place for hanging out and relaxing on a hot summer’s day.
Situated behind the Spanish Arch, the revamped Galway Museum houses artefacts from the Cladagh, as well as exhibitions of Currachs (Irish skin boats), and an exhibition that looks at the involvement of Irish men and women in wars of the British Empire. The Padraic O’ Conaire statue is housed here as well as A Galway Hooker, a traditional Irish boat that was used to transport turf and goods.
According to local legends, the mayor of Galway, a member of the Lynch tribe, James Lynch Fitzstephen, hanged his son from the window of his home in 1493. His son had murdered a Spanish man who was in the care of the family. The window itself remains in Market Street beside St Nicholas' Church.
Named after one of the tribes, it has been restored and is home to restaurants, cafes and craft shops. You get the feel of old Galway here.
This protestant church on Market Street is worth a look. Built in 1320 it is the largest medieval church in Ireland that is still in use as a parish church. There are many stone carvings on the outside, including mermaids and gargoyles. Cromwellians Troops used the church as a stable for their horses during the siege of Galway (1652). They are blamed for many of the statues inside the church being headless and handless.
In the Eyre Square Shopping Centre and next to the Spanish Arch remains some of the old walls that used to enclose the city in the days of the Normans. The walls date back to the 13th century. On the walls in the Eyre Square Shopping Centre there are boards displaying the history of the walls and the Tribes of Galway.
The National University of Ireland Galway dates from 1849 and is one of the premier universities in Ireland. It has a stunning location and is worth walking around the grounds. The impressive Quadrangle buiding is modelled on Christ Church at the University of Oxford. It now houses the President and Vice Presidents.
Salthill is a seaside suburb only 3km from Galway city centre. There are some fantastic pubs and restaurants here as well as the famous “prom”, a promenade that stretches from Mutton Island to Blackrock diving tower. The promenade overlooks Galway Bay and is a hugely popular place for walking and running, especially when the weather is fine.
Silverstrand is a sandy beach just past Salthill. There is a cliff on one side and fantastic views of Galway Bay. There is a lifeguard on duty during the summer months. Silverstrand is right beside Rusheen Bay which is famous for its windsurfing school as well as horseriding.
Running for a week at the end of July or the start of August, the famous Galway Races take place in Ballybrit on the outskirts of the city. It's a great excuse to get dressed up, eat good food, drink some champagne and of course, put down a bet. There's a champagne tent, bands, best dressed ladies competition, and some good old fashioned fun. Galway city centre comes alive. Book accommodation early as the city will be packed out.
The two weeks preceding the Galway Races is the Galway International Arts Festival.The festival is world famous and has music, visual art, comedy and theatre and dance events and gigs going on throughout the two weeks. Many events will he held in the Town Hall Theatre or in the Absolut Festival Big Top at Fisheries Field. Fisheries Field is home to the arts organisation Macnas, who perform street performances and parades throughout the year in Galway.There will also be parades going through the city from Eyre Square to the Spanish Arch.
Galway Oyster and Seafood Festival
On the last week of September each year Galway hosts the world's longest running Oyster Festival. There's an oyster opening championship and oyster tasting but there's an awful lot more to this festival than oysters. There's seafood trails throughout restaurants in the city as well as cooking demonstrations, live music and generally just a great buzz that you always find in Galway.
Lough Corrib is the second largest lake in Ireland and is famous for angling. It would be advised to hire a guide for your first few fishing trips as it can be quite easy to hit some rocks if you're not familiar with the lake. You can take a cruise on the lake from Wood Quay in Galway city and from Ashford Castle in Connemara. Make sure there is a return trip scheduled so you don't get stranded.
A small fishing village in Galway Bay, Kinvara is home to Galway Hooker races every August. The restored 16th Century castle of Dun Guaire stands at the head of the bay. You can take a tour of the castle and even enjoy a medieval banquet.
Gort in southern Galway is most famous for W.B. Yeats, who used to spend his summers here at Thoor Ballylee. The tower has been rebuilt and now houses an interpretive centre on Yeats life.
Coole Park lies just outside Gort and used to be the residence of Lady Gregory (a founding member of the Abbey Theatre). The park is now a national park and is just stunning, with beautiful forests and lakes.
Undoubtebly the highlight of the county of Galway is Connemara.
Galway airport has been closed down so the closest airports to Galway are Ireland West Airport, also known as Knock Airport in Charlestown, Co. Mayo and Shannon International Airport in Co. Clare. Both are an hour's drive from Galway.
Trains operate between Galway and Limerick and Galway and Dublin. Many other routes can be joined at Athlone in the midlands. The train station called Ceannt Station is just off Eyre Square in the city centre.
The government owned Bus Eireann operates from Ceannt Station in Eyre Square, right in the city centre. Private bus companies operate out of the Galway Coach Station in Fairgreen, which is only a 2 minute walk from Eyre Square. GoBus and Citylink are the main companies. The buses are clean, comfortable and affordable. The motorway system has been greatly improved in Ireland over the years so trips from Galway to Dublin for example will only take two and a half hours at most by bus. Most of the bigger towns and cities in IReland are reachable from Galway bu bus.
Galway city centre is very compact; getting around on foot is easy once you arrive to this area. Shop Street where there are many pubs, restaurants and shops is on the east side of the river Corrib, the same side as the bus and train station. On the west side of the river, you have some excellent pubs and restaurants in Dominic Street and the surrounding area. Salthill is a 10 minute walk from here.
Bus Eireann operates most of the routes in Galway and there are regular buses running in all directions. City Bus, a private company also run some routes, they operate in red buses. Prices are €2.10 for a single ticket. If you will be visiting the city for an extended period of time and plan on using public transport often, then you should get the leap card. You will pay up to 20% less on your fares. You can pick up your leap card at Ceannt Station or at Spar, Supervalu and Centra stores around the city. Click here for locations.
There are taxi ranks at Eyre Square, Bridge Street and at the train and coach stations. You can flag down a taxi in the street also. Download the hailo app before you get to Galway. This is the quickest and safest way of getting a taxi.
There are 16 bike share stations around Galway. The Coca Cola Zero bikes are free for the first 30 minutes, €1.50 for two hours, €3.50 for 3 hours, €6.50 for 4 hours and an extra €2 for every hour after that. You can get a three day pass for a very reasonable €3, but you will have to pay a security deposit of €150.
Diall 999 or 112 for emergency services. University Hospital Galway is only a five minute drive from the city centre.
Galway is such a friendly city and has a very low crime rate for violent crimes. If you are looking for trouble however, you will find it. As in any town or city, you should not walk alone at night, especially when intoxicated. The Eyre Square area late on a Saturday night can sometimes be a trouble spot, but again if you have common sense you will almost certainly avoid any trouble.