Ireland is a stunning place to explore and the kind of place that’s got a little something for everyone. From its incredible castles, cities like; Dublin and some of the most dramatic landscapes, Ireland is an incredible spot to visit. This is especially true for Galway on the west coast. Honestly, there are so many stunning places and a heap of the best things to do in Galway that you’ll be spoilt for choice.
Now, one of the things I love most about visiting Galway is that it’s also a great place to travel to and from whilst exploring the wider area and some of the Wild Atlantic Way. This makes the city a great starting point for seeing more of the west coast of Ireland and the stunning natural beauty of the area.
This is exactly why I wanted to share some of the best things to do in Galway and the wider vicinity. After all, there’s no point in missing out on all the other incredible places that are just a stone’s throw from the city itself. So, please don’t think I’m just missing all the things in Galway… I just couldn’t resist adding a few extras, too.
Honestly, Ireland is stunning and you’ll have a good old craic when you’re there; and an obligatory Guinness (or two), naturally! 😉
Take a look, below, at the best things to do in Galway. Have an epic trip!
1.) The Aran Islands
This is a series of three ruggedly beautiful islands located off the coast of Galway Bay and one of the best things to do in Galway in the summer months, for sure.
Sometimes, known as the Islands of Saints and Scholars, there are a number of ancient ruins to see when you get here; and a few churches to boot.
Now, perhaps the most famous attraction is the Celtic Church Dun Aonghasa, which is situated atop a cliff ledge over 300 ft tall and probably the most iconic spot to see.
Honestly, a visit to the Aran Islands is like taking a step back in time and pretty easy to visit via the Aran Island Ferries service that runs from Rossaveel Harbour (about 40-minutes away from the centre of Galway).
After all that exploring, head over to the Brasserie On The Corner. Here, they’ll serve you up a mountain of fresh fish and chips and they’ve also got some tasty mussels, too.
2.) Connemara National Park
Connemara National Park is a place that’s choc-o-block filled with gorgeous rolling hills and dramatic mountainous backdrop.
Honestly, this makes exploring Connemara National Park one of the best things to do in Galway if you fancy leaving the city-centre for a little while.
Now, lots of people will tell you that Connemara National Park is the most beautiful national park in all of Ireland; and who am I to disagree! There are shed loads of hiking trails that aren’t just for experienced hikers; there’s a trail for every ability. The lower loop of Diamond Hill, for example, is a great place to start.
Plus, it’s a great place for bird watchers, too. There’s a pretty huge variety of wildlife, ranging from; common kestrels, woodcocks, merlin, hawks and even peregrine falcons.
Oh, and if you’re visiting during a wetter period, make sure to stick to the boardwalks; the bog gets really wet and it makes these routes totally essential.
3.) Dunguaire Castle
Located on the southeastern shores of Galway Bay, this castle was built in the 16th century by the O’Hynes clan.
Now, you can visit the Dunguaire Castle in the more mild months of April to September.
That being said, for a lovely experience, book tickets to the Dunguaire Castle Banquet for a night of traditional medieval song and dance coupled with a fantastic four-course meal. It’s fun, quirky and feels like a little step back in time.
Plus, if you’re heading further down the Wild Atlantic Way (to the Cliffs of Moher and O’Briens’s Tower), then it’s a great little place to stop along your route.
4.) Eyre Square
Also known as John F. Kennedy Memorial Park, Eyre Square is easy to visit if you’re in the centre of Galway.
After relaxing in the park, visit the nearby shop street. Here, you will find numerous stores and tasty pubs coupled with street performers and live music!
Also, if it’s live music you’re after, pop into Taaffes Bar that typically has traditional Irish music every day between 5-9 pm. Though, double-check when you arrive as it can change.
5.) The Galway Cathedral
Compared to most of the other structures in the city, Galway’s Cathedral is almost brand-new, having been built in 1965. Well, yeah, it’s obviously not brand new; but when you consider the thousands of years of history in this area of Ireland, it totally feels like it is! 😉
Take a wander around the cathedral, or attend mass if you want, it really is one of the best things to do in Galway if you want to see some of its iconic buildings.
6.) Kylemore Abbey
Founded way back in 1920, this is a Benedictine nunnery that was built on the Kylemore Castle’s grounds that still stands today. Honestly, the house and abbey are totally stunning and the Gothic Church is just unreal.
Still a functional monastery, it’s an incredible place to see and totally beautiful, too. They’ve also got some lovely Victorian Walled Gardens that are pretty special. Though, I’d avoid these in the winter months as they’re a bit of a let down without everything in bloom.
If hunger’s calling, head on over to Le Petit Pois; here, you’ll have some of the tastiest French dishes in Galway and their salmon is so yummy.
7.) Lough Corrib
Seeing Lough Corrib (Ireland’s largest lake) is easily one of the best things to do in Galway if you’re exploring beyond the city limits, You see, there are lots of beautiful beaches to see, as well as a wooden walkway that leads you on a fairly easy trek through the nearby woods, too.
plus, you can easily explore the limits of Lough Corrib whilst on your way to Kylemore Abbey or Ashford Castle from Galway.
That being said, if you want to spend a little more time on the lake, take a Corrib Cruise boat from Ashford Castle and Lisloughrey Pier. Oh, plus, if you’re visiting in the summer months, check out their tour that visits the historic island of Inchagoill and includes a guided tour, too.
8.) Salthill Promenade
While Ireland may not be the most obvious choice for sunning yourself on the beach but Salthill Promenade is a great place for a stroll and wander on the gorgeous coast. In the summer months, you can pop onto the Blackrock diving board and go in for a dip… though, those Atlantic waters can be chilly!
Along the promenade, there are multiple historic bars, little trinket shops and a few yummy ice cream spots, too. If hunger calls or you’re wanting a pint, pop into O’Reilly’s that’s perfect for a quick lunch.
Afterwards, take a longer stroll through Galway Bay and really see the beauty of this gorgeous area. Afterwards, head to Monroes Tavern for a few pints of Guinness and plenty of traditional Irish music.
9.) The Spanish Arch
erected way back in 1584 as a protective addition to the city’s defensive wall, seeing the Spanish Arch is one of the best things to do in Galway if you’re interested in the history of the area.
Now, the arch sustained significant damage from a tsunami in 1755 (which I had no idea about before visiting Ireland) it remains primarily intact. After seeing the arch, pop inside the Galway City Museum, which is perfect if the weather takes a turn for the worst.
Afterwards, pop over to the West Restaurant (in Barna) that serves up the tastiest Inagh lamb dishes.
10.) Quay Street & Latin Quarter
After seeing the places just outside Galway, make sure to visit Quay Street when you return to the city itself. Honestly, it’s a great place to go for some proper Irish pubs (some old and some new) and right in the heart of the Latin Quarter of the city.
Honestly, it’s a great place to go for the music and a spot that’s great in the early evening. Totally love it.
Plus, stop off at Quay Street Kitchen who have some tasty hake and mussels dishes. Though, be sure to reserve a table if you’ve visited on the weekend as it can be busy.