Galway City originally formed from a small fishing village located in the area near the Spanish Arch called ‘The Claddagh’ where the River Corrib meets Galway Bay. Galway later became a walled town in the year 1232 after the territory was captured by the Anglo Normans lead by Richard De Burgo. The town walls, some sections of which can be seen today near the Spanish Arch, were constructed circa 1270. A charter was granted in 1396 by Richard II which transferred governing powers to 14 merchant families, known locally as the 14 tribes of Galway.
The 14 tribes relished their independence but retained their close links to the British crown. Galway's strategic coastal location and natural harbour area resulted in a successful trade with both Portugal and Spain and the city prospered for centuries. However, in 1651 with the arrival of Cromwell the region entered a long period of decline. Other prominent sea ports emerged on the east coast, namely Dublin and Waterford and trade with Spain came almost at an end. Many years would pass before Galway would again enjoy such prosperity but the legacy of the cities long and colourful history is evident in the character and style of the city.
Things to See and Do
Whether you want to soak up the “savage beauty” and tranquillity of Connemara or sample the culture, music and craic in the city of Galway – this part of the coast on the Wild Atlantic Way really has it all. Travel to Galway and give in to the unique Wild Atlantic Way of life here.
Explore the heart of Galway city
Right in the middle of the Wild Atlantic Way, Galway city has a reputation for artistic creativity and an infectious vibe that’s played out in a full calendar of festivals and events. Brightly painted pubs heave with live music, while cafés offer front-row seats for observing street performers. Galway is a very accessible city and is easy to explore on foot as many streets are pedestrianised. Explore the winding streets to discover a bustling modern city filled with medieval, historic treasures. City centre highlights include:
- Lynch's Castle
- St. Nicolas' Church - Beautiful medieval parish church., completed in 1320 and is said to have been where Christopher Columbus worshipped in 1477.
- Nora Barnacle's House - Wife of famous Irish author, James Joyce.
- Hall of the Red Earl - A recent excavation.
- Spanish Arch - beautiful and historic arch. Standing at the late 16th century Spanish Arch and looking out to the vast Atlantic Ocean, it’s not hard to imagine Galway in its medieval heyday.
A city of theatre: Galway is Ireland’s only bilingual city, with 20% speaking Irish. An Taibhdhearc, our National Irish language theatre, is definitely worth checking out, or perhaps Druid, which provides-award winning performances time and time again in intimate surroundings.
Great food culture: Galway’s food scene includes incredible cafés, bistros and fine-dining restaurants that are kicking the culinary ball right out of the park. The very best of local ingredients and innovative techniques fuse together with stellar success at the Michelin-starred Loam and Aniar, while incredible flavours draw a loyal crowd to Kai. Enjoy the very best of Irish-style pizza at Dough Bros, mix rustic chic with hearty dishes at Ard Bia, or try traditional fish and chips at McDonagh’s– a fave with locals and tourists alike.
Sample the pub culture
Galway has a fantastic pub scene that caters for every age group and taste. Step inside the warm wooden nooks and crannies of Tigh Neachtain’s on Cross Street and you’ll happily lose hours gazing at the knick-knacks and memorabilia while sipping a glass of Galway Hooker craft beer
Enjoy a traditional music session
Galway has to be one of the best places on the island to visit for traditional music. This is a city that lives and breathes music, from the buzzing street buskers to the endless trad sessions all over town. Step inside a traditional music pub, and you’re guaranteed an unforgettable night. Check out great trad sessions in pubs such as Taaffes, The Crane Bar, Tigh Cóilí and An Púcán.
The laid-back, happy-go-lucky vibes of Galway are best felt at its weekend market. Here, there’s loads of chat, loads of colourful stalls and plenty of incredible flavours, all in the shadow of St Nicholas’ Medieval Church. As well as local cheeses and charcuterie, international influences come through with curries, sushi and Mediterranean favourites. Pack a basket and pick up your picnic supplies.
Walk the Salthill Promenade
With its location right on the Atlantic Ocean, Galway has an intimate relationship with the sea. Nowhere is this more apparent than at the little seaside suburb of Salthill. Here, locals take to the 2km-long promenade for seaside strolls, and even a swim if you’re feeling brave! Tradition dictates that you should “kick the wall” at the end of the promenade for good luck, but if you don’t fancy that, then why not just grab some fish and chips, sit on the beach and watch the light change over the Atlantic. Finish up with a pint or two in O’Connor’s bar, filled to the brim with trinkets.
For More Information, see our feature on Galway City and County: Top Experiences for for Over 55s in our Golden Moment's section.