Like many places in Ireland, Galway is a city that’s steeped in history while still being exciting and modern. It’s still known as ‘The City Of The Tribes’, thanks to the 14 families that controlled trade in Galway in the 13th and 14th centuries.
If you’re visiting Galway, there’s a huge amount to see and do. Here’s where you’ll want to check out while you’re in the area.
In the past, Eyre Square was a town green, that was mostly used to host markets. In recent times it’s had a huge facelift bringing it into the modern era. Now, you’ll see large scale works of art that are new and modern, while still referencing Galway’s past.
For example, the flags of the 14 tribes of Galway are placed around the square, along with busts of Padraic O Conaire, Ireland’s most famous Irish language writer, and John F. Kennedy, who was given the freedom of Ireland.
One of the newest installations is the Quincentennial Fountain, which as a modern abstract representation of one of Galway’s typical ‘Hooker’ sailboats.
On the square you’re not far from the main shopping centre of Galway, so you can take a break from splashing the cash to see the art that’s located here.
Southwest of the city centre is Salthill Promenade, a beautiful walk along the north side of the bay. If you like to get out and moving, you can do so here while taking in those views. If you’re blessed with a clear day, you’ll be able to see all the way to The Burren in Country Clare.
There’s lots of eateries and bars along the coastline, which is just the thing after you’ve been out working out an appetite. You can even stay there at the Eglinton Hotel, which was built all the way back in the 19th century. It’s a piece of history that’s well worth booking a night in.
As well as all this, there’s the Galway Atlantaquaria, an aquarium run by the National Aquarium of Ireland. If you want a more serene way to pass the time, you can simply watch the yachts sailing across the bay in the summer.
Cathedrals are always a source of history in any city they’re in. When you visit Galway Cathedral, you’d be forgiven for thinking it was built centuries ago. In fact, the cathedral was started in 1958 and completed in 1965, on the site of Galway’s old prison.
There’s all kinds of architectural influences here, from the Gothic décor in the entrances, to the Romanesque plain walls and the Renaissance style barrel vault and dome.
Added to the mix are the stained glass windows, which were created by British artist Patrick Polen. He also created a mosaic of the crucifixion and St. Joseph the Worker for the cathedral, too.
Galway City Museum
Are you interested about learning more about Galway’s history? Then you’ll want to head to the Galway City Museum, which covers the archaeology, folk history, art and more of the city.
Their exhibits include a traditional Galway sailboat, which are known as ‘hookers’. You’ll also find fragments from the 16th and 17th centuries, which are part of the ‘medieval Stone Collection’. These include coats of arms, corbels, plaques, and two complete 16th century fireplaces.
That’s just a taste of what they have in their collection, so you’ll want to make sure you stop by to see what they have.
Speaking of history, if you’re interested in Galway’s past you need to go see the Spanish Arch. This is the last surviving piece of the Ceann an Bhalla, or Front Wall. This wall was built to protect the city as part of its defence system, and in the day ran all the way from the old Martin’s Tower to the Corrib River.
These arches date all the way back to 1584, and it’s amazing to think of all the things that they’ve survived. That includes a tsunami that was created by the Earthquake of Lisbon, in 1755.
Want to find the very best bars and clubs in Galway? Then the Latin Quarter is where you want to be. It’s a small and cozy road that runs from O’Brien’s Bridge to the Spanish Arch.
As well as the bars, there’s a thriving arts and crafts scene here too. It’s the best place to buy authentic Irish art from the artists that make it. This includes things like traditional knitwear and the pure wool used to make it, if you want to make your own projects.
There are always street performers playing on the street too, so it’s a fun time perusing the offerings in the Latin Quarter of an afternoon.
Corrib Princess River Cruise
If you’re looking explore the Corrib River, then this is the way to do it. The Corrib Princess River Cruise sails twice a day from May to September, taking you from Woodquay to Corrib Lake. It’s a 90 minute scenic cruise and you’ll see some fantastic sights on the way, such as the Menlo Castle ruins, which was a 16th century mansion that burned down in 1910 and still offers a beautiful sight.
In the summer, you’ll see they offer extra trips out at 16:30 daily, so you can enjoy the good weather while taking in all the sights on the lake.
If you go to the corner of Shop Street and Abbeygate Street, there’s a limestone house that looks different from everything around it. This is Lynch’s Castle, a 14th century house that was owned by the Lynch family. They were one of the 14 tribes of Galway, and the house was fortified to protect them from raiders. It’s a piece of history that you can see during your time in Galway.