As the only major city on Ireland’s Atlantic coast, Galway has a lot to offer those who like to stray from the beaten path. It is a bustling center for traditional music and visitors can find plenty of cozy pubs and bars to enjoy this uniquely Irish artform.
The city has a wealth of history to discover. The surrounding region is packed with castles and churches as well as prehistoric sites and monuments nestled between rolling mountains and rugged rocky valleys.
Just a stone’s throw from towering cliffs, lush natural parks and windswept islands, you’ll find plenty of fun things to do in Galway, one of Ireland’s best destinations.
1 – See amazing creatures at Galway Atlantaquaria, National Aquarium of Ireland
Ireland’s National Aquarium, Atlantaquaria, is home to the country’s largest collection of native fish species. Atlantaquaria aims to exhibit sea life in a way that is as close as possible to its natural surroundings. It has a variety of great displays that are both interesting and educational.
Visit the aquarium’s touch pools to get up close to the creatures and try to see a feeding session. Atlantaquaria is a must-see while in Galway.
2 – Explore the Eyre Square
You would be hard pushed to visit Galway and not take a trip to Eyre Square. The recently renovated city center park is surrounded by shops and businesses as well as the city’s tourist information center.
While there be sure to check out the square’s historic monuments including the John.F. Kennedy memorial, the statue of Pádraic Ó Conaire and the Browne Doorway. For history lovers, the Eyre Square Shopping Center houses surviving sections of the city’s medieval walls which are definitely worth a look.
3 – Discover the major sights on a bus tour
What better way to see the city than on a hop-on-hop-off bus tour. Hit all the major sights in the city and get the lay of the land on these informative tours. Listen to audio commentary as you pass by Galway’s most important landmarks including Galway Cathedral, Salthill Promenade and the Spanish Arch.
Get on and off as many times as you like and explore the city at your own pace. These bus tours offer the perfect combination of flexibility and good value.
4 – Visit the historic Spanish Arch
Thought to be named after Spanish traders that docked in the nearby port, The Spanish Arch is one of the city’s most famous landmarks. It was built in 1584 as part of an extension to the much older city walls. The arch was formerly a lookout for soldiers and featured cannons on the roof.
It suffered damage in the Galway tsunami of 1755, the same wave that hit Lisbon after the Great Lisbon Earthquake. Don’t miss the Spanish Arch on your visit to Galway.
5 – Learn the region’s history at Galway City Museum
For a fascinating look at the lengthy history of the region, you have to check out the Galway City Museum. Discover the Gaelic traditions of the country including its folklore, myths and legends. Learn how different this part of the country was when it was roamed by tribes hundreds of years ago.
The collection includes over 1,000 objects from prehistoric and medieval times up to the modern day.
6 – Take a day trip to Connemara National Park
Just over an hour’s drive from Galway is the stunning Connemara National Park. Here visitors can find 7,000-acres of rolling mountains and valleys, bogs and heaths to explore. The area has an abundance of bird species to spot including skylarks, robins, sparrowhawks and kestrels.
Kylemore Abbey is one of the area’s most popular attractions. It has been home to an order of Benedictine nuns since 1928 and has magnificent walled gardens and a Neo-Gothic church which are available to tour.
7 – Visit Galway Cathedral
Galway Cathedral is one of the last European stone cathedrals to be built. It was constructed between 1958 and 1965 on the spot where the old city prison used to stand.
Its design has a number of influences including a renaissance-style dome and more modern stained glass windows and statues. The Cathedral also has a bookshop and is open daily from 8.30 to 18.30.
8 – Take a stroll at Salthill Promenade
Salthill Promenade spans 3 kilometers of coastline to the south of the city. It’s a great seaside spot for walking, jogging or skating with fantastic views of Galway Bay and the nearby Aran Islands.
The promenade passes a number of small beaches and in the summer months, hardy people can be seen diving into the sea from Blackrock Beach Diving Tower. A trip to Salthill Promenade is a necessity while in Galway!
9 – Tour Dunguaire Castle
The picturesque Dunguaire Castle was built in the early 16th-century by the O’Hynes Clan. It has been used as a movie set in the past, with actors such as Kurt Russell and Roger Moore gracing its walls. The castle was used as a meeting place for literary revivalists including W.B. Yeats.
Visitors can take a guided tour of the castle and discover its fascinating history for themselves or enjoy a four-course banquet in the medieval tradition.
10 – Take a day trip to the Burren
The Burren is one of Ireland’s most captivating natural regions. Its unique climate is home to 70 percent of the country’s flower species as well as arctic and Mediterranean plants. This sparse and rocky landscape is home to the epic Cliffs of Moher and many species of coastal birds.
Don’t miss the ancient Poulnabrone Dolmen, which is the oldest megalithic monument in all of Ireland. The dolmen is thought to be at least 5,000 years old and acted as a tomb and burial place.
11 – Go Kayaking on the Corrib River
The Corrib River runs through the center of Galway and connects Lough Corrib, the largest lake in Ireland, with the Atlantic Ocean. The lakes, rivers and coastal areas around Galway Bay offer lots of opportunities for exploration on a kayak or even a full-day kayaking trip.
Explore the hundreds of islands and inlets of the region on a guided kayak tour while taking in the surrounding landscape and its majestic views. This has to be one of the most fun things to do in Galway.
12 – Check out The Latin Quarter
If you’re looking for lively pubs and interesting shops, look no further than the city’s Latin Quarter. Here you’ll find unique shops selling clothing, jewelry, pottery and food items as well as a number of theaters and entertainment venues.
The choice of eateries is huge with a range of local and international flavors available. This small portion of the city has no less than 18 bars so you’ll be sure to find one that meets your taste. Definitely check out the Latin Quarter while you’re in Galway.
13 – Visit Doolin on a day trip
The nearby village of Doolin is known as the gateway to the Arran Islands as well as the nearby Cliffs of Moher. The area is steeped in historic buildings and sights. The epic clifftop walks are one of the major attractions in the area.
Visitors can also check out the Doolin Cave and its huge stalactites which extend up to 70 feet below the ground. Later, why not visit one of the local pubs for a pint of the black stuff and to hear some traditional Irish music.
14 – Learn about river fishing at The Fisheries Watchtower Museum
The Fisheries Watchtower Museum is the only one of its type in all of Ireland. Originally built in 1853 as a draft netting post for fishing in the Corrib River it has since been used as a way to monitor illegal fishing in the region.
It is now a small exhibition area and museum with interesting artifacts and memorabilia related to the region’s river fishing heritage.
15 – See the Holy Well in Barna Woods
Barna woods is an old woodland and conservation area with native and non-native broadleaf trees. There are a number of historic sites there including a holy well and a mass rock which was used for outdoor religious services.
It is said that the holy well was discovered in the 5th-century when St. Edna was spending the night in the area and a well sprang up from the ground while he was praying. Historically people have made yearly pilgrimages to the well to throw a penny into the water.
16 – Walk along the Cliffs of Moher
The Cliffs of Moher is one of the most attractive natural landscapes in Ireland and a popular selfie spot and tourist destination. The cliffs have a sheer edge and span up to 14 kilometers on the western edge of Europe. The cliffs are part of a UNESCO Global Geopark.
The cliffs have even shown up in Hollywood movies, making an appearance in Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. You have to visit this spectacular natural beauty spot on your trip to Galway.
17 – Watch the sunset over Galway Bay
Galway Bay is best explored slowly with enough time to take in the impressive sunsets, picturesque villages and natural beauty of the area. For some of the finest beaches in the region, visitors should check out Dog’s Bay, Coral Beach and Silver strand Beach.
The villages of Ballyvaughan and Kinvara are great places to explore with brightly colored houses and traditional Currach fishing boats.
18 – Take a bike tour
A bike tour is a fantastic way to explore the city and its surroundings. Take in the major landmarks at your own pace and see the best of Galway city in the most environmentally friendly way. Visit the ruins of Menlo’s Castle as you cycle down the Corrib Riverside.
Visit the cafes and shops in the Salthill area and discover the tranquil surroundings of the National University of Ireland. These fun and laid-back tours are sure to get you acquainted with the area.
19 – Discover the historic Hall of the Red Earl
Founded in the 13th-Century, the Hall of the Red Earl was the city of Galway’s first municipal building. The hall was the Medieval equivalent of a town hall, serving as a courthouse, tax office and a place for banquets in the region.
It fell out of use by the 15th-Century but was rediscovered in 1997 during archeological excavations which uncovered over 11,000 items. The Hall of the Red Earl is now one of Galway City’s most popular attractions. Admission is free.
20 – See the ruins of Menlo Castle
Menlo Castle, also known as Blake’s Castle is a picturesque ruin near the Village of Menlo and the National University of Ireland. The Castle has a somewhat tragic history. It was built in 1569 and from 1600 it was home to generations of the local baronets, the Blake family.
In 1910 the castle was destroyed by fire which also killed the daughter of the 14th baronet, Sir Valentine Blake. The Castle was never rebuilt and its ivy-covered walls are all that is left.
21 – Take an Aran Islands day trip
The Aran Islands are steeped in history with abundant prehistoric monuments and forts from the Bronze and Iron Ages. The spectacular Dún Aonghasa fort on Inismór is one of the finest of its type in Europe. The smallest of the Islands, Inisheer, has an ancient burial site known as Cnoc Raithní which is thought to date back to 1500 BC.
Visitors can still hear the Irish Gaelic language spoken on the islands and traditional music as well as dancing and singing is a popular form of local entertainment.
22 – Visit Monkey Business
Looking for somewhere fun to take smaller children? Monkey Business is a great indoor play area for kids up to 10 years old. With areas specially designed for toddlers to explore and play in safety, everyone will find something fun to do at Monkey Business.
For older children, there’s a whole bunch of fun activities and equipment to try including slides and ball pools, a disco room, a drawing and painting area and a building block station. Adults can join in or relax in the cafe and coffee shop while the little ones tire themselves out!
23 – Take a horse riding trek on the beach
For a truly unforgettable experience while in Galway, why not try a horse riding tour? Take to the area’s secluded beaches on horseback and explore the Atlantic coastline’s rugged shores and turquoise waters.
Take a steady trot along the sea’s edge and take in the beautiful surroundings while in the company of these most majestic creatures. These beginner-friendly tours are the perfect introduction to horse riding and are sure to have you hooked.
24 – See the inspirational Roundstone Harbor
The historic fishing village of Roundstone has long been a favorite destination for landscape artists in the Galway area. It has a unique climate with a wide variety of wildflowers and plants growing naturally, especially in nearby Roundstone Bog.
Check out the village restaurants for the freshest seafood, including crab, lobster and crayfish, often caught that day by local fishermen. The village has a number of cafes and shops selling ceramics, traditional instruments and crafts and gifts.
25 – See the “Quiet Man” village on a Cong day trip
On the border between County Galway and County Mayo is the village of Cong. The village is famous as the setting for the 1953 movie The Quiet Man, starring John Wayne and Maureen O’Hara, but there’s plenty more to it than that.
Visitors can take in the 12th-Century Market Cross and Abbey ruins as well as the stone-built Monk’s Fishing Hut which dates from the 15th-century. The grand Fishers of Men memorial near the bridge between Cong and Mayo is worth a look as is nearby Ashford Castle.
For fans of The Quiet Man movie, there is a museum dedicated to it as well as a statue of John Wayne and Maureen O’Hara in the village.
26 – Hike the Diamond Hill Loop Walk
For some of the best views of the surrounding mountains and coast, the Diamond Hill Loop is a must-visit. Situated in the Connemara National Park to the North of Galway City, the loop is a steady 7-kilometer walk to a height of 400 meters at the summit of Diamond Hill.
From the top, you can see the surrounding mountains including Mweelrea and the Twelve Bens. To the North-West are the islands of Inisbofin and Inisturk.
27 – Discover local delicacies on a food tour
While in Galway you have to try some of the best local food. The city’s eateries offer a great mixture of traditional Irish foods and international dishes alike. Take in some of the city’s best tea rooms, cafes, pubs and restaurants, sampling foods and drinks as you go.
Taste local cheeses, beers and sweet treats on these fun and casual guided food tours. Scratch the surface of the city’s history and get to know the people keeping the Galway food scene alive.
28 – Walk the woodland trails of Rinville Park
Set in the grounds of an ancient castle and stately home, Rinville Park has some of the nicest woodland walks in the area. Passing through forests, pastures and seafronts, visitors can spot a variety of native creatures including otters and herons.
Rinville Park has access to the headlands of Rinville Point and Saleen Point which give dramatic views over Galway Bay. The park also has recreational facilities including a play area, exercise equipment and picnic benches.
29 – See the historic Lynch’s Castle
The AIB Bank building on the corner of Shop Street and Abbeygate Street is no regular bank building. It was formerly Lynch’s Castle, built in the 16th-century by one of the ruling tribes and still in daily use.
The bottom floor of the building has some displays containing information about the castle’s history. The building’s facade contains examples of Irish gargoyles and the insignia of King Henry VII and the Lynch family.
30 – Compete against friends at Pure Skill
This first-of-its-kind sports facility is a great energetic way to spend the day with friends and family. Pure Skill is based in a 25,000 square foot indoor facility and offers visitors a chance to compete against each other in sporting activities.
All competitors take 10 challenges and receive a final score out of 100. Test your skills at Gaelic free kicks, soccer penalty shots, golf, basketball, hurling and more. You won’t find anything like this outside of Galway!
31 – See the famous Wormhole of Inishmore
The Wormhole, or Poll na bPéist to the locals, is a famous spot on the largest of the Aran Islands, Inishmore. It was one of the locations for the 2017 Red Bull Cliff Diving Series which saw athletes from around the globe hurling themselves into it from great heights.
The Wormhole is a naturally formed almost perfectly rectangular pool that is fed by underground tunnels from the ocean. On a calm day, visitors can be seen swimming in the hole though this is probably appealing to the most intrepid adventurers only.
32 – Take a boat tour along the Atlantic coast
One of the most fun things to do in Galway has to be a boat tour along the Atlantic coast. Take to the water and see attractive fishing villages, windswept islands and dramatic cliffs. Pass by Dunguaire Castle and the villages of Kinvara and Ballyvaughan.
See the stony landscape of the Burren and head out towards the isle of Inisheer to explore at your leisure. Ride the boat back to Doolin while passing by the epic Cliffs of Moher. This one is not to be missed.
33 – Try an escape room challenge
Looking for fun indoor activities to try? Gather your team together and test your powers of deduction in one of these fun escape room challenges. Galway has no less than two escape room centers to try.
Great Escape Rooms has physical and virtual reality challenges to test your wits against with settings that include a traditional pub, hospital and jail. Open the Door has a castle-themed room to try. Test your puzzle-solving abilities and work together in these fun immersive games.
34 – Go for a dip at Dog’s Bay
The horseshoe-shaped white sandy beach of Dog’s Bay is one of the most popular beaches in the whole of Ireland. The pure white sand is made up of tiny seashell fragments which give it its unique appearance.
The clear turquoise water of Dog’s Bay is a great place to take a swim or try other water sports. It has gentle currents and is fairly sheltered along with its neighboring Gurteen Beach.
35 – Walk through the woods at Merlin Castle
Merlin Castle and the nearby Merlin Park Woods are located just outside the city of Galway. The castle was built in the 12th-century for the king of Connacht, Turlough Mór O’Conor, and was inhabited until the 19th century.
It is set in woodland with rich biodiversity where old-growth forest sits beside newer trees such as hazel, beech and sycamore. There are a number of trails to follow through the woods and sightings of red squirrels and foxes are possible.
36 – Stroll along Renvyle Beach
With fabulous views of the islands of Clare and Inishturk, Renvyle Beach is another popular destination with tourists in the local area. The bay is surrounded by mountains and there is a family-run campsite right next to the beach.
The sandy seafront is nearby other attractions such as Renvyle Castle, Connemara National Park and Roundstone Village.
37 – Make scones at Rathbaun Farm
A warm Irish welcome awaits you at Rathbaun Farm. This traditional Irish sheep farm offers an insight into farming methods that have been used for hundreds of years. Try your hand at feeding the lambs or bake up a fresh batch of scones for the morning tea break.
The farm has a 250-year-old cottage with stone walls, a thatched roof and a turf fire. Explore the grounds, meet the animals and see this working farm in action.
38 – Explore Claregalway Castle
The iconic Claregalway Castle is a restored powerhouse just a few miles outside of Galway city. It was built in the 1400s and is famous as the original home of Ireland’s national symbol, the Brian Boru Harp, which appears on everything from coins and passports to pints of Guinness!
Visitors can take a tour of the castle and learn about its long history. It also hosts regular events such as concerts, fairs and historic reenactments.
39 – Take a break and listen to some music in Quay Street
Quay street is packed with colorful bars and shops to explore. There are a number of restaurants serving a mixture of traditional Irish foods, takeaway favorites and Asian dishes. The street has traditional pubs in abundance as well as bars and coffee shops.
In Quay Street, there’s always some form of musical street entertainment going on and it’s a great place to grab a drink and just sit and watch the world go by.
40 – Enjoy a picnic at Aasleagh Falls
The picturesque Aasleagh Falls are found on the Eriff River before it meets the sea at Killary harbor. These small but perfectly formed cascades are not on the main road but can be reached with a short walk.
The area supports abundant wildlife and is a favorite angling spot due to the varieties of trout and salmon species that live here. It is an ideal place to hike and grab some fresh air. Don’t forget to bring a picnic to enjoy beside the picturesque falls!
41 – Smell the flowers at Circle of Life National Organ Donor Commemorative Garden
The Circle of Life Garden can be found in Quincentennial Park on Salthill Promenade. The site is the city’s International Heritage Garden and commemorates the generosity and lives of the country’s organ donors.
The garden has a number of symbolic standing stones, sculptures and stone monuments and offers an atmosphere of tranquility and peace for those who pass through. The seasonal wildflower displays are particularly nice.
42 – Take a tour of the National University of Ireland-Galway
The beautiful grounds and buildings of Galway’s National University are well worth a look. The establishment first opened in 1849 and is one of the top universities in the country.
Why not take a guided tour of the university campus? See the historic university buildings and learn the fascinating history of the institution. Visitors can check the university website for more information. Tours must be booked in advance.
43 – Visit Clonmacnoise monastery
The monastery of Clonmacnoise was founded in the year 544 and the site became a thriving center for education and craftsmanship in later years. The surrounding area includes many ruins and monuments including nine churches, a cathedral and three high crosses as well as hundreds of early gravestones.
The site has a visitor’s center with information about the people that lived and worked around the monastery as well as examples of the crafts they produced.
44 – Hit the track at Galway City Karting
During your time in Galway indulge in some high-octane thrills! Galway City Karting has a 20,000 square foot indoor track that has been designed for maximum fun. Race against friends and family to see who’ll cross the finish line first.
Go-karting is great fun for kids and adults alike. Satisfy your need for speed on this fun and challenging track. It is suitable for kids age 7 upwards and there is a separate area for spectators.
45 – Take part in a workshop at Galway Arts Centre
Galway Arts Centre has exhibitions of home-grown and international contemporary art. As well as being a gallery it is also a cultural center that hosts youth theatre, live music and literature readings as well as art classes and workshops.
Visitors can view the exhibitions as well as take classes in creative writing, photography and Irish literature. Those interested in visual arts and culture shouldn’t miss the Galway Arts Centre.
46 – See the historic St. Nicholas’ Collegiate Church
The Medieval St. Nicholas’ Collegiate Church was completed in the year 1320. The exterior of the church contains many old monuments and decorations including gargoyles, mermaids and dragons.
The baptismal font has a carving of a dog on it that is said to look out for the newly baptized, it is at least 400 years old and is still in use today. It is said that Christopher Columbus visited the church to pray while passing through Galway in 1477.
47 – Sit for a while with the Statues of Oscar Wilde and Eduard Vilde
The statues of influential Irish and Estonian writers Oscar Wilde and Eduard Vilde are iconic landmarks on the Galway streets. The two writers never met in real life but were contemporaries born only two years apart.
The statue of Eduard Vilde, produced by artist Tiiu Kirsipuu, was a gift to the city from Estonia when the latter entered the European Union in 2004. Visitors can take a seat between the two famous writers.
48 – Connect with nature at Brigit’s Garden & Café
A garden for all the Celtic seasons! Brigit’s Garden is a magical landscape that combines ancient Celtic stories and modern design in a beautiful and educational place. There are four gardens, one for each of the Celtic seasons, Samhain, Imbolc, Bealtaine and Lughnasa.
Children and adults will enjoy the combination of Celtic mythology and modern eco-friendly technology. There is also a natural play area for children with a Fairy Fort, woodland trail and play equipment.
49 – Take a tour of the Glengowla Mines in Oughterard
The Glengowla Mines offers a taste of the region’s traditional industries with mining, sheep herding and turf cutting displays. Visitors can tour the mine, which was not been in use since 1865, to see what life was like for the men who worked down there. See formations of rare minerals as well as marble and quartz.
Turf cutting demonstrations show how the peat which has been one of the country’s primary fuel sources is cut, stacked and saved. This is a great place to see the old traditions in action.
50 – Go wildlife spotting in Killary Harbour
Killary Harbour is one of Ireland’s only fjords. This deep harbor marks the boundary between the counties of Galway and Mayo and was formed by a massive glacier in prehistoric times. In the area surrounding the harbor can be seen the mountains of Mweelrea, Mamturk and the Twelve Bens.
The waters are sheltered and always calm and are home to a number of species including otters, seals, dolphins and sharks. A house nearby to the harbor was once inhabited by famous Austrian-British philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein.
51 – Get festive at Galway Christmas Market
A visit to Galway at Christmas is sure to be a memorable event. The city’s Christmas Market takes place from mid-November to the 22nd of December and they really go all out. Expect festive foods and plenty of drinks, traditional fairground rides and stalls selling seasonal gifts.
The whole town center gets in on the Christmas festivities and the main streets are brightly decorated which helps add to the fun. Definitely check it out if you are in the area.
52 – See a Rugby match at Galway Greyhound Stadium
The Galway Greyhound Stadium is a multipurpose stadium to the East of Galway city center. It is the home stadium of the Connacht Rugby team as well as a venue for Greyhound racing. The stadium has a seating capacity of 7,500 and a number of bars both inside and outside the stands
Check out a Rugby Union game and discover the passion for the local team while visiting Galway.
53 – Take a class at Listoke Gin School
For a really unique experience why not try booking into Ireland’s only gin school. After an introductory gin, take a tour of the Listoke Distillery where the award-winning Listoke 1777 gin is produced. See the botanicals used in the gin’s production and the range of different sized stills.
Take a gin-making class where you will choose your own ingredients and flavorings. Enjoy food and more drinks while you wait for your gin to distill. this is a must-visit for gin-lovers!
54 – Take the plunge off Blackrock Diving Tower
Blackrock Diving Tower can be found at Blackrock Beach at the end of Salthill Promenade. In the summer months, it is a popular destination for sea swimming and a fantastic place to take a dip. The tower has a number of different levels to leap from depending on how daring you are.
There has been a diving board on the site since 1885 but the current tower was built in the 1950s.
55 – Check out a festival
The city has many arts, foods and cultural festivals which take place throughout the year. The Galway International Arts Festival is one of the major ones taking place in the summer months. It features art installations, live music and performances.
Ireland’s leading film festival, the Galway Film Fleadh, takes place as part of the International Arts Festival exhibiting Irish and international films. Galway Oyster Festival is another popular event and takes place in September each year.
56 – Dance the night away at the pub
You won’t have to look too far to find fantastic traditional Irish music in Galway. The city has tons of pubs and bars that regularly host planned and impromptu music sessions. There are also fantastic performers playing their hearts out on the city streets for all passers-by to enjoy.
Some of the best pubs in the city offering live traditional music are all within staggering distance of each other. Check out Taaffes Bar, Tigh Coili and Garavan’s Bar all on the main shopping street. Cross over the river at Bridge Street and you will find Monroe’s tavern and The Crane Bar nearby.
57 – Dine at the Hyde Bar and Gin Parlour
If you prefer your drinking establishments a little less rough and rowdy, the Hyde Bar and Gin Parlour might be more your cup of tea. With the largest selection of gins in all of Ireland and an extensive menu of imaginative cocktails, Hyde Bar offers a more refined night out in the city.
It also offers a bunch of dining options with brunch, lunch and dinner menus. Check out this place for a quiet night out in Galway.
58 – Stay in one of the castle hotels
For an unforgettable visit to Galway, why not stay in one of the many castle hotels? These imposing and historic hotels offer the ultimate in luxurious accommodation from ancient fortresses to opulent manor houses there is something to suit all tastes.
We hope you enjoyed reading our selection of things to do in Galway. If you have other fun places to recommend don’t hesitate to leave us a message.
If you have not booked your accommodation yet, check out the best hotels in Galway.
Don’t forget to book your airport transfers in advance for an easy and stress-free journey.