Galway, located on the west coast of Ireland, is a charming and vibrant city with a unique blend of traditional Irish culture and modern vibes. Known for its beautiful landscapes, rich history, and friendly locals. The city is known for its vibrant culture, rich history, and beautiful scenery and should be on every traveller's itinerary. I've been charmed on three separate visits. Come and meander with me in Galway, Ireland.
The weather in Galway is typical for coastal Ireland, which is to say very changeable... on each of my visits I was treated to rain and brilliant sunshine with every conceivable weather pattern in between. Make sure you are prepared.
The city was founded in the 12th century by the King of Connacht, Tairrdelbach Ua Conchobair, and quickly became an important center of trade and commerce. As a major port, Galway was soon a hub of activity and a melting pot of different cultures.
During the medieval period, Galway was controlled by a number of powerful families, known as the "Tribes of Galway." These families, including the Lynch, Joyce, and Athy families, played a significant role in shaping the city's history and culture. They built many of the city's most iconic buildings, such as Lynch's Castle, and were known for their strong sense of community and civic pride. The flags displayed in Eyre Square represent each of the tribes.
The 14 tribes were made up of merchant families of different nationalities, including Irish, English, French, and Spanish that controlled Galway's trade and commerce during the medieval period. Each tribe had its own distinct characteristics and played a unique role in the city's economy. Some tribes were known for their trading skills, while others were known for their shipbuilding or fishing industries. They were known for their wealth and power, as well as their fierce rivalries with one another. Despite their rivalries, the tribes often worked together to protect their shared interests and to maintain the city's prosperity. Many of the city's landmarks, including the walls of Galway, were built by the tribes during the medieval period.
Things to see and do
First and foremost, Galway is a city of culture. The city's medieval streets are home to a diverse mix of traditional Irish pubs, artisan shops, and local markets. Take a stroll through the city's Latin Quarter and explore the charming streets and colourful buildings. Be sure to check out the famous Quay Street, which is lined with traditional Irish pubs and live music venues.
No, not that kind of hooker. Galway Hookers are traditional wooden sailing boats that have been used for fishing and transportation in the Galway Bay area of Ireland for centuries. These distinctive boats are recognized by their brightly coloured sails and unique design, which includes a rounded hull and high gunwales. The Galway Hookers are an important part of the region's cultural heritage, and are considered to be some of the finest examples of traditional wooden boat-building in Ireland.
I got to experience the beauty and tradition of these boats by taking a tour of the bay on a restored Galway Hooker on my first trip to Galway. The tour was a fabulous way to see the stunning coastline and rugged landscapes of the region, and to learn about the history and significance of the Galway Hookers -- It would be even better on a beautifully clear afternoon, like I enjoyed on my second visit. The tours are conducted by experienced sailors who have a deep knowledge of the boats and the area and I highly recommend stretching the budget to include a hooker tour during your visit.
For budget-conscious travellers, there are also opportunities to join a sail training program on a Galway Hooker, where you can learn to sail and crew on one of these historic boats. These programs are a great way to experience the thrill of sailing, and to learn about the tradition and heritage of the Galway Hookers. They are also a cost-effective way to see the region and enjoy the beautiful scenery, as the costs of the program include food, accommodation, and activities.
The Old City
The old city of Galway is home to a maze of narrow streets lined with colourful buildings and historic landmarks. Wandering around the old city will treat you to a charming collection of medieval architecture, sidewalk cafés, artisan shops, and lively pubs.
Sometime in the early 20th century, many of Galway's building brick buildings were covered with stucco. Over the past 15 or so years, they have been removing the stucco. This is a marriage stone which would have been placed over the door of a newlywed couple. It includes the date of marriage, a shield which includes half of the husband's and half of the wife's family crest, and their initials.
St. Nicholas' Collegiate Church
St. Nicholas' Collegiate Church is one of the oldest and largest medieval churches in Ireland. This stunning building dates back to the mid-1300s and features intricate stone carvings, stained glass windows, and a beautiful wooden roof. Visitors can take a guided tour to learn more about the church's history, or simply admire its beauty from the outside. Entrance is by donation. There are no tours Sunday mornings.
The Spanish Arch
The 16th-century Spanish Arch was originally built to protect the city's merchant ships. The Spanish Arch is next to the river Corrib and is surrounded by a charming square filled with street performers, cafes and restaurants, making it the perfect place to relax and enjoy the sights and sounds of the city. There is no cost to see the arch.
Galway City Museum
The Galway City Museum traces the rich history of the city and is located in the city's medieval Spanish Arch and offers interactive exhibits and artifacts that showcase the city's past and present. Admission is free, but a donation of €5 is suggested.
The Cathedral of Our Lady Assumed into Heaven and Saint Nicholas is on the river bank. Construction began in 1958 on the site of the old city prison. It was completed seven years later in 1965, making it the last great stone cathedral to be built in Europe.
You can take a guided tour of the cathedral and learn about its history and architecture.
Another must-see landmark in the old city is Eyre Square, a public park located in the heart of the city. This peaceful green space also includes a plaza and is a popular gathering place for locals and visitors alike, and is the perfect place to relax and people-watch. The square is surrounded by shops, cafes, and restaurants.
Lynch Castle is situated in the heart of the city, and its imposing presence is a reminder of Galway's rich history and cultural heritage. Lynch Castle has a rich and varied history and has served many different purposes over the centuries. It has been used as a defensive structure, a family home, and even as a prison. Today, it is a museum and cultural center, where visitors can tour the castle to learn about its fascinating history and see some of its original features, such as the beautiful stone fireplace in the main hall.
The Lynch family were wealthy wine merchants. There is a tragic story of the family being attacked and burnt out. The parent's bedroom was the big window on the corner, with the baby daughter's nursery above them. The parents escaped but the poor child did not. A couple of years later, a wine ship arrived with a monkey aboard. The parents decided to keep the monkey. Not long after, they were blessed with another baby.
When the wee babe was about 9 months old, again the family was attacked and burnt out of their home. Again, the parents escaped and watched helplessly as the fire approached the nursery when the monkey carried their young son out of the window and began to climb down the building with the child. Unfortunately, the monkey fell to the ground from the second story. The monkey perished but the child survived. The stone monkey was added to the exterior as a memorial of the event.
The Galway Arts Centre
The Galway Arts Centre is a vibrant cultural hub located in the heart of Galway, Ireland. This renowned venue showcases the best of local, national and international art, with a range of exhibitions, performances, workshops, and events throughout the year.
The Centre is open seven days a week, with tickets starting at just €10. Visitors can explore the exhibitions and galleries from 10:00 AM to 5:00 PM, and attend performances in the evenings. With its stunning architecture, cutting-edge exhibitions, and dynamic events calendar, be sure to check their website to see what's on during your visit.
This is a popular waterfront promenade for a leisurely stroll and offers beautiful views of Galway Bay. There is an amusement park area, if that's your thing. In the summer the diving platform is very popular, although the water is chilly.
The Claddagh Village
Claddagh is located just outside of the Galway city walls. It is a historic fishing village steeped in tradition and culture and is best known for its iconic Claddagh ring. The ring features two hands holding a heart, surrounded by a crown, and is said to bring prosperity and good luck to the wearers. Single women would wear the ring with the point of the heart facing outwards, while those in a committed relationship turn the ring so the point faces up the arm.
The village has brightly coloured traditional cottages and narrow streets leading down to the harbour. Many of the traditional homes have been turned into cafés, shops, and pubs. Visitors to the Claddagh village can learn about the history of the Claddagh ring and see how it is made in local workshops.
Day Trips from Galway
Wild Atlantic Way
Galway is also known for its beautiful landscapes and outdoor activities. The city is surrounded by the stunning Wild Atlantic Way, which offers a diverse range of outdoor activities such as hiking, cycling, and horseback riding. If you've got a vehicle, take a drive along the coast. Pull off at various trailheads, take a hike and enjoy splendid views.
Kylemore Abbey is located about an hour's drive outside of Galway. Bus Eireann offers a once-weekly route that takes about 1.5 hours for about €10. There are also many day tours available from Galway. A full day ticket including the Abbey, Walled Garden, church and surrounding trails, costs €16.00 and can be purchased online. The abbey was founded in 1920 by the Benedictine community and has a rich history that dates back to the 19th century. This an absolutely breathtaking destination, well-worth the journey from Galway with its stunning architecture, beautiful gardens, and rich cultural heritage.
The highlights of Kylemore Abbey are its magnificent architecture, intricate stone carvings, beautiful stained glass windows, and imposing towers. I had an outstanding tour guide who enthusiastically described the abbey's interior, stunning interiors, rich history and cultural significance. The abbey is surrounded by acres of beautifully manicured gardens, filled with a variety of flowers, shrubs, and trees. Expect to spend several hours exploring all there is to offer.
The Benedictine community that founded the abbey is dedicated to preserving Ireland's cultural heritage and promoting education, and the abbey is home to a school and other cultural programs and events. Visitors can attend concerts, exhibitions, and workshops, and learn about the abbey's role in the local community and Ireland's cultural heritage. Make sure to check their website to know what may be happening during your visit.
Food & Pubs
The city of Galway is known for its lively pubs and traditional music scene. Visitors can head to one of the city's many historic pubs, such as The Quays Pub or The Crane Bar, to experience the famous Irish hospitality and enjoy a pint of local beer.
Foodies will also enjoy Galway, as the city is home to a wide variety of delicious restaurants and cafes. The city is known for its seafood, particularly oysters, which are harvested from the nearby Galway Bay. Be sure to try some of the local seafood dishes while you're in town.
The King's Head Pub & Bistro is a historic and beloved institution in the heart of the city. With its charming medieval atmosphere, warm and welcoming staff, and excellent selection of traditional Irish drinks and food, it's easy to see why this pub is a favourite among locals and visitors alike. The King's Head has a rich history, dating back to the 16th century, and is widely considered to be one of the oldest pubs in Galway.
As soon as you step inside the King's Head, you'll feel transported back in time. The pub is adorned with antique furnishings, vintage posters and photos, and other quirky decorations, creating a cozy and inviting atmosphere. The bar is well-stocked with a variety of traditional Irish drinks, including Guinness, whiskey, and cider, and the menu features classic pub fare such as fish and chips, shepherd's pie, and bangers and mash. In addition, the King's Head is known for its lively entertainment, including live music and traditional Irish dancing, which are often performed in the pub's cozy back room. On each of my visits to Galway, I stopped in for a cozy drink.
Galway has many affordable apartments and rooms for tourist rentals as well as hotels, hostels, and guesthouses. The Galway City Hostel is located in a restored 18th-century building with a mix of dormitory and private rooms, in a great location, just a short walk from the city center.
The Imperial Hotel is a budget hotel with a central location and good reviews.
For shopping, the city is famous for its artisan shops and markets, where you can find a variety of handmade crafts and souvenirs.
The Galway Market is one of the most popular places to shop, selling everything from fresh produce to handmade crafts and jewelry and maybe something a little unexpected...
Charlie Burn's Book Shop
Charlie Burn's is a fabulous used bookstore with a great selection of books. It's a great place to pop into on a dreary rainy afternoon or pick up a book to take along with you as you travel.
These are just a few of the many budget-friendly options for travellers in Galway. Whether you're looking to explore the city's rich history, sample its delicious food, or just enjoy a good pint in a friendly pub, you're sure to find something that fits your budget and interests! Let me know what you are looking forward to!
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