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The Big Top Tent at the Galway International Arts Festival | © Barnacles Budget Accommodation / Flickr
The Big Top Tent at the Galway International Arts Festival | © Barnacles Budget Accommodation / Flickr

15 Festivals in Galway, Ireland You Need to Attend

Picture of Kate Phelan
Updated: 24 February 2017

An acclaimed hub of creativity, County Galway is home to festivals of everything from regional literature to gay pride. In addition to the ‘big three’ that come back-to-back in July, a number of smaller events take place throughout the year. The following is a mere sampling of this imaginative city’s many galas.

Seachtain na Gaeilge

📅  Wednesday, March 1 – Friday, March 17, 2017

Seachtain na Gaeilge’s literal translation is ‘Irish Week’, but this century-old, country-wide festival celebrating Ireland’s native tongue actually lasts over two weeks, leading up to Saint Patrick’s Day. Once a highly politicised event – as seen in the 1913 poster below – it’s now more about enjoyment. As Galway city has a particularly strong association with the Irish language, it’s one of the best places to celebrate, with Irish film screenings, street céilí dances, speed dating and all kinds of other activities.

📍 Galway City Centre, Galway, Ireland

1913 Seachtain na Gaeilge poster | © Frances Georgiana Chenevix Trench/WikiCommons

1913 Seachtain na Gaeilge poster | © Frances Georgiana Chenevix Trench / WikiCommons

St. Patrick’s Day Festival

📅   Friday, March 17, 2017

Galway’s annual St. Patrick’s Day celebration turns 114 this year, a milestone that will be marked with an energetic hour-and-a-half-long parade featuring groups like Galway Theatre Festival and Amnesty International. The culmination will be a much-anticipated grand finalé by Galway’s best-known street performance group, Macnas.

📍 Galway City Centre, Galway, Ireland

Clifden Traditional Music Festival

📅   Thursday, April 6 –  Sunday, April 9, 2017

Connemara’s largest town hosts a renowned four-day festival of traditional Irish music every year, involving pub sessions, outdoor concerts, street entertainment and more.

📍  Clifden, County Galway, Ireland

Accordion | © maja2missy/Pixabay

Accordion | Pixabay

Galway Food Festival

📅   Thursday, April 13 – Monday, April 17, 2017

This Easter weekend, Galway will host the 6th year of its annual Food Festival, seeing restaurants and food producers from across the county showcase their best offerings and highlight the quality of local ingredients.

📍 Galway City Centre, Galway, Ireland

Fresh seafood | © Petr Kratochvil/Public Domain Pictures

Fresh seafood | Public Domain Pictures

Cúirt International Festival of Literature

📅   Sunday, April 23 – Sunday, April 30, 2017

A yearly event dating back to 1985, Cúirt International Festival of Literature has long expanded from its initial remit as a poetry festival. Today, its brings together a large group of Irish and international writers for fiction readings, spoken word evenings, book launches and other exciting literary happenings. 

📍 Galway City Centre, Galway, Ireland

Féile Mhic Dara

📅  Sunday, July 16, 2017

The unique Féile Mhic Dara festival is held every July 16th in honour of the patron saint of south Connemara. As St. Mac Dara is believed to keep seafarers safe, celebrations revolve around a mass on the island where he apparently lived, as well as races of fishing boats unique to the west coast of Ireland. 

📍 Carna, Connemara, Galway, Ireland


📅   Friday, June 30 – Sunday, July 2, 2017

The National Maritime Festival will take place in Galway Harbour again in 2017, with a schedule championing all things oceanic, through seafood fairs, tours of ocean-going vessels, and exhibits on marine life.

📍 Galway City Centre, Galway, Ireland

Galway Film Fleadh

📅   Tuesday, July 11 – Sunday, July 16, 2017

The holy trinity of Galway festivals begins with the Galway Film Fleadh, Ireland’s premier film festival. This event is where Irish and international film professionals and cinema lovers come together, along with special guests – past visitors have included Isabelle Huppert, Woody Harrelson and similar Hollywood heavyweights.

📍 Galway City Centre, Galway, Ireland

Galway International Arts Festival

📅   Monday, July 17 – Sunday, July 30, 2017

Next comes the Galway International Arts Festival, described as the most imaginative of all of Ireland’s arts festivals, and occurring alongside a colourful programme of fringe events. Concrete 2017 details are still under wraps, but singer-songwriter Gavin James is expected to play the Absolut Big Top at Fisheries Field on July 20th.

📍 Galway City Centre, Galway, Ireland

Galway Races Summer Festival

📅  Monday, July 31 – Sunday, August 6, 2017

Closing out the busy July calendar and lasting into the first week of August, the seven-day Galway Races Summer Festival is one of the high points of the Irish horse racing calendar. As well as betting, expect the height of fashion, excellent food and spot prizes.

📍 Galway Racecourse, Ballybrit, Galway, Ireland

Galway Pride Festival 2017

📅  Friday, August 11 – Sunday, August 20, 2017

After a record attendance in 2016, the Galway Pride Festival is being extended this year from seven days to 10, all the better to pack in the fun. Organisers aim to schedule more workshops and educational events this time around and to add even more floats to the city parade.

📍 Galway City Centre, Galway, Ireland

Galway International Oyster and Seafood Festival

📅   Friday, September 22 – Sunday, September 24, 2017

Another of Galway’s world-famous annual occurrences, Galway International Oyster and Seafood Festival features on The Rough Guide list of 50 things to do before you die. First launched in 1954, this 63-year-old spectacular is routinely credited as one of Europe’s longest-running foodie events. Don’t worry if you don’t like shellfish – there’s also live music and a Masquerade Mardi Gras.

📍 Galway City Centre, Galway, Ireland

Vodafone Comedy Carnival

📅   Tuesday, October 24 – Monday, October 30, 2017

Driven by Galway’s beloved venue, the Róisín Dubh, the Vodafone Comedy Carnival brings world-class comedy acts to locations throughout the city, with the 2016 programme having featured people like Tommy Tiernan, David O’Doherty and Al Porter. Keep an eye on their website in August for a line-up.

📍 Galway City Centre, Galway, Ireland

© Naoise Culhane | Courtesy of Vodafone Comedy Carnival

© Naoise Culhane | Courtesy of Vodafone Comedy Carnival

Food on the Edge

📅    Monday, October 9 – Tuesday, October 10, 2017

An initiative of pioneering Galway chef JP McMahon, the not-for-profit Irish food symposium Food on the Edge seeks to challenge perspectives on food through talks by about 50 leading international chefs. Past speakers have included Italian restaurateur Massimo Bottura and Margarita Forés, named Asia’s Best Female Chef in 2016. The 2017 Food on the Edge will focus on food stories from around the world.

📍 Galway City Centre, Galway, Ireland

JP McMahon and Massimo Bottura at Food on the Edge 2016 | Courtesy of Food on the Edge

JP McMahon and Massimo Bottura at Food on the Edge 2016 | Courtesy of Food on the Edge

Festival of Wild Atlantic Writing 

📅   Saturday, October 28 – Sunday October 29, 2017

The Wild Atlantic Writing Festival will take place in October inside a former home of the English Poet Laureate Ted Hughes in Cashel, Co Galway. It will allow lovers of literature to enjoy talks by working writers and meet like minds.

📍 Doonreaghan, Cashel, Connemara, County Galway, Ireland