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Whether you’re headed for the culture and exuberant nightlife of the city, the hills of Connemara, or a slice of rural bliss on the beautiful Aran Islands, Galway has more to explore than most visitors can ever hope to uncover. To make sure you get the most out of your time here, we’ve rounded up the 25 things you absolutely must do.
If you didn’t travel to Ireland’s rustic west coast to uncover the rusting hulk of a long-abandoned boat in the wilds of the Aran Islands, you don’t know what you’re missing. MV Plassy is one of those memorable symbols of beautiful failure, a wreck dumped on a Galway beach and left to become a photographer’s favourite and exploratory landmark.
A petite fishing port with a castle, abbey and rustic nature reserve, Kinvara is a pleasant spot all round. However, the hundreds of bottles of whiskey that line the shelves at Green’s Bar — the town’s Emerald-coated traditional pub, dating back to 1865 – are all the reason needed to grab some ‘sea air’.
A town that’s far too often overlooked, Cong – right on the border with neighbouring County Mayo – is a tiny lakeside spot with less than 200 residents, a pub, an old abbey, and the sublime Ashford Castle Estate. Pierce Brosnan chose the opulent, gorgeous but utterly budget-smashing castle as the site of his wedding. It’s luxurious in the extreme.
The unofficial name for the area in front of the Spanish Arch where locals like to drink outdoors in the summer, Buckfast Plaza (a reference to a sugary tonic wine that’s the source of many a heady Galway night out) is a must-visit for anyone who loves a party. Follow it up with a stop at legendary music venue Roisin Dubh.
It might be best known for the music of its lonely fields, but it’s Athenry’s Medieval walls and churches that visitors will want to check out. A blocky 13th-century castle and the city walls that lead around it are the main draws, while the town also contains the only Medieval market cross still standing in the entire country. It’s one for the history buffs.
The lively Latin Quarter is Galway’s beating heart. Bars, pubs, galleries and craftsy shops rub shoulders in this small but exuberant district, where the air is always abuzz with music and laughter. On the left bank of the River Corrib, and with cobblestone streets, the Latin Quarter is one of Galway’s most picturesque places. Head here to pub-crawl, shop, or just amble aimlessly – with street-performers on every corner, you’ll never be short of things to look at.
Not exactly an attraction in itself, Wild Atlantic Way is more of a magical highway to all of Ireland’s most remarkable offerings. The trail winds along 2,500 kilometres of Ireland’s west coast, and Galway is pretty much bang in the middle, which makes it the ideal base for some stunning road trips. Head north to reach the Malin Head, at the very tip of the land, or far south to get to Kinsale Harbour. The verdant Connemara National Park, the rocky Burren, and all manner of other natural wonders lie between.
Additional reporting by Justin McDonnell