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Thanks to Michel Sardou, in France we know the famous lakes of Connemara well, even without having been there (here is the music just so you have it in mind). However, we know a little less about the regional capital, Galway. This city in the west of Ireland does not owe everything to its surrounding nature and is worth a detour for numerous reasons. Its name comes from the Corrib (Gaillimh) river which crosses the city and according to legend, the name comes from Galvia, a Celtic princess who drowned in the river. Galway is filled with the Celtic spirit in its purest form, a very young city that opens its doors to many tourists every summer. Here, we’ll see why: here are the nine must-see things in Galway.
🗒️ What you need to know before your trip to Galway
Before we start our list of must-see things in Galway, here are some tips for your next trip.
How do you get to Connemara from Galway?
Galway is the gateway to Connemara National Park. If you have a car, you just take the N59 for two short hours to reach your destination. If you opt for public transport, then head to Galway bus station to catch a bus to Clifden or Letterfrack . The latter is less than a kilometre from the entrance to the park. For more information, we found this page very helpful for building an itinerary.
Which hotel should you choose in Galway?
In Galway, there are not a crazy number of hotels on offer, but there are some pearls. Like the Galway Bay Hotel Conference & Leisure Centre, which promises you a relaxing stay with your feet in the water and a welcome spa for after a long journey. Another we recommend is The Connacht Hotel. The establishment offers all the modern comforts in a warm setting and the prices are moderate for the region. What more could you need? Oh, yes, there’s also an indoor swimming pool.
🔝 The 9 must-see things in Galway
So now that we’ve covered the practical side, time for our little guide. Here are the 9 must-see things in Galway, in our opinion.
The Statue of Oscar Wilde and Eduard Vilde
The first time we saw them, we were puzzled. Obviously we knew Oscar Wilde, the popular Irish playwright and poet, but we had no idea who the moustachioed man sitting on the bench next to him was. This is Eduard Vilde, a famous Estonian writer who obviously had a similar mind to Oscar Wilde. The statue was a gift from the Estonian city of Tartu to Galway. Although they lived around the same time, the two men never spoke to each other. The sculptor imagined the meeting and the original statue is in Tartu.
The Lynch family were one of the 14 founding clans of Galway and were once the dominant force in the city. The castle, which bears their name, was their family home. Built over 500 years ago, it is now part of the busy ‘Shopping Route’, lined with vibrantly coloured historic structures, though its architecture still stands out. Intricate gargoyles, coats of arms, arches, and whimsical window openings adorn the four floors. Lynch Castle is now a bank, which seems like a tragedy for such a historically significant building, but rest assured, you can still go inside and admire it from a new angle.
Quay Street and Shop Street
The aptly named Shop Street, parallel to Quay Street, is Galway’s main shopping street, but it’s not your typical modern shopping district! The only way to see this street in its true light is to look up while walking its cobblestones, as the architecture here is vintage, colourful, and eclectic. The street is pedestrianized, so you don’t have to worry about getting run over while looking up! This area of Galway’s Latin Quarter is alive with the sound of traditional music and is a must-stop on your list of things to see in Galway.
Saint-Nicolas Collegiate Church
You will inevitably come across this church when discovering the streets, starting with Shop Street – you are sure to be captivated by its architecture. In continuous use since 1320, the Collegiate Church of Saint Nicholas has a fascinating history: most notably, it served as a place of worship for Christopher Columbus during his stopover in Galway. This building, which obtained the name of college in 1485, has been preserved through the centuries to the delight of visitors to Galway.
The Corrib River
The River Corrib flows from nearby Lough Corrib, Ireland’s largest lake, and through the city to Galway Bay. It is only 6 kilometres long, which makes it one of the shortest rivers in Europe, but it is also one of the fastest.
The Cathedral of Our Lady of the Assumption and Saint Nicholas
We’ll risk saying that this cathedral in Galway is the most famous in the country (okay, fine, one of the most famous). But the stunning architecture, both inside and out, is worth every word. It is a relatively recent construction for a cathedral and building in Galway, having been completed in 1965. But what it loses in historical significance, it more than makes up for in elegance. The stone structure is a prominent feature of the Galway skyline and its green domed roof is visible from afar.
The Burren and the Cliffs of Moher, two of Ireland’s most scenic spots
If you are still wondering what you should see in Galway, a detour to this natural, rugged part of the Irish coast of the Wild Atlantic Way is a must. The Cliffs of Moher stretch for almost 14 kilometres and reach a height of 214 metres. Next door, the karstic ecosystem of the Burren, formed millions of years ago, presents something from beyond the grave. Discover more than 80 ancient tombs scattered throughout an extremely rich landscape. It will be unlike anything you have seen before.
Salthill promenade and beaches
Salthill, which stretches for two kilometres along the coast, was once a simple fishing village. The city is known in Irish as “Bóthar na Trá”, which translates to “the Lane by the Sea”. On a clear day, the Aran Islands and the Burren in County Clare can be seen from the beaches of Salthill. There is even a tram line that transverses the town if you don’t want to walk all the way.
Kylemore Abbey and Connemara National Park
A must-do (as we say, IN-CON-TOUR-NABLE) in Galway is to visit Connemara National Park and Kylemore Abbey – if you have the chance of course. This park covers almost 3,000 hectares of forests, bogs, moors, meadows, and woods of breath-taking beauty. Many scenic hiking trails start from the Connemara Visitor Centre, and a few lead to viewpoints from Diamond Hill, standing at 400m high. The imposing and glorious Kylemore Abbey cannot be overlooked as you travel the Wild Atlantic Route through Connemara in County Galway. Step inside to hear its tragic, romantic, and spiritual history.
Do you have any other must-see things in Galway? This list is obviously not exhaustive, so do not hesitate to leave your suggestions in the comments!