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Galway Popular Attractions

Galway’s single biggest attraction is the city itself, especially for lovers of the outdoors and breezy café culture. A wash of colourful pubs line cobblestone streets and host nightly live music. Buskers keep the atmosphere cheerful on the street, and the fact that one out of four residents is a student ensures that energy runs high. Bookstores, galleries and boutiques selling handicrafts are offset by the historical remnants of medieval Galway.

Many of the sightseeing attractions in Galway are free to the public. Some can be explored on foot, including the Promenade that connects the city centre to Salthill. However, visitors with a rental car in Galway also enjoy unbridled access to harder-to-reach sites in the countryside.

The following are some of Galway’s leading attractions:

Corrib Princess

For an introductory tour of the city, take a 90-minute ride on the Corrib Princess. It seats about 150 passengers and takes in the flora, fauna and ruins along the river. Refreshments and beverages are served from the ship’s bar.

Eyre Square

If you are exploring Galway on foot, stop by Eyre Square for some people watching. You’ll find the square across from the Parochial House near Hotel Meyrick. Seating is available along the southern pedestrian street.

Galway Cathedral

The most iconic landmark in Galway is its cathedral, which was relatively late addition to the city’s architectural scene. Completed in 1965, the building was constructed from local limestone and Connemara marble. The architecture, sculptures and mosaics may not be ancient, but they are well in line with Galway’s passion for embracing and supporting local artists and artisans.

Galway Irish Crystal Heritage Centre

Galway’s crystal is world-famous, and the best place to learn about the local industry is at the Crystal Heritage Centre on Dublin Road. Artisans craft and cut glassware on site, and visitors are welcome to purchase pieces that interest them.

Hall of the Red Earl

This is an historic gem that was forgotten until the end of the 20th century, when construction at the Custom House uncovered its foundations. This banqueting hall was actively used in the 13th century to entertain guests of Richard the Red Earl.

Lynch’s Castle

This stoic town castle dates to the 14th century, though most of the architecture standing today is around 300 years younger. The Lynch family was the most powerful in Galway, and their coat of arms is still displayed at the castle today. This is Irish gothic style at its best, complete with gargoyles perched on the castle wall.

National Aquarium of Galway

Galway is home to the largest aquarium in Ireland. The leading attraction inside is a five-tonne skeleton of a fin whale, which beached itself on the shores of County Kerry about 20 years ago. Younger visitors enjoy the hands-on touch pools and the churning splash pool, which is home to a school of sea bass.

Nora Barnacle House

Before Nora Barnacle married James Joyce, she lived here in Galway. Her house has been converted to a museum that chronicles their relationship through photographs and correspondence.

Spanish Arch and Medieval Walls

East of Wolfe Tone Bridge, the Spanish Arch is the most complete remnant of Galway’s old medieval walls. There is a bit of debate regarding its original purpose, though most agree it served to regulate the import of wine and spirits from Spain.

St Nicholas’ Collegiate Church

After visiting the Nora Barnacle House, stop by this 14th-century church, which takes its name from the patron saint of sailors. One of the best-known sailors in history – Christopher Columbus – stopped here to pray in 1477. Guided tours (available every day but Sunday) place the church’s alternating conversions between Roman Catholicism and Protestantism in context.

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