Tourist Attractions in Galway City
Places to see within walking distance of The House Hotel
Our city is as famous for its fantastic food and nightlife as it is for its cutting-edge arts, music, design and theatre scenes but more importantly it’s warm welcoming people, that make it feel like it’s not a city at all. Known as the City of Tribes, there’s rarely a weekend without a festival or cultural celebration in the city. Even if there isn’t, you could spend hours exploring its maze of colourful cobbled streets, and it won’t be long before the sound of a traditional session draws you into a local pub. Spend some time strolling around our beautiful Galway City, here are just some of the spots we recommend by day or night
Where The House Hotel is located, the LatinQuarter is on the left bank of the River Corrib from O’Briens Bridge down to the Spanish Arch.
In this small and sociable place you’ll come by many of Galway’s favourite pubs, bars, restaurants, galleries and shops. If you’re on the hunt for classic Irish arts and crafts you’ll be in luck at the Latin Quarter, where shops like the Galway Woollen Market abound with traditional knitwear and are stocked with the local pure wool you’ll need for your own project. Street-performers and entertainers provide a constant folk soundtrack whether you’re window shopping, seeing the sights or bar-hopping.
Galway’s main public space is just up from the Latin Quarter, and was originally a town green in front of the old gates, used for markets. In the 2000s Eyre Square was completely re-landscaped at huge expense, becoming a modern plaza. There’s a bronze cast of a statue of Pádraic Ó Conaire, one of Ireland’s foremost Irish-language writers, and a bust of John F. Kennedy who had the freedom of Galway. The 14 Tribes of Galway are also represented with flags bearing the family colours. The Eyre Square Centre on the south border of the square is Galway’s prime shopping centre, with more than 70 high street chains and eateries, which our sister hotel The Hardiman is also located.
Sloping down to the river in the Latin Quarter, Quay Street is a fun and friendly pedestrian artery with colourful storefronts, trendy shops, restaurants and bar terraces under awnings. Rain or shine there are buskers along the way playing jaunty tunes. There’s a fun, welcoming buzz in all the pubs, which also have live music, dancing and reasonable prices despite being bang on the tourist trail. Between the eateries and bars are stores like Twice as Nice, purveying vintage clothes and wool, or the Wooden Heart next door, making its own traditional wooden toys.
Head southwest of the city centre and you’ll soon come to the Salthill Promenade, two kilometres long with a beautiful perspective from the north side of the bay. If you’re fortunate enough to walk the promenade when the skies are clear you’ll see the outline of The Burren down in County Clare, while up in the northwest are the peaks of Connemara. The land behind the promenade was set aside for farming until the Great Famine in the middle of the 19th century, and was then set up for early tourism in 1860 with the arrival of the Eglinton Hotel, which is still here today. The promenade is lined with bars, seafood restaurants and cafés. You can drop in at the Galway Atlantaquaria, run by the National Aquarium of Ireland, or watch the yacht sails zipping across the water in the summer.
To look at Galway Cathedral you could be mistaken for thinking that this dignified limestone construction is centuries old. In truth it was begun in 1958 and completed in 1965, on the site of Galway’s old city prison. The architecture is a big jumble, and has Romanesque influences in its plain walls and narrow semi-circular window arches, Gothic in its traceried rose above the main portal, and Renaissance in its barrel vault and magnificent dome reminiscent of Il Duomo di Firenze. The windows are the work of British stained glass artist Patrick Pollen, who also produced a mosaic depicting the crucifixion and St Joseph the Worker, while the German-Irish sculptor Imogen Stuart created animage of the Virgin Mary.
Dating back to 1320, this church is Ireland’s largest medieval parish church hosting regular services. It is dedicated to St Nicholas of Myra, the patron saint of seafarers and constructed from Galway’s signature grey limestone. In the middle of the 17th century the largest body of Irish genealogical lore, Leabhar na nGenealach, recording the heritage of families across Ireland, was written at this very place. Most of the architecture is from the 14th and 15th centuries when the church was enlarged. You can find evidence of iconoclasm inside, carried out by the Puritan Oliver Cromwell’s troops in the 17th century. The baptismal font is from roughly this period and has an image of a dog carved into its side, while the oldest ledger stone in the church belongs to one Adam Bures, dating back to the 1200s.
Right beside The House Hotel, by the Corrib River, the Galway City museum opened in a new building in 2007 and is a free and multifaceted attraction covering Galway’s archaeology, folk history, art and natural history. You can see a traditional Galway sailboat, known as a “hooker”, and the “Great Mace” a magnificent piece of ornamental silverware produced in Dublin at the start of the 18th century. Fragments from the 16th and 17th centuries are presented in the “Medieval Stone Collection”, which has corbels, plaques, coats of arms, chimney fragments and two complete 16th-century fireplaces. There’s also a photography gallery documenting the city from the 1950s onwards, and artefacts like pipes, bottles and tin signs from Galway’s pubs dating to the 19th and 20th centuries.
Named after one of Galway’s 14 Tribes, the quaint Kirwan’s Lane lies inside Galway’s former city walls. This tight pedestrian street curves through a ravine of rustic stone houses that have elements dating back to the 16th and 17thcenturies.These buildings hold pubs, restaurants, cafes and arts and crafts shops, and outdoor tables skirt the path when the weather’s good. Busker Browne’s Pub here has the vestiges of the Dominican Slate Nunnery, donated by John Kirwan in 1686.
Right in front of the Galway City Museum are the last surviving arches of the Ceann an Bhalla, or Front Wall. Known as the Spanish Arch, this structure was part of defence running from the old Martin’s Tower to the Corrib River to defend Galway’s quays. And while the arches aren’t exactly a stirring monument it’s worth remembering that they date all the way back to 1584, and also sustained damage from the tsunami caused by the Lisbon Earthquake of 1755.
May to September you can catch this boat up the River Corrib to the lake (lough) of the same name. The Corrib River Princess sails twice a day from Woodquay in the middle of the city and on the 90-minute trip you’ll journey through green, pastoral countryside, with farms on the south and east shore of the lake and heath and bog to the north and west. The lake is also loved for its many islands, with more than 1,300 at the last count. On the river you’ll pass the ruins of Menlo Castle, a 16th-century mansion that burnt down in 1910 and is now completely taken over by ivy. The Corrib Princess sets off at 12:30 and14:30, and there’s an extra trip at 16:30 in July and August.
Get the best of both worlds by taking in Galway’s famous Spanish Arch and then just behind it you will find Galway City Museum. This museum immerses you in the intriguing history of the city and the local connection to the sea. There is so much to learn how the city you feel you know so well was shaped over the centuries – with free admission, you’ve no excuse not to drop in.
On top of the amazing natural wonders and unique attractions Galway has to offer, the City of tribes is also home to year-round festivals that encompass, arts, culture, music, dance, sports, macnas, the Galway races, food and so much more! Galway is renowned for its charismatic charm, warm welcoming natives and its electric atmosphere all of which are magnified even more so with a festival. Visit Galway during festival time and you’ll understand the city’s reputation as a party town. Every summer, this western gem comes alive with festivals that draw the very best of local and international talent. Be wowed with the quality of the Galway International Arts Festival (July), see something unique at the Galway Film Fleadh (July), and find out why the Galway International Oyster Festival (September) has been called one of the greatest events on earth.