If you’re in search of the best things to do in Galway City and beyond, this guide should come in handy.
Now, as we say in every one of our ‘best of’ guides, what one person thinks is incredible another may think is terrible.
So, in this guide, we’ll bring you a mix of everything from hikes and walks to historical sites, top-notch tours and unique places to visit in Galway.
The best things to do in Galway City and beyond
Galway is home to some of the most notable tourist attractions in Ireland, like Kylemore Abbey, Connemara and the Aran Islands.
However, it also boasts plenty of scenic corners that never make it onto shiny tourist handbooks, as you’ll discover below.
1. The Leenaun to Louisburgh Drive
The route takes you through the magnificent Doolough Valley – a place that makes you feel like you’ve stepped into another world.
Even during the busier months of the year, the Doolough Valley is relatively quiet and it’s a joy to drive/cycle through.
Looking for a Galway itinerary? Hop into our Galway road trip guide, or just keep scrolling!
2. The Sky Road
One of the best things to do in Galway (in my opinion) is to grab a cup of coffee to go from one of the cafes in Clifden and drive or cycle along the Sky Road.
The Sky Road is one of the biggest tourist attractions in the Connemara region. It’s a circular route around 11km long that takes you out west from the buzzy little town of Clifden in Galway.
The scenery you’ll be treated to as you spin along the Sky Road will etch itself upon your mind… as will the wind. It gets fierce blustery up here!
3. The Diamond Hill hike
There are 2 walks here: The Lower Diamond Hill walk (3 km long and takes 1 to 1.5 hours) and the Upper Diamond Hill trail (7 km long and takes 2.5 to 3 hours to complete).
Those who reach the summit on a clear day can kick-back while soaking up outstanding views of Connemara National Park and beyond.
As this hike is one of the more popular things to do in Galway during the summer months, it can get very busy, so arrive early.
4. Kylemore Abbey
The fairytale-like Kylemore Abbey tends to top most guides on the best things to do in Galway for good reason.
Built in 1867, Kylemore Abbey boasts an almost endless number of tales of romance, tragedy, spirituality, and innovation.
The abbey is now home to the Benedictine nuns, who’ve been living there since 1920. You’ll get an eyeful of it from the car park when you arrive.
You can then take a tour of the abbey itself and the grounds. If you’re wondering what to do in Galway when it rains, the abbey tour is a handy go-to!
5. Beaches galore
Although the ones above attract visitors by the bucket-load (terrible pun, I apologise…) there’s plenty of other great beaches worth a look, like:
- Silverstrand Beach Barna
- Trá an Dóilín
- Glassilaun Beach
- Lettergesh Beach
- Traught Beach
- Salthill Beach
6. The Aran Islands
Inis Mor is attraction a lot of attention lately after it was used as a filming location for the Banshees of Inisherin.
Inis Oirr is a joy to cycle around on a fine day with notable attractions including the lighthouse and the Plassey shipwreck.
Inis Meain is the middle island and it’s one of the quieter places to visit in Galway. You’ll find forts and glorious coastal scenery here.
7. Galway Cathedral
A visit to Galway Cathedral is one of the more popular things to do in Galway City. Although it looks like it was built a couple of hundred years ago, it’s actually not that old.
Construction on the cathedral finished in the late 1950s, which makes it the youngest of Europe’s stone cathedrals.
Visitors to the Cathedral can expect Renaissance details combined with Romanesque and Gothic traditions, an impressive mix of art, along with gorgeous rose windows.
If you’re wondering what to do in Galway when it’s raining, a trip to see the cathedral’s impressive interior never fails to dissapoint.
8. Trad pubs in Galway City
You’ll often see drink-related activities listed in many guides on what to do in Galway.
And for good reason. Galway is home to some of the best pubs in the land.
The cosy (but very busy) Tigh Neachtains is, in my opinion, the best of the many (and I mean many) pubs in Galway City.
The Crane Bar is another great spot, especially if you’re looking to attend a trad music session.
9. Inishbofin Island
A visit to Inishbofin is one of the more off-the-beaten-path things to do in Galway. You’ll find the little island of Inishbofin just off the coast of Connemara, not far from the village of Cleggan (it’s a handy 30-minute ferry ride).
This gorgeous island boasts a rich history along with breath-taking Atlantic coast scenery. Look at the views in the photo above… a little slice of magic.
There’s also several brilliant looped walks on the island that’ll treat you to a clatter of scenery while also bringing you past award-winning beaches, ancient sites and plenty more.
Tip: Grab the ferry to Inishbofin from Cleggan Pier. If you’re feeling peckish, nip into Cleggan and try a bit of seafood. Oliver’s Seafood Bar, in particular, is brilliant!
10. Castles galore
If you’re wondering what to do in Galway that many people who visit the city tend to miss, carve out some time to drop by Menlo Castle.
You’ll find the 16th century Menlo Castle on the banks of the River Corrib, a handy 12-minute cycle or a 10-minute drive from Galway City.
Once home to the richest family in Galway in 1592 (the Blakes), Menlo is now a picturesque ruin that’s covered head to toe in ivy. Well worth dropping by.
If you fancy discovering other castles nearby, hop into our guide to the best castles near Galway that are worth a visit.
11. Derrigimlagh Bog
There are plenty of places to visit in Galway, particularly around Connemara, that visiting tourists tend to overlook. One of our favourites is the Derrigimlagh Bog walk (pictured above).
This trail follows a boardwalk that takes you through a blanket bog and that offers some mighty mountain views on a clear day.
One of the highlights is the Alcock and Brown landing site (on the left above). The pair crash landed into the bog in 1919, marking the finish of the world’s first non-stop flight across the Atlantic Ocean.
If you’re wondering what to do in Galway over a summer weekend, base yourself in Clifden and explore all around you.
It’s arguably one of the most picturesque small towns in Ireland and you’ve Connemara and beyond to explore by day and a buzzy little village to retire to at night.
There’s plenty of lively pubs (like Lowry’s) and a there’s a load of great restaurants in Clifden to choose from. Here’s some guides to dive into:
- 7 gorgeous hotels in Clifden worth your €
- 11 b&bs in Clifden that have racked up rave reviews
- 17 of the finest Airbnbs in Clifden
13. The Salthill Prom
If you’re looking for things to do in Galway City that’ll take you away from the crowds, take a wander out to Salthill.
The 3km-long seaside promenade runs from the edge of the Galway City along Salthill and offers fine views out over Galway Bay.
The Blackrock Diving Tower is a now-iconic feature in Galway and can be found along the Salthill promenade.
The tower was erected in 1942 after the near-death of a diver (up until then there was a springboard in place).
14. The Aran Island cruise
There’s some very unique things to do near Galway City if you’re willing to brave the choppy Atlantic.
There’s a tour from Galway City (affiliate link) that takes you out on a cruise to the Cliffs of Moher and the Aran Islands. It’s an 8.5-hour tour and it costs a very reasonable €55.
You’ll depart from the docks in Galway and then be treated to views of the breath-taking Clare coastline and a chunk of Connemara before setting off to Inis Mor Island (you’ll have 4.5 hours on the island).
You’ll then leave the island and get to see the Cliffs of Moher from right below! Grab a ticket here (affiliate link).
15. Omey Island
Omey Island is one of the best-kept secrets in Galway. You’ll find it in Connemara, near Claddaghduff, and it can only be reached at low tide (check tide times in advance!).
You can reach the island by foot, bike or car and it’s the perfect place for those of you looking to things to do in Galway that’ll take you away from the crowds and that’ll immerse you in an area of immense natural beauty.
There’s a number of different walks that you can head off on around Omey but please make sure you understand the tides before visiting.
16. Killary Fjord
I’ve wanted to give this a crack for ages! The Killary Fjord is one of those places that looks like it’s been whipped straight from a painting.
It’s beautiful, unspoiled, and, when there aren’t 5 coaches pulled up in the village of Leenaun, peaceful.
There are several different companies offering boat tours of the harbour and those that climb aboard can soak up spectacular views of the surrounding scenery.
If you’re on the lookout for unique things to do around Galway, give one of the Killary boat tours a bash.
17. Aasleagh Falls
There are few sounds that rival the soft ‘plops’ that emit from a waterfall the size of Aasleagh Falls (it’s pretty small!).
You’ll find the waterfall a stone’s throw from Leenane village on the River Erriff, just before the river meets the Killary Harbour.
You can park the car at a lay-by close to the falls and there’s a pathway that allows visitors to make the short stroll to the waterfall. Stretch the legs and gulp down lungfuls of fresh air.
18. The ‘main’ Galway City attractions
Although many of the best things to do in Galway City can be visited on the hop-on-hop-off bus tour (affiliate link), the city is very walkable.
One of the more notable attractions is the Spanish Arch which is an extension of Galway’s medieval walls. These walls were designed to protect mooring ships at the nearby quay while they unloaded their goods.
The Arch is right next to Galway City Museum – another handy option for those of you wondering what to do in Galway when it’s raining!
This museum is the go-to spot for everything and anything relating to Galway’s rich history and heritage.
19. The Quiet Man Bridge
Our next stop, the Quiet Man Bridge, is one is for those of you that have watched the movie ‘The Quiet Man’ starring John Wayne and Maureen O’Hara.
A good chunk of the movie was filmed in Cong in Mayo, but several scenes were shot around Connemara.
You’ll find the Quiet Man Bridge around 8 km past Oughterard, on the N59 heading west. Even if you haven’t seen the movie this is worth a quick stop off.
20. Glengowla Mines
At a 35-minute drive from the city, the Glengowla Mines are one of the more unique things to do near Galway.
You’ll find the Glengowla Mines deep beneath a mountain in Connemara. It’s here that you can embark on a journey of discovery that’ll uncover how lead and silver were mined here in the 1800s.
Visitors to the mines can:
- Explore the caverns of marble
- Gaze at the stunning crystals of quartz and fluorite
- Learn about the conditions the miners worked under before the mines shut in 1865
If you’re looking for places to visit in Galway with the kids, then the working farm here, where you can see Connemara Ponies, a sheepdog, lambs, and more, is the perfect spot to take them.
21. The Galway Christmas Market
If you’re wondering what to do in Galway in November and December, you can easily plan your trip around the Galway Christmas Markets.
Arguably one of the stand out Christmas Markets in Ireland, the Galway festivities has been kicking off earlier and earlier over the years.
It now begins in early November, bringing with it stalls, amusements and some very impressive lighting.
What to do in Galway: Where have we missed?
I’ve no doubt that we’ve unintentionally left out some brilliant places to visit in Galway from the guide above.
If you have a place that you’d like to recommend, let me know in the comments below and I’ll check it out!
FAQs about what to see in Galway
We’ve had a lot of questions over the years asking about everything from ‘What to do in Galway with kids?’ to ‘What’s on this weekend?’.
In the section below, we’ve popped in the most FAQs that we’ve received. If you have a question that we haven’t tackled, ask away in the comments section below.
What are the best things to do in Galway?
In my opinion, the best things to do in Galway City and beyond are the Diamond Hill hike, Kylemore Abbey, the drive from Leenane to Louisburgh and the Aran Islands.
What is Galway best known for?
It’s arguably best known for its breath-taking Connemara region and the city’s lively pub scene, however, many of the more popular places to visit in Galway, like the Spanish Arch, are widely known.
Is Galway Ireland worth visiting?
Yes, yes and yes again. Galway is a glorious corner of Ireland and you can spend a weekend exploring the city, Connemara and some of the finest food in the land.