There’s an almost endless number of things to do in Galway with family, friends, and as a solo traveller.
From lazy Saturdays spent floating about Galway City to the more strenuous adventures that Connemara boasts in abundance, Galway has a little bit of something for everyone.
In the guide below, you’ll discover a load of different things to do in Galway in 2020, from hikes and walks to cosy pubs, islands and plenty more.
Things to do in Galway in 2020
I’m going to chop this guide up into two different sections, to make it a little bit easier to scan through. The first section tackles what to do in Galway outside of the city.
A lot of people visiting Galway never look outside the city, which is a shame, as it’s outside the buzzy walls of Galway City that you’ll discover some of the most scenic corners of Ireland.
The second section of the guide tackles things to do in Galway city. You’ll find everything from cathedrals and walks to where to grab a post-adventure pint here. Dive on in below!
What to do in Galway (outside of the city)
- Soak up some incredible views from Inishbofin Island
- Visit the incredible Dún Aonghasa
- Grab one of the finest views in Ireland from Diamond Hill
- Spend the night in a castle
- Or kick-back somewhere unique (and far more pocket-friendly)
- Spend a morning spinning along the Sky Road
- See the very other-worldly Wormhole
- Saunter along the sand at Dog’s Bay
- Nurse a pint with a view in Roundstone
- Drop by the largest stone fort on the Aran Islands
1. Soak up some incredible views from Inishbofin Island
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 view 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!
2. Visit the incredible Dún Aonghasa (one of my favourite things to do in Galway)
If you’re looking for unique things to do in Galway, take a ferry over to Inis Mor island (one of the three Aran Islands) and cycle out to Dún Aonghasa.
Few places in Galway boast a location as spectacular as this place. Dún Aonghasa was originally constructed c.1100BC to impede attackers.
It later re-fortified around 700-800 AD. Standing out at Dún Aonghasa makes you feel like you’re perched at the place where Ireland ends.
The gorgeous craggy cliffs, the immense power of the wind and the crash of the waves below send shockwaves through your senses.
3. Grab one of the finest views in Ireland from Diamond Hill
A morning spent up Diamond Hill is one of the best things to do in Ireland, never mind Galway. A quick nosey at the photo above should tell you why.
It’s from the top of Diamond Hill where you can soak up a view of Connemara that’ll knock you sideways.
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).
Tip: If you fancy giving this hike a go, nip into this guide. You’ll find everything you need to know.
4. Spend the night in a castle
If you’re looking for luxurious things to do in Galway (isn’t it well for ye!), get yourself to the very swanky Ballynahinch Castle.
This place is up there with the best castle hotels in Ireland and you’ll find it tucked away in Connemara on a beautiful 700-acre estate of woodland and rivers.
Now, a night here isn’t cheap (you could spend anything from €350 upwards), but staying here is a fairly unique experience.
The castle boasts old-world charm mixed with all of the modern comforts that you come to expect from a luxury hotel.
5. Or kick-back somewhere unique (and far more pocket-friendly)
If you’re wondering where to stay in Galway that’s unique and very pocket-friendly this place should tickle your fancy.
Imagine peeling yourself out of bed before the sun rears its head, brewing up a coffee, and sauntering a few feet to the sand to sip it as you watch the sunrise?!
That’s what’s on offer at Aran Glamping on Inis Mór Island. You can explore the island by day and kick-back in some very quirky accommodation by night (it’s also great value!)
If you’d like to see what other unique accommodation Galway has to offer, hop into our Airbnb Galway guide (it’s packed with quirky rentals!).
6. Spend a morning spinning along 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 magnificent Sky Road.
On a cool winters morning, there’s just nothing like it in the world. 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 Clifden.
The scenery you’ll be treated to as you spin along the Sky Road will etch itself upon your mind. There are few places in Ireland that can go toe-to-toe with the raw beauty and vast range of scenery that those who drive along the Sky Road experience.
7. See the very other-worldly Wormhole
Poll na bPeist, also known as ‘the Wormhole’ and ‘The Serpent’s Lair’, is a naturally formed (yes, really) hole in the limestone on Inis Mór Island that connects to the sea.
You might remember Poll na bPeist from the Red Bull Cliff Diving event back in 2004. Divers jumped from a diving board on the cliffs above down into the chilly waters below.
Poll na bPeist looks like it was created with precision by some enormous machine. It’s surreal to think that it was formed by Mother Nature.
8. Saunter along the sand at Dog’s Bay
If you’re wondering what to do in Galway that’ll keep you away from the hoards of tourists that flock to the city and Kylemore Abbey, get yourself out to Dog’s Bay Beach.
Dog’s Bay is a horseshoe-shaped bay that boasts over a mile of unspoiled white sandy beach along with gorgeous clear water.
You’ll find this little hidden gem a short drive or cycle from Roundstone Village where you’ll find plenty of places to grab a pre or post-walk bite-to-eat.
9. Nurse a pint with a view in Roundstone
You’ll find O’Dowds Seafood Bar in the gorgeous little village of Roundstone, overlooking the harbour. I’ve heard the food here is great, but it’s the pint with a view that has me itching to visit.
On a fine day, you can kick-back outside and enjoy a panoramic view out over Roundstone Bay and the Twelve Bens. A little bit of magic by the water.
10. Drop by the largest stone fort on the Aran Islands
Measuring in at 70 by 35 metres, Dún Chonchúir (Conor’s Fort) on Inis Meáin Island is the largest stone fort on the Aran Islands.
The fort can be found at Inis Meáin’s highest point and it’s thought to have been built during in the first or second millennium.
If you look at the top-left section of the photo above you’ll be able to see the fort. You’ll get a nice view of the island and beyond from here!
11. Have a ramble around the fairytale-like Kylemore Abbey
The fairytale-like Kylemore Abbey in Connemara is arguably one of the most iconic places to see in Galway. It’s like something whipped from a Disney movie!
Built in 1867 as a gift for Margaret Henry, 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. Now, you can go inside Kylemore Abbey, if you fancy.
However, I’ve visited a few times over the years and you can get a decent view (the one above) from near the car park.
12. Spin around Connemara National Park
One of my favourite parts of any road trip is wandering. It involves, quite literally, just setting off and driving wherever your gut and the scenery that surrounds you takes you.
The National Park is a pretty safe place to do this. You tend to end up surrounded by an almost other-worldly mountainous landscape regardless of which way you point the car/bike.
Even when you visit on a miserable day (like the one in the photo above) the place still looks like from an oil painting.
If you’d rather see exactly what there is to see and do in and around the National Park, hop into our guide to the best things to do in Connemara.
13. Spend a day cycling around Inis Oirr
Another of my favourite things to do in Galway (I’m like a broken record, I know…) is to grab a ferry over to Inis Oírr and rent a bike for the day.
There’s something brilliant about spinning along mile after mile of hand-built stone wall while catching views out across the island.
If you visit, make sure to tip on up to O’Brien’s Castle. You’ll be able to soak up some fine views from here. On a clear day, you’ll see the Cliffs of Moher off in the distance along with the Burren and Galway Bay.
14. Visit the hidden gem that is Renvyle Beach
I Whatsapped a friend from Barna back in 2018 asking him for ideas on what to do in Galway that I wouldn’t have done during previous visits with him.
He recommended Renvyle. So, in March of 2018 a couple of us visited. The Renvyle peninsula is easily, in my opinion, one of Galway’s’ greatest hidden gems.
This corner of Galway is home to a heap of history, a number of archaeological sites and a castle that was once home to Grace O’Malley. It’s also home to the gorgeous beach above.
15. Cycle or drive from Leenaun to Louisburgh
You’re probably sick of hearing me talking about this drive at this stage. One of my favourite drives in Ireland starts in Galway and finishes in Mayo.
It takes you from the gorgeous little village of Leenaun on the Killary Fjord to the often-overlooked town of Louisburgh in Mayo.
I’ve done it 3 times at this stage and I’d gladly do it 33 times more. This part of Galway is quiet, breathtakingly beautiful and a joy to explore by car, foot or bike.
16. Visit Menlo Castle (perfect for those of you looking for unique things to do in Galway)
If you’re wondering what to see 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.
17. Explore the slightly off-the-beaten-path 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. This walk, in particular, is well worth a crack. Over 1 to 2 hours (depending on pace), you’ll encounter beaches, endless scenery and a number of ancient sites.
18. Drop by 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.
19. Spend a night in the buzzy little town of Clifden
If you’re wondering what to do in Galway over a summer weekend, base yourself in Clifden and explore all around you.
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 (is maith liom Lowry’s) and a load of great restaurants to choose from.
I’m not long back from a memorable night here. We arrived late in the evening, checked into our hotel and quickly made out way down to Guys Bar & Snug for a bite to eat.
We polished the day off in Lowry’s Bar with a few pints while listening to live music. A mighty few days.
20. Listen to the water crash at 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 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.
21. Explore the Glengowla Mines
If you’re looking for slightly off-the-beaten-path things to do in Galway, this should tickle your fancy. 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.
22. Hop on a boat and catch an incredible view of the 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.
Things to do in Galway City
- Take a ramble inside Galway Cathedral
- Tuck into an ice cream from Murphy’s and head for a ramble down to the Spanish Arch
- Visit the Galway Christmas Market (one of the best things to do in Galway at Christmas)
- Muster up your very own bottle of gin at the Galway Gin School
- Or just head to Hyde – the pub with the biggest gin selection in Ireland
- Take a walking tour of Galway City with a local
- Find a seat outside Tigh Neachtain and watch the world go by
- Grab a fish and chips to go from McDonagh’s and eat them while you people-watch in Eyre Square
- Take a walk along the Salthill Prom
- Hop into the water from Blackrock Diving Board if you’re feeling brave
1. Take a ramble inside Galway Cathedral
Galway Cathedral is one of the most impressive buildings 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.
2. Tuck into an ice cream from Murphy’s and head for a ramble down to the Spanish Arch
Murphy’s Ice Cream is ridiculously expensive… and I mean ridiculously. But it’s also pretty damn tasty (if you’re on a budget, there are several other ice cream sellers along Shop St. and Quay St.).
Grab an ice cream and head for a ramble down towards the Spanish Arch. It’s believed that the Spanish Arch is an extension of Galway’s medieval city walls, which were designed to protect mooring ships at the nearby quay while they unloaded their goods.
On a fine day, you’ll find the area that surrounds the Arch buzzing away with buskers and people chilling and chatting.
3. Visit the Galway Christmas Market (one of the best things to do in Galway)
Galway City is a cracking spot to spend a couple of days, regardless of what time of the year it is.
The city’s forever abuzz with a relentless giddy atmosphere that tends to infect the soul and leave you constantly craving more.
However, the arrival of the Galway Christmas markets each year in late November adds another layer of brilliance to the city.
4. Muster up your very own bottle of gin at the Galway Gin School
if you’re wondering what to do in Galway City when it’s raining, this should tickle your fancy. You can make your own gin in Galway, thanks to a partnership between the Galway Gin School and Listoke Distillery.
When you arrive at the Galway Gin School you’ll be greeted with 3 different gins to taste test. When you’ve decided on a flavour profile that you fancy, you’ll be guided through to the distilling section.
You’ll then distil your very own bottle of gin in your own little still. There’s also refreshments and G&Ts are served throughout the class.
5. Or just head to Hyde – the pub with the biggest gin selection in Ireland
If you’re not arsed distilling your own, you can always nip into Hyde Bar and Gin Parlour. It’s inside the quirky walls of this pub that you’ll find Ireland’s largest selection of gin.
You’ll have your pick of 500+ gins from across the world. If you fancy a feed, the food from Hyde is said to rival many of the best restaurants in Galway.
6. Take a walking tour of Galway City with a local
A walking tour with a local is a great way to soak up the history of a city. You tend to pick up stories and insights that you wouldn’t normally get from tour books and, eh, websites…
Those that join this walking tour will be accompanied by Brian Nolan, a seasoned guide, as he wanders the streets of Galway City.
Expect tales of war and conquest, joy and tragedy, emigration and slavery, and success and folly. Well worth doing (we’re in no way affiliated).
7. Grab a seat outside Tigh Neachtain and watch the world go by
Tigh Neachtains is, in my opinion, the best of the many (and I mean manypubs in Galway City) .
If you arrive at Neachtains pub and see a couple of free seats, hop on them. Not literally obviously, but on a fine day it’s near impossible to get a seat here.
Actually, scratch that – I’ve tried to grab a seat outside Tig Neachtains on a miserable day and it was still a struggle!
If you manage to do so, this is a cracking spot to nurse a pint while doing a bit of people watching.
8. Grab a fish and chips to go from McDonagh’s and eat them while you people-watch in Eyre Square
The best chipper (places that sell, you guessed it, chips, for our non-Irish readers) in Galway is McDonagh’s.
I’ve had many a feed from here and it’s always 10/10. Grab a bag of chips or whatever tickles your fancy and head down towards Eyre Square.
Eyre Square is another spot in the city that’s great to kick-back for a while and do a bit of people watching.
9. Take a walk along 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.
If you’re feeling peckish post-stroll, Da Roberta’s Ristorante and Pizzeria is supposed to be top-notch. There’s plenty of other restaurants and pubs out here you can sample if you like.
10. Hop into the water from Blackrock Diving Board if you’re feeling brave
I’ve wanted to walk out to Salthill and hop off the diving board there for years. I’d like to say that the only thing stopping me doing is the lack of opportunity…
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).
If you fancy braving the chilly depths of Galway Bay, lash on your swimming gear and take a dive.
11. Warm your cockles with a whiskey tasting at Garavan’s
A group of us gave the whiskey tasting at Garavan’s a bash last winter. None of us knew the first thing about whiskey but it was cold, the pub was cosy and sure look, why not…
The whiskey tasting was decent value and it came with a little platter that was accompanied by an information booklet that walks you through each whiskey. We went with the €13 platter which contained:
- Tullamore Dew 12-Year-Old Whiskey (delish)
- Redbreast 12-Year-Old Whiskey (delish x 50)
- Connemara Peated Whiskey (it’s been 7 months and I can still taste it…)
Well worth trying if you’re looking for things to do in Galway and you’re a fan of whiskey/trying local drinks.
12. Chow down on one of the best pizzas in the land at Dough Bros
If you’re a pizza fan, Dough Bros is going to make your belly happy. The food here is reasonably priced, the quality is hard to beat and there’s a fine selection of beer to wash it all down with.
The ‘Peter Stinger’ pizza (Irish Margherita with Gubbeen Smokehouse Chorizo, double garlic, fresh chilli, a good drizzle of Noel’s Hot Honey) is the bee’s knees!
13. Whittle away an evening in a cosy pub with friends
If you’ve read our guide to the best pubs in Galway, you’ll know that there’s no end to the number of mighty little bars in the city.
Spend a morning and afternoon hiking and exploring Connemara and an evening tucked away in a cosy pub chilling and chatting with friends.
The pick of the bunch, in my opinion, are Garavan’s, Neachtains, O’Connell’s, the Crane Bar (great for live music) and the Front Door.
14. Soak up a view from the jacuzzi at the Hardiman
I get away less and less these days. So, when I do, I try to spend the night somewhere that’s not going to break the bank and that’s still class.
While the Hardiman Hotel looks like a decent spot to stay in the city, it’s their jacuzzi that caught my attention a while back.
It looks straight out towards the sea. There’s also an outdoor Canadian Hottub… Hop into our guide to the best hotels in Galway for more info.
15. Tantalise your tastebuds on a guided food tour of the city
Food tours have started to take many of Ireland’s cities by storm. The folks at Galway Food Tours launched an evening tour that helps visitors get to know the city through food.
Over the course of 3 hours, you’ll explore Galway city’s award-winning bars and restaurants and taste delicious foods from family-run businesses and artisanal producers.
You’ll also sip away on craft beer and take part in whiskey and oyster tastings.
16. Step back in time at Galway City Museum
You’ll find the Galway City Museum overlooking the historic Spanish Arch, where it’s been since 2006.
This museum is the go-to spot for everything and anything relating to Galway’s rich history and heritage.
Visitors can explore collections on prehistoric and medieval Galway, and dive into many aspects of Galway’s social history.
Expect to learn about everything from the city’s UNESCO ‘City of Film’ status to what Galway City looked like in the late 19th century.
17. Visit during the Film Fleadh… or the International Arts Festival… or the Oyster Festival… or the races
As you may have guessed, Galway hosts its fair share of festivals over the year. From film and movie festivals to the oyster festival and the Galway Races, there are plenty of lively events to plan your trip around.
Now, with all of the disruptions in 2020, it’s likely that it’ll be 2021 at the earliest that these festivals will return. Here are the 2019 dates to give you an idea of when they take place:
- Galway International Arts Festival: 15 – 28 July
- Galway Film Fleadh: 9th – 14th July
- Galway Oyster Festival: September 27th – 29th
18. Visit the home of the Claddagh Ring
If you’re in search of unique things to do in Galway City, head over to Thomas Dillons Claddagh Gold Jewellers on Quay Street.
Although many retailers in Ireland claim to be the original maker of the Claddagh Ring, Thomas Dillons is where the original design was born.
They’ve been crafting jewellery since way back in 1750 and are the only producer that can get ‘Original’ stamped on each Claddagh ring by the Irish Assay Office in Dublin Castle.
If, like me, you live a couple of hours from Galway, you may find yourself pointing the car out west and heading over on a Friday after work.
Unsurprisingly enough, there are tonnes of things to do in Galway at the weekend. Here are a few different places where you can find what’s on:
This is Galway for live events
If you’re wondering what to do in Galway on any given weekend, look no further than the This Is Galway website.
It’s always up-to-date with different things that are taking place on a Friday, Saturday or Sunday in Galway City and beyond.
Galway tourism for a guide to all events
The Galway tourism website is another great resource for those of you in search of things to do in Galway at the weekend. Dive in and browse hundreds of different events by month.
Things to do in Galway with kids
Kids can be pretty damn tricky to keep amused. Thankfully, there are plenty of things to do in Galway that are perfect for keeping kids occupied:
- Visit Galway Aquarium for a couple of hours
- Take a spin out to the Burren Nature Sanctuary
- Drop by Brigit’s Gardens and have a ramble around the 11 acres of native woodland and wildflower meadows
- Check out the donkeys, ponies, and alpacas at Loughwell Farm Park
- Keep ’em busy at Leisureland in Salthill
What to see in Galway: where have we missed?
The guides on this site rarely sit still. They grow based on feedback and recommendations from readers and locals that visit and comment.
Are there things to do in Galway that we’ve missed? Let me know in the comments below and I’ll check them out!