After spending three weeks in Ireland, I kept mentioning one city again and again when telling my friends about this trip. I adored so much of Ireland, but I felt such a strong connection with Galway City. It’s hard to describe. Even I only spent one day in Galway, but I could see myself living there. Yes, there are many fun things to do in Galway, but it’s the overall vibe of the city that stole my heart.
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Have you ever been to a place like that? One where in the middle of your travels, you could simply settle down, unpack all of your things, and stay put? There are many things to do in Galway, but you could really do nothing at all and enjoy this place. You could listen to the constant stream of music from every corner. Wander the cobblestone streets that continually lead to interesting discoveries. Appreciate the random bursts of color on homes and fences.
At one point in the day, it poured rain and I got completely drenched. But, it didn’t even matter. The energy and spirit of Galway flowed through the streets and through me; I lived in the moment and grateful for every second of it.
I urge you to spend at least one day in Galway, if not longer. While I only spent 24 hours in Galway, my departure was bittersweet. It was exciting to explore more areas of Ireland, but I also wished I could stay. Here are some of the best things to do in Galway for one memorable day in this Irish town.
Breakfast or Lunch at The Lighthouse Cafe
To start your one day in Galway, dine at a local restaurant for a delicious meal. My first stop was at a cozy little vegetarian cafe called The Lighthouse. It’s a coffee house, tea room, and vegetarian/vegan lunch establishment. When I arrived, I didn’t realize that lunch wasn’t served until noon. However, there were slices of cake and dessert with coffee ready to go, so I had my dessert before my meal. Hey, what’s a girl to do?
I didn’t eat the entire slice of cake before lunch as I didn’t want to totally ruin my appetite. The slice of chocolate/cardamom/orange torte was delicious, but the veggie burger I ordered was just as tasty. I highly recommend trying their butter bean and parsley veggie burger with herb tahini, hummus, and fresh tomato salsa. Along with their small menu, there are daily specials written on a blackboard.
Whether you’re looking for coffee and cake or a light lunch, stop by The Lighthouse for a yummy and satisfying meal to begin the day on a full and happy stomach. Thankfully, there are lots of vegan and veg-friendly restaurants in Galway. The Lighthouse is one of those places!
Free Things to Do in Galway: Visit Charlie Byrne’s Bookshop
Are you a fan of independent bookshops and libraries? I love finding quaint and unique bookstores on my travels, and Charlie Byrne’s is a shop you can browse for hours. It’s one of the best free things to do in Galway until you gather up a bunch of books that you want to buy! In a labyrinth of rooms, you’ll find 100,000 books of every variety and genre imaginable.
The knowledgeable staff meticulously organizes the books by subject matter, and there’s even a section devoted to Irish literature. If you’re seeking any books about Ireland or local history, this is one of the best places to visit in Galway. Charlie Byrne’s Bookshop is a pretty iconic spot with books stacked all around its front entrance ways, so don’t forget to snap a few pictures of its exterior. If you’re seeking what to do in Galway for a day, definitely pop by Charlie Byrne’s to take a peek.
One Day in Galway: Wander Around the Latin Quarter
The Latin Quarter is a picturesque area of Galway that you can’t help but fall in love with. The main street is called Quay Lane, and it’s is a pedestrian area lined with shops, cafes, and restaurants. There are flags waving in the breeze from every rooftop and streamers floating across the streets. Walking down Quay Lane and absorbing the bustling atmosphere is one of the top things to do in Galway.
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You’ll find many talented musicians performing on various street corners. It’s organized very well in that one artist plays at a time, or the musicians are far enough apart so the songs don’t compete in any way. The Latin Quarter is a very lively spot. You can spend hours exploring this street, along with its neighboring ones. Admire the ever changing street art, poke your head into the shops, or stop to listen to a song or two by a street performer. If you’re searching for what to see in Galway, you don’t want to miss walking the streets of the city center.
Afternoon Tea At Cupan Tae
After walking around for a while, rest your legs and tempt your taste buds at Cupán Tae. There’s a massive menu of tea selections in dozens of varieties, plus it’s served up in an elegant teapot and teacup. It’s a classic tea shop that reminds me of stopping for tea at your grandmother’s home. It’s cozy, warm and inviting, just like a soothing cup of tea.
My tea was “Merlin’s Magic Elixir” – apple bits, grapes, rosehip petals, lemon myrtle, and marigold petals. You could also purchase loose leaf tea from the shop to bring home with you. Cupan Tea is one of the best couples things to do in Galway with your partner, and it’s also a great stop for a girls’ day on the town. I visited with my travel buddy, Ashley, and it was great to savor a soothing cup of tea over good conversation.
Eyre Square And #WhatLiftsYou Mural
Continue walking around town by taking a stroll past Eyre Square. Many streets all intersect at this large park. The Quincentennial Fountain features a sculpture depicting Galway Hookers, traditional fishing boats used in Galway Bay. It’s one of the Galway attractions that’s worth stopping by for a look. In December, there’s a small Christmas Market at Eyre Square.
We also stumbled upon a pair of #WhatLiftsYou angel wings on a wall near Eyre Square, as painted by street artist Kelsey Montague. Similar wings exist in Nashville and all over the world. These ones are just outside of O’Connells Bar and they’re perfect for a photo opportunity. Please note that I didn’t plan to match my sweater to the art as this find was a complete surprise – it just worked out that way! With so many awesome free things to do in Galway City, there are so many chances to take beautiful photos along the way.
Lunch At TGO Falafel Bar
By now, maybe you’re feeling a little bit hungry again. Pop by the TGO Falafel Bar for a delicious quick bite to eat. It might look like an ordinary falafel joint, but it’s so much more. The Gourmet Offensive (TGO) Falafel Bar has long established relationships with local farmers for high quality and fresh ingredients. They started off in the Galway Market before migrating to their permanent location.
While it only makes sense to order falafel at the TGO Falafel Bar, I decided to try their Seitan Shawarma. It isn’t every day that you find a vegan shawarma on a restaurant menu, and it certainly didn’t disappoint. The wrap was perfectly spiced, and it even comes with a side of fries. Order your meal downstairs and head upstairs to dine.
What to Do in Galway: Walk on the River Corrib
The River Corrib is the shortest river in Europe, spanning only 6km in length from the lake to the Atlantic Ocean. It’s a pretty powerful river with rushing waters. In fact, it’s the fastest flowing river in Europe! If you’re looking for fun things to do in Galway City, you can also try kayaking on the Corrib River.
Definitely embark on a walk here between the city center and the university as it’s super pretty. There are many picturesque homes in this stretch as well with brightly painted doors and greenery growing up the walls. All in all, it’s a very photogenic area of Galway, so don’t forget to snap a few pictures while you’re here.
Galway Attractions: Discover the Street Art
Galway is a very vibrant and eclectic city, and it’s apparent in its street art and colorful murals. You’ll see some of it in the Latin Quarter, but the best street art is across the River Corrib between the city center and the university.
Wander up and down the side streets and alleyways to admire unique works of art. It’s one of the best things to do in Galway City, and something different if you’re seeking what to do in Galway for a day.
Places to Visit in Galway: The University Grounds
The National University of Ireland Galway has stunning old buildings that look straight out of a film. Out of all the things to do in Galway, this was one of my favourites. Vines and leaves creep around each structure, and it’s worth a peaceful and quiet walk around the property. If you have lots of time in Galway (more than one day in Galway like I had), you might even sit on a bench for a while and read a book.
At one point while I was there, it started to rain…and then hail! Big chunks of ice pelted down from the sky. I took coverage in a nearby building with several university students until the storm let up. The weather is constantly changing in Ireland, and I’m pretty sure I saw just about every variety of weather all in one day!
Top Things to Do in Galway: The Long Walk
After checking out the university property, walk back into town and down to the waterfront. The Long Walk is one of the most iconic Galway attractions. It’s a stretch of houses facing the water near the Spanish Arch. Galway used to be a medieval walled city, but very little remains of its fortifications. Built in 1584, there are two remaining arches from an old city wall that used to protect Galway’s quays. They were partially destroyed in 1755 from a tsunami created from an earthquake in Lisbon. This area certainly belongs on any list of places to visit in Galway.
Once you walk through the Spanish Arch, you’ll see a long stretch of colorful homes and the river. Take a stroll down to the end and back. There are lots of swans and seabirds along the waterfront, and I suggest taking the time to relax as the sun starts to go down. It’s one of the most beautiful places to go in Galway, and one that will evoke great memories of the city when you look back on your trip.
Pizza for Dinner at The Dough Bros
Looking for the best pizza in Ireland? The Dough Bros makes one of the best pizzas I’ve had in a long time, and it’s quite an institution in Galway. They use wood fired pizza ovens and the pizza is outstanding.
They have a few vegan pizzas on the menu, complete with vegan cheese. I ordered the Buffalo Soldier (Buffalo mozzarella, balsamic red onion, portobello mushroom and basil) along with garlic bread. The restaurant has lots of 80s and 90s nostalgia through its decorative memorabilia. Naturally, I adored the restaurant even more for its Super Mario and Nintendo decor.
More Galway Attractions and Tours
There are so many things to do in Galway, more than you can possibly experience with only one day in Galway. If you decide to spend a couple of days here, here are even more suggestions for what to do in Galway. I’ll be drawing upon these recommendations for my return visit to Galway City, which I hope is sooner than later!
- Visit the Galway City Museum: it’s 100% free to visit and has three floors of exhibitions relating to local history about the city. One of the best free things to do in Galway for sure.
- Step inside Lynch’s Castle: a four story fortified medieval house that was home to the powerful and influential Lynch family
- See the Lynch Memorial Window: A little piece of history where the town’s mayor hung his son from the window after he killed a Spanish visitor. This is where the term, “lynch mob” originated.
- Take a Segway Tour of Galway: Learn about the history and heritage of Galway while gliding through the Latin Quarter, Claddagh, The Long Walk, The Corrib, Spanish Arch, Eyre Square and more.
- Brews, spirits, and pubs more your jam? Go on a craft beer tour of Galway to try some local brews, or this Irish Whiskey Experience in Galway will allow you to learn about and sample local whiskey.
- Want to combine drinking with a tour of Galway? Try this pedal pub crawl where you’ll hop aboard a pub on wheels to get from point A to point B!
- Visit the Galway Cathedral: A modern cathedral with a large, green dome that features a mosaic of JF Kennedy.
- Collegiate Church of St. Nicholas: A medieval, 14th-century Anglican Episcopal church with beautiful architecture.
If you’re looking for a couple of short getaways from Galway, I recommend hiking the Burren, visiting the iconic Cliffs of Moher, or spending a day or two on the Aran Islands.
Where to Stay in Galway
After you’re finished exploring all of the things to do in Galway, you need a place to get a restful night’s sleep. I highly recommend that you check out the Connacht Hotel. Even though it’s not right in the city center, there are many reasons why you should stay there. First, the hotel is clean, comfortable, and has everything you need for a great overnight stay. The Connacht Hotel offers a luxurious stay at an affordable price.
If you’re traveling on an Ireland road trip, you’ll need somewhere to park the car. In Galway, parking can be quite expensive, so it’s nice to save a little bit of money with the hotel’s free parking. There are outdoor and indoor parking lots with tons of spaces for your vehicle. Be sure to book your stay at the Connacht Hotel and please feel free to check out more reviews of the Connacht Hotel.
Galway Travel Map
Are you a visual kind of person? Here are the best places to go in Galway, all together on a map. Feel free to reference this Google map when you’re out and about or as you’re planning your trip to Galway Ireland.
Hopefully this article provides you with lots of suggestions for things to do in Galway. From eating tons of delicious food to exploring this historic and colorful city, I hope that you fall in love with Galway just as much as I did.