A bustling, bohemian hub on the west coast of Ireland, Galway (otherwise known as the City of Tribes) has been named the European Capital of Culture 2020 for good reason.
With an arts and culture scene rivaling that of a big city, great food, stunning scenery and no shortage of fascinating landmarks, Galway city is well worthy of a weekend visit.
As well as experiencing the city itself, the wider county, which forms a part of the celebrated Wild Atlantic Way, also has plenty to offer the tourists who flock here year in year out.
How to get there: Thanks to the Dublin to Galway M6 motorway, getting to Galway from Dublin by car is quick work. There are also plenty of public transport options for travellers to Galway, making it the perfect weekend destination anyone who fancies a trip to the wild and wonderful west coast of Ireland.
Where to stay: This Galway hotel in the city centre can’t be beaten as a base for exploring the heart of the city.
The Best Guided Tours of Galway City
Whether you’re in Galway for a weekend or simply sightseeing for the day, there’s no better way to get a proper feel for the place than with a local tour guide who knows the place inside and out. Here are the best ways to explore the sights with a guide in tow, whether you prefer to walk, bike, sail or bus your way around!
1. Stretch your legs on a guided walking tour of Galway.
With most of the best sights of Galway situated in a comparatively small area (less than 50 acres) this lively and historic city is easy to explore on your own two foot in a matter of hours.
If you’re keen to get those walking shoes on and explore Galway’s best sights by foot, we recommend going with Galway Tours. In under two hours, you’ll experience first hand all of Galway’s main attractions, including Eyre Square, the Spanish Arch, Claddagh Village, the home of Nora Barnacle (James Joyce’s wife), the courthouse, Lynch’s Castle, the Collegiate Church of St Nicholas, the Pro Cathedral and the river walkway and mill streams. They also offer guided historical walking tours of Galway’s most iconic pubs.
When: Daily, flexible starting times
Cost: Starting at €80, discounts available for larger groups
Additional info: For groups of six people or more
You can also delve into the darker side of the city by taking a Horrible History walking tour with Galway City Walking Tours, where you’ll hear true tales of when Vikings raided and pillaged their way across the city as well as the full story behind the shipwrecking of the Spanish Armada and Cromwell’s conquest of the city.
When: Twice daily at 10:30am and 12:00pm
Cost: €10 per person
2. Glide through Galway on a guided bike tour.
If you like a little speed and some wind in your hair, why not try a guided bicycle tour of Galway city? The city’s fairly flat terrain makes sightseeing on wheels anything but an uphill struggle. Galway City Cycle Tours offer a four-hour exhilarating ride through all the can’t-miss landmarks in Galway mentioned above, as well as some hidden gems here and there. Not much of a bike person? Why not take a segway tour of Galway instead!
When: Running daily from June to August and on weekends from September to May
Cost: €30 per person
3. Explore Galway in comfort on a hop-on hop-off bus tour.
If you’re after flexibility and convenience, you can always take in the sights of Galway at your leisure on an open-top bus tour from Lally Tours. Stops include Eyre Square, the quadrangle at NUIG, the Salthill Promenade, Spanish Arch, Galway City Museum, Shop Street and more, all facilitated by an expert local guide. What’s more, your ticket is valid for 48 hours, meaning you can cover more ground and rest your weary feet while you’re at it.
When: Departures start at 10:30 am daily
Cost: €12 per person
Additional info: Galway Tours also offer a hop-on bus tour for groups, quote available on request
4. Eat your way around Galway on a guided food tour.
Fair warning: Galway is a bit of a foodie haven so make sure you arrive hungry. If you’re looking to get off the tourist trail and get your taste buds tingling, Galway food tours are available morning and evening, either on foot or by bike. Pit stops along Galway’s thriving and culinary scene include the world-famous Galway market and an assortment of incredible cafés, bistros and fine-dining restaurants.
You can also opt for a walking dessert tour if you’re looking to satiate a massive sweeth tooth. Our mouths are watering already.
Cost: Starting at €60 per person
Additional info: Groups of 4, minimum
Bonus: Get into the spirit of things and find out how your favourite tipple is made on a guided tour of Micil Distillery in Galway. If you’re a fan of gin or whiskey, then you owe it to yourself to make a trip here before your Galway jaunt comes to a close.
5. Get on board with a boat tour of Galway Bay.
A Galway Bay boat tour is a truly spectacular way to see the city’s top spots. The bay is a destination in itself, of course, with its panoramic views of Irish coastal scenery. Plus, there are boat tour options to suit everyone, from thrilling, high-speed rides to more serene journeys ranging from one to two hours in length.
When: Departure times at 10:00 am, 2:00pm, 4:00pm and 6:00pm daily during the summer. months. Limited sailing at other times of the year.
Cost: Starting at €20 per person
Guided Tours of Galway County
If you’re looking for an idyllic escape from the buzzing streets of Galway city, then here are the spots we’d file under “must do”: Connemara National Park, Leenane Village, Killary Fjord, Kylemore Abbey, the Wild Atlantic Coastal Drive and An Spidéal. Handily, Lally Tours offers a guided day trip to all of these destinations so you can tick them all off your bucket list in one go.
When: 10:00am daily
Cost: From €35
Guided Day Tours from Galway City
Although Galway itself is a bit of an escape from big city life, with its network of cobbled streets and charming array of colourful pubs and local shops, there is also an abundance of beautiful scenery on its doorstep that’ll make you feel like you’ve stepped into a different world.
The Aran Islands, the Cliffs of Moher, the Burren, the Ailwee Caves — all of these highlights along the Wild Atlantic Way can be visited in the space of a day from Galway… with a little help from expert guides at the Galway Tour Company.
When: 10:00am daily
Cost: €35 per person
As you’ll have gathered by now, with so much to see and do, you won’t have trouble filling your Galway itinerary, whether you’re looking for a romantic getaway or your next family adventure!