On the west coast of Ireland lies Galway, the fourth largest city in the country. The city is known as the culture capital of Ireland and is so nicknamed “Ireland’s Cultural Heart” for the plentiful festivals held each year.
The Galway Arts Festival, held every July, may be the most famous. Over 100,000 people attend this celebration of the visual and performing arts, including theatre, live music, comedy, street performances, literature, painting, photography and sculpting. Other annual events include an astronomy festival, early music festival, international oyster festival, jazz festival, comedy festival and science and technology festival.
Galway has a flourishing performing arts scene with several theatres, including the Taibhdhearc na Gaillimhe, Ireland’s national Irish language theater. The Town Hall Theatre also hosts ballets, operas, plays and musical performances year round.
While art and cultural events may be the future for Galway, the city still cherishes its past. It is home to the largest medieval church still in everyday use – the Collegiate Church of St. Nicholas – and visitors can still wander past the Spanish Arch, the last remnants of Galway’s old stone defenses. The Galway City Museum brings history to life with its exhibits and displays. Check out the Galway Hooker, a traditional sailing boat, learn about the 19th-century village of Claddagh, where the Claddagh Ring originated, and check out artifacts from Medieval Galway.
Modern Galway is also a university town and a popular place for sports enthusiasts. The Galway International Rally was the first to be held in Ireland and welcomes drivers from all over the world. The seven-day Galway Races, held in July, are the most-important horse races in Ireland. Rugby, soccer, and basketball are also popular, along with rowing and even greyhound racing.
The young population of Galway also contributes to its lively music scene. From local performers jamming to traditional tunes at the city pubs to international acts playing for enormous crowds at the annual Arts Festival, there is no shortage of live music to be heard in Galway.
Popular tourist attractions in Galway include Eyre Square, a pedestrian lane lined with shops and boutiques, and the Galway Atlantaquaria, an educational display of the sea life that inhabits the waters off the shores of the city. It’s easy to get around in the city center on foot, with buses providing access to outlying areas.
Like any mid-sized city, Galway offers a range of accommodation, from trendy hotels to basic guesthouses, and is home to restaurants offering nearly every cuisine from around the world. Traditional Irish food is available at neighborhood pubs, along with frothy pours of local beers like Guinness and Galway Hooker, named after the famous boat. With its proximity to the sea, Galway benefits from access to ample fresh fish. Oysters and fried fish and chips are some of the favorite local dishes.
While Galway is a destination in and of itself, it also makes a great jumping off point for exploring the surrounding areas. Regular passenger ferries make the journey to the majestic Aran Islands and it’s easy to take a day trip to the Cliffs of Moher and the charming Connemara region.
Written by Katie Hammel for EuropeUpClose.com