Renowned for its beautiful coastal setting, vibrant streets, traditional music and lively festivals, Galway is one of Ireland's most engaging cities. It grew from a tiny fishing village at the mouth of the River Corrib into a walled Norman town that developed a significant maritime trade with southern Europe. Its core of medieval streets still survive, cottages now brightly-painted and trading as shops, cafes, bars and restaurants.
It's a compact place, best explored on foot with the company of a local guide who can point out the significance of its many historic buildings, decipher the Irish language signs you'll see and lead you down quieter streets to hidden elements of Galway past.
This private walking tour is taken in the company of a local guide and begins in Eyre Square where you’ll learn about the origins of the city, from the time of the Norman invasion when it developed into an important maritime trading hub. You’ll wander through the city, passing Lynch Castle en route to St Nicholas’ Church.
Although fairly unremarkable from the outside, this is a hidden gem of the city, full of fascinating history and intricate details. Throughout the church are signs of the destruction wreaked by Oliver Cromwell’s soldiers in the 17th century, but many beautiful carvings and scenes still remain, such as the 400-year-old baptismal font, the decorative altar window, the elaborate apprentice pillar and the ornately sculpted, canopied tomb for the Lynch family. The oldest tomb in the church, known as the crusader’s tomb, dates back to the 13th century.
From here you’ll explore the lively, pedestrianized Quay Street, which leads down to the Spanish Arch. Built during the 16th century as an extension to the original city wall, the arch was partially destroyed nearly 100 years later during the tsunami created by the Lisbon earthquake of 1755. Just beyond the arch is the Galway City Museum, a great little museum with a large hooker (traditional fishing boat) replica hanging from the ceiling.
Your final stop on the tour will be Galway Cathedral, reached via an attractive riverside walk from the Spanish Arch. The imposing stone cathedral was completed in 1965 and is set on the site of the former city prison. Its high, central dome is a city landmark but the modern design proved controversial. After a tour of the church you're free to explore further on your own and your guide will be happy to offer suggestions of other places in the city worth seeking out.
This walking tour will last between 90 minutes and two hours in total.