Galway, City of Tribes

Half-way along the Wild Atlantic Way

Creative, artistic, bohemian, counter-cultured are just some of the words that can describe Galway (Gaillimh) is one of Ireland's most vibrant cities. There's a pub around every corner, heaving with punters. Locals, blow-ins and tourists to catch a live session while street side restaurants and cafes offer outdoor seats for people watching, observing street theatre & performers.

You can still see the preserved remains of the medieval town walls which now lie in one of the city's shopping centres. The city is packed full of shops selling handcrafted Claddagh rings, local books and musical instruments. Take a walk along the promenade which leads to the seaside suburb of Salthill, right on the edge of Galway Bay, where there's an abundance of the area's famous oysters, perfect with a pint of schtout.

Galway cathedral on the banks of the river Corrib in summer.
City of Tribes

The Claddagh legend has it that Galway was otherwise known as The City of Tribes referring to the fourteen tribes or fourteen merchant families who once dominated the then small town between the mid-13th and late 19th centuries.

The families had an tremendous influence on the society in Galway and they wielded huge political power and wealth. This is certainly evident in the buildings they resided in, Lynche's castle being a prime example with elaborate stonework carved into all faces of the building.

During their time, Galway became an very important trading port. The town fell into decline during the Cromwellian conquest of Ireland when the thieving English forced the families to surrender their properties. Cromwell’s army tried to belittle the families using the term “The Tribes of Galway” but in an act of defiance, the families adopted the name and became infamous.

Spanish Arch in Galway city made rom local stone in 1500s
Spanish Arch

A local focal and meeting point in central Galway city is the Spanish Arch, located in the Quay Area. It's part of two remaining arches which were built as an extension to the city walls dating from circa 1584. They were possibly designed and built to protect merchant ship offloading cargo on the city’s quays, formerly the Fish Market.

It's believed that the arch was severly damaged in a tsunami surge that followed an earthquake hundreds of miles south in Lisbon, Portugal in 1755. 18th century, the Eyre family built another extension of the quays area and named it, The Long Walk. It was then that the arches were created to allow access to the town centre from the new quays. The term 'Spanish' was adopted at a later stage and origins are unknown. Originally the town folk referred to the area as the Eyre Arch.

Olives on a market stall
Galway Market

For centuries, Galway’s busy street market has been trading in Church lane in the shadow of St Nicholas’ Church right in the centre of the city. Here you'll find hundreds of stalls selling locally art, crafts and fresh produce.

There’s a fantastic range of ready prepared food with crepes, Indian curries, sushi, bread, cakes & cookies. You can buy fresh fruit, vegetables, herbs, spices and all the ingredients needed for a picnic if the weather holds! The Market is open year round on Saturdays from 8.00am to 6.00pm and on Sundays & Bank Holidays. In the summer months, July & August, the markets opens on Fridays and every day during the ever popular Galway Arts Festival.

Eyre Square in Galway City centre on a sunny day with people sitting in the sun, relaxing.
Eyre Square & Galway Museum

Eyre Square is located right in the heart of Galway City. It dates back to medieval times when food and livestock markets took place on the open space in front of the city walls. In 1710, Mayor of Galway, Edward Eyre, gifted the plot of land to the city. 


The Square's official name is the John F. Kennedy Memorial Park  and there is a statue of President Kennedy, a Freeman of the city, in the area where he made a speech to 100,000 Galwegians in 1963, which was to be his last trip to Ireland before his assassination. 

The Galway City Museum is located in one of the most historic parts of Galway, Spanish Arch, near the old city quays. It was built behind the famous Spanish Arch and houses exhibitions exploring aspects of the history and heritage of Galway City.

Ongoing exhibitions include Galway, Within the Walls (Medieval Galway), Routes to the Past (Prehistoric Galway); Pádraic Ó Conaire: the Man and the Statue, The Galway Hooker and SeaScienc, all worthy of a visit. The Museum is also home to two iconic symbols of the city, the statue of Padraic Ó Conaire and a traditional sailing vessel (Galway Hooker), named ‘Máirtín Oliver’, which was built specifically for the Museum.