Galway: Ireland’s Cultural Heart

9 Dec

Soundtrack for this post: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i3V-oXwCWL4

 

            During the past three months I have visited 11 countries and many different cities across Europe. Even after all of this traveling to historic and foreign new places, Galway continues to remain one of my favorite cities in the world. While it is difficult for me to pin down the exact reason for my fascination with Galway, I think it has a lot to do with the culture and feel you get when walking down the streets of this truly Irish city.

            Galway is located in western Ireland along the River Corrib and is known as “Ireland’s Cultural Heart” due to its association with the Irish language and ties to music, dance, and theatre (Top Ten Facts). The city was established in the early 12th Century and was ruled by the Normans, the 14 Tribes of Galway, and the British during its tumultuous history. Its location along the river made Galway the perfect spot for a trading port between Spain and France. In fact, one of the most famous monuments in Galway is the Spanish Arch, which was constructed in 1584 (Wikipedia- Spanish Arch). Its interesting history and great location has transformed Galway into an extremely cultural city that is “renowned for its vibrant lifestyle and numerous festivals, celebrations and events” (Wikipedia- Galway).

            Today, Galway is an extremely popular tourist destination and is home to dozens of festivals and live music events. The Galway Arts Festival helped put the city on the map with its two-week long celebration of Irish music, theatre, art, and dance (Galway Arts Festival). The music scene is huge in Galway so you can always find both live music playing in pubs and bars. During my time in Galway, I visited the Kings Head, an 800-year-old bar, and loved hearing both traditional Irish and current music being played throughout the night.

            The fact that literally every place in Galway is seeping with history and tradition makes Galway such an exciting city. Even the Kings Head, a normal bar, is over 100 years older than America! The cobblestone streets and shops that sell traditional Irish goods such as Claddagh rings and Aran sweaters make you feel like you’re really in Ireland. The city has a great feel to it and is definitely a must see!

            I am looking forward to returning to Galway this weekend to explore their famous Christmas market. Over 400,000 people visited the market last year to sample traditional foods, buy local gifts, and experience Galway during Christmastime (Galway Tourism- Christmas Market). I am sure I will love Galway even more now that it is all decorated for Christmas!

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