NESTLED along the scenic coastline of western Ireland, also known as the Wild Atlantic Way, lies a magical city brimming with colour, culture and tradition.

Galway, often referred to as the ‘City of the Tribes’, has a history as vibrant as its rainbow-hued houses, and is home to the largest Irish-speaking community, or Gaeltacht, in Ireland.

The county boasts 35 heritage sites, 31 museums and 10 art galleries, and is the birthplace of the symbolic Claddagh ring, as well as the traditional fishing boats known as the Galway hookers. It’s also the festival capital of Ireland, hosting more than 100 events per year, including the Galway International Arts Festival, Galway Comedy Festival and the Galway Food Festival.

The city’s newly-achieved status as European Capital of Culture 2020 really says it all. From foodies to film buffs, oyster guzzlers to literature lovers, and art fiends to music fans, it’s a bustling hive of activity that caters to everyone.

A year-long programme of extraordinary events will showcase artistic richness, creative ingenuity and cultural diversity throughout the year. It is a celebration of not only Galway City, but of its islands, country, language and, most importantly, its people. Here’s what to look out for:

THE LATIN QUARTER

The Latin Quarter is known for its cobbled stone streets, boutique shops and quaint restaurants, and is only a short amble from the famously fast-flowing River Corrib.

Defined by some of Galway’s most historic landmarks, like the Spanish Arch, this is where Galway really comes to life. Fancy some window shopping, or perhaps an afternoon tipple in a quirky bar? This is the perfect spot. Magpies and bookworms, keep your eyes peeled for hidden gems at Tempo Antiques or the characterful Charlie Byrne’s Bookshop.

GALWAY MARKET

If you’re looking for somewhere to heighten your senses and peruse a range of fresh, local produce, then Galway market is the place to go. The market, situated next to St Nicholas’ Collegiate Church, is brimming with friendly traders, as well as handmade arts and crafts stalls. Enjoy the sights and the smells of baked bread, freshly ground coffee or, if you’re up for it, the enjoyable pong of Sheridans Cheesemongers. It’s almost impossible to leave without indulging in some famed Galway Bay oysters, or a jar of Cobie’s jam.

ST NICHOLAS’ COLLEGIATE CHURCH

St Nicholas’ Collegiate Church (Church of Ireland) is the largest medieval parish church in Ireland still regularly used. It’s said that Christopher Columbus worshipped here during his visit to Galway in 1477 – an experience he documented in the margin of his copy of Imago Mundi. The church’s unusual structure derives from its captivating history – it dates all the way back to 1320. And there are also some fascinating monuments and memorials dotted throughout, including that of Jane Eyre.

THE KING’S HEAD

A vibrant, medieval pub in the centre of Galway, The King’s Head is a prime location for either a hearty lunch or a swift half of Galway Hooker Brewery’s ‘Blood Red Ale’. Steeped in history, this grand establishment is one of the oldest pubs in Galway and provides a strong variety of entertainment, including live music, comedy and sport, or ceol agus craic, as the locals might say. If you’re lucky, you might even be able to commandeer a chair by the fireplace, built in 1612 – the best seat in the house.

PULLMAN RESTAURANT

Winsford Guardian:

The Pullman Restaurant at the Glenlo Abbey Hotel and Estate delivers an unforgettably unique dining experience. Dine aboard a beautifully restored train carriage enriched with history, one of two original carriages from the Orient Express, which make up the restaurant. Make yourself comfortable in either a private booth or a window seat, and marvel at the spectacular views of the estate. The majority of herbs and wild foods used in dishes are grown in the gardens of the hotel or foraged in the area.

DRUID THEATRE

Druid Theatre, founded in 1975 by Garry Hynes, Marie Mullen and Mick Lally, was the first Irish theatre company outside of Dublin.

They put on a range of riveting productions throughout the year, the most recent being Chekhov’s The Cherry Orchard.

KATIE'S CLADDAGH COTTAGE

Winsford Guardian:

Katie’s Claddagh Cottage is a beautifully restored thatched cottage and one of Galway’s most popular heritage attractions, perfectly depicting traditional life in one of Ireland’s oldest fishing villages.

Take a step back in time and enjoy the delights of an open turf fire with a hot pot of tea and delicious scones.

Make sure you don’t miss the design studio at the rear end of the cottage, where you’ll discover an impressive array of Ireland’s best contemporary and vintage interior home accessories, and a selection of Irish gifts.

The programme of events for Galway 2020 is available at galway2020.ie/en/programme

GARETH COTTER-STONE