Lined by stone shopfronts, Galway's (Gaillimh) narrow cobblestone streets fill with a frenzy of street performers who enchant passers by. The administrative capital of County Galway, the city is also a departure point for the wild, windswept Aran Islands.
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With more restaurants per capita than any other Irish city and a smorgasbord of festivals including the Jazz Festival, the Easter Festival of Literature and the Galway Arts Festival in July, even the near-constant rain fails to dampen the city's spirits.
The breathtaking Connemara region and the Aran Islands abound with walking and cycling opportunities and are both an easy daytrip from Galway. Most adventures in the city itself are cultural in nature, with plenty of theatres and book or poetry readings. However, your biceps can get a good workout from lifting pints at the bar.
Enhancing the festive spirit of the many annual events hosted by Galway and the surrounding communities, licensing laws are usually suspended, permitting pubs to remain open 24 hours a day (many restaurants also stay open).
The Cùirt Poetry & Literature Festival is a well established event that takes place in Galway and grows in importance each year. The Galway Arts Festival is another cultural extravaganza, with two weeks of round-the-clock theatre, music, art and comedy. For good measure, one of Ireland's biggest film festivals takes place at the same time. Galway's International Oyster Festival is a strange mix of oyster slurping and partying. Finally, Galway Race Week in Ballybrit, 3km (1.8mi) east of the city, becomes a site of feverish bacchanalia.