Last Updated: 7th Jun 2012

<p>Ask an Irishman to recommend his favourite Irish city, and you&#8217;re likely to hear, &#8216;Without a doubt, Galway.&#8217;</p> <p>Even though it is one of Europe&#8217;s fastest-growing cities, it still manages to retain much of the friendliness and congeniality of a small town. Galway is perhaps the most prosperous city in <a href="/contikipedia/articles/ireland">Ireland</a> and arguably the most immediately appealing.</p> <p>As home to many artists, writers, and artisans, and because it has a proliferation of art galleries and is the home to a lively arts scene, Galway has earned the reputation of the unofficial arts capital of Ireland.</p> <p>The excellent Galway Arts Festival, held every summer, is perhaps the most accessible culture fest in Europe. But while Galway attracts droves of outsiders, it does so without alienating its long-standing population. The result is a city that feels lived-in, like a real place that, at the same time, accommodates (and charms) masses of visitors.</p> <p>The city has a blessed location, tucked between the Atlantic and the grand expanse of Lake Corrib (Lough Corrib), which holds some of the world&#8217;s best fishing and is filled with tiny islands, so much so that it is said to have an island for every day of the year.</p> <h2>History</h2> <p>Like most ancient cities, Galway was founded because of its strategic access to water. It began as a fishing village and developed into a walled town. The city grew into a trade port with close ties to <a href="/contikipedia/articles/spain">Spain</a>. Local legend has it that Christopher Columbus attended mass at Galway&#8217;s St. Nicholas Collegiate Church before setting sail for the New World in 1477.</p>