Galway, sited on the western edge of Europe, is Ireland’s beating cultural heart. It’s a vibrant place, with creativity embedded deep in its DNA.

Galway City and County had the honour of hosting the European Capital of Culture in 2020 on behalf of the Irish nation.

Ireland stands as a nation that is proudly European. This was mirrored in our extensive engagement with over 100 partnerships, collaborations and artists from over 30 different countries. The programme was designed to ensure that each individual project will have a long-term sustainable relevance to both city and county. Created by communities and cultural organisations alike, each project had multiple local partners as well as a mix of regional or European partners. Our programme also focused on issues that are part of a wider discussion on European concerns. At a time of increasing political uncertainty both in Europe and around the world, we wanted to reflect on 21st Century Ireland, what culture means to us and what it means to be European.

A European Capital of Culture is not a festival, it is much more than that. January 2020 – April 2021 saw an extraordinary showcase of events highlighting the richness and diversity of Galway’s culture and its people. Our ambitious programme, most of which was free, was unleashed throughout villages and towns, the city and the islands, and online.


The programme was a celebration of our city, our islands, our county, our language and our people, with the collective imagination of creative Galway on show. It featured the best of our local and national artists and cultural organisations, alongside incredible European and international artists.

Leaving a lasting legacy, one that will change the social and infrastructural landscape of Galway, is key to Galway 2020’s success. We want to address the big topics of the day – identity, our place on the planet, how we care for its resources, how we live in harmony with each other and with nature, and our history and future. We want to see a Galway where young artists flourish, where communities come together to celebrate life. We want to see a Galway where creativity is rewarded, where culture is at the heart of everything we do, where life is made better for everyone who lives and visits here.

The core themes of Galway 2020 were Migration, Landscape and Language and all three resonated within a broader European context. Migration celebrated Irish history as well as the diversity of cultures in Europe against the backdrop of Galway County and City – a city where 24 per cent of its population was born outside of Ireland. Landscape reflected Galway’s position on the edge of Europe as it collaborated with European partners to delight, challenge and engage citizens across its rural and marine landscape.


Language promoted the variety of languages spoken both in Galway and across Europe, celebrating their integral part of our unique cultures. There was a special emphasis on the Irish language in the Galway 2020 programme, reinforcing Galway as the capital of the Gaeltacht, home to the only bi-lingual city in Ireland.