With a population of over 60,000, Galway is the 5th-largest city in Ireland, after Dublin, Cork, Belfast and Limerick, and is located at the mouth of the river Corrib in County Galway, in the province of Connaught. Galway's subtitle is The City Of The Tribes, and at one point, under Norman rule in the late 13th century, it was known as the remotest Western outpost of human civilisation. It began as a small fishing village and developed into a booming merchant town and seaport. By the 17th century Galway was a magnificent city, but it was effectively destroyed after surrendering to the forces of Oliver Cromwell in 1651. The town was pillaged, the people raped and the economy destroyed within a decade.
In recent years, partially due to the booming tourist trade, and partially due to the government's 'initiative' to entice foreign technology companies to set up in Ireland by giving them tax incentives (see whoring your economy for a quick dollar), Galway was named as the fastest-growing European city. Desperate not to lose the tourist trade, which relies heavily on the decades-obsolete image of Ireland as quaint and 'mystical', the offical website of Galway city issues this disclaimer about their recent economic growth:
Galway is a uniquely cosmopolitan city with something for everyone. It has also recently become an important centre for promoting the Arts and Culture. Although it has recently been classed as Europe's fasting growing city, it still manages to retain much of its old world Medieval charm.
Cynicism aside, there have been some very successful initiatives in Galway which have made it once again an interesting place to visit. Large areas of the city centre have been pedestrianized, and many mediaeval structures rebuilt - even though this has had the effect of giving parts of the town a false 'olde-world' feeling, it also makes it a genuinely beautiful city to explore. Galway also has a reputation as the cultural and artistic heart of the West of Ireland, thanks to a far-sighted government policy of funding native Irish arts and the Irish language *.
The name Galway also refers to the surrounding county, which deserves its own writeup if anyone is interested. County Galway contains many of Ireland's most visited tourist and beauty spots, including Connemara and the Aran Islands.
* - which, by the way, is not Gaelic. It's Irish. And in Irish, it's called Gaeilge. Got it?
Thanks to ryano for a couple of tips.