Galway has many small and unique sections, like many older European cities, in spite of its small size.  The city center is the most visited section of the city by tourists, and it is home to Galway's oldest buildings and many of its pubs and nightlife scene.  The Docklands section of the city, once just a rough trade port, is now home to many trendy shops and upscale apartments, while Claddagh, the place the ring was named for, is separated from the city centre by the river corrib, and the neighbourhood is visible from the Spanish Arch.

Other notable city neighborhoods include Salthill on the seaside, which is a small resort in it's own right with a few beaches, a large park, Amusement Arcades, Hotels, Bars and an amusement park called Leisureland. JFK Park, also (and more commonly) known as Eyre Square, was named after the late American president in the 1965, and is the focal point of the city centre.

Galway's rapid growth in the late 20th century has given rise to many sprawling new suburbs on its outer reaches. On the city's west side Knocknacarra spreads right into Galway's Gaeltacht region, while very rapid growth on the east side has seen new suburbs like Doughiska and Roscam spring up in the early 2000's. These areas are home to many young families, as well as large numbers of immigrants.Indeed, the rapid growth has seen Galway's population rise from 57,000 in 1996 to just under 73,000 in 2006. The growth has also affected and enlarged towns and villages on the city's periphery such as Oranmore, Barna, Moycullen, Claregalway, Craughwell, Clarinbridge, Loughrea, Athenry and Tuam.