Nestled in the heart of Ireland’s ancient east lies Kilkenny, a charming city brimming with history and culture. From its rich medieval heritage to its thriving contemporary art scene, Kilkenny offers visitors an array of experiences to explore. In this article, we’ll go through some of the top things to see and do in the town and county.
Where is Kilkenny
Getting to Kilkenny
Getting to Kilkenny is fairly easy and you have a few different options.
The closest main airport is Dublin Airport, which is approximately a 90-minute drive away. From there, you can rent a car, take a taxi, or use public transportation. Alternatively, you can fly into Cork Airport, which is about a two-hour drive from Kilkenny.
Kilkenny is connected to the Irish rail network, with regular train services running to and from Dublin, Waterford, and other major cities. Kilkenny Train Station is located just a few minutes walk from the town centre, making it a convenient option for visitors.
There are several bus services that operate to and from the area, including Bus Eireann and JJ Kavanagh & Sons. The city’s bus station is located on Ormonde Road, just a short walk from the town centre.
The area is easily accessible by car, with several major roads connecting the city to other parts of Ireland. The M9 motorway connects Kilkenny to Dublin, while the N10 and N77 provide access to other parts of the country.
Once you are in Kilkenny, you can easily explore the city on foot, as most of the main attractions are located within walking distance of each other. Alternatively, you can rent a car or use public transportation to explore the surrounding area.
Why Kilkenny Is Worth Visiting
Kilkenny is a city steeped in history, culture, and tradition. It is home to some of Ireland’s most impressive architectural and cultural attractions, the magnificent Kilkenny Castle, which dates back to the 12th century. Visitors can explore the castle’s interior, which has been beautifully restored and furnished with 17th-century furniture, paintings, and tapestries, this is definitely one of the best things to do in Kilkenny if you’re into castles.
In addition to its historic buildings, the area also boasts a vibrant cultural scene, with a range of museums, galleries, and festivals. The Medieval Mile Museum, located in the centre of the town, showcases the rich history of Kilkenny and its role in medieval Ireland. The Kilkenny Arts Festival, held annually in August, is one of Ireland’s premier cultural events, featuring music, theatre, and visual arts.
The region’s origins can be traced back to the 6th century when a monastic settlement was established by St. Canice. The settlement grew in importance and became a medieval city in the 13th century. During the Middle Ages, the area was a trading centre and home to many wealthy merchants and craftspeople.
The city was also an important religious centre, with the impressive St. Canice’s Cathedral and the Black Abbey among its notable religious buildings. In the 17th century, the area was an important base for the Confederate Ireland movement, which sought to establish Irish self-rule during the English Civil War.
Kilkenny’s rich cultural heritage is reflected in its vibrant arts scene, with many galleries, theatres, and festivals throughout the year. The Kilkenny Arts Festival, held annually in August, is one of the city’s major cultural events and features a diverse range of music, theatre, and visual arts performances, it is arguably one of the top things to do in Kilkenny.
In addition to the arts, the area is known for its traditional music, which can be enjoyed in many of the city’s pubs and venues. Visitors can also sample the city’s culinary delights, with many excellent restaurants and cafes serving local produce and traditional Irish dishes.
Here is some budgeting information for visiting:
- Budget hotels: prices range from €50 – €100 per night
- Mid-range hotels: prices range from €100 – €150 per night
- Luxury hotels: prices range from €150 – €300 per night
Food and Drink:
- Budget meals: prices range from €7 – €15 per person
- Mid-range meals: prices range from €15 – €25 per person
- Fine dining: prices range from €25 – €50 per person
- Pint of beer: prices range from €4 – €6
- Budget car rental: prices range from €50 – €75 per day
- Mid-range car rental: prices range from €50 – €80 per day
- Luxury car rental: prices range from €80 – €150 per day
The Best Things To Do In Kilkenny
There are loads and loads of things to do in Kilkenny, here is a list of the best things to check out!
1. Kilkenny Castle
Kilkenny Castle is a historic castle that dates back to the 12th century. It was once home to the powerful Butler family and is now open to the public. You can explore the castle’s impressive interiors and beautifully landscaped gardens. The castle also hosts exhibitions and events throughout the year, making it a great attraction for both history buffs and families. A visit to this castle is one of the best things to do in Kilkenny.
2. St. Canice’s Cathedral
St. Canice’s Cathedral is another must-visit attraction in the region. It is one of the city’s oldest landmarks and dates back to the 13th century. The cathedral boasts stunning Gothic architecture and features beautiful stained-glass windows, it is one of the finest things to do in Kilkenny if you’re into churches and cathedrals. You can climb the tower for a panoramic view of the city.
3. Medieval Mile Museum
The Medieval Mile Museum is a relatively new attraction in Kilkenny but has quickly become a popular destination for tourists. It is located in the town and offers visitors a chance to explore medieval history through interactive exhibits and artefacts.
4. The Black Abbey
The Black Abbey is a 13th-century Dominican abbey that is open to the public. It features beautiful stained-glass windows and intricate stone carvings. Visitors can also attend mass at the abbey or simply take in the peaceful atmosphere. This is one of the best things to do in Kilkenny if you are into old buildings.
5. Kilkenny City Walls
Kilkenny City Walls are a testament to the city’s medieval past. You can walk along the walls and admire the lovely views of the city. This is one of the best FREE things to do in Kilkenny. The walls also offer a glimpse into the city’s history and the various battles that were fought here.
6. Rothe House and Garden
Rothe House and Garden is a historic house that dates back to the 16th century. It features beautifully landscaped gardens and a museum. You can take a guided tour of the house and learn about its history and the people who once lived here. This is one of the top things to do in Kilkenny if you like large houses and old estates.
7. Nore Valley Park
Nore Valley Park is a family-friendly attraction located just outside the town. It features a petting zoo, a playground, and a miniature train ride. It is a great destination for families with young children and arguably one of the best things to do in Kilkenny with kids.
8. Castlecomer Discovery Park
Castlecomer Discovery Park is an adventure park that is located just a short drive from Kilkenny town. It features a treetop walk, zip line, and adventure playground. You can also explore the park’s many walking trails and learn about the local wildlife. The park family-friendly park with petting farms, play areas, and a nature trail. Castlecomer Discovery Park is one of the best things to do in Kilkenny with kids.
9. Kilkenny Arts Festival
The Kilkenny Arts Festival is an annual event that takes place in August. It features a diverse range of art and cultural events, including live music, theatre, and visual art exhibitions. It is a great opportunity to experience Kilkenny’s vibrant arts scene. It’s one of the top things to do in Kilkenny if you like festivals.
10. Kilkenny Design Centre
Kilkenny Design Centre is a must-visit destination for anyone interested in Irish design and crafts. The Design Centre showcases a wide variety of unique and high-quality products made by local artisans and designers. It’s one of the best things to do in Kilkenny. Whether you’re in the market for some one-of-a-kind jewellery, handcrafted pottery, or a beautiful piece of Irish-made clothing, you’re sure to find something that catches your eye at Kilkenny Design Centre.
11. Kilkenny Farmers Market
Kilkenny Farmers Market is a hive of activity. This bustling weekly market is held every Thursday from 9 am to 2 pm, the market offers visitors a chance to sample some of the best local produce from the surrounding farms. With a lively and friendly atmosphere, the Kilkenny Farmers’ Market is a must-visit for anyone looking to experience the best of what the town has to offer. It’s one of the top things to do in Kileknny for foodies!
12. Smithwick’s Brewery
Smithwick’s Brewery is a popular attraction for beer lovers. Founded in 1710, the brewery has a rich history and has been producing beer for over 300 years. You can take a tour of the brewery and learn about the brewing process, the history of the brewery, and of course, sample some of their famous brews. The Smithwick’s Brewery in Kilkenny is a great visitor centre to explore, it’s one of the best things to do in Kilkenny!
13. Dunmore Caves
Nestled in the lush green countryside, Dunmore Caves is a fascinating natural wonder that draws visitors from around the world. With a rich history dating back to Viking times, the caves offer a glimpse into Ireland’s ancient past and provide a unique opportunity to explore the underground world of stalactites, stalagmites, and other stunning rock formations.
The caves were formed around 350 million years ago and were used by humans for thousands of years. Archaeological evidence suggests that the caves were used as a shelter by early humans during the last ice age, and they were also used as a Viking hideout in the 9th and 10th centuries. This is one of the best things to do in Kilkenny with kids.
14. Mount Juliet Estate
Mount Juliet Estate is a grand estate. The estate features a historic manor house, luxurious accommodations, world-class dining, and a range of activities for you to enjoy. I highly recommend visiting Mount Juliet Estate as part of any guide to Kilkenny. Mount Juliet Estate offers a range of luxurious accommodations, including rooms in the historic manor house, self-catering lodges, and a variety of holiday homes, this is arguably one of the top things to do in Kilkenny.
15. Brandon Hill
Nestled in beautiful countryside Brandon Hill is a must-visit destination for nature lovers and outdoor enthusiasts. Standing at a height of 515 meters, it is the highest peak in the county and offers stunning panoramic views of the surrounding landscape. To reach the summit of Brandon Hill, you can take the well-marked trail that starts from the quaint village of Graiguenamanagh. this is one of the best things to do in Kilkenny for outdoor enthusiasts. The hike to the top takes around two to three hours and is a moderate to strenuous climb, so it’s important to come prepared with sturdy footwear and plenty of water.
16. Jerpoint Abbey
Jerpoint Abbey is a fascinating historical site located just outside the town of Thomastown. It was founded in the 12th century and was once home to a thriving community of Cistercian monks. Visitors to Jerpoint Abbey can explore the ruins of the abbey church and the cloister, as well as the remains of the chapter house and the domestic buildings. The abbey is set in a beautiful location beside the River Nore, and you can enjoy a leisurely stroll around the grounds and gardens.
17. Ballykeefe Distillery
Ballykeefe Distillery is a relatively new addition to the area’s tourism scene, having opened its doors in 2016. However, in a short time, it has already gained a reputation as one of the top attractions in the area. Ballykeefe Distillery offers visitors a chance to learn about the history and process of Irish whiskey production while sampling some of the finest spirits in the country. Ballykeefe Distillery is a must-visit destination and one of the best things to do in Kilkenny if you like whiskey.
18. Take A Look Around Graiguenamanagh
In this Kilkenny guide, we’ll take a closer look at the top things to do in Graiguenamanagh and why it should be on your itinerary when visiting the area. Graiguenamanagh is a picturesque town that offers a peaceful escape from busy city life. With its historic landmarks, scenic trails, and charming shops and eateries, Graiguenamanagh is a great destination for anyone exploring the southeast of Ireland.
19. Butter Lane
Among the many charming and picturesque streets is a hidden gem known as Butter Lane. This quaint and charming street dates back to the 17th century and is home to many unique boutiques, cafes, and historic buildings. One of the must-visit attractions on Butter Lane is the historic Kyteler’s Inn. This pub dates back to the 13th century and has a rich and fascinating history. It is rumoured to have been owned by a woman named Alice Kyteler who was accused of witchcraft and eventually fled to England to escape prosecution.
20. Cat Laughs Comedy Festival
If you’re looking for a good laugh, there’s no better place to be than during the annual Cat Laughs Comedy Festival. The Cat Laughs Comedy Festival is one of the biggest events on the Kilkenny calendar, drawing visitors from all over the world. The festival typically takes place over the June Bank Holiday weekend and features over 70 shows in various venues across the city. Some of the top comedians from Ireland and beyond have performed at the festival, including Dylan Moran, Tommy Tiernan, and Dara Ó Briain. This is arguably one of the top things to do in Kilkenny.
21. Kilfane Glen And Waterfall
Kilfane Glen and Waterfall is a hidden gem. This picturesque site boasts stunning natural beauty, including a picturesque waterfall and enchanting woodland paths. You can explore the area and the tranquil experience of Kilfane Glen and Waterfall. This is one of the top FREE things to do in Kilkenny.
The Best Things To Do In Kilkenny With Kids
Kilkenny is a great destination for families with kids, with plenty of fun and exciting activities to enjoy. Whether you’re looking for outdoor adventures, cultural experiences, or just some good old-fashioned family fun, there’s something for everyone in this vibrant city.
1. Go On A Ghost Tour
For older kids who enjoy spooky stories and legends, a ghost tour is a thrilling experience. Led by knowledgeable guides, these tours take you through the city’s medieval streets and alleys, recounting tales of hauntings and ghostly apparitions.
2. Explore The Medieval Mile
Kilkenny’s Medieval Mile is a charming street lined with historic buildings, shops, and cafes. Kids will love exploring the narrow alleys and hidden courtyards, as well as the fascinating museums and galleries. This is one of the top things to do in Kilkenny with kids.
3. Visit The National Reptile Zoo
Located just outside the town, the National Reptile Zoo is a fascinating attraction for kids of all ages. With over 50 species of reptiles and amphibians, including crocodiles, snakes, and lizards, the zoo offers a unique and educational experience, making it one of the best things to do in Kilkenny with kids.
5. Go On A Bike Tour
The whole area is great for cycling, with plenty of scenic routes and trails to explore. Families can rent bikes and go on a guided tour of the city, taking in the sights and sounds of this beautiful destination.
The Best Pubs In Kilkenny
Kilkenny is known for its vibrant nightlife, with many cosy pubs and lively bars. In this Kilkenny guide, we’ll highlight some of the best pubs in Kilkenny to visit during your trip.
- Kyteler’s Inn: Located on Kieran Street, Kyteler’s Inn is one oldest pub’s in the town and dates back to the 13th century. It’s known for its cosy atmosphere, live music, and delicious pub food. One of the pub’s former owners Alice Kyteler, who was accused of witchcraft in the 14th century.
- Langton’s: Another popular spot is Langton’s, located on John Street. The pub is known for its live music, upscale atmosphere, and delicious food. Langton’s is a favourite among locals and visitors alike and has been voted Ireland’s best pub.
- The Left Bank: Located in a former bank building on the Parade, The Left Bank is a popular spot for a night out. The pub has a large outdoor terrace and is known for its cocktails, craft beers, and live music.
- The Dylan Whisky Bar: If you’re a whisky lover, you won’t want to miss The Dylan Whisky Bar on John Street. The bar has an extensive selection of whiskies from around the world, as well as craft beers and cocktails. The cosy atmosphere makes it a great spot for a quiet drink or a night out with friends.
- Bollard’s Bar: Located on Kieran Street, Bollard’s Bar is a classic Irish pub with a friendly atmosphere and live music. The pub has been a popular spot in Kilkenny since it opened in 1981 and is known for its welcoming staff and delicious pub grub.
- Tynan’s Bridge House Bar: This family-owned pub on John Street is a great spot for a traditional Irish pub experience. The cosy interior is decorated with old photos and memorabilia, and the pub is known for its live music and friendly atmosphere.
- The Hibernian Bar: Located on Ormonde Street, The Hibernian Bar is a great spot to enjoy a pint and soak up the atmosphere. The pub has a traditional feel and is known for its live music and a great selection of Irish whiskies.
- The Hole in the Wall has a rich history dating back to the 16th century. With its cosy and intimate atmosphere, it has become a favourite spot for locals and tourists alike to enjoy a pint of Guinness and a good chat with locals
The Best Hotels In Kilkenny
If you’re planning to visit Kilkenny and looking for comfortable accommodation, there are plenty of options to choose from.
Here are some of the best hotels:
- The Kilkenny Hibernian Hotel: This four-star hotel is just a short walk from many of the city’s main attractions. The rooms are spacious and luxurious, and the hotel features a restaurant, bar, and fitness centre.
- The Pembroke Hotel: This boutique hotel is located just off the main street and is perfect for those looking for a comfortable and stylish stay. The rooms are beautifully designed and come equipped with all the necessary amenities.
- The River Court Hotel: This hotel is located on the banks of the River Nore and is within walking distance of many of the top attractions. The rooms are spacious and modern, and the hotel features a restaurant, bar, and fitness centre.
- The Newpark Hotel: This hotel is located just outside of the town centre and is surrounded by beautiful gardens and parkland. The rooms are spacious and comfortable, and the hotel features a spa, pool, and restaurant.
- The Lyrath Estate: This luxurious hotel is set on 170 acres of parkland. The rooms are spacious and beautifully designed, and the hotel features a spa, pool, and several restaurants and bars.
No matter which hotel you choose, you’re sure to have a comfortable and enjoyable stay in Kilkenny.
Unusual And Quirky Accommodation Options
If you’re looking for something more unique and quirky, there are a few options that are sure to add a touch of fun and adventure to your stay. From staying in a historic castle to sleeping in a traditional Irish cottage.
Here are some of the most unusual and quirky accommodation options:
- Kilkenny is home to many historic castles, and some of them have been converted into hotels and private accommodations. These castles offer visitors a chance to experience the grandeur and elegance of a bygone era, with modern amenities and comfortable accommodations.
- If you love the idea of camping but don’t want to rough it in a tent, glamping might be the perfect option for you. The region has several glamping sites that offer comfortable and luxurious accommodations in beautiful natural settings. The glamping options include Mongolian Yurts, Shepherds Huts, and Bell Tents.
Traditional Irish Cottage
- For a truly authentic Irish experience, why not stay in a traditional Irish cottage? These charming and cosy cottages offer a glimpse into Ireland’s rich cultural heritage and are often located in beautiful rural settings.
- If you’re looking for something truly unique and quirky, the area has some unusual accommodation options that are sure to impress. From treehouses to eco-friendly pods, there’s something for everyone. Some of the most unusual accommodations in Kilkenny include the Blackbird Treehouse and the Eco Pod at the Three Acres.
The Places To Eat In Kilkenny
When it comes to dining, the area has plenty of options for all tastes and budgets, from casual cafes to fine dining restaurants.
Here are some of the best places to eat in:
- Kyteler’s Inn
Kyteler’s Inn is one of the oldest pubs in Ireland, dating back to the 13th century. The pub is known for its lively atmosphere, great food, and outdoor seating area. Kids will love the traditional Irish music sessions that take place in the pub every night. The menu features classic Irish dishes like fish and chips, bangers and mash, and shepherd’s pie.
- Cafe La Coco
Cafe La Coco is a cosy cafe located in the heart of Kilkenny city. The cafe serves a range of dishes including breakfast, sandwiches, salads, and homemade cakes. The menu includes a range of vegetarian and vegan options, making it a great choice for families with dietary restrictions.
- Zuni Restaurant
Zuni Restaurant is a popular dining spot in Kilkenny, known for its modern European cuisine and stylish decor. It’s a great spot for some tasty meals.
- Langtons Restaurant
Langton’s Restaurant is a fine dining restaurant located in the heart of Kilkenny town. The restaurant offers an interesting menu with dishes. The restaurant also offers a play area for children, making it a great choice for families with young kids.
If you’re looking for a charming and historic area of Ireland, this one should definitely be on your list. This picturesque town is known for its medieval architecture, lively culture, and friendly locals. With a range of attractions and activities to suit every taste, Kilkenny is a great destination for travellers of all ages.
From exploring the stunning Kilkenny Castle and strolling along the River Nore to enjoying a pint of locally brewed beer in a cosy pub, Kilkenny won’t disappoint. And if you’re a fan of history, you will be amazed, the city is home to numerous fascinating historic sites and museums, such as the impressive St. Canice’s Cathedral and the engaging Medieval Mile Museum.
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What are some must-see attractions in Kilkenny?
The top attractions you should not miss when visiting are Kilkenny Castle, St. Canice’s Cathedral and the Medieval Mile Museum.
What are some outdoor activities to do in Kilkenny?
The best outdoor activities include walking or cycling the Nore Valley Walk. This scenic trail follows the River Nore and takes you through picturesque villages and stunning countryside. The region is home to some excellent fishing spots, including the River Nore and the River Barrow. You can catch trout, salmon, and other fish, and enjoy the beautiful scenery at the same time.