A city located in South-East Ireland, Kilkenny, a major tourist destination, is renowned for its warm host experience, friendly people, rich stomach-filling meals, and large glasses of beer. In fact, Kilkenny was a major site for breweries in the late 17th century, which explains the area’s enthusiasm in marketing some of the best beers in the world.
But it’s not all fun and games at Kilkenny, with historical sites such as Kilkenny Castle and the famed Canice’s Cathedral, the city is well known for its culture, with craft and design workshops, public gardens, and museums.
Leave behind bustling cities such as Dublin to escape to Kilkenny for a holiday you will enjoy. There is no better Irish destination to wander around than Kilkenny, with its distinct medieval buildings, cobbled streets, and old-world charm.
Here are the 10 of the best things to do in Kilkenny to ensure you get drunk on a unique Irish experience:
1. Play Knights and Princesses at Kilkenny Castle
Explore the impressive castle grounds and play at being a princess or a knight.
It’s quite easy to imagine that you are a princess stuck in a tower or a knight with a shining new set of armour; Kilkenny Castle is a great place to feel the 12th-century castle vibes. As the castle stands dramatically on a hill, you can see the River Nore in the distance. One of the most popular tourist sites in Ireland, and filled with fascinating history, Kilkenny Castle is a destination not to be missed.
Remodelled and restored to its 1830s splendor, the castle grounds now include an art gallery and playground. Enjoy the fusion of various architectural styles as you explore the interiors.
Address: The Parade, Kilkenny, Ireland
Opening Hours: 9 am - 5.30 pm, daily
Duration: around 1 hour required
Contact: +353 56 770 4100
Website: Kilkenny Castle
2. Savour the view from St. Canice's Round Tower & Cathedral
A prominent landmark in the Irish city of Kilkenny, St Canice’s Cathedral and Round Tower is a vast Gothic cathedral that was completed in 1285.
Complete with stained glass and rose windows, the cathedral also features slender spires and the conventional limestone material to enhance its features as a Gothic cathedral.
Beautiful in the day as the light shines through the stained panels, visitors are invited within the cathedral to see its patterned marble floors of grandeur, and treasures such as the unique 17th-century tomb chests and the stone throne of a fifth-century bishop.
Culturally, it also holds the list of the Great War Memorial, the names of all the Irishmen who passed away during the First World War. It is also a significant point of worship.
St Canice's Cathedral and Round Tower
Address: The Close, Coach Rd, Kilkenny, Ireland
Opening Hours: Monday - Saturday (10 am - 1 pm & 2 pm - 5 pm), Sunday (2 pm - 5 pm)
Duration: around 1 hour required
Contact: +353 56 776 4971
Website: St Canice’s Cathedral
3. Rent a bicycle and cycle along River Nore
Stretching over a staggering 140 kilometres (87 miles), the River Nore is one of the constituent rivers of the Three Sisters.
Colourful buildings line the sides of the river, and a great activity awaits you as you cycle along this long stretch of water and enjoy the Irish wind in your face. Enjoy the occasional bloom of flowers by the side of the river and take great photos of the clear river water.
At some portions of the river, you can see Kilkenny Castle towering in the distance. A great place to catch the sunset, don’t forget to grab that camera and get the picture-perfect shot!
4. Go shopping around Market Cross
Although Kilkenny is a small city, there is actually a great shopping street with many boutique stores, Market Cross Street.
Situated in the heart of Kilkenny and continually growing since 1994, the shopping street boasts some of the best-known brands in Ireland, such as Supervalu, Heatons, and Penneys.
Experience Kilkenny’s shopping culture with over 40 shops, open 7 days a week, with late-night shopping on Thursdays and Fridays.
Market Cross Shopping Centre
Address: High Street, James’ Street and Chapel Lane, Kilkenny
Opening Hours: Monday - Thursday & Saturday 9 am - 6 pm, Thursday & Friday 9 am - 9 pm, Sunday 12 noon - 6 pm
Duration: around 2 hours required
Contact: +353 56 7752666
Website: Market Cross Shopping Centre
Turn back the clock and see Ireland’s oldest brewery at Smithwick’s Experience.
Famous for their Irish red ale-style beer, Smithwick’s secret recipe that put Kilkenny on the map didn’t come easy. Plenty of experimentation with flavours, different brewing methods, and a long time to produce the wonderful original flavour that people know today, you can witness all that with a tour of the Smithwick’s Experience.
Discover the true taste of a pint of Smithwick’s in their very own tasting room. Savour the distinctive taste of the ale paired with its fruity aroma. Appreciate the origins of the ale you are drinking! You will not be disappointed.
Kilkenny Smithwick's Experience Admission and Ale Tasting
Duration: 1 hour
6. Listen to a live band at The Pumphouse
One of Kilkenny’s favourite watering holes and popular for its live bands, The Pumphouse is a small outlet with great music, an energetic atmosphere, and live music.
Situated on a row filled with colourful buildings, The Pumphouse is often crowded during busy drinking periods and is a great place to hang out and take in the Irish vibes in Kilkenny.
Get pumping and dancing, because The Pumphouse is the place to go for craft beers and great deals on drinks to help stretch that euro!
Address: 28 Parliament St, Kilkenny, Co. Kilkenny, Ireland
Opening Hours: Monday - Thursday 12 noon - 11.30 pm, Friday & Saturday 12 noon - 12.30 am, Sunday 12.30 pm - 11 pm
Duration: around 3 hours required
Contact: +353 56 776 3924
Website: The Pumphouse
Exercise those muscles and try out Ireland’s heritage sport of hurling!
Visit Nowlan Park, currently the home of the famous Kilkenny Cats hurling team, and learn about the history and culture of the sport. While it may look and sound like a complicated game to learn, it will be a great experience to try your hand at this heritage sport. For all you know, talent could be hidden in places you never knew! The sport is very similar to field hockey.
Pitch this experience to your friends and family because it’s always good fun to try out a sport when visiting the country that is famous for it!
The Kilkenny Way: Ultimate Hurling Experience
Duration: 2 hours
8. Visit Dunmore Caves
If you want to take in some of the area’s natural sites, Dunmore Caves are perfect. It’s a limestone complex that stretches for 0.5 kilometres (0.3 miles) underground and goes as deep as 46 metres (150.9 feet)!
Open for guided tours, visitors can admire the gleaming limestone stalactites and stalagmites that have formed over the past 300 million years. A must-see is the ‘Market Cross’ found in the chamber known as the 'Town Hall’. A vast colonnaded pillar, it is a complex structure that was formed over millions of years.
Don’t be surprised if you find some silver or bronze coins. There’s a possibility that they once belonged to the Vikings that lived in the caves in the past!
Address: Castlecomer Rd, Kilkenny, Ireland
Duration: around 3 hours required
Contact: +353 56 776 7726
Website: Dunmore Caves
9. Take a step back in time and roam Butter Slip
Butter Slip is a medieval walkway in Kilkenny that rather resembles Diagon Alley in Harry Potter. With its arched entry and cobble-stoned steps, it is a narrow and dark alleyway that connects two main roads.
Considered by locals as one of the most picturesque and photogenic places in the city, just taking a slow stroll along this alleyway will make you feel like you’ve been transported back in time to a medieval corridor.
Built in 1616, the alleyway was once filled with stalls of butter vendors, giving it its slippery name.
Access: Walkway connecting High Street with St Kieran’s Street
Nearby Food: Italian restaurant, Petronella
10. Hear the waterfall roar next to you at Kilfane Waterfall and Glen
An untouched natural landscape for over 200 years, Kilfane Glen and Waterfall is a pristine example of a picturesque paradise.
With its appearance something close to what you might see in a fairytale book, the small but magnificent waterfall can be seen tumbling its way down the stream and woodland paths.
Covering about 15 acres (6 hectares) of natural landscape, the gardens are considered to be an Irish Heritage Garden. Admire the lush greenery and the rushing sounds of the water from the falls; it is truly a great way to spend the day just relaxing and rejuvenating your senses.
Kilfane Waterfall and Glen
Address: Stoneen, Thomastown, Co. Kilkenny, Ireland
Duration: around 3 hours required
Contact: +353 56 772 4558
Website: Kilfane Glen and Waterfall
Invoke your inner-Irish spirit in Kilkenny!
Wander through the cobbled streets, catch a game of hurling, or enjoy the nature trails surrounding the city centre. Explore the ‘Marble Town’ and learn what makes this city so special. With its subtle Irish charm and friendly people, you will never feel stifled in Kilkenny.
Whatever kind of holiday you’re looking for, Kilkenny is a great destination for a magnificent and unique break away from city life and the daily hustle and bustle.
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