The small city of Kilkenny is a Medieval town located in county Kilkenny in southwest Ireland. With a population of just 26,512 people, it’s a very manageable town for tourists to explore on foot.
You’ll discover a beautiful castle, historic sites, medieval charm, a distinct Irish appeal…and lots of exciting things for visitors to do!
Why is Kilkenny such a great place to visit?
ancient Irish history
If you like things that are old and ancient then you are going to love Kilkenny! There were already churches here as early as the 6th century.
The medieval city of Kilkenny was occupied by the Normans (Viking settlers from Normandy France) who built Kilkenny Castle in the 12th century.
In the 17th century the town of Kilkenny was officially established, and at one point in time was named as capital of Ireland.
What is Kilkenny known for? Is Kilkenny Ireland worth visiting?
Yes, but only if you like historical sites, live music, Irish dancers in lively pubs, and Medieval history. If so, then this Irish city is the perfect place for your next Ireland getaway!
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Top things to do in Kilkenny Ireland
Wondering what is there to do in Kilkenny Ireland? Then you, my friend, have come to the right place! If you are looking to fill out your Kilkenny itinerary then look no further! You’ll find the Best things to do in Kilkenny and the Best places to see in Kilkenny right here in this article!
Kilkenny Attractions Map / Thing to do in Kilkenny Map
(Notice most attractions are clustered around the City Centre of Kilkenny)
Follow this link for an interactive Google map of the top attractions in Kilkenny!
Here is a list of the most Popular things to do in Kilkenny City:
Kilkenny is a wonderfully walkable little city. If you’re looking for things to do for free in Kilkenny, one of the best ways to get out and really see a town is on foot. Bonus, it’s free!
Here are some of the Top walks:
Kilkenny’s medieval mile
The Medieval Mile is a narrow street that runs through the core of Kilkenny. It’s lined with shops, historical structures, restaurants and taverns. The street was built in the 13th century as a route between the Castle and St Canice’s Cathedral.
There are a lot of interesting things to see in Kilkenny right along the Medieval Mile. If you begin at the castle you’ll pass by:
(The street changes names several times. From the Castle: High street, Parliament Street, Watergate, Irishtown, St Canice’s Place)
The Tholsel Kilkenny, a Historic building built in 1761 was at one time a toll house. Today is the city hall.
Butter Slip Lane is a cozy alleyway that connects St Kieran’s Street and High Street. It was built in the 17th century (1616) and got its name because it was once lined with butter vendors on market day. Step inside and take a brief step back in time!
Tourist Information Visitor Centre
Stop in for maps and information, including where to find live music around town.
Kilkenny Old Jail and Courthouse (also known as Grace’s Old Castle) 1566 jail and later a courthouse. Nothing of particular interest on the inside but you’ll catch a glimpse of this historic building as you pass by.
Kilkenny’s Brewery Experience (we’ll discuss this one later)
Rothe House and Garden 1500’s merchant house (covered later)
Canal Walk / River Walk
There’s a divine little walking trail that runs along the River Nore. You’ll find access to the Canal Walk trail between the castle and the river.
Make your way to the Ossory bridge and along the opposite side of the river where you will find the Laken Walk.
Not up for the entire 12 km walk? Simply stroll along the banks of the river as far as you like and then turn or around.
Kilkenny to Bennettsbridge: Nore Valley Walk. (To protect farm animals, no dogs allowed) The Trail Kilkenny site has a great map.
Rather go by bike?
See the Visit Kilkenny site for information on bike tours and bike rentals!
Kilkenny has some wonderfully historic taverns. They are warm, colorful, vibrant and cozy!
Slip into one any time for a warm drink, a cold drink, a chat with the locals, to get out of the weather, or to get your fix of some Irish folk tunes!
Here are some of my favorite picks:
Medieval Kilkenny at its finest and a scandalous story too! This cozy building houses one of the oldest inns in Ireland (1263) Kyteler’s Inn was established in 1324 by Alice de Kyteler, the first convicted witch in Ireland.
Alice was something of a “black widow” outliving 4 husbands (suspicious circumstances abound) and accumulating quite the fortune in the process. It wasn’t long before the town accused her of witchcraft but before they could burn her at the stake she made her escape. Read more about Alice here!
Come for the live music (nightly during summer) and be sure to check out the 13th century pillars in the cellar.
Tynan’s Bridge House Bar
Established 1703, Tynan’s Bridge House Bar has a bright blue exterior that gives way to drippy candles, Guinness, and live music inside Kilkenny’s oldest “pub.”
Hole in the Wall Tavern
This little hidden gem is a MUST! The Hole in the Wall Tavern is housed in the oldest surviving townhouse in Ireland. Established in 1592…it feels exactly that old! It developed somewhat of a rough reputation and was closed down. Today it’s back open and a relaxing spot for an Irish Whiskey. Closed Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday.
walking tour Kilkenny
Looking for a guided tour? Guided walking tours are a great way to get your bearings around a city.
Here are a few of my tops picks:
Amanda Pitcairn Tour
Amanda’s 1.5 hour walking tour covers a good deal of the History of Kilkenny. What’s on the menu? witchcraft, ghosts, scandals and more! Please contact me for information on contacting Amanda.
Location: Amanda will let you know where to meet. Conveniently she met us at our lodgings.
Medieval Mile Museum Guided Tours
The Medieval Mile Museum offers a 1 hour group walking tour of the Medieval Mile.
Location: the tour leaves from the Medieval Mile Museum at 11am on Saturdays and Sundays. Tickets include entry to the museum. See the museum’s website for more on the walking tour.
Kilkenny Ghost Tours
Looking for unusual things to do in Kilkenny? How about a good ole ghost tour? This family friendly tour takes you through the haunted streets of the oldest medieval city in Ireland and introduces you to the resident spirits. You’ll get a cape and witch hat to wear on the 1 hour tour, starts at 8 pm nightly.
Location: tours leave from Lanigans Bar, see the Kilkenny Ghost Tours site for more information.
More walking tours
Looking for more walking tours in Kilkenny? These are all good options as well:
- Ormonde Language Tours (the highlights from a native Kilkenny resident)
- Knight for Hire (discover Kilkenny with a knight as your guide)
churches in Kilkenny
The Churches of Kilkenny are gloriously old & ancient! With their stained glass windows, ornate altars, and dark recesses you’ll feel as if you’ve slipped back in time!
Here are the 3 must see churches:
St. Canice’s cathedral (also known as Kilkenny cathedral)
St Canice’s Cathedral is a 13th century Church of Ireland Gothic cathedral. This magnificently old church is one of the most gorgeous I have seen. On first sight of it’s interior my actual words were “Wow!!! This is stunning!” My remark was met with agreement from the lady selling tickets.
Make sure you take a seat in the ancient Chair of St Kieran. This 1,500 year old chair is used to this day in enthronement ceremonies of the Bishops of this diocese.
The Round Tower at St Canice’s
The tower you see in the photo of the church is called The Round Tower. The present structure is believed to have been built in the 9th century, making it the oldest standing structure in Kilkenny City.
Climb to the top of the 100 foot (30 meter) tower for magnificent views of town. The climb consists of 7 floors, a series of ladders and 121 steps.
Information: You’ll pay extra to climb the tower. See the St. Canice’s Website for details.
Dominican Black Abbey
is a Catholic Dominican church that was founded in Kilkenny in 1225. The name “Black Abbey” was derived from the black cloak worn by the Friars over their white habits (“Black Friars”)
This Dominican abbey is a functioning church. They still hold church services, and people still go here to pray. You can go in but please be respectful of any worshipers in the building.
Saint Mary’s Cathedral
is a Gothic Revival style Roman Catholic cathedral. St. Mary’s opened in 1857 and is still today a functioning church. Feel free to go inside but remember people may be here to worship.
Right in the heart of Kilkenny is a perfect little Castle. Kilkenny Castle was originally a wooden fort built by Strongbow in 1172. The castle you see today is 13th century, the interior mostly decorated in Victorian style.
In 1391 the castle became the stronghold of the powerful butler family, who retained possession of the castle until 1967. At that time it was sold to the town of Kilkenny for £50.
The castle grounds comprises 50 acres of beautiful green parkland, trees, a terraced rose garden, fountains and a man-made lake.
Take the tour or do a self guided tour of the castle. See the Kilkenny Castle website for details.
Kilkenny Castle is covered under Ireland’s Heritage Card, unlimited access to over 45 historic sites and attractions.
If you happen to be in Kilkenny on a Thursday then you’re in luck! Kilkenny Farmers Market is just outside the castle, every Thursday 9:30-2:30 crafts, cheeses, jams, baked goods and more!
(Shee Alms House)
This Tudor style building was built in 1581 to house the poor. The building is now used as a Tourist Information Office. It’s just a 3 Minute walk from the castle, stop in!
Talbot’s Tower Ruins
At one time Kilkenny was surrounded by a city wall. Talbot’s tower was one of 9 towers on Kilkenny’s 13th century city walls. It is still standing after 755 years! The tower is the most intact surviving defensive structure within the city walls.
From War to Roses: During Victorian times the defunct fortification was topped with a pleasure garden. Today, there is a viewing platform at the top. It may be locked but it’s worth checking out for the views of the city.
late 16th-century merchant’s townhouse built by John Rothe Fitz-Pier. The complex consists of 3 houses, courtyards, a large garden and orchards. Open Tuesday – Sunday.
experiences / sport / activities to do in Kilkenny
Looking for fun things to do in Kilkenny? Here are my tops picks:
John Smithwick and Richard Cole started brewing Ale at Smithwick’s brewery in 1710. NINE generations have been brewing Ireland’s most popular ale right here in this spot! Visit Smithwick’s and get the full rundown of their history and learn more about what they do in the brewery.
1 hour guided tour and a complimentary pint of Smithwick’s Ale. Advance booking recommended.
Tourist Train Tours
A short ride around town on a tourist train can be fun. I wasn’t actually able to see much, so I prefer to walk but if you want to ride the train then you have two options:
afternoon tea Kilkenny
Interested in afternoon tea in Kilkenny? Here are two very good options:
- Tea at Langton’s-make a reservation. John street Tea Rooms
- River Court Hotel
Hurling is an exciting full contact outdoor team sport of ancient Gaelic Irish origin. During this 1 hour experience they will introduce you to hurling: History, basics, and then take you out onto the field to give a go at what you’ve learned! see the Hurling Tours site.
the golf course
Golf Courses in Kilkenny City that welcome visitors:
- Kilkenny Golf Club
- Pococke Golf Centre (also offer footgolf)
keep reading on the next page! Museums, things to do at night, festivals and more!