Kilkenny Castle Kilkenny Ireland

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!

*Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links at no extra cost to you. I may earn a small commission. I only recommend products I would use myself and all opinions expressed here are my own.

City Kilkenny ireland: Things to do in Kilkenny Ireland!
City Kilkenny Ireland: Things to do in Kilkenny Ireland!

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!

Kilkenny Ireland attractions map, link to interactive map
follow this link to a fully interactive map of Kilkenny attractions

Here is a list of the most Popular things to do in Kilkenny City:

Walking Kilkenny

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!

Butter Slip Lane Kilkenny Ireland
Butter Slip Lane Kilkenny

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.

Smithwick Experience
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.

Canal Walk Kilkenny Ireland
Canal Walk Kilkenny Ireland

Make your way to the Ossory bridge and along the opposite side of the river where you will find the Laken Walk.

River Nore Raised Wooden Walkway Kilkenny Ireland
River Nore Raised Wooden Walkway

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!

Taverns

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:

Kyteler’s Inn

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.

Kyteler's Inn historic inn in Kilkenny Ireland
Kyteler’s Inn

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.

Hole in the Wall Tavern old historic tavern Kilkenny Ireland. Angie Kunze, We're Not in Kansas Anymore
Hole in the Wall Tavern

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:

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.

St. Canice cathedral St. Canice's Cathedral Kilkenny Ireland
St. Canice cathedral / St. Canice’s Cathedral

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.

Angie Kunze, We're Not in Kansas Anymore, in the Chair of St Kieran at St. Canice's Cathedral Kilkenny Ireland
Chair of St Kieran at St. Canice’s Cathedral

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.

Dominican Black Abby Church Kilkenny Ireland
Dominican Black Abby Church

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.

St. mary / St mary's Cathedral Kilkenny Ireland
St. Mary / St Mary’s Cathedral

Kilkenny Castle

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.

Kilkenny Castle is one of Ireland’s famous landmarks, find more here.

Kilkenny Castle Kilkenny Ireland
Kilkenny Castle and Medieval garden

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.

Interior photos of Kilkenny castle including antique toys and a Drawing room
antique toys and a drawing room: Kilkenny Castle

Heritage Card

Kilkenny Castle is covered under Ireland’s Heritage Card, unlimited access to over 45 historic sites and attractions.

Castle Market

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!

Kilkenny Farmers Market, Kilkenny Castle Market Ireland
Kilkenny Farmers Market, Kilkenny Castle Market

Historic Structures

(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!

Shee Alms House Tourist Information office Kilkenny Ireland
Shee Alms House / Tourist Information Office

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.

Talbot's Tower Ruins Kilkenny Ireland, part of the wall that once surrounded Kilkenny
Talbot’s Tower Ruins

Rothe House

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:

Smithwick’s Experience

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.

Smithwick's Experience Kilkenny Ireland
Smithwick’s Experience

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:

Jurassic Newpark

Jurassic Newpark is Ireland’s only Dinosaur Theme Park, and it’s located in Kilkenny! This fun attraction includes things like a 50-metre covered inflatable jump park, life-sized animatronic dinosaurs, zip lines, a petting zoo, go-kart track, and a whole lot more! It’s great fun for all ages!

Hurling Tours

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:

keep reading on the next page! Museums, things to do at night, festivals and more!

Museums

There are several very good museums in Kilkenny.

Medieval mile museum

The Medieval Mile Museum is located on the 13th-century site of St Mary’s cruciform church and graveyard. Inside you’ll find 800 years of Irish and Medieval times history.

Information: open 7-days a week, additional charge if you opt to take the museums guided walking tour of the Medieval Mile. Check the museum website for more information

For art lovers….

National Craft Gallery

This is a contemporary craft gallery located in the former stable yard of Kilkenny Castle. Closed Sunday and Monday. Admission is free.

Butler Gallery

The Finest exhibition spaces in Kilkenny can be found at the Butler Gallery. This contemporary art gallery display’s art by Irish and International artists from as early as the 1800’s. Closed on Monday.

Things to do in Kilkenny at night

Music and dance

The tavern’s really come alive at night with live performances. Lively Irish folk music and Irish step dancing are two things that were very high on my “Ireland wish list.” They did not disappoint!

Romantically lit

Looking for romantic things to do in Kilkenny? I LOVE to explore a historic town after dark. Dark recesses and old and ancient buildings and monuments are often magically lit at night. The masses have left for the day and often you’ll find quite solitude, best of all, this activity is free!

Some of the buildings of particular night interest include St. Canice’s Cathedral and Kilkenny Castle

(this is an activity I also enjoy solo and Kilkenny is a nice safe place to do it!)

Kilkenny Castle at night Ireland
Kilkenny Castle at night

Festivals

Kilkenny is a town that likes its festivals! Here are two my favorite options:

Ode to St. Patrick:

St Patrick’s Festival is held in March. St. Patrick’s Day is celebrated around the world but there’s nothing quite like spending it in Ireland! 100,000 people descend on this little town for 6 days of festivities. Local landmarks are lit up in green, carnival rides, marching bands, street performers, festival food and much more!

Comedy Festival

Fun fact: Kilkenny hosts an annual comedy festival each June called Kilkenny “Cat Laughs” Festival…now how fun is that!?

More Festivals

See the Kilkenny Festival Page for a complete list.

Medieval Mile Pass / Tourist Discount

The Medieval Mile discount is a discount pass that once purchased gets visitors free access to Kilkenny attractions such as: the castle, Medieval Mile Museum, Rothe House, Smithwick’s Experience, St Canice’s Cathedral & Round Tower, the tourist trains, the ghost tour and more!

At last check the pass was €39.00 so it can easily pay for itself.

Notice: The sale of Ireland’s Medieval Mile pass has been suspended until further notice. Check the Kilkenny Chamber Website for more information.

More Kilkenny things to do?

Yes of course! I’ve hit the highlights but there’s more! Check out Heritage sites for more ideas!

Things to do near Kilkenny:

Have a car? you may be interested in these sites if you are looking for things to do near Kilkenny: Dunmore Cave, Jerpoint Abbey, Kilfane Glenn, Castlecomer Discovery Park…and don’t miss the opportunity to stay in a gorgeous castle! details below!

Dunmore cave

This tour’able cave was the site of a Viking massacre in 928. Be aware of the 700 steps on the tour.

distance from Kilkenny: 15 km

location: Castlecomer Road, Inchabride, Kilkenny

Jerpoint Abbey

Gothic style Cistercian abbey, founded in the 12th century with stone sculptures and stone carvings throughout the structure. The abbey has been declared a National monument.

distance from Kilkenny: 20 km

location: Jockeyhall, Thomastown, Co. Kilkenny

Don’t miss Kells Priory one of the largest and most impressive medieval monuments in Ireland. Located at Kellsborough, Co. Kilkenny, Ireland Just 10 km from Jerpoint Abbey.

Jerpoint Abbey Kilkenny county Ireland
Jerpoint Abbey

Kilfane Glenn and Waterfall

“Untouched for 200 years, Kilfane Glenn is a picturesque paradise with a waterfall tumbling its way to a rushing stream and woodland paths leading to a cottage orné. Tiny bridges sit among ancient trees, wild fox-gloves, ferns and other historically correct 18th century planting.”Kifane Website

distance from Kilkenny: 20 km

location: Stoneen, Kilfane, Co. Kilkenny

Castlecomer Discovery Park

adventure park with ziplines, tree-top walks, boating, canoeing, rafting, archery, ax throwing and more!

distance from Kilkenny: 20 km

location: The Estate Yard, Drumgoole, Castlecomer, Co. Kilkenny

Need to rent a car in Kilkenny?

  • Europe Car
  • Enterprise. We were picking up a car in Kilkenny (after having arrived by train) and Enterprise came and pickled us up from our lodgings and took us back to the office to finish our paperwork.

how to plan your trip

How much time should I spend in Kilkenny?

GOOD question! You could do Kilkenny on a 1 day trip, BUT there is so much to see and do here! You should slow down and give it some extra time, at least two days to do it right! more if you like!

Getting there

Nearest Airports:

from Kilkenny by car:

  • Dublin: 1.5 hours
  • Cork: 2 hours
  • Shannon: 2 hours
  • Waterford: 1 hour

Dublin is an easy train or bus ride away, the rest are doable but much longer journeys.

By train:

Kilkenny is an easy day trip from Dublin. If you’re flying into Dublin you can take a taxi or airlink bus 747 from the airport to Heuston Station. Either option can take up to an hour during high traffic times. (The bus is the cheaper option, leaves from just outside the airport.)

You can book the Dublin Kilkenny train with Irish Rail in advance via their website or at the train station. Direct trains available, travel time approximately 1.5 hours.

Looking for more easy day trips for Dublin? here are some fantastic options: The Best Day Trips From Dublin By Train (11 Ideas) Love Dublin and considering moving there?

bus Dublin Kilkenny,

Coach tickets between the two cities can be purchased at Transport for Ireland. Trip by bus is possible in less than 2 hours.

Parking in Kilkenny

If your hotel doesn’t offer free parking, Kilkenny has over 4,500 public parking spaces. Check the link for complete information on parking your car in Kilkenny.

Best Places to Stay in Kilkenny (how about in a castle???)

Looking for accommodation in Kilkenny City? I prefer a place with some personality!

in Kilkenny City

Hibernian Inn
is one of the cute boutique hotels in Kilkenny. It is located across the street from the Hibernian Hotel, where you can get your complimentary full Irish breakfast in the morning. The Hibernian is just .6 miles from the train station so walkable, even with our luggage but you should have no problem getting a taxi at the train station.

location: 5 Patrick Street, Kilkenny (just around the corner from the castle!)

Book it now!

Hibernian House Kilkenny Ireland
Hibernian House

Castle Hotels Near Kilkenny

How about a castle stay? You’ll need transportation for this one but it’s worth the trouble! and don’t forget you can rent a car right in town.

Kilkea Castle

Stay in a castle that was built in 1180! and for as low as $130 per night! Kilkea Castle is set on 180 acres of woodland, gardens and a golf course.

location: 40 miles from Kilkenny.

book it here!

Kilkea Castle Hotel near Kilkenny Ireland
Kilkea Castle Hotel

What to have the WHOLE castle to yourself? Check out Ballintotis Castle accommodations; one of the best secret escapes Ireland!

Be sure to check out my article on affordable castles to stay at in Ireland!

Eating in Kilkenny

Wondering where to eat in Kilkenny?

Here are a couple of outside of the norm dining options in Kilkenny.

Matt the Millers

cute building on the water, often serving up live music.

Matt the Millers tavern restaurant on the Nore River Kilkenny Ireland
Matt the Millers

Kilkenny River court Hotel

Terrace tables with a view of the castle across the river.

River Court Restaurant on River Nore with a view of the castle Kilkenny Ireland
River Court Restaurant

Need more options?

As always, I’m here for your best experience. If you are looking for more dining options check trip advisor, listed in order by best customer ranking.

2 weeks Ireland Scotland England

We toured Kilkenny as part of a whirlwind 14 day trip that included highlights in Ireland, Scotland and England! Get our free itinerary here! 

Ireland obsessed? Want to hear more about my travels around Ireland and the rest of our amazing planet? You may be interested in my Ireland page and be sure to submit your email address to my subscriber sign up at the end of the page to be the first to know when a new blog publishes!

Things to do in Kilkenny Ireland Pinterest Pin

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