Kilkenny, known as the Marble City, is a charming Irish city filled with Medieval architecture and buildings. An impressive castle, several well-preserved churches, and tons of artisan boutique shops and pubs make it a favourite place for tourists to visit and a popular weekend getaway for the Irish locals (especially for stag and hen parties). With so many things to do in Kilkenny, it’s easy to spend a day or two in this picturesque town.
Kilkenny is only 1.5 – 2 hours from Dublin by car or bus, making it an easy day trip from Dublin, for those looking to get out of the capital and see a bit more of Ireland. It’s also a popular stop on guided day trips from Dublin to Glendalough and Wicklow.
Whether you have a couple of days, a full day, or even just a couple of hours, Kilkenny has plenty to offer and is definitely worth the visit. Here is my ultimate list of things to do in Kilkenny, Ireland.
THE MEDIEVAL MILE
Kilkenny’s Medieval Mile is a trail that links Kilkenny Castle to St. Canice’s Cathedral. This stretch is filled with shops, pubs, restaurants, picturesque alleyways and tons of history. It’s fun to do on your own, but if you are a history fanatic or just a story love, consider taking a guided walking tour.
St Canice’s Cathedral
Located at the opposite side of the Medieval Mile from Kilkenny Castle, St. Canice’s Cathedral is one of the most popular things to do in Kilkenny. This historic building is beautiful and impressive, with two of its biggest highlights being the colourful stained-glass windows and the Round Tower. The Round Tower is the oldest standing structure in the city of Kilkenny and one of only two round towers that visitors can climb in Ireland. Weather permitting, the views from here are stunning, making it one of the best things to do in Kilkenny.
THE BLACK ABBEY
Kilkenny’s Black Abbey dates back to 1225. Throughout the tumultuous years it has faced many changes and, of course, the wear of time. However, it has been restored to its original grandeur complete with ornate stained-glass windows, the most impressive of which is the Rosary Window. Part of what makes the Black Abbey so impressive is that it is also the longest established of all of the country’s foundations.
St Mary’s Cathedral
Located on the highest point of Kilkenny, St. Mary’s Cathedral is easy to spot. This impressive Cathedral is created from cut limestone, all of which was sourced locally when it was built in the 1800s. It’s free to visit and definitely work a walk around and a visit inside to examine the beautiful architecture.
NATIONAL CRAFT GALLERY AND KILKENNY DESIGN CENTRE
Kilkenny may be known as Ireland’s Medieval city but it’s also known for its local artisans and craft shops. Established in 2000, the National Craft Gallery is located in what was once the stable yard of Kilkenny Castle. The exhibitions here feature local and international artists who work with a variety of materials and techniques.
KILKENNY WAY HURLING EXPERIENCE
Fun fact: Hurling in Ireland means something completely different than it does in North America. It’s a sport, and no, there’s no excessive drinking or being sick involved. The sport of Hurling is 3,000 years old and you can delve into that history at the Kilkenny Hurling Way Experience. Packages here include a museum visit, introduction video to the sport, learning some skills, and then watching a game over lunch at the bar.
Rothe House and Garden is a bit of a hidden gem in Killarney. From the street, it just looks like a beautiful old building; which it is. But while Rothe House is a stunning building, and the only one of its kind remaining in Ireland, it also is a museum and has a lovely garden in the back. Rothe House dates back to the early 1600s and is actually made up of three houses. The museum inside contains historical artefacts both found in the Kilkenny area and donated by residents. Tours are self-guided, with the gardens in the back being a highlight for many.
CHECK OUT A TRAD MUSIC SESSION
Ireland is known for its traditional (trad) music, and Kilkenny is a great place to find some. Many of the city’s pubs offer live music sessions at least once or twice a week (if not more) including Kyteller’s Inn, Matt the Millers, and the Field Bar and Restaurant.