Wondering what the best things to do in Kilkenny, Ireland are? Here’s our guide after spending the perfect 24 hours there.
Kilkenny is one of the most incredible medieval towns in the country. It’s worth a visit on the trail of Ireland’s Ancient East. The small town is the epicenter of County Kilkenny and can easily be explored in a day.
From medieval buildings, a gorgeous castle, to beer tasting, Kilkenny, Ireland has plenty to offer for a curious explorer!
Here’s what to do in Kilkenny during your visit!
Best Things to Do in Kilkenny, Ireland
Visit Kilkenny Castle
Arguably one of the most beautiful and popular castles in all of Ireland, Kilkenny Castle is a site worth seeing. This originally Norman castle dates back to as early as the 13th century and later on became the residence of the Butler family for over 600 years.
It has since changed architectural styles over the years. Since the 20th century, the castle was handed over to the state for restoration and open to the public as a living museum and art exhibit popular with tourists today.
Explore the interior of the castle or wander the beautiful gardens. The castle is truly the grand centerpiece of Kilkenny Ireland and worth a visit.
Admission: 8 Euro for a self-guided tour. The exterior of castle and video about the castle are free.
Visit St. Canice Cathedral
Visiting this gothic cathedral, also known as Kilkenny Cathedral, is one of the must-see medieval things to do Kilkenny, Ireland and a part of the city’s medieval mile.
The site itself dates back to the 6th century. However, the cathedral you see today dates back to the 13th century.
You can walk around the outside of the cathedral through the stone cemetery or climb the round tower for a great view overlooking the cathedral’s grounds and the city.
Two fun facts about the round tower would be that this is one out of two historical round towers you can climb in Ireland. It is also the oldest standing structure in Kilkenny Ireland.
Take a peek inside the cathedral to see the beautiful stain glass and the See Chair of the Bishop of Ossory.
Admission: 6 Euro for a combination ticket for St. Canice Cathedral and the Round Tower.
See the Black Abbey
Another beautiful gothic and medieval thing to do in Kilkenny, Ireland is to visit the Black Abbey. A Dominican church founded by the Black Friars is how the origin on the Black Abbey came about back in the 13th century.
The name is a mystery although many believe it came from the black capes the friars wore or the Black Plague took the lives of 8 priests in the year 1348.
Check out the interior for the impressive stain glass windows, including Ireland’s largest stain glass window, the Rosary Window.
Admission: Free, donations appreciated.
See the St. Mary’s Cathedral
This is another impressive gothic cathedral in the heart of the medieval mile in Kilkenny Ireland. St. Mary’s Cathedral stands out in the small town skyline as it’s perched on Kilkenny’s highest point and has a soaring 186 ft tower.
St. Marys was used for Catholics after Cromwell arrived in 1650 and used St. Canice as a Protestant cathedral. St. Mary’s wasn’t completed until after the famine in 1857 and considered as Early English Gothic architecture.
If you need a pick me up, check out the small cafe inside the cathedral.
Admission: Free, donations appreciated.
Check out the Rothe House
Check out the most iconic merchant home on the Medieval Mile in downtown Kilkenny Ireland. The Rothe House is made up of three Tudor homes, three courtyards, and a beautiful garden where visitors can explore.
The homes now contain local artifacts and the house dates back to 17th century and is one of Ireland’s most famous historical homes.
For an extra fee between 50-100 Euro, you can also explore the genealogy inside the Rothe House to explore your family’s heritage if you have any Irish descendants.
Admission: 5.5o Euro for adults.
Enjoy the Smithwick’s Experience
One of the most popular things to do in Kilkenny, Ireland is the Smithwick’s experience. Smithwick’s has surprisingly been around even before Guinness dating back to the year 1231 where Franciscan monks brewed this ancient beer.
The interactive experience includes everything from holograms, history, to hands-on lessons of the brewing process.
And of course, the icing on the cake would be the sampling of all three Smithwick ales. They serve up a blonde ale, pale ale, and red ale.
Admission: 15 Euro in person, or 13 Euro if purchased online in advance.
Wander the Medieval Streets
Walk the Medieval Mile stretching from St. Canice’s Cathedral to Kilkenny Castle. Wander the alleyways, some with cute names like Butter Slip and adorable storefronts.
The colorful buildings filled with shops, pubs, and restaurants on the medieval mile is what gives Kilkenny Ireland it’s charming character.
Enjoy the beauty of Kilkenny, Ireland
Just by strolling through the streets you can’t help but admire the colorful doors and perfect little homes that make up this charming medieval town.
The city is so picturesque you will just want to pick your favorite door and imagine you’re moving in. There’s a small town charm here in Kilkenny and each home and old building has character and an old world charm about it.
Get the Medieval Mile Pass
Want to see all the attractions and save money? Get a medieval mile pass for 39 euros for admission to all the attractions.
This includes Kilkenny Castle, Medieval Mile Museum, Rothe House, Smithwick’s Experience, St. Canice Cathedral & Round Tower, Kilkenny Cycling Treasure Hunt, Kilkenny Road Train Tours, Kilkenny City Train Tours, Kilkenny Ghost Tour, and discounts at selected restaurants and bars.
Where to Stay in Kilkenny, Ireland
We stayed at Hotel Kilkenny located just a 10 minute walk out of town and a wonderful 4-star option. The rooms are cozy and spacious and they offer a pool and spa for their guests.
Taste Restaurant is also a fabulous dining option offering an array of fine dining options. We also couldn’t help but admire the modern chic decor including the purple chair fit for a queen!
For more places to stay in Kilkenny, check the map below:
Looking for more fantastic places on Ireland’s Ancient East? Then you will want to check out Waterford, the oldest city in Ireland.
What do you think are the best things to do in Kilkenny?
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