Strolling around the maze-like cobbled streets of Kilkenny is a great way to get a feel for ye olde Ireland. The settlement of this medieval city can be traced back to the 5th century. Thankfully, there are many well-preserved examples of Ireland’s past.
To help you plan your trip, we’ve put together this guide to the best things to do in Kilkenny.
To make the most of your time, our 48 Hours in Kilkenny guide ensures you see the highlights and some unusual places.
Day One Itinerary Kilkenny
Start with a banging breakfast
When you arrive in Kilkenny City, we suggest you start with a hearty breakfast.
Bust a move to Butler House, where you can fuel up on local produce.
The menu includes Little Mill oatmeal, butcher sausages made with Butlers Farm free-range pork and eggs from Fanningstown House.
Tuck into your full Irish whilst admiring artworks from the Basil Goulding Collection.
You can even see Kilkenny Castle from the dining room’s large bay windows.
If you arrive in Kilkenny City after breakfast hours, don’t worry, you can still get your sausage and rasher fix.
Head to The Fig Tree on the High Street and order one of the delicious all-day breakfasts. Yup, you can even have breakfast for dinner if you like.
Meander the medieval streets
After breakfast, burn off some of those hash browns by roaming the medieval streets of Kilkenny.
A marked route called the Medieval Mile takes you on a discovery trail of Kilkenny’s marvellous medieval buildings and landmarks.
We suggest starting at the Kilkenny Medieval Mile Museum.
This is located in the beautiful 13-century St.Mary’s Church. This is one of the finest examples of a medieval church in Ireland, according to people who know these things.
Although located in an old building, the Medieval Mile Museum is thoroughly modern in its storytelling.
Through engaging and visual displays, you’ll learn of the 800-year history of Kilkenny.
Once finished, you’ll be well-informed and full of knowledge to make the most of the Medieval Mile walking trail.
The Medieval Mile walking trail will take you to the 13th-century St. Canice’s Cathedral.
If you were paying attention to the museum, you’d know that Kilkenny started off as an ecclesiastical settlement.
This was founded in the 6th century by St Canice. Cill Chainnigh is the Irish name for Kilkenny, and it means the church of Canice.
Make sure you fully explore Kilkenny and wander down the atmospheric 17th-century passageways.
Don’t worry about getting lost; Kilkenny is relatively compact, so you won’t be lost for long.
Take time to admire the rows of old-fashioned shopfronts and make time for a pint in the pubs.
Many of the pubs in Kilkenny are hundreds of years old. At the bar, make sure you keep it local and order a pint of Smithwick’s.
Speaking of which…
Sink a pint on the Smithwick’s Experience Tour.
You will find the Smithwick’s brewery since 1710 in Kilkenny!
Yup, that’s right, it is older than the Guinness Brewery, which wasn’t established until 1759.
And another fun fact, kids, Smithwick’s is the most consumed ale in Ireland.
If you want to learn more fun facts and the 300-year history of the brewery and its brews, get tickets to the Smithwick’s Experience Tour.
The tour takes place in a very cool 18th-century brewery and you’ll get to sample the different types of Smithwick’s. Sláinte (health) as we say here in Ireland.
Take a break
After all the walking and drinking, you’ll probably need a bit of a lie-down. Kilkenny has some top-notch hotels.
Might we suggest splashing out for a stay in Mount Juliet, one of Ireland’s finest country houses?
If your budget can’t stretch that far, consider booking a room at the Butler House or the Kilkenny Ormonde Hotel. There are also loads of bed and breakfast establishments in the area.
Traditional music and food in Kilkenny
Suitably rested and refreshed, it’s time to hit the town and enjoy some traditional Irish music and food.
This really is one of the top things to do in Kilkenny.
There are a lot of amazing pubs in Kilkenny. Want to hear some traditional live music?
Just follow the bang of the bodhrán. Loads of pubs in Kilkenny have musicians playing all day and night.
Two of our favourite pubs in Kilkenny are Kyteler’s Inn and The Dylan Whisky Bar.
Kyteler’s Inn (named after the first person in Ireland to be accused of witchcraft) is one of the oldest inns in Ireland. Steeped in history and lore, this pub also serves up some tasty Irish dishes.
We are fans of the bacon and cabbage and Irish stew.
The Dylan Whiskey Bar is an old Victorian pub with a roaring tuff fire and cosy snugs and seating.
It is perfect for warming up on cold days, of which there are plenty in Ireland. But the real lure of this bar is that you can choose from over 200 different whiskies and over 50 gins(yes, 50!).
Day Two Itinerary Kilkenny
Visit Kilkenny Castle
Start the day by visiting the impressive Kilkenny Castle. The castle’s history dates back to the 12th century, and it is one of Ireland’s most visited heritage sites. It is also one of the best things to do in Kilkenny.
You can take a guided tour or go it alone at your own pace.
As you walk through the ornate rooms, you’ll uncover the history and secrets of the Butler family.
The Butlers were once one of the most powerful families in Ireland.
Kilkenny Castle is set beside the River Nore and has extensive grounds which are open to the public.
Kilkenny Castle Park has beautiful views of Mt Leinster and is the perfect place for a picnic.
You’ll easily find a quiet spot amongst the mature trees or the rose garden.
If you are looking to explore some of the most fascinating castles in Ireland, make sure to read this post.
OK, chill out. Time is over; it is time to get the adrenaline pumping.
Learn to play one fastest field games in the world!
Ireland has played hurling for over 4,000 years.
This means it’s not only one of the fastest but also one of the oldest field games in the world.
Try your hand at hurling on the Kilkenny Way Ultimate Hurling Experience.
Before you take to the pitch, you learn about hurling’s heritage in Legend’s Hurling Bar Museum.
This, as you can probably guess, is a bar dedicated to legends (past and present) that have played the game.
Once your hurling knowledge is up to scratch, you’ll take to the pitch at Nowlan Park. This is home of the “Kilkenny Cats” hurling team.
With a hurl in hand, you’ll learn how to play this native Gaelic game. Hopefully, you’ll also learn to hit the sliotar between your opponents’ goalposts.
After all that sports ball, it’s time to freshen up before dinner.
Dine in a Michelin-starred restaurant
Looking for a fine dining experience whilst you are in Kilkenny? You are in luck because Kilkenny has two restaurants with one Michelin star each.
The first is The Lady Helen Restaurant in the Mount Juliet Golf and Spa hotel.
The restaurant is in an impressive Georgian building and overlooks the River Nore.
Dishes on the menu are created with ingredients from the estate, the wider Kilkenny region and the nearby coast.
If you want fine dining without the need to take out a second mortgage, you can head to Campagne restaurant.
Opt for the lunch menu, and you’ll dine on three courses of Michelin-star food for just €38.
What a bargain!
As you can see, there are plenty of things to do in Kilkenny, whether you’re here for a day or longer.
It is full of medieval marvels, fantastic food, and exhilarating experiences and you are guaranteed a terrific time.
Planning to explore Kilkenny soon?
Comment below and let us know!
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