Just about an hour and a half from Dublin is a charming town that deserves a spot on your bucket list: Kilkenny. From the lovely castles, churches, and historic sites to its lush countryside, you’ll see why it’s among the best-preserved medieval cities in Ireland.
But it’s not just about traveling back in time and being one with nature – Kilkenny also knows how to have fun with its lively nightlife, warm Kilkenny hotels, music, arts, sports, and culinary scene. Without further introduction, we list down the top reasons to visit Kilkenny, the heart of Ireland’s Ancient East.
- 1. Kilkenny is one of Ireland’s Historic Heartlands
- 2. You’ll get the chance to go back to the medieval period
- 3. You’ll get to taste Irish Ale straight from its source
- 4. The medieval city can give you the chills
- 5. Kilkenny has a booming tourism
- 6. Hurling is their thing
- 7. Kilkenny hosts lively festivals yearly
- 8. They’ve got great Irish music
- 9. Tons of surprises await art lovers
1. Kilkenny is one of Ireland’s Historic Heartlands
Kilkenny is home to Ireland’s best heritage sites, with tales rich in history, legend, and magic. It includes the 12th-century Kilkenny Castle, which hailed as one of the most famous buildings in the country.
Kilkenny is also abundant in medieval churches to visit, whether you want to worship or to simply admire the fascinating architecture and learn more about history. Some of the most remarkable churches lie in the centre of the city: St. Canice’s Cathedral & Round Tower, St. Mary’s Cathedral and Graveyard, and The Black Abbey.
2. You’ll get the chance to go back to the medieval period
A day wandering along the Medieval Mile is enough to transport you back in time.
Medieval mile is a long stretch running through the centre of Kilkenny city, linking the Kilkenny Castle and St. Canice’s Cathedral, with a lot of sights to see in between. The narrow streetscapes feature a wide array of historical buildings, merchants’ houses, and quirky medieval-inspired cafés, restaurants, pubs, and shops.
Next, to staying at a convenient hotel in Kilkenny, you should also consider getting a Medieval Mile Pass, which includes free admission to its top attractions. There are various tours for curious travelers, from fascinating road train tours to ghost tours and pub crawls.
3. You’ll get to taste Irish Ale straight from its source
Irish booze comes in different forms; If Dublin has its Guinness stout, Kilkenny has its Smithwick’s Irish Ale. It’s older than Guinness, having been created in 1710 by John Smithwick.
As you wander along the Medieval Mile, you’ll see Smithwick’s Brewery, a flashy old building with bright red doors. Step inside to uncover the history of this well-loved booze at their guided tour called Smithwick’s Experience. Call yourself lucky if you find a Kilkenny hotel that’s near the brewery, should you get merry and drunk.
4. The medieval city can give you the chills
If you love everything supernatural, then you’ll love Kilkenny. The walls of the oldest medieval city in Ireland have seen many chaos and bloodshed, so it’s not surprising to know that the town is haunted. Kilkenny has got castles, churches, and graveyards dated thousands of years, ghostly prisons, and an old, haunted pub associated with Ireland’s first condemned witch.
5. Kilkenny has a booming tourism
Kilkenny isn’t just known for its heritage sites – the historic heart of Ireland is also known for its vibrant food and hospitality offering.
The town has a thriving culinary scene, from local producers to lively food festivals, cookery schools, gastro pubs, and a wide array of top-quality dining experiences. The city and county also offer an excellent selection of accommodation in Kilkenny, from boutique hotels and woodland estates to family and budget-friendly hotels.
6. Hurling is their thing
Are you a hurling fan? If so, let the sports scene in Kilkenny be your top reason to visit the town. The Kilkenny Cats is the most successful hurling team in Ireland, which is why the whole town is alight with excitement during the hurling season.
You’ll see pubs are crowded with fans during match days, cheering their beloved “cats.”
7. Kilkenny hosts lively festivals yearly
Kilkenny has an abundance of festivals taking place annually. To begin with, the city has the Kilkenny Arts Festival (August) featuring various classical music events, literary readings, art exhibitions and workshops, and jazz and folk sessions. Other favorites include the following:
- May: Smithwick’s Kilkenny Roots Festival (Music Festival
- June: Kilkenny Cat Laughs (Comedy Festival)
- August: International Gospel Choir Festival
- September: Greystock Festival
- October: Savour Food Festival
- November: Kilkenomics Festival
8. They’ve got great Irish music
Thought you’ve heard a lot of great musicians in Dublin and Galway? Music is a big part of the Irish culture and Kilkenny is no exception. The city prides itself on its lively entertainment scene, with a wide array of live music and theatre events throughout the city’s pubs and venues.
9. Tons of surprises await art lovers
The town has a plethora of museums and galleries, perfect for anyone who wishes to indulge in both culture and history. Among the top choices are the Medieval Mile Museum, which houses a large display of the medieval town’s civic treasures, and the National Design and Craft Gallery.
The people of Kilkenny are proud theater art advocates too, with the Watergate Theatre being solid proof. The theatre showcased an eclectic mix of performances from serious dramas to musicals and opera.
10. Kilkenny’s nightlife is simply one of the best
No travel guide about Ireland is complete without mentioning the “nightlife.”
Kilkenny has a vast number of cozy pubs with live Irish music, great booze, old-fashioned wood and stone interiors, and rich history. In fact, one of the oldest pubs in Ireland (which is also said to be haunted) is situated here – the Kytelers Inn.
Author Bio: Carmina Natividad is a travel-savvy writer for The Hoban Hotel Kilkenny, a world-class hotel for business and leisure travel, offering exceptional accommodation and dining experiences in Ireland’s historic marble city. When she’s not taking vibrant street photos, you can find her writing articles about travel, food, and lifestyle.