People say you can’t have the life you dreamed of as a child. Children spend hours pretending to be knights, witches, wizards, or princesses. But when we grow up, we’re supposed to forget those dreams, shut up, and pay our mortgages. Well, now you can live your childhood dreams by spending 24 hours finding all the best things to do in Kilkenny Ireland!
Because Kilkenny is a little off the beaten tourist track, it can be hard to find the best things to do in Kilkenny Ireland aside from Kilkenny Castle, especially when you only have 24 hours. That’s where I come in to offer my humble assistance, Internet Stranger! Allow me to go medieval on your asses, as I take you on a pleasant stroll of my favorite places in Kilkenny.
Note: If you want to know how I put my travel itineraries together, just click here. Keep in mind that while each article is about how to spend 24 hours in a place, that doesn’t mean you should ONLY spend 24 hours finding the best things to do in Kilkenny Ireland .
Disclaimer: The links on this website may contain affiliate links. This means that I may receive a commission if you decide to make any purchases using my affiliate links. But I would never recommend anything I didn’t absolutely love, dahlink, even if they promised to drench me in diamonds. Most of my recommendations are based on my personal experience, but some may be based on reviews from other travelers.
Things to Do in Kilkenny Ireland
Where to Stay?
Kilkenny is quite a small city of about 25,000 people, so any hotel actually located inside Kilkenny is not going to be that far from anywhere else in the city. I do recommend choosing your base for exploring the best things to do in Kilkenny Ireland within walking distance of Kilkenny Castle, if your budget allows it.
Kilkenny’s main charm is its adorable medieval Irish streets. So if you stay inside the city, you’ll get to spend as much time as possible exploring and pretending to be a time traveling war widow/er who falls in love with a dashing 14th century Irish noble.
For this reason I suggest staying at JBs Bar and Guest Accommodation. It has a fantastic location, it’s clean and cozy, and there’s free Wifi and private bathrooms. (It’s also where I stay when I visit Kilkenny.) You can find an entire article I wrote on the best hotels in Kilkenny if you click here.
Things to Do in Kilkenny Ireland
Morning: Kilkenny Castle
Of all the Must-Do Things to do in Kilkenny Ireland, Kilkenny Castle is simply the must-est. I think my love for castles has already been well documented on this site, but I cannot stress enough how lucky Kilkenny is to have its own castle smack in the middle of town. In my hometown NYC we just have Belvedere Castle, and Mr. Belvedere doesn’t even live there.
Kilkenny Castle used to belong to the Dukes of Ormond until it was sold to the Kilkenny Castle Restoration Committee for 50 Euros. Was the Duke forced to sell it after some poor investment choices left him penniless? That’s just like Lord Grantham on Downton Abbey! Man, those aristocrats do not always make good life choices.
As Kilkenny Castle is Kilkenny’s most major tourist attraction, I recommend spending all morning in and around the castle. The tour is self-guided, but the signs and the information on the website are excellent, so if you do the same, you’ll be able to guide yourself around the castle with aplomb and confidence. I promise you will not get bored if you check out all of my…
Approximately Top 5: KILKENNY CASTLE
1) VISIT THE KILKENNY CASTLE MEDIEVAL ROOM
I couldn’t take photos inside Kilkenny Castle, so I’m afraid you’ll have to use your imagination a bit to picture it. I will attempt to create an adequate picture with my words. All I ask of you is that you close your eyes while reading this blog and try your best to visualize what I say.
Like many European medieval castles, Kilkenny Castle has been updated and rearranged on multiple occasions. When you are wandering around it can be difficult to tell which parts come from the actual Middle Ages and which are recent editions by some gruesome parvenu Maggie Smith would roll her eyes at on Downton Abbey.
Your tour starts with an AV presentation in the Medieval Room, which seems historically inappropriate. This room contains evidence of both the old and the updated forms of the castle. The stone walls themselves date back to the early days of the castle, but in the 19th century the room was updated to be a wine cellar. When you walk around the room, you can imagine that you are a British Lord enjoying your expensive Port wine while all around you Irish peasants starve, or something.
2) DESCEND THE GRAND STAIRCASE
The Grand Staircase of Kilkenny Castle is one of the other 19th century additions to the castle, but that doesn’t mean it’s not impressive. The staircase is made entirely out of mahogany, and it leads to the Tapestry Room on the first floor. The only things any aspiring princess needs are a Grand Staircase and a Tapestry Room, preferably full of tapestries of unicorns. So this castle just gets better by the second.
3) MEANDER AROUND THE CASTLE GARDENS
Providing it is not raining (NOT guaranteed. After all Miss, this is Ireland.) you should spend as much time as you can enjoying the exterior of the castle. The castle gardens are so well manicured that they make you wonder if the gardener moonlights as a serial killer. You can bring a book here, go for a stroll…I don’t really think you need me to tell you how to enjoy a garden.
According to the Castle website, the gardens are 21 hectares in size. I had no idea how much a hectare is, so I needed Google to translate for me. Apparently that works out to about the size of 40 football fields. Crazy! I didn’t even think that they played American football in Ireland. What do they need all that space for?
4) GO SHOPPING AT THE KILKENNY DESIGN CENTRE
Have you ever noticed how so many souvenir stores are just full of sad pieces of mass-produced plastic that will probably melt if you leave them in the sun for too long? Well, you won’t have that problem in Kilkenny!
The Kilkenny Design Centre is just across the street from Kilkenny Castle. It’s a great place to do some shopping for a local souvenir. I recommend getting crystal or wool because eastern Ireland is famous for both those products. I bought this whimsical crystal paperweight pictured above. She is the product of some fellows who were formerly employed at the famous Irish Waterford Crystal plant that used to be near Kilkenny.
(Waterford Crystal has made everything from the chandeliers at Westminster Abbey to the crystals in the ball that drops in Times Square at New Year’s. You are suitably impressed.)
I would always rather get my souvenirs at a place like the Kilkenny Design Centre than at a store specializing in mass-produced goods. I always yell, “Supporting the local economy!” when I buy something from a small producer. Then they usually ask me to leave the store because I am disturbing the other customers.
24 HOUR TREASURE
If you have some time when you are done shopping, visit the National Design and Craft Gallery which features the works of well-known Irish craftspeople like goldsmith Rudolf Heltzel. (Perhaps you are thinking that Heltzel doesn’t really sound like an Irish name. Well, don’t traffic in ethnic stereotypes, Internet Stranger!)
5) HAVE LUNCH AT CLEERE’S BAR AND THEATRE
After all that castling and shopping, it will finally be time for lunch. Cleere’s is an excellent place to catch some food and Irish trad music. Kilkenny is famous for its trad music sessions, casual performances of Irish folk music often put on in a pub. The instruments used vary, but they might include an accordion, fiddle, guitar, flute, pipes, a harp if you are very fortunate, or a bagpipe if you are very unfortunate.
Loads of pubs in Kilkenny have sessions going on any given day. Cleere’s usually has performances in the evening, but I was treated to a quick daytime when I was in Kilkenny. Maybe that was just the luck of the Irish. Get a pint, but don’t ask for Guinness. Smithwicks is the brew of choice around these parts and it’s pronounced Smiddicks. Then order up a bowl of Irish stew and enjoy the kind of music that the British government probably tried to have banned at some point!
Things to Do in Kilkenny Ireland
Afternoon: Explore Kilkenny
Now that we’ve gotten Kilkenny Castle out of the way, it’s time to do some exploring of Kilkenny on your own! For the next portion of our best things to do in Kilkenny Ireland tour, we will find the best smaller historic sights that the city has to offer. We will also meet a WITCH.
Approximately Top 5: Best Things to Do in Kilkenny Ireland
1) ROTHE HOUSE TOUR
The Rothe House is an early 17th century home. It used to belong to a wealthy Kilkenny merchant family but, like Kilkenny Castle, it now belongs to Big Brother. I assumed that the most famous member of the family was Tim Roth, star of Reservoir Dogs and Pulp Fiction. But apparently the names are spelled differently.
Like the Kilkenny Castle tour, this tour is self-guided, but since this house is much smaller, you’ll be able to complete the tour in about half the time.
If you see only one part of the house, let it be this room because it contains the skeleton of something called a Giant Irish Deer. You can see its skeleton above in my blurry photo. It looks much better in person. But I’m still not convinced Giant Irish Deer exist. Everyone knows the Irish like to make up stories. This could just be a cow skull that someone glued moose horns onto.
2) EXPLORE THE ROTHE HOUSE GARDENS
After the house tour is over, spend as much time as you like in the gardens out back. They were recreated to look just like an 18th century garden. Even on a rainy day, the flowers are stunning.
And the gardens are home to some adorable plump ducks. My apologies for the quality of the picture. Ducks aren’t always very photogenic because they don’t show their teeth when they smile.
3) Explore St. Canice’s Cathedral
If you ever decide to build your own medieval town, you should know that the two most important ingredients are a castle and a cathedral. We saw the Kilkenny Castle already, so it is time to move to the latter. St Canice’s Cathedral has approximately a flobbityjillion random statues and fancy boxes that maybe contain saints’ relics inside . They wouldn’t let me open the boxes, so I can’t say for sure.
After you see all the relics you desire, don’t miss the view from the top of the Round Tower. On a clear day, you can see the countryside from here. Also, I think Round Tower is a much cuter name than the names of most other towers, like the Tower of Terror or CN Tower.
(You might be asking why I didn’t include a photo of the view. It’s because the day I visited the tower, there was so much fog you couldn’t see much past your fingers. Thanks, Irish weather!)
Without this cathedral Kilkenny as we know it would not exist. This is because the name Kilkenny comes from the Gaelic word for “Church of Canice”. Saint Canice is also sometimes known as Saint Kenny, which is a really unfortunate name for a saint. It is one step up from Saint Brad.
4) Meet a Witch
There is a witch in the gardens of St. Canice Cathedral. She is pretending to be a cat, but she cannot fool me. One look at that cranky face and I knew I was dealing with a real witch. I just hope the cat is a nice witch like Professor McGonagall in disguise, and she is only cranky because I woke her up from a nap or something.
5) MEANDER ALONG THE RIVER NORE
Any self-respecting Irish town is built on a river, and Kilkenny is no exception. Assuming the weather cooperates (a foolish assumption), I would finish up my afternoon in Kilkenny with a stroll on the banks of the River Nore. I simply adore the River Nore. It’s never a bore. It won’t make you snore. It has charms galore. Quoth the raven, nevermore.
Things to Do in Kilkenny Ireland
Evening: Dinner at Campagne
Our day of the best things to do in Kilkenny Ireland is coming to an end, and so it is time for dinner. Perhaps you did not know that Kilkenny was home to a Michelin-starred restaurant? Well, it’s got one and only one, and its name is the not-terribly-Irish Campagne. Campagne has been awarded a Michelin star every year since 2014, which Gordon Ramsey tells me is very impressive.
Campagne’s ingredients are local and seasonal, so even if I tell you what I ordered, you won’t be able to duplicate my meal. I might as well keep it to myself! But since you asked so nicely, I will tell you that I feasted on lobster lasagna for an appetizer, chicken with sorrel and mashed potatoes for a main course, and vanilla panna cotta with berries and meringue for dessert.
It was all delicious, but I think lobster lasagna is one of those miraculous inventions, like the light bulb, that is going to change the world. And with that deep thought, our itinerary of the best things to do in Kilkenny Ireland comes to an end.
That Was the Best Things to Do in Kilkenny Ireland!
What do you think are the best things to do in Kilkenny Ireland? Are you ready to start booking your hotel in Kilkenny right away? Is that cat a witch, and if so should we burn it? Feel free to leave suggestions in the comments!