Kilkenny is often overlooked on the tourist trail. Many blast their way past. Some skip it entirely by heading straight to Connemara. However, there are tons of things to do in Kilkenny. I hadn’t visited in ages (as we are temporarily living in Amsterdam ). So we decided to reconnect with the city and play at being a tourist while catching up with my parents who live there.
The population of this medieval “city” has a population of just under 30,000. For its size, it punches well above its weight. It oozes culture, exudes atmosphere and is exceedingly quaint. It is difficult to visit without some festival or conference going on such as The Cat Laughs Comedy Festival, Kilkenny Arts Festival, Kilkenomics or Rhythm & Roots adding to the buzz. The bar and restaurant selection are excellent and quite varied. You will find lots of things to do and it is perfect for a short break while in Ireland.
1. Go for a walk on the grounds of Kilkenny Castle for free
There is no entrance fee to walk around the grounds and it is well worth taking the time to stroll around the outside of this 12th century Castle. There is quite a bit to explore in the park and it is great for families as it has a playground. If it’s a bit cold or you need your caffeine kick there is often a stall by the castle selling teas & coffee’s to warm you up if needed.
It you walk past the castle towards the River Nore you will see a doorway you can walk through in the wall that leads you to a lovely walk along the canal.
For more information about visiting and events at Kilkenny Castle check out kilkennycastle.ie
2. Visit the Butler Gallery in Kilkenny Castle for free
If you don’t really feel like paying out money to do a tour of the castle. You can enter for free by immediately turning to the right towards the cafe and visit the Butler Art Gallery exhibition. A contemporary multimedia exhibition called “I Smelled a Raw Recruit: The World War Films” by New York artists Mary Reid Kelley and Patrick Kelley was on display. It combined spoken word, animation, performance and painting in a stylistic manner that reminded me of a Betty Boop cartoon. I got talking to the exhibition assistant who was manning the desk outside. As a performer he was really able to bring the exhibition to life for us in a very informative way.
3. Visit Butler House gardens & enjoy lunch
If you are visiting the castle yard at Kilkenny Design Centre you can continue walking through and there is an entrance to Butler House Gardens. The old stone blocks surrounding the pond come from Nelsons Pillar that used to stand on O’Connell Street in Dublin before it was damaged by explosives in 1966 by Irish republicans.
Butler House is open for afternoon tea and they also have a yummy lunch menu they serve from 12-4pm. Book in advance and ask for the window table! While there take a look around the reception and hallway area. The collection of artwork displayed on the walls is seriously impressive. There are pieces from notable Irish artists such as Louis Le Brocquy for example.
4. Visit the Exhibitions at Kilkenny Design
The National Design & Craft gallery is one of my favorite experiences in Kilkenny. I have yet to go to an exhibition in this space that I didn’t enjoy. The staff are always really friendly and informative. Feel free to ask them questions to learn more about the artwork and the artists. Behind the exhibition space it the old castle yard where the former stables are now design workshops with crafts such as silver and metal work, textile, ceramics and woodwork being produced. If you continue walking through you will reach the entrance way to the Butler House Gardens ( see above)
5. Enjoy the Jazz on Sundays
Every Sunday afternoon in the Left Bank in Kilkenny there is an amazing life Jazz band “Hot 4 Jazz Quartet” . Often Jazz and swing dancers join in to add to the atmosphere. Marie Glynn on vocals is a heart-meltingly beautiful singer and the band are fantastic. You can tell they are a close-knit group and work well together to perforce Jazz and swing classics. From the likes of Duke Ellington and Count Basie
6. Sample a pint of Guinness or craft beer in a Kilkenny Pub
There are many great Kilkenny pubs to choose from. However, here are a few of our favourites in no particular order:
- Hole in the Wall
- Left Bank
- Nore bar
- Dylan’s Whisky Bar
- Bridies Bar & General Store
7. Go for a walk along the river
As you walk along the Nore river banks there there a wonderful view of the Castle in the distance. Which makes a great spot for some photo opportunities. For those looking for a slightly longer walk or run. There is a 5km Nore Linear Park Walk that you can also do.
8. Go and see a performance in the theatre
There are two Theatre’s in Kilkenny The Watergate and The Set. The latter is part of the Langton’s House hotel. It is well worth checking what plays or what shows are on during your visit. For example The Watergate Theatre has staged both national and international performances from plays to all types of music, opera, comedy, dance and musicals.
9. Check out a Festival
There are all types of festivals that run throughout the year. Some I would particularly recommend are the
10. Enjoy a great meal in a top restaurant
These are some of my foodie favourites in Kilkenny
- Rinuccini’s – Italian Fine Dining
- Truffles – It won best casual dining in Leinster for 2018 – (worth checking out the early bird menu)
- Rive Gauche – For Lunch or Brunch with cocktails!
- Algarve Grill – For cheap eats
11. Visit the Medieval Mile Museum
The museum is located in a 13th-century church and graveyard. The exhibits artfully displayed tell stories of the wealthy merchants of the city. On display are also ornate high crosses carved stone tombs side by side multimedia displays.
For more information about visiting go to medievalmilemuseum.ie
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