48 Hours in Kilkenny


Wander along the streets and soak up their stories – buzzing Kilkenny has everything a modern cosmopolitan city should have, set against the backdrop of a truly special medieval heritage.

Nightlife at the Hole in the Wall in Kilkenny
Light installation at the Kilkenny Arts Festival
Dining with a view of Kilkenny Castle
Left: Taking in some nightlife at The Hole in the Wall | Middle: Experiencing the Kilkenny Arts Festival | Right: Tucking into the Marble City food scene

One of the liveliest spots in the country, Kilkenny offers thriving nightlife with myriad pubs and loads of live music; a fantastic festival scene; and a wide array of delights for foodies, craft and design lovers, the culturally curious, and history buffs.

Investigate the city, then go further afield – stroll along cycle paths, tour Jerpoint Park (where you'll discover a hidden medieval village), or visit the spectacular gardens of Mount Juliet Estate. For a short break with plenty to choose from, here's some of the highlights...

Exploring Kilkenny City

Spend your first day discovering all the 'Marble City' has to offer...

The Kilkenny Medieval Mile links Anglo-Norman Kilkenny Castle (at the centre of the city) to St Canice's Cathedral. Along the way, housed in St Mary's Cathedral you'll find the Medieval Mile Museum: take the guided tour, find out why Kilkenny is a city – not a town! – and gain insight into the area with the other tales the museum has to tell.

Proud of its food culture, Kilkenny is home to a wide variety of tempting cafés and restaurants offering the best of local produce. After a busy morning touring, when you're ready for a break enjoy a bite at The Grapevine Wine & Tapas Bar or treat yourself to afternoon tea at Mocha's Vintage Tea Rooms. Visit the foodhall at the Kilkenny Design Centre – sit in, or take a picnic to Castle Park across the road.

Or continue your travels through time over lunch, as you learn about the history of Kytelers Inn and the eventful life of infamous original owner Dame Alice Kyteler. Born in Kilkenny in 1263, Dame Alice was a 'merry widow' – four times over – who is said to have fled to England to avoid being burned as a witch.

Only a few feet away from the Medieval Mile Museum you'll find the Smithwick's Experience. Discover the age-old tradition of craft ale making – from its mastery by 13th century local monks on the site of the St. Francis Abbey Brewery, to the arrival of John Smithwick in the 1700s, right up to the present day. Get involved as you stir your own hops and are immersed in the multi-sensory, interactive tour.

If you're interested in other forms of craft (besides ale), the National Craft Gallery awaits. Visit the artisan workshops in the Castle Yard and admire the skills on show in the Jewellery School Studios as you watch a goldsmith crafting a Celtic brooch – and you'll realise just how much creativity is a part of this city's DNA. Or take part in a workshop where you can design and create your very own masterpiece!

Evening in Kilkenny

Even more of the city's charms are revealed as the sun sets…

Get a scare before bedtime with a Kilkenny Ghost Tour or explore the Medieval Mile in the evening in a fun, quirky way by joining Shenanigans - The Kilkenny City Walk for a storytelling tour with a mix of comedy and magic.

Delicious dinner options abound – for an excellent informal meal check out Ristorante Rinuccini, Zuni Restaurant, or The Hole in the Wall (where there's plenty of entertainment to be had as well). To truly spoil yourself, choose from local Michelin-starred options Campagne or the Lady Helen at Mount Juliet.

Enjoying a group 'bath' at Smithwick's
Work in progress at the National Craft Gallery
Left: A group of visitors enjoying a 'bath' at Smithwick's | Right: Work in progress at the National Craft Gallery

Beyond the City

On your second day, take some time to explore further afield…

Enjoy the artistic side of Kilkenny: visit Nicholas Mosse Pottery where their distinctive range – one of Ireland's best-known craft items – is created by hand. Set in a former flour mill in the picturesque village of Bennettsbridge,  it's just off the N9 approximately 8km from Kilkenny City.

If glass is more your speed, Jerpoint Glass Studio is open to visitors. Nestled in the beautiful Kilkenny countryside, it's an ideal destination for an enjoyable afternoon where you can watch master craftsmen at work. With nearby walking trails, artisan cafés and restaurants there's so much to do for those interested in craft, grazing and beautiful scenery!

Take to the waters near Graiguenamanagh to see a different side of Kilkenny, and discover the landscape that inspires the creativity of the area. Get your adrenaline moving with Pure Adventure: try kayaking under stunning bridges or experience stand up paddle boarding through caves as you immerse yourself in the history and nature of the area.

Admiring the pottery at the Nicholas Mosse Pottery Studio
Glass being made at Jerpoint Glass
Canoeing with Pure Adventure
Left: Admiring the pottery at the Nicholas Mosse Studio | Middle: Creating by hand at Jerpoint Glass | Right: On the water with Pure Adventure

After all that activity, you're bound to have worked up an appetite; the local area will not disappoint when it comes to great choices to sate it. 

Take a quick break in Malzards Pub and Hurling Experience in Stoneyford and take a step back in time at this family pub. Pull your own pint or practice a spot of hurling.

The Blackberry Café in Thomastown is another of the area's hidden gems: housed in an historic building, it dedicates itself to local produce, serving quality fare with ingredients sourced from local suppliers.

At Goatsbridge Trout Farm, their product is their passion. Their knowledge and experience with farming rainbow trout has been passed down through three generations. Each catch comes daily from the crystal clear waters of the Little Arrigle River, giving their trout its unique taste and texture. They love trout, and they're pretty sure you will too.

Don't miss

And that’s just a sample, there’s so much more to do on your visit to Kilkenny.

Enjoy your escape in Ireland’s Ancient East!

For more attractions and activities
check out the See & Do section