Kilkenny Ireland: Guide for Fellow Travelers

When my family headed to Kilkenny Ireland, in June 2017, I was so excited because I’d heard it’s a great town. We were coming from our visit to the Bru na Boinne archeology sites and our stay at the Powerscourt Hotel. I discovered that Kilkenny is so nice, I couldn’t resist putting together this ultimate guide to the town so I could share it with you! For my guide to Kilkenny hotels and B&Bs, read this article.

Hopefully my guide will save you the loads of time it took me to research it. For more great Irish destinations, check out my Ireland travel guide. A good place to start is also with my descriptions of 18 Beautiful Ireland Towns and Irish Villages.

For this Kilkenny guide, I looked for not just “the best of the best,” but also anything quirky or “secret” that real travelers and locals had to share. This post covers how to get there, what to do, where to stay, and where to eat. There are mini table of contents throughout, so you can jump right to the sections!

Street in Kilkenny Ireland
Street in Kilkenny, Ireland. Photo by William Murphy/Flickr

Here’s an example of my mini table of contents if you want to jump directly to sections of this guide:

But first, why do tourists flock to Kilkenny Ireland?

  1. It’s so beautiful that it’s won many awards. It won the National Award at the Failte Ireland travel awards. The Japanese Association of Travel Agents named it “the most beautiful town in Europe.”
  2. It’s full of Medieval houses, cathedrals, and abbeys — so much so that it has a Medieval Mile you can walk for the full experience. There’s a beautiful castle with gardens.
  3. The town is surrounded by forest and there’s a pretty river that runs through it (the River Nore). It’s a good area for biking, driving, and hiking.
  4. The town is also known for its arts festivals, which include everything from bluegrass music and comedy, to dance and plays.
  5. It’s inland, and is a great stop when you’re crossing from one side of the country to the other.
  6. There are tons of good places to stay and eat!
  7. It makes great beer.


My family on River Nore in Kilkenny Ireland
My family on River Nore in Kilkenny. Photo by Travis Neighbor Ward

How I Chose What’s in This Guide

I love roughing it and I love spoiling myself while abroad. So you’ll find a mixture of mellow, fun activities and more adventurous ones. You’ll also find a mixture of price points for hotels and restaurants. Plus, I’ve added in links to discounts wherever possible.

I amassed this information based on reviews and write-ups I read on many travel forums and websites, including:

>>Affiliate notice: I research every product I recommend, and I only give high marks to the very best. Some of the links here may be affiliate links, which means I may receive compensation from companies if you purchase from them. This is at no cost to you and it helps me keep this website running. So thanks for helping me! I independently own this site and the opinions expressed here are my own.<<

How to Get to Kilkenny

Kilkenny is in the southeast part of Ireland, about 75 miles from Dublin in Kilkenny County. Some people bicycle there. But the fastest ways to get to it are:

Rent a car

My family has rented our car in Ireland with Hertz because we’ve found the service abroad, and at home, to be excellent. I also like their website because it’s so easy to navigate.

Take a train

Rail Europe goes from Dublin to Kilkenny, for example, in just under two hours. Expect a one-way ticket to cost somewhere around $43 to $60. If you’re a student, also make sure to check the STA Travel website, which specializes in great deals for students.

Take a bus

For details and prices, check out the website of the Bus Eireann.

Kilkenny Ireland Things to Do:

These are the things people say you absolutely shouldn’t miss when you’re there. Where possible I’ve included activities that are also great with little kids who are going nuts from looking at too many churches (been there, done that!). Some activities contain warnings to pay attention to if you have any mobility issues.

Wander around Kilkenny Castle

Castle Kilkenny Ireland
Castle Kilkenny. Photo by Tambako/Flickr

This is most tourists’ favorite activity while here. The Anglo-Norman castle is Medieval and sits above the River Nore. It includes pretty gardens, all of which has been restored to its original gorgeousness when the Butler family lived here. Plus (love it!) when it’s cold out the coffee shop will give you blankets for sitting around outside.

Insider tips:

  • Give yourself at least 1.5 hours to walk the castle. Lots of people who planned only a day trip wish they’d stayed in town overnight.
  • There are two guided castle tours a day, around 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. I saw it priced at around 8 euros. People said the tour is pretty short.
  • Go on Thursday so you can check out market stalls that are on the road leading to it.
  • Get afternoon tea in the castle kitchen cafe. But make sure to go when it’s open!
  • The bathrooms are far from the entrance, so don’t wait until the last minute to start looking for them.
  • If the castle is closed, you can always hang in the park outside.
  • No drones allowed on the property!
  • Expect to pay 8 euros for adults; 4 euros for kids; and 20 euros per family.

Where to find it:

Go shopping and eat in Kilkenny Design Centre

If you’re looking to bring home Irish crafts and crafts (shopping time!),this is the place for you. It’s across the street from the castle. They sell everything from wool blankets and cutting boards.

Kilkenny Design Centre Shop in Kilkenny Ireland
Kilkenny Design Centre Shop. Photo by Travis Neighbor Ward


There’s also a really nice restaurant and food hall upstairs. They also serve afternoon tea (of course they do, this is Ireland!).

Where to find it:

  • Castle Yard, right across the street from the castle
  • And here’s their website

Go on a Bike Tour

Kilkenny Cycling Tours
Kilkenny Cycling Tours

The one with the highest ratings I found is Kilkenny Cycling Tours. People say it’s fun and informative. You learn tons about Kilkenny from the tour guide and you can rent the bikes for extra days. Plus, you get to see the prettiest roads and vistas!

Where to find it:

Sample Kilkenny Beer at Smithwick’s Experience Kilkenny Tour

Basically you get to sample beer in a very fun place, which is the producer of Ireland’s oldest ale. I read that they have a Harry Potter theme as part of the tour, which includes an audio and video display (as in, holographic monks and talking portraits on the walls!).

But don’t think you’re going to tour where the beer is made; those operations have been moved elsewhere. This tour tells you about the history of the beer and how it’s brewed. Still, people rave about it. The tour ends with a flight of beers.

>>Buy tickets for it now! 

Where to find it:

  • Saint Francis Abbey Brewery on 44 Parliament Street

Pause to talk shopping…

One of the things I love doing when abroad is purchasing handmade crafts. So I have to stop for a sec and tell you about The Irish Store, which is an online shop I recently discovered. Basically they sell all sorts of high-quality wares (clothing, jewelry, food) made in Ireland, a lot of it by hand. And they ship anywhere in the world for just $10.

Here’s a Celtic bronze green agate brooch made in Kilkenny that they sell for about $25:

Celtic bronze green agate brooch from Kilkenny via The Irish Store
Celtic bronze green agate brooch from The Irish Store


Okay, now back to things to do in Kilkenny!

Go to Castlecomer Discovery Park

Think 80 acres of beautiful forest, zip lines, a two-level obstacle course with high ropes, a playground, animals, hills, and a river with paddle boats.

Insider tips:

  • There are helmets and safety lines.
  • Book online so you don’t have to wait in line.
  • There’s a cafe at the entrance that’s not overpriced.
  • The restaurant has breakfast, lunch, and snacks all day long.
  • There are arts and crafts shops in the restaurant courtyard (gifts!).
  • The Tree Top walk is great, but young kids may be too scared.

Where to find it:

Visit St. Canice’s Cathedral and Round Tower

St. Canice's Cathedral in Kilkenny, Ireland
Photo by psyberartist/Flickr


The views are beautiful. There’s a pretty graveyard beside it. You can climb the tower (see below).

Insider tips:

  • Buy combo tickets inside the church for the cathedral and tower, to get the best photos of the landscape. Costs about 6 euros.
  • There are about 129 steps up the narrow tower staircase, and it won’t take you long if you’re adept at climbing them. But they’re steep and, as one person said, like climbing ladders in spots. People recommend that little kids and elderly people avoid it. Going down is more difficult.
  • At the top of the tower there’s a great map of the city.

Where to find it:

>>While you’re in Kilkenny try hurling, the ancient Celtic sport that’s all the rage in Ireland even today!

Visit Jerpoint Abbey (Thomastown)

It’s not in the town of Kilkenny, but nearby. People love that there are fewer tourists than at St. Canice’s. The 12th-century ruins are better preserved than many (though lacking a roof) and very pretty.

Insider tips:

  • If you’re traveling with kids, ask about the scavenger hunt.
  • You can get a guided tour of the monastery, which includes history of the monks who once lived here.
  • There’s a good museum with sarcophagi and architectural relics.
  • Expect to pay about 2.9 euros for an adult; 1.30 euros for a student; and 7.40 euros for a family.

Where to find it:

Tour Rothe House and Gardens

This house is actually comprised of several buildings; people say that from the street it doesn’t look like much. But once past the entrance you’re in for a pleasant surprise — especially if you’re into gardening.

The house belonged to a wealthy merchant in the late-16th century (built in 1594). It’s a good look at how that group lived back then. The Tudor gardens go on far behind the house.

Insider Tip:

  • Make sure to check out the rooftop garden

Where to find it:

Tour Black Abbey

Black Abbey in Kilkenny, Ireland
Black Abbey. Photo by Photo by psyberartist/Flickr

Tourists rave about this 13th-century Priory of the Dominican Order, mainly for the stained glass windows, which show the 15 mysteries of the rosary. They also like the choir stall and spiral staircase. It’s on the Breagagh River.

Insider Tips:

  • There are services daily.
  • It’s close to the bustling town center, which makes it a peaceful spot to relax.

Where to find it:

Tour Woodstock House and Gardens

An avenue of Monkey Tree puzzles, a bamboo tunnel, a run-down house, and renovated, walled gardens make this popular with travelers. Costs about 4 euros per car.

Insider tips:

  • Go when the house is open and get tea in the conservatory’s tea house.
  • There’s a playground with a swing to keep little kids busy (phew!).
  • Bring cash for the parking lot!!

Where to find it:

Where to Eat in Kilkenny

Again, there are tons of options. But here are some restaurants, cafes, and other eateries that travelers refer to often as worth checking out (in addition to the hotel restaurants and bars I mentioned in the hotels section).

Where we had lunch and loved it:

My family really enjoyed eating lunch at Willoughby’s Cafe at 1 High Street.

Willoughbys Cafe in Kilkenny, Ireland
Willoughbys Cafe in Kilkenny. Photo by Travis Neighbor Ward


It offers a menu of simple, but delicious food (try the quiche!) that people of all ages will enjoy. The upstairs dining room also gave us a quiet, roomy space to kick back in for a while and rest our feet.

Upstairs at Willoughby's Cafe in Kilkenny, Ireland
Upstairs at Willoughby’s Cafe in Kilkenny. Photo by Travis Neighbor Ward

Gas House Lane, under the old railroad arches. It’s gotten a Michelin star rating in the past.

Cillín Hill Mart
Dublin Road

Parliament Street

John Street

Lavistown House
Sion Road

Marble City Bar & Tea Rooms
High Street

Ristorante Rinuccini
On The Parade

Ryeland House Cookery School

The Thatch Pub

For more dining out ideas:

Try the website for the Taste of Kilkenny Food Trail

For Kilkenny Hotels and B&Bs:

Read my in-depth guide


That’s a lot of awesome stuff!! Personally I can’t wait to go back. The first thing I’m going to do is have a picnic lunch in the castle park. How about you? Leave a comment and let me know if you’ve done anything of these things. I’d love to hear your opinions.

SOURCETravis Neighbor Ward
Travis Neighbor Ward is an award-winning editor in chief, magazine and web writer, and a best-selling author of fiction and nonfiction. She has written extensively about interiors, lifestyle, travel, gardening, and health. To learn about blogging, publishing, and marketing for lifestyle and interiors go to her site The Decorated Way,


  1. Glad you enjoyed your trip to our lovely city and county, so much packed in, thumbs up from me, I couldn’t have given a more comprehensive account,


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