Kilkenny is known as the creative heart of Ireland. The small city is more than 400 years old. Today visitors will find a lively town with a reputation as a center for culture and the arts. Kilkenny’s medieval architecture makes a visually stunning backdrop for the long list of cultural events hosted here each year, including the Kilkenny Arts Festival. Explore art galleries and restaurants that sit beside traditional pubs in the narrow medieval streets.
The town – or city, as locals would have it – is overlooked by Kilkenny Castle, which dates from the 12th century. The castle sits on the banks of the River Nore and is surrounded by parkland. Other important landmarks include St. Canice’s Cathedral, a beautifully-restored tribute to the 6th-century monk after whom Kilkenny was named. Climb the Round Tower that stands beside it. The tower is the oldest intact structure in Kilkenny, and one of only two such towers in Ireland that can be climbed. If the weather permits, you can enjoy great views of the city from the top of the tower.
Kilkenny comes alive in the evenings and at weekends, when locals and visitors head to the many city-center pubs and restaurants to enjoy the warm atmosphere and live music. The town’s events calendar is packed with international arts festivals celebrating theater, comedy, music and dance. Entertainment takes over the streets and outdoor spaces in summer. Exhibitions at the Butler Gallery or National Craft Gallery also add to the thriving local arts and culture scene.
Kilkenny’s compact center is easy to explore on foot. Plan your visit on a weekday or outside of the peak holiday season to avoid the crowds of tourists that flock here for festivals and events. If you’re pressed for time, half a day is enough to see all the main attractions. It’s worth lingering a while to enjoy as much as possible of the culture, history and good cheer for which Kilkenny is famous.