10 Things to Do in Kilkenny, Ireland in One Day


When Ireland’s national tourist bureau and Kilkenny Tourism invited us to spend a day in Kilkenny as their guests, we couldn’t resist. After all, who could be a better tour guide than someone who’s in the business of promoting tourism there?

We expected them to show us the best things to do in Kilkenny – and they did – but we didn’t expect that there would be so many fun things to do or that we would fit so much into 24 hours!

Tip: If you are planning a trip to Ireland’s “Sunny Southeast,” Waterford and Wexford are also worth visiting. You’ll find related articles at the end of this story.

One day in Kilkenny: the itinerary

Kilkenny began as a religious community in the 6th century and has since grown into the fifth-largest town in Ireland. Most people know about 800-year-old Kilkenny Castle, but it’s known for more than that.

Kilkenny’s medieval center is full of a rich history and culture. You can lose yourself for hours just walking down cobbled streets and admiring the centuries-old buildings that have been kept in such pristine condition. but if you enjoy shopping, Kilkenny is also known for its many shops selling pottery, jewelry and artwork along its quaint lanes.

We’ll admit it: Some of the things to do in Kilkenny that they shared are a bit off the beaten path, unusual tourist attractions. We might not have tried them on our own, but that would mostly be because we haven’t found them on any “Kilkenny things to do” list.

We’re going to fix that here, by sharing the “one day in Kilkenny itinerary,” that was created for us. Hopefully ­­you’ll find it helpful as you plan your own trip.

1. Try your hand at Irish Hurling

Speaking of unusual things to do in Kilkenny, this activity is not what you might think.

In America, hurling is what college students do after having had too many drinks on a Saturday night. In Ireland, it’s a 3,000-year-old sport that’s only just begun to catch on overseas.

Never mind soccer or football; the Irish are rabidly passionate about this sport. Hurling has been played in Ireland for over three millennia and is arguably the world’s fastest game … and Kilkenny has the best team in the country.

Just one day after the All Ireland Hurling Final, we got our own chance to try our hand at it, courtesy of The Kilkenny Way Ultimate Hurling Experience. Our host, P.J. Lanigan, is a veritable authority for all things hurling. He met us on a hurling field and gave a brief talk about the sport, its history, and why it’s so popular.

P.J. holdls a hurley as he explains the basics of hurling to us.

Then the fun began. He had us each pick up a hurley (the stick) and a few hurling balls, and before we knew it we were blocking, hooking, lifting and striking — skills we’d never even heard of before. By the end of it all, he had us balancing balls on our hurleys while running across the field.

Even for someone like me who is not a sports fan — and most definitely not athletic— I thought this was a fun way to spend two hours.

  • Tours daily: 11:45 or 2:30 Mon-Fri, 12 Sat-Sun

Posing with hurling sticks - We had a chance to try hurling, and it was a lot of fun!

2. Stop in at Lanigan’s Legends Hurling Bar and Restaurant

With all that running around you’ll be hungry, I promise. The hurling experience ends up at Lanigan’s Legends Hurling Bar, the sports bar for hurling enthusiasts. We were escorted to the upstairs bar, which P.J. had turned into a hurling museum.

I didn’t pay much attention to the downstairs, but the upstairs was pretty cool. Sure, it’s a bar with food and all, but it comes complete with hand-painted murals of history’s greatest hurlers, as well as a well-thought-out assortment of hurling memorabilia.

Upstairs at Lanigan's, a pub with hurling memorabilia everywhere. A great lunch place for a day in Kilkenny.

Adding to the experience, there’s a TV on the wall, so if there’s a game on, you can watch them using the skills you’ve just learned while you eat.

If I were a fan of the sport, I’d be in hurling heaven.

We ate lunch at Lanigan’s. It’s a pub, after all, just with hurling memorabilia everywhere. We enjoyed a savory bowl of very traditional Irish lamb stew and a pint of Kilkenny’s own Smithwick’s, Ireland’s most popular red beer.

Irish stew in a bowl and a pint of Smithwicks - a traditional Irish meal

3. Take a theatrical walking tour of Kilkenny’s Medieval Mile

Out of our entire day in Kilkenny, this was our favorite thing to do. Here’s how to make history entertaining: Take a one-hour walking tour of the Medieval Mile, the oldest part of Kilkenny, led by actors dressed in Medieval period costumes.

  • Daily at 2 pm, from July to October. (Starts at the Hole in the Wall on High Street.)

Man dressed in period costume speaking to the Kilkenny walking tour group

Our tour was led by “Sir Mike,” the self-proclaimed Sovereign of Kilkenny, who claimed to be from the time of the Black Death. We played along as he took us through the city’s ancient streets. Along the way, he told stories of people from his past and showed us the buildings, alleys and lanes of his time.

Sir Mike stands next to a tour guest whose head and hands are in a pillory

Sir Mike had a great sense of humor and made the city’s history come to life, especially when we encountered some other colorful characters along the route. (Let’s all pretend we never noticed that two characters were portrayed by the same actor.)

4. Tour Rothe House

Sir Mike!” shouted a gentleman from the window of Rothe House. “Bring your guests inside!

John Rothe dressed in period costume looks out of a window at Rothe House

And soon we were in the courtyard of a unique Irish 16th-century merchant’s townhouse complex. The man in the window was John Rothe Fitz-Piers, a wealthy merchant and father of 11 children. (He must have loved his wife. A LOT.)

John Rothe, a wealthy merchant, proudly took us around the house and gardens he had built in the 1600s. He bragged that he had built three houses with enclosed courtyards and that Rothe House has changed little since it was built. What he never mentioned but I later learned, was that the Rothes were part of an oligarchy of around ten families who controlled Kilkenny for nigh on three centuries.

Rothe House is considered to be a prime example of a house of Kilkenny’s influential merchant class. We didn’t go inside but we did see the garden to the rear, still a typical 17th-century garden.

Standing in the garden, John Rothe tells his audience more about his house.

5. Visit Kyteler’s Inn

Sir Mike led us into Kyteler’s Inn to “meet” Alice Kyteler and hear her tell about her life.

Dame Alice de Kyteler began Kyteler’s Inn in 1324. As the daughter of a Norman banker and the owner of a popular Kilkenny inn, she became very well-to-do and very well-connected to the local gentry. Unfortunately, she also had the misfortune of being a widow four times.

Jealousy over her success led Alice to be eventually accused of having used witchcraft to kill her husbands. The penalty for witchcraft was to be burned at the stake, so loyal friends in the local gentry ensured that she was ‘spirited’ away to England before she could be arrested.

Kytelelr's Inn, Kilkenny Ireland

It’s not very often that you’ll get the chance to enjoy a meal or a beer in a 750-year-old building. Kyteler’s history is fascinating, but so is its layout. I almost got lost just looking for the restroom. Everywhere I looked I seemed to discover more quaint details, such as the beautiful stained glass windows on the top floor. Each room led to another room, all connected to the main inn in a hodge-podge fashion.

Tip: Return after dinner for traditional Irish music.

The top level of Kyteler's Inn has arched, stained glass windows and medieval decor.

6. See St. Canice Cathedral

Sir Mike brought us to St. Canice Cathedral, where we were introduced to a “former bishop” who bore a striking resemblance to John Rothe, haha. The bishop boasted that he served in a cathedral that was built in the 1200s, and Christians have been worshipping on the site ever since the 6th century.

St. Canice Cathedral and graveyard

Now belonging to the Church of Ireland, the cathedral that stands today has been carefully preserved in its original Early Gothic style. Enter the church and you’ll find the original baptismal font, as well as a replica of an original 13th-century stained glass window. The cathedral also contains some of the finest 16th-century monuments in Ireland, so it’s definitely worth a visit.

Tip: Sir Mike pointed out a nearby 9th-century round tower that was once a watchtower and refuge. If you have time, he said, you can climb to the top. It offers remarkable views of both the city of Kilkenny and its surrounding countryside – weather permitting, of course.

Bishop and Sir Mike perform as part of Medievel Mile Walk

7. Explore Kilkenny Castle and its grounds

We had reached the end of the Medieval Mile. Sir Mike bade us goodbye at Kilkenny Castle.

Goodbye, Sir Mike. We had a wonderful time!

Linda and Dan pose with Sir Mike and his sword in front of the entrance to Kilkenny Castle

Kilkenny has its own castle, built in 1195 to control an important fording point on the river that runs through the center of town. It was privately owned until 1936 when it was sold to the government. I’m guessing the upkeep was too much to bear.

There is no charge to walk about the extensive grounds, but they charge a fee to tour the castle’s interior. Two wings have been restored to what they might have once looked like in the 1800’s.

View of two of Kilkenny Castle's exterior walls from the courtyard

I’d have liked to have shared a few photos of the interior to inspire you to visit… but since no photography was allowed inside, I can’t share much more. Trust me when say, though, that this is a definite Kilkenny must-see.

The grounds of Kilkenny Castle

8. Learn to play a bodhran

If you will only be in Kilkenny for one day, then you must plan to visit on a Monday or Tuesday. On either of those two evenings, you’ll be back at Kyteler’s Inn for a unique cultural experience. Damien Walsh gives group lessons in how to play the bodhran, Ireland’s traditional drum.

Believe me, you don’t want to miss this. What better way to learn to play the ancient drum than at Ye Olde Kyteler’s Inn? Here the historic bar’s ambience and traditional drum’s rhythm will complement each other so well that you may lose yourself in the experience.

Damien, a Bodhran master, made everything so simple. As fun as it might seem just to watch people try to learn to play the bodhran, it’s all the more fun to try it yourself! Even if you have very little musical ability and even less rhythm, you’ll get the hang of it and end up feeling like a talented musician by the end of the class.

Things to do in Kilkenny: Master Bodhran player teaches guests how to play the traditional Irish drum

9. Enjoy a 5-star dinner at Zuni Restaurant

We usually look for inexpensive local hangouts when we travel, and rarely have the opportunity to dine at a Michelin-rated place like Zuni Restaurant.

What a treat! The talented chef, Maria Raftery, only uses the best locally-sourced ingredients, and she even designed her menu so that it reflects where each ingredient came from.

The best way I can describe their cuisine is Irish-global fusion. The foods are native to Ireland, yet the flavors and tastes are from all over the globe. As guests of the restaurant, Maria planned and prepared a menu to showcase the restaurant’s specialties. Even so, they seamlessly adjusted dishes at the last minute for those on special diets.

My mouth still waters when I remember that duck with mushroom risotto….

Closeup of starter: Cured salmon, caramelised soya sauce, creamed horseradish, dill dressing, bits of cauliflower and radish wih a smear of caramelized soya sauce that was mostly decoration.

Confit duck leg, roast duck breast, mushroom risotto, sweet potato puree, port wine jus
Confit duck leg, roast duck breast, mushroom risotto, sweet potato puree, port wine jus
Baked alaska
Baked Alaska for dessert with lemon curd on the plate

10. Find an authentic Smithwick’s experience

What would an Irish pub be without its beer? There’s Guinness, of course, but if you’re in the mood for something lighter, Smithwick’s might be just what you’re looking for. “Smitticks” is the most popular ale in Ireland.

Kilkenny’s love affair with beer began long before 1710 when John Smithwick founded Smithwick’s Brewery. Actually, Franciscan monks had brewed ale in Kilkenny since the 1300s. Smithwick’s was a part of Kilkenny life for three centuries until it was finally bought by Guinness.

This is the one Kilkenny attraction that we missed, but it deserves a mention. The 300-year-old brewery was Ireland’s oldest operating brewery when it closed in 2013, just a week before we were there. It has since been renovated and now hosts The Smithwick’s Experience, Kilkenny’s newest tourist attraction.

Quoting from their website: “Just a 5-minute walk from Kilkenny Castle. Smithwick’s Experience Kilkenny brings you through over 300 years of history behind Ireland’s most loved ale…. As part of your tour, you’ll have the chance to mill the malt, stir the mash and smell the hops, just as we do in the famous Brewery.”

For more about the experience, this article explains what to expect on the Smithwicks beer tour.

Where to stay in Kilkenny

Just outside of town is Lyrath Estate, a luxurious hotel-spa-convention center, where we were lucky enough to stay for a night. Lyrath Estate is a classic estate house with a very modern wing that somehow blends into the hotel’s history. Its gardens are amazing, and they make a wonderful background for the many concerts and events that are held throughout the year.

Dan took so many great shots of this beautiful hotel while we were there that we thought it deserved its own post.

Boxwood garden in foreground, Lyrath House in the background


Plan your trip

Here are some ideas to help you plan your own trip.


Want to see more of this destination?

  • For more sightseeing, please check out our gallery for more photos of Kilkenny.
  • Get a bird’s eye view on Google Maps here. Zoom, scroll around and explore!

Read more about Kilkenny


We have a whole series of Southeast Ireland articles here on As We Saw It, interesting things to do, delicious foods, luxe places to stay. Enjoy!

Things to do


Where to stay

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Written by Linda

Linda is multilingual and has been to over 50 countries. Her insatiable love of travel, cuisine, and foreign languages has inspired her to create As We Saw It with her husband Dan, a professional photographer. Her goal is to make travel easier for others and to offer a brief escape to another land.

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9 thoughts on “10 Things to Do in Kilkenny, Ireland in One Day”

  1. I’m a new follower, and I’ve fallen completely in love with your journey! I’ve been to Ireland; unfortunately, my head and heart never left. This blog brings me back — your pictures are beautiful; your writing is fun! Thank you for being awesome!!

      • I hit a few places, but I only stayed for a couple nights: Dublin, Dingle, Belfast, Galway, Connemara, Ennis and Killarney! I’ve been back home for over eight months. I think about traveling every single day. <3

          • Ennis was magically musical. I had stayed there for two nights and hopped on down to the Knox pub — surprise, surprise! I’d have to say that Ennis was my favorite spot. If I get the chance to go back over, I may never come back. Where has been your favorite spot in Ireland?

          • I asked Dan and his answer was, “a pub.” The Loop Head Cliffs near Kilkee were a standout for us on a touristy level, but our favorite experience of all was visiting Dan’s cousins in Clifden, County Galway.

            We never made it to Ennis but it sounds like a great place. What’s stopping you from moving there? 🙂

          • I never made it out there, but I imagine every part of Ireland must be beautiful! The touristy destinations were a must on my first go. After that, I enjoyed nothing more than talking with the locals…at a pub, of course. I’ll be graduating college next year. I bit off more than I could chew (debt-wise) for my semester abroad, so I’m taking a hiatus. Small trips here and there will have to do until I build up some more money.

    • Greg, I’m glad you enjoyed it, and thanks for the nice feedback. If you choose Ireland for your anniversary, you’ll not be disappointed. We had so much fun, loved the people and enjoyed the food, not to mention the music in the pubs. Dan took boatloads of photos. The ones we have in our Ireland photo albums are what he considers to be the cream of the crop.


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