What to do in Kilkenny in 24 hours

As many Irish people will tell you, 24 hours are not enough in Kilkenny. An incredibly charming medieval town in Ireland, Kilkenny boasts of a vibrant nightlife which is why it is not uncommon to see a lot of hen and stag parties happening here over the weekend. The street-scape is adorable, with the River Nore running through the middle and several medieval buildings such as castles and cathedrals flocking on either side. The magnificent 12th century Kilkenny castle lies in the centre of it and is bound to draw one's attention. If you're looking for what to do in Kilkenny in 24 hours, here's a quick guide on my favourite things in the city.

What to do in Kilkenny

Kilkenny Castle

The entry to the gardens of the castle are free of charge, which includes the large walled parkland on one side and the terraced gardens, the Rose Garden and the fountain on the other. Unlike many other castles in Ireland which are largely ruins, or converted into fancy 5-star hotels, Kilkenny Castle has been fully remodeled and restored with the interiors reflecting the lifestyle of the Butler family that owned it for 600 years, before handing it over to the people of Kilkenny. Although the original castle was built way back in the 13th century, it was transformed, extended and reformed periodically to fulfill the fancies of the Butler Family until 20th century. It was then that the castle was restored to its earlier glory and a visit inside the staterooms cost only a mere €8.

What to do in Kilkenny

Apart from the architecture of the castle, the setting of it is also quite mesmerizing, with views of the river and the city across from its gardens. Hilltop castles were quite popular in Europe, especially during the medieval ages, as they served as a great defense for the city and today, they make for dramatic backdrops to the beautiful cityscapes.

The mood for visiting the castle is set by the man playing traditional Irish music on the accordion right outside the entrance and the remarkable interiors, especially of the bedrooms decorated in 19th century splendour and the Butler Art Gallery, make for a great visit and insight into Irish history.

What to do in Kilkenny

What to do in Kilkenny

What to do in Kilkenny

Read about What to do in Dublin in 48 hours.

What to do in Kilkenny

St Canice's Cathedral

A walk from Kilkenny Castle to St Canice's Cathedral will lead you through narrow alleyways and medieval marvels. The Gothic dark grey building seems almost ominous to some one who watches a lot of horror movies, especially on a cloudy day. The cathedral dates back to the 13th century when the current structure built however, the story goes that there was a church on the site before the current cathedral was built, by St Canice in the 6th century.

What to do in Kilkenny

Some of the most spectacular features of the cathedral are the rounded stained glass windows inside, black marble flooring, and the grave stones from the 17th century. The cathedral also has a tower which you can climb to the top of, to enjoy magnificent views of Kilkenny city. The tower is known to be the longest standing structure in Kilkenny today.

What to do in Kilkenny

The Black Abbey

Not too far from St Canice's cathedral, I would recommend you to visit the Black Abbey only if you're into ancient architecture and history. As you walk from the cathedral to the Black Abbey, you will see a portion of the original city walls. The abbey is not as magnificent that many other monuments in Kilkenny but its history is quite intriguing. At the time it was built, Kilkenny was divided into two parts, one was Irish and the other English. The abbey was built outside the city walls to show its allegiance to neither, signifying independence.

What to do in Kilkenny

The name Black Abbey does not come from the colour of the walls of the building but the fact that the Dominican Friars, the original occupants of the abbey, wore black cloaks. Due to continuous, long duration occupation, the church fell into ruins until the 19th century when it was restored and opened to the public.

Nore Valley Walk

If you're into incredible views and love to take pictures, this is one walk you must experience. Nore is the name of the river that flows through Kilkenny. Although the entire walking trail is of about 11 kms (from Kilkenny City to Bennettsbridge), you may choose to do only a part of it if you're not in great shape to do the entire stretch or lack time.

What to do in Kilkenny

The riverside walks takes you through meadows, woods, ruined mills and Bennettsbridge village. You will also come across several cafes, restaurants and craft shops on the way. You will cross over several bridges which provide a fantastic photo op! On wet days, the trail can be a little hard so make sure you wear good shoes!


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Jerpoint Abbey (25 min drive)

What I loved about Ireland the most was that although some of the historical sites were restored and maintained as museums for tourists, there were several which were still left in ruins and even though it might interest people more to visit restored sites and museums, I personally love exploring ruins! One of the most majestic historical ruins I visited were of Jerpoint Abbey, a 25-min drive outside Kilkenny. Ancient carvings on the walls and the pillars dating back to the 12th and 15th centuries have barely aged and a small fee of  €5.00 gives you access to this tranquil site which still maintains the intricate architectural details, despite its dilapidation.

What to do in Kilkenny

What to do in Kilkenny

What to do in Kilkenny

In one of the maintained rooms, you can also see preserved exhibits from the archaeological site. You can climb the stairs to the first floor to get a bird's eye view of the monastic site and the surrounding green fields. Keep about 45 min for your visit here.

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Kilkenny Town

I was here on a weekend and that gave me the chance to see a lot of wild hen and stag parties take place! An otherwise charming and colourful town, Kilkenny is known to be the hotbed of festivals throughout the year. Although there wasn't any when I visited, just the vibe of the town, with lots of pubs, live music, antique shops, medieval architecture, merry people, souvenir shops, and restaurants made for a great evening!

What to do in Kilkenny

What to do in Kilkenny

Of particular interest are a few of these: The Smithwicks Brewery for a unique beer brewing tour and tasting, Folkster vintage shop at Patrick Street, The Medieval Mile, a lane stretching from Kilkenny castle to St. Canice’s Cathedral and also home to Rothe House, a museum of sorts which was a merchant's home, displaying the lifestyle of medieval merchants, Kyteler’s Inn, one of the oldest inns in Kilkenny and a perfect place for some drinks, live music and craic, and Truffle Fairy Café for the best truffles in town!

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47 thoughts on “What to do in Kilkenny in 24 hours”

  1. I loved visiting Kilkenny but as usual did not give it enough time. The city streets are great to wander and the river walk is so beautiful. I too enjoyed visiting the Castle. It certainly is a must do when visiting Ireland.

  2. This is a wonderful guide that properly encompasses all the attractions Kilkenny has to offer. My favorites are definitely the Nore Valley Walk and the Kilkenny Castle. This is exactly what you picture when you think of Ireland. I love all the medevial vibes that this architecture gives. So beautiful!

  3. Kilkenny sounds like a lovely place to visit! I love Ireland in general, from its landscapes to the extremely friendly people. The castle and ruins are well worth visiting, as is Kilkenny cathedral. I love to walk, so would enjoy doing the Nore Valley Walk – if only part of it! This brings back fond memories of the country, would love to return soon.

  4. KIlkenny looks really cute… i’d never really thought of visiting there before but i’d love to have a look around the castle and wander along the river. Did you try KIlkenny beer? its pretty good!

  5. Awesome blog!!! No idea how we missed this town on our Ireland road trip. But it sounds like we need to return for round 2! hahhah. Your photos are pretty stellar, and your post is super detailed. I have this bookmarked for our return journey!!!!

    1. I’d love to return to Ireland as well. I was there for 2 weeks and still feel like I could’ve spent more time and explore little more 🙂

  6. Actually, I didn’t really know much of Kilkenny. It looks like such a beautiful and cosy town. I’d love to do the Nore Valley Walk; the views look amazing (looking at your incredible picture).

  7. Never been to Kilkenny, so your 24-hour itinerary will come handy when we do visit. The village looks charming and the St Canice’s Cathedral is one I would definitely like to visit. Nore Valley Walk also sounds interesteing and with multiple photo stops it might be a nice way to spend an entire day.

  8. I love Kilkenny and this post brought back such great memories from when I went in 2017. The architecture there is so spectacular and the town is so charming. I didn’t get a chance to visit Jerpoint though. Next time!

  9. I’ve never been to Ireland but I keep stumbling on more reasons to visit this country. Love the beauty of this castle which you have captured so well in your pictures and the words! I’ll definitely put this charming medieval town on my list when I explore Ireland someday! Thank you for sharing 🙂

  10. Great ideas for visiting Kilkenny. When I started reading your post I thought the castle would be the first place I would want to visit, but the Nore Valley walk looks so picturesque. I love exploring on foot and just talking pictures of beautiful places.

  11. Kilkenny is a lovely location. How did you discover it? Did you spend the night there or elsewhere and if so, where. I am thinking to organize a road trip in Ireland and I am trying to gather lots of info.

    1. I did a 2-week road trip in Ireland earlier this year and Kilkenny made for the perfect stop between Dublin and Killarney. I did spend one night here; if you like, I will soon be publishing my detailed post about planning the perfect 2-week road trip in Ireland shortly with accommodation suggestions, sights to see, routes to take etc. You can check back in or follow the blog to receive the post as soon as it goes live!

  12. I was just in Ireland this summer and now I’m kicking myself for not visiting Kilkenny! The beauty of small villages with castles really draws me in. Your pictures do a great job capturing the essence of the village. I’ll definitely have to go back to Ireland and stay for longer than 4 days so I can visit more places like this! Thanks for sharing 🙂

    1. There are several such charming towns in Ireland but Kilkenny was my absolute favourite 🙂 I’d recommend to rent a car and drive around, you always stumble upon the cutest places.

  13. It looks like “charming” was the perfect word to describe this adorable town! St. Canice’s Carhedral looks like somewhere that I’d love to see and the Nore Valley looks postcard perfect! Ireland is already on my travel list and I’ve added Kilkenny to the list of must see towns. Thanks for sharing!

  14. Kilkenny looks pretty Irish town with a wonderful castle and vibrant nightlife. The walk along the Nore river with the backdrop of a castle is truly photogenic. I never knew that place is famous for hen and stag parties and on weekends it must be very cheerful and vibrant in Kilkenny. Rothe House would also be great to visit as I would love to see history of merchants from all trades

  15. I still haven’t visited Ireland and I have to admit I never thought about visiting Kilkenny. But this post showed me what would I be missing. The castles look absolutely stunning but my favorite would be the remains of the Jetpoint Abbey.

  16. Pretty Kilkenny! I went there when I lived in Dublin a few years ago and I remember the beautiful castle and those fantastic stained glasses of the St Canice’s Cathedral!

  17. I’ve never been it Ireland, but Kilkenny looks like a place you could spend longer than 24 hours. All the sites look so interesting and I agree, I love when they leave old ruins untouched, you really get a feel for what they were all about.

  18. I have been meaning to Ireland for sometime now but not been able to yet . If I was to travel to Ireland then Kilkenny will definitely be on the list to visit after reading this post. The medieval town has a vibrant nightlife what I have heard and would love to experience it. There is some great architecture as well it seems from your post. Thanks for making me think of it agin and adding to my list.

  19. Wow, ALL the buildings here look like castles! I really wanted to visit Kilkenny on my last trip to Ireland but just didn’t have time to see it all. I’m defintiely sold on prioritizing Kilkenny for my next trip there though! I especially love your photo of the riverside – it is so picturesque!

  20. The medieval charm of Kilkenny is so evident and I think one could easily spend more than 24 hours here but this itinerary is helpful to make both – short and long trip! I find castles really fascinating and this one would definitely transport me to a fantasy world! Happy that they did not let it be either a ruin or convert it into a hotel. St Canice’s Cathedral looks one of its kind. Would be fun to be at the tower, the longest structure in Kilkenny. I would say Kilkenny to me stands out as the hidden gem, absorbed with history and wonderful architecture.

  21. Really enjoyed reading how you made the best of a short visit to Kilkenny, I think you are right that 24 hours is not enough! Kilkenny Castle is a beautiful site to visit, especially if the weather is good and you can really appreciate the gardens and parkland. I also love the idea of walking along the Nore Valley riverside and appreciating the pretty scenery and buildings.

  22. Haven’t been to Ireland yet and never thought about visiting Kilkenny. But I guess you made me reconsider. Those castles look like they came out of a fairytale! The remains of the Jetpoint Abbey look fascinating too. Thank you for sharing this lovely article and keep up the great work

  23. Haven’t been to Ireland yet, but I will definitely be visiting before I leave UK. The open gardens in front of the castle and the different abbey’s make the photo 10 times better.The More Valley walk looks like an amazing this to do.

  24. Great guide for a short trip in Kilkenny. Such a fabulous city. The Kilkenny castle looks glorious and good to know that it has not been converted to hotel yet. I’d love to explore black abbey as I love architecture

    1. Several castles have been kept just as they are, in ruins. Some have been restored, like the Kilkenny Castle and some converted to hotels, which also isn’t a bad idea! I love the architecture in most parts of Ireland and the castles are amazing!

  25. I can’t believe how gorgeous your photos of and how beautiful Kilkenny is. Every building seems to be in perfect condition. The castle sounds fascinating. I love that it has also been restored inside. I haven’t really been keen to visit Ireland before but I am definitely interested in this town.

  26. Kilkenny is like a dream destination in Ireland. The castle looks like completely from my dream. How intricately designed! There are so many other places to see as well. I liked the Black Abbey and the Cathedral. Pretty instagrammable. A weekend there would be great when in Ireland without missing the happening nightlife that you have mentioned of.

  27. This is a great and informative post on Kilkenny. When I was in Ireland we didn’t have time to visit here or Galway so I definitely will keep these tips for a future trip. Thanks for sharing!

  28. Beautiful photos! I’ve been to other cities in Ireland but Kilkenny has always skipped my itineraries. I’ll have to include it, especially the trip to Smithwicks.

    1. I was doing a roadtrip through Ireland so Kilkenny happened because it made for a good stop between Dublin and Killarney.

  29. THis looks like a perfect spot for a weekend or even for one day trip. The cathedral looks stunning, especially the rounded stain glass window insede. I would also climb up the tower of the cathedral, the view must be amazing. I saved this post for my next trip!

  30. I have yet to visit Ireland (Dublin flight booked for end of January :), already checked out your related article for some tips!). But I am sure I will love it and will want to see more. The architecture is beautiful and its history is amazing.

  31. I haven’t been to Ireland but Kilkenny looks worthy of adding to an itinerary. While I like visiting restored castles and museums, like you I also enjoy seeing remains like those of the Jetpoint Abbey. It’s kind of fun when there’re a lot of parties going on during the weekend.

  32. Many of my friends rave about Ireland and I have yet to visit. Kilkenny looks beautiful from the architecture and history. Love your photo of the Nore Valley Walk and the hiking opportunity. I love any type of hiking adventure. Will refer back to this post on a future visit to Kilkenny!

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