Kilkenny is widely regarded as ‘The Historic Capital of Ireland’ and it’s no wonder why with its wide range of historic attractions, most of which are attributed to the Normans. Today, visitors to this wonderful city destination can explore the medieval city easily by foot and see some impressive historical and cultural attractions. Here are our top 5 attractions in Kilkenny city…
The magnificent Kilkenny Castle boasts a superb location on an elevated site overlooking Kilkenny city. The castle was built in the 12th century for William Marshall – the 4th Earl of Pembroke, but it’s said that Strongbow built a wooden structure here long before that.
Today, this Anglo Norman stone castle is an amalgamation of different architectural styles from its development down through the years. You’ll see an impressive 17th century classical gateway, 18th century crescent shaped stables and some 19th century Baronial style motifs. Take a tour of the castle and visit the Medieval Room, the courtyard, the undercroft, the dining room, the entrance hall, the drawing room, the library, the state bedrooms and the Victorian kitchen.
The castle is the centrepiece of Kilkenny city so a visit here is a must. The grounds around the castle are also well worth exploring. For more visit the Kilkenny Castle website.
Rothe House is a fine example of a 17th century Irish merchant’s townhouse. It’s located on Parliament Street in the city and is well worth a visit if only for an hour or so for a self guided tour.
The historic Rothe House was built between 1594 and 1610 by a wealthy merchant called John Rothe. He was from one of the wealthiest families in Kilkenny at the time and controlled much of the city’s trade.
The house (which is actually made up of three houses) is now in ownership of the Kilkenny Archaeological Society and houses an impressive museum where you can see historical artefacts and archaeological items from all over Kilkenny.
For more information visit the Rothe House website
St. Canice’s Cathedral
It’s hard to miss St.Canice’s Cathedral when in Kilkenny city as it is the 2nd largest medieval cathedral in Ireland (after St. Patrick’s Cathedral in Dublin). There has been an ecclesiastical site here since the 6th century and it was called after ‘St. Canice’. Kilkenny in Gaelic translates as Cill Channaigh meaning ‘Church of Canice’. The magnificent Cathedral boasts 14th century stained glass windows, marble floors in the Sanctuary and unique tombstone carvings.
Alongside the Cathedral stands a Round Tower – a feature built next to major religious sites during the late 8th century to protect from Viking raids. Today, visitors can climb the round tower to admire 360 degree views of the city and countryside. The round tower is of major historical and national importance as it’s said that it’s the oldest standing structure in the city!
Other peripheral buildings of importance include a charming period cottage called The Organist’s Cottage, the Library, the Deanery and the Bishops House.
For more visit the St. Canice’s Cathedral website
The Butler Gallery is actually located within Kilkenny Castle and is one of the finest exhibition spaces in Ireland. Here you’ll see impressive collections of 19th and 20th century Irish art.
The Butler Gallery Collection features art from the 18th century to the present day. On display here are works of art from renowned artists like Jack B. Yeats, Sir John Lavery, William Scott, Tony O’ Malley and William Scott to name a few.
The gallery also hosts some monthly and touring exhibitions. For further info check out the Butler Gallery website.
The National Craft Gallery
This is the main exhibition space for the Crafts Council of Ireland. It has a wonderful location in the Castle Yard, which used to be the stables of Kilkenny Castle. The exhibition space is an outlet for Irish craftspeople to showcase their works of art to the general public.
The gallery is sure to capture the visitor’s imagination with a wide range of crafts on show from textiles, glass and furniture to baskets, jewellery and ceramics.
Works by some of the world’s top craftspeople are also on show here. Admission to the gallery is free of charge so it’s definitely worth popping in here to check out the impressive range of contemporary crafts.
For more info check out the National Craft Gallery website.
These are just some of the top attractions to visit while in Kilkenny city. If you want to add another attraction to the list, please do so in the comment box below. If you’ve been to any of the attractions listed above, we would love to hear what you thought.