Mac Gabhainns Backpackers hostel

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Things to do in Kilkenny

About Kilkenny City

Kilkenny is located on the River Nore. It is the only city in Ireland which is not a county borough, and is the republic’s only inland city. It is famous for its many medieval buildings and night-life.

Kilkenny has been referred to as the Marble City for hundreds of years. However, the black stone with decorative white fossils that forms the backbone of many of Kilkenny’s fine buildings and serves as pavement in the major streets is actually polished limestone. It has been quarried from around the city for centuries.

Kilkenny Castle and Saint Canice’s Cathedral dominate the city. The latter is named for Saint Canice, who also gave his name to the town (Cill Chainnigh is Irish for “Church of Canice”). The Statute of Kilkenny (1366) got its name from the then Irish Parliament in Kilkenny.

Kilkenny has a successful hurling team, known as ‘THE CATS’. The Kilkenny team has won more All-Ireland championships in hurling than any other team.

You have to agree, there are lots of things to do and see in Kilkenny so book in with us.

Things to do in Kilkenny. Photo by Kevin B Leigh on Unsplash.

Historical Highlights

Medieval Mile Museum

Medieval Mile Museum

The Medieval Mile is a discovery trail running through Kilkenny City, linking the 13th-century St. Canice’s Cathedral to the Anglo-Norman castle. The Museum itself is housed in the beautifully restored St. Mary’s Church, displaying Ireland’s finest medieval sculptures. If historical sites are of interest to you, The Medieval Mile Pass includes free admission to many of Kilkenny’s other key attractions.

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Kilkenny Castle

Kilkenny Castle The Long Gallery

Kilkenny Castle was built in 1195 to control a fording-point of the River Nore. A symbol of Norman occupation, in its original thirteenth-century condition it would have formed part of the defences of Kilkenny. It had four large circular corner towers and a massive ditch, part of which can still be seen today on the Parade. The castle came into the possession of the Butlers of Ormonde in the 14th Century and over several centuries went through several transformations.

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Rothe House

Rothe House Kilkenny

The 16th Century merchant’s townhouse complex was established by John Rothe Fitz-Piers and is one of the remaining medieval structures still standing in the city. It was built on a site known as a burgage plot that was originally owned by the Cistercian order. It is made up of three houses and courtyards. The reconstructed garden and orchard attached to the rear of Rothe House gives you a sense of the privileged life of the wealthy city burgher.

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St Canice’s Cathedral

St Canice's Cathedral Kilkenny

Built on the site of a Celtic Cistercian monastery, St. Canice’s Cathedral dominates from its perch above the city. The hill on which it stands, is believed to be the site of the first major settlement in the city. Dating from the 13th Century St. Canice’s is the second longest cathedral in Ireland. Adjacent to the building is a 100 ft. 9th Century Celtic round tower from which you will get the best views over Kilkenny.

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The Smithwick’s Experience

The Smithwick's Experience Kilkenny

Discover how the famous city ale is brewed along with the history of the brewery. When John Smithwick established his brewery on the site of St. Francis’ Brewery in the 18th Century, he had to do so secretly because the penal laws in Ireland forbade Catholics from owning property or running for elected office. But, the tenacious Mr. Smithwick prevailed and when the penal laws were revoked, he was free to stamp his name on his business and become part of Kilkenny’s history. Not only that, many of Smithwick’s descendants went on to be mayor!

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Kytler’s Inn

Kyteler's Inn Kilkenny

Kyteler’s Inn is a medieval public house located in the centre of the city. Parts of the building date to the 13th or 14th century. The building is traditionally associated with the Kyteler family and the story goes that Dame Alice Kyteler was the first person in Ireland to be condemned as a witch. Not wanting to face her fate of execution, she disappeared leaving her servant Petronilla de Meath to be flogged and burnt at the stake.

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Good Pubs for the Craic

Hole in the Wall Shebeen Kilkenny

Hole in the Wall

John Cleere's public house Kilkenny

John Cleere's

Billy Byrne's Bar Kilkenny

Billy Byrnes

The Pumphouse Kilkenny

The Pumphouse

Regular Music Nights in the City

Ask at reception for information on other events on in Kilkenny during your visit.

Sunday – The Pumphouse
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Monday – Cleeres
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Tuesday – Matt the Millers
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Wednesday – Cleeres
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Thursday – Ryans
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Friday – Bollards
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Saturday – The Set Theatre
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Tours & Outdoor Activities

Things to do in Kilkenny 1

Kilkenny City Tours

A great way to see all the sights of Kilkenny by road train. Mention your stay at MacGabhainn’s and you will get a discount. 

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Things to do in Kilkenny 2

Kilkenny Cycling Tours

Take a guided tour by bike or head off into the countryside to explore.

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Things to do in Kilkenny 3

The Watershed

Sport and Leisure Centre with a pay as you go option.

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Things to do in Kilkenny 4

Castlecomer Discovery Park

Set in beautiful parkland with many trails to walk at your leisure. Zipline from the tree top walk if you are more adventurous.

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Festivals Throughout the Year


Kilkenny Trad Fest | March
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Kilkenny Roots Festival | May
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Cat Laughs Comedy Festival | June
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Kilkenny Arts Festival | August
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Heritage Week | August
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Savour Kilkenny | October
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Kilkenomics | November
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Subtitle Film Festival | November
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