Welcome to Kilkenny
Once the medieval capital of Ireland, the city has a rich medieval heritage visible though its narrow streetscapes; its historical buildings and landmarks.
The city's origins predate existing medieval landmarks. Saint Canice (who gives Kilkenny its name) founded a monastic settlement here in the 6th century. The 9th century round tower beside the wonderful stone cathedral of St Canice’s, is a remaining monastic landmark. Built in the 13th century and a showcase to ornate stonemasonry skills, St Canice’s is the second longest Cathedral in Ireland.
Strongbow, the legendary Norman invader, built a fort in the 12th C on the site where Kilkenny Castle stands today. William Marshall (Strongbow's son-in-law, 4th Earl of Pembroke) fortified the city walls, built a stone castle on the site and consolidated the Norman's position of power in the city.
Ireland’s only witch trials took place in Kilkenny in 1324 (supposedly Europe’s 1st witchcraft trials). Dame Alice Kyteler (Innkeeper and Moneylender) was accused of using poison and sorcery against her four husbands, having amassed a fortune from them. Before she could be tried, Alice fled to England, but her maid was flogged and burned at the stake.
The city prides itself on its lively culture and entertainment scene with a range of live music and theatre events available throughout the city’s pubs and music venues. An array of festivals and event programmes are hosted annually, including the renowned Kilkenny Arts Festival (August) which features a variety of classical music events, art exhibitions, literary readings, workshops, jazz & folk sessions. Other festivals include Smithwick’s Kilkenny Roots Festival - Music Festival (May); Kilkenny Cat Laughs - Comedy Festival (June); International Gospel Choir Festival (Aug/Sept); Greystock Festival - (Sept); Savour Food Festival (Oct) and Kilkenomics Festival (Nov).
Kilkenny is also renowned as a world class craft centre, which has its origins in the Design workshops of the late 1960s’, the story of which can be explored in the Castle Yard site.
One of the best and unique features of Kilkenny is its compactness allowing you explore everything it has to offer on foot, just be sure to allow yourself enough time to experience it all. Enjoy our city!
- Medieval Mile in Kilkenny - List of Things To See (PDF File / 69 MB)
- Map of Medieval Mile (PDF File / 72MB)
- For trade downloads please see here visitkilkenny.ie/kilkenny_medieval_mile
Kilkenny Castle - A 12th century castle set in extensive parklands, built for William Marshall and remodeled in Victorian times. This was the principal seat of the Butler family, Marquesses and Dukes of Ormonde. The castle park and gardens are accessible free of charge while daily tours of the castle are available. Tour App available and an audio tour can be purchased at the attraction.
Butler Gallery - One of Ireland's most vibrant contemporary art spaces, the Butler Gallery is central to Kilkenny’s cultural life. It houses an excellent calendar of exhibitions from renowned Irish and International artists and is free of charge. It offers a year-round innovative education programme for all ages. Some of its permanent collection is based in public, civic and hotel venues throughout the city.
Kilkenny Design - Built in 1790, this unique complex of stone buildings in a courtyard setting was once the stables/coach houses of the Castle.
Housing a centre of creativity and design since 1960’s, attracting leading designers from Europe, has helped Kilkenny become recognised as a centre of design excellence.
Explore the courtyards and visit the National Craft Gallery, Kilkenny Design Craft Centre and some craft workshops which form part of the Kilkenny Craft Trail.
National Craft Gallery - Established in 2000 by the Crafts Council of Ireland, this is Ireland’s leading centre for contem-porary craft and design.
The Gallery brings together the best and brightest of Irish and international designers, artists and makers through exhibitions exploring issues of material culture in interesting and accessible ways. It hosts an annual programme of talks, performances, children’s activities, workshops and weekly free tours.
St Mary’s Church & Graveyard is one of the earliest Ecclesiastical buildings in Kilkenny. The church was built circa 1205 by The Bishop of Ossary (1202- 1218) and was used for convening the Ecclesiastical Court.
The graveyard possesses a rare and significant collection of tombs.
The final service took place in 1951 before the church was deconsecrated and closed in 1957. It is accessible to visitors to explore the tombs and headstones
The name Tholsel comes from two old English words ‘toll’ meaning tax and ‘sael’ meaning hall and is fondlyreferred to as the Town Hall.
Constructed in 1761 using local limestone, it served as custom house, guildhall, courthouse and today is a seat of local government and tax collection. A favourite spot for busking musicians and street art exhibitions!
A 16th Century tavern in Ireland’s oldest surviving townhouse. To gain access from the High St to the rear of the inner house, a hole was punched in the wall, thus giving it its name.
Today this venue hosts an array of cultural events, from literature, to music, dance and other artistic forms. A ‘treasure chest’ of character and characters.... A truly hidden gem!
First established by Dame Alice de Kyteler in the 13th century, Kyteler’s Inn is one of Ireland’s oldest inns. Alice, daughter of a Norman Banker, married four times amassing a fortune, while each husband died supposedly under suspicious circumstances. Alice was accused of witchcraft in what’s understood to be Europe’s first witchcraft trial and was sentenced to be burned. Her connection to local gentry ensured her escape to England.
Kilkenny Courthouse formerly known as Grace's Castle is used for sittings of the Circuit and District Courts.
Originally the town house of the wealthy Grace family, it was built in 1210 and converted to a prison in 1566.
It became a courthouse at the end of the 18th century. It features as part of Kilkenny City Historic Walking Tour.
With over 300 years of brewing experience, let your senses come to life as you immerse yourself in the history of Ireland’s favourite Ale. Go back in time to the 1300s, walk with the monks of St. Francis Abbey and discover how the beer was first born. Get a flavour for how our famous beer is made, from feeling the heat of the first malt to savouring the last drop of a refreshing pint.
Built in 1594 by John Rothe, this 17th century merchant’s townhouse consists of three houses with courty ards. Over 2,500 artifacts from Kilkenny’s history are displayed here in its museum, while the garden is a reconstruction of a 17th century urban garden on a Burgage plot.
The Museum and Garden are open to visitors and also house an archaeological library, a gift shop & book collection and a genealogy service.
A site for Christian worship led by St Canice in the 6th century, the Cathedral was erected in the 13th century. One of only two medieval round towers in Ireland that can be climbed, the 9th century tower, offers the best views of the city
Daily tours are available of both attractions, while a small scale model of 1640s Kilkenny is on display in the Cathedral.
In 1350, after the Black Death, construction of the original Bishop’s Palace began using stone from three demolished churches in Kilkenny. The works were directed by Bishop Richard Ledred, a controversial figure, who led the first ever witchcraft trials in Europe, including the trial of Dame Alice Kyteler.
Headquarters of The Heritage Council, visitors can enjoy the restored walled garden.
Founded in 1225 by Sir William Marshall (Earl of Pembroke) for the Dominican Friars, the abbey features a tower and some magnificent windows dating from its original structure. At the Abbey’s entrance, there is a series of monumental slabs and stone coffins dating from the middle ages.
In the mid 19th century, it became a place of public worship.
St Mary’s Cathedral a towering 186-feet cut-limestone structure was built between 1843 and 1857 by William Deane Butler based on the design of Gloucester Cathedral.
The cathedral is accessible from the Black Abbey via Black Mill Street.
Highlights, including the massive Gothic façade, are an Italian marble high altar, relics of St Cosmos and St Damian and Benzoni’s statue of Our Lady.