The small Irish city of Kilkenny is straight-up chicken soup for the soul.
It is the very reason why we travel writers desperately keep looking for synonyms for the overused word “quaint”. And while we keep digging, Kilkenny keeps smiling back at us quaintly. Like an old lady who grins every time your gazes meet with crow’s feet of wisdom around her eyes. Pedestrian lanes flanked by colorful shops, boutiques, and family-run businesses housed in historic buildings. Every single hue from the color wheel represented in their façades. Even on the gloomiest of days, it feels like the city’s colorful aesthetic gently pats you on the back, saying “Chin up!”.
Kilkenny was once the medieval capital of Ireland and dates back to the 6th century when a monastic settlement was created by Saint Canice. In the 12th century, Norman invader Strongbow built a fortress at the city’s current location. Over the years, Kilkenny has developed a strong reputation as one of Ireland’s creative cores with vibrant live music, theater, and handicraft scenes.
The only witch trials in Ireland (and probably Europe’s first documented case) took place right here in Kilkenny in 1324 where a local innkeeper and moneylender named Dame Alice Kyteler was accused of witchcraft. You can learn more in my other post where I was chasing ghost stories around Ireland’s Ancient East.
My time in Kilkenny was short but enough to feel out the city’s overall vibe. Here are some of my favourite photos of Kilkenny including its 12th century castle as well as strolling along the Medieval Mile.
Recommendations for Kilkenny, Ireland
Definitely explore the Medieval Mile with local guide Pat Tynan of Kilkenny Walking Tours. The walking tour takes you to St Canice’s Cathedral, Kilkenny Castle, meandering through narrow lanes, and the National Craft Gallery with its complex of stone buildings which were once the horse stables for the castle.
While I’m definitely not a beer drinker and thus, can’t fully appreciate well-crafted brews, I thought the holograms and talking portraits at The Smithwick’s Experience were pretty cool. Check out some of my video snippets below. Smithwick is Ireland’s oldest ale, dating back to the 12th century.
Grab a bite to eat at Foodworks Café where you can dig into healthy and organic wraps, sandwiches, and soups made with locally sourced Irish ingredients. They’ve even have their own farm.
You can’t leave Kilkenny without dining at its famed Kyteler’s Inn which was established by Dame Alice de Kyteler in the 13th century. In 1324, she was accused of witchcraft and was destined to be burned at the stake. But she escaped to England while her maid Petronella, who was left behind, was tortured, dragged through the streets, and burned.
Kyteler’s Inn is your quintessential Irish pub with foot-stomping live Irish music matched by festive energy. Tales of apparitions and unexplained events within its walls have gone on for years. From guests visiting the pub who captured a black shadowy figure in their vacation photos which you can clearly see here (creepy!) to beer glasses being thrown off the bar and shattered in the basement. Not taking into account staff who often say they have felt a presence at some point.
By the time I reached Kilkenny, I really was ready to stay in some more modern digs amidst all the deep history I was experiencing across Ireland’s Ancient East. So the trendy Pembroke Hotel in Kilkenny (with amazing rooftop views of the cityscape and the castle) was welcomed because I didn’t have to sleep with one eye open.
I explored this region of Ireland on the #IrelandsAncientEast campaign, created and managed by iambassador in partnership with Tourism Ireland. As always, I maintain full editorial control of the content published on my site.