With an ivy-clad Norman castle and historic churches and monasteries, Kilkenny's charm is always out in full force. It's still a traditional town – head to one of its pubs and you might stumble upon a spontaneous folk session which is common in Ireland. A hub for the arts, independent galleries and craft shops in the city's cobbled lanes display locally-made pottery and jewellery. Look out for some festivals throughout the year, like the Cat Laughs comedy festival or Savour Kilkenny for foodies.
Hostels in Kilkenny tend to be old-fashioned stone buildings in the centre, meaning you can stay in picturesque properties like an 18th-century Georgian townhouse on the Medieval Mile. The majority have a free breakfast and are close to restaurants and pubs with Irish live music nights – just ask the hostel staff for a recommendation. Free Wi-Fi is standard, keeping you in touch with friends while you're on your travels. In other Kilkenny hostels, homely features include a turf-burning fire and freshly-baked scones.
Kilkenny's centre is easy to walk around – this is where to discover attractions and shops clustered by the main road, Parliament Street. Here you'll also find some of the town's livelier pubs and sights such as the 16th-century Rothe House and Garden. Ayrfield, to the south, has medieval churches, while Bennettsbridge is more residential with interesting architecture and walking paths. Scenic Kilkenny Castle Park is a lovely spot for a stroll round the terraced gardens and ornamental lake.
Kilkenny is known for striking sites such as the majestic 19th-century St Mary's Cathedral Kilkenny – famous for its giant stained glass window – and the Gothic 14th-century Black Abbey. Riverside Kilkenny Castle was built by Norman knights in the 12th century and is the town's most popular attraction. St Mary’s Medieval Mile Museum is small but informative, and housed in a 13th-century church. A good way to experience the surrounding countryside is to explore one of the town's many riverside trails.
Most visitors to Kilkenny fly into Dublin Airport, 117km away. A direct bus runs to the city (approximately 2 hours 20 minutes). You can also fly into Shannon Airport, a 2-hour drive from Kilkenny. Trains run from Dublin to Kilkenny railway station (1.5 hours) and Kilkenny is connected by bus to other cities in Ireland. The best way to get around Kilkenny is on foot due to its small size, but there are plenty of taxis if you need to travel further.