Located in Ireland’s ‘sunny south east’, Kilkenny is an often overlooked city that has a lot to offer tourists looking to discover the real Ireland! Its combination of rural charm and city conveniences make it the ideal base for visitors to the country. If you want to discover how Irish people really live and learn a lesser told side of their history, Kilkenny is well worth the visit.
As the smallest city in Ireland, figuring out a base might seem simple but still has its challenges. Tourism infrastructure isn’t as well developed as in other cities in the country, so where you are ideally based depends on whether or not you have a car and what you are looking for.
That’s why we’ve developed this guide! Due to the small size of the city, we’ve gone even further and figured out the five best places to stay in County Kilkenny – giving you even further insight into the real Ireland.
So let’s get started!
Quick Tips – Where to Stay in Kilkenny
- Where to stay in Kilkenny for your first time? Kilkenny City Centre
- Where to stay in Kilkenny close to everything? MacDonagh Junction
- Best neighborhood in Kilkenny for families? Graignamanagh
- Where to stay in Kilkenny for couples? Freshford
- Best neighborhood in Kilkenny off the beaten path? Castlecomer
Where to Stay in Kilkenny
Looking for a specific place to stay? These are our highest recommendations for places to stay in Kilkenny.
- Air conditioning
- Free parking on premises
- Free Wifi
Putting you in a cozy apartment above a shop in downtown Kilkenny, there is no better place to feel like a local than here! With its boutique decor and chic design, this is one of the best places to base yourself out of to explore the sights of Kilkenny!
Kilkenny City Hostel
- Common Room
- Free Internet Access
- 24 Hour Security
As the best-rated hostel not just in Kilkenny City but in the wider county, Kilkenny City Hostel has to take our top spot for backpacker accommodations! Within easy walking distance of the city’s best attractions, it also offers excellent social facilities where you can mingle with other guests and find new travel buddies.
- Free Internet Access
- Air Conditioning
- 24 Hour Security
No guide to rural Ireland would be complete without some excellent holiday home picks, and the excellent rates offered by Larkside Cottage make it our top pick for budget accommodations in the county! This quaint cottage has a gorgeous garden area, as well as a huge patio where you can bask in the sun and enjoy the nature.
Kilkenny Pembroke Hotel
Spa and wellness centre
Much like our top backpacker pick, this was a no brainer thanks to it being the highest rated splurge hotel in Kilkenny City! There are excellent spa facilities on-site where you can enjoy a wide range of relaxation therapies, truly helping you to unwind during your holiday in Ireland. The restaurant is also popular with both guests and locals.
Kilkenny 5 Best Neighborhoods to Stay in
Let’s take a look, in more detail, at the five best neighbourhoods in Kilkenny. Each caters to different interests, so be sure to pick the neighbourhood that’s right for you.
Best neighbourhood in Kilkenny for your first time!
- COOLEST thing to do in Kilkenny City Centre – wander along the city’s canals with the official walking route departing from Canal Square
- BEST place to visit in Kilkenny City Centre – Kilkenny Castle and Gardens is the main attraction in the city, dating back to the Norman era
For most tourists wanting to discover Ireland’s beautiful South East region, Kilkenny City Centre is a great starting point! This is where you will find most of the historic attractions in the city, and be able to indulge in authentic Irish culture. It is also a creative hub, with many of Ireland’s up and coming artists and performers hosting shows in the area throughout the year.
Though Kilkenny is not a nightlife destination, its city centre has some excellent bars that are worth trying out! Whether you want to sample Irish whisky, dance with locals in intimate nightclubs or try out modern cocktails, there’s something for everyone along the main street running through the area.
- St Mary’s Medieval Mile Museum is a somewhat modern attraction within a historic building, featuring artefacts from across County Kilkenny
- St Canice’s Cathedral is the second largest medieval cathedral in the Republic of Ireland, making it a major attraction in the city
- Smithwick’s Experience allows you to explore an Irish brewery, learn how beer is made and wander around a museum dedicated to the globally renowned drink
- The Grapevine Café and Wine Bar is a popular nightlife spot that serves drinks and tapas – they also have nightly live performances!
- Langtons Club is the most popular nightclub in the city – definitely smaller than what you would get in larger cities but nevertheless interesting
- Kytelers Inn is another famous pub, known as a centre for ancient witchcraft – and their equally magical beer selection
Best Air BnB in Kilkenny City Centre
This modern townhouse will put you right in the heart of Kilkenny, with all the best restaurants and bars nearby, there is no better place to base yourself out of! With its contemporary decor and small touches at home, you are sure to never want to check-out!
Best Hostel Kilkenny City Centre
This is the most centrally located hostel in Kilkenny, allowing you to stay within easy walking distance of all the main attractions in the city! Based within a centuries-old townhouse, this hostel oozes character and history. They have excellent communal areas and social facilities – perfect for meeting other travellers.
Editor’s Recommendation! These are the staff pick for the top hostels in Dublin (for all budgets!)
Best Budget Hotel in Kilkenny City Centre
With free on-site parking, this is a great hotel for those who have hired a car to explore further afield in South East Ireland! Rooms are equipped with modern furnishings, giving the hotel a luxury vibe despite the cheaper rates. A full Irish breakfast is provided every morning, and vegetarian options are available.
Best Luxury Hotel in Kilkenny City Centre
This four-star hotel is located right next to Kilkenny Castle – giving you unbeatable access to the city’s historical attractions! There is a large wellness centre on-site with a spa, massage facilities and beauty treatments. They also have a great corporate suite that is perfect for business travellers in the area.
Looking to make friends in Dublin? One of these cool party hostels might be for you!
Where to stay in Kilkenny close to everything!
- COOLEST thing to do in MacDonagh Junction – sample some of the best Irish whiskeys at the Dylan Whisky Bar
- BEST place to visit in MacDonagh Junction – Maudlin Castle is a small tower in the area with huge historical significance to the city
Located just across the river, MacDonagh Junction gives you easy access to the city centre! It is also where the train and bus stations are located, allowing you to travel further afield in County Kilkenny as well as towards Dublin, Cork and Waterford. If you are only using Kilkenny as a base for discovering Ireland, this is a great choice.
Whilst it does not have nearly as many attractions as the city centre, MacDonagh Junction still has some charms that are great for those interested in modern Irish culture! With excellent shopping facilities, bars and restaurants around every corner, you will be spoilt for choice on how to spend your time in the area.
- MacDonagh Junction is the largest shopping centre in the city, with a variety of local and international brands and boutiques
- Though Kilkenny Cycles is mostly a bicycle shop, they do offer hire facilities giving you a fun way to explore the city and surrounding region
- For casual dining, head to Roma Café where you can sample some of the best fish and chips in the country
- The World’s End Bar is something of a local institution, with live performances in the evenings and full Irish breakfasts in the morning
- As Kilkenny is a hub for contemporary Irish culture, you can’t miss out on a live show – Set Theatre has an excellent programme year round
- There is a small community of Portuguese migrants in the area, and Algarve Grill is a great stop for sampling their cuisine
Best Air BnB in MacDonagh Junction
Situated in the historic town of Kilkenny, this homey BnB will give you all the warmth and comfort you need to feel welcome to Ireland. With a location putting you near all the best pubs and restaurants, the city is your oyster!
Best Hostel MacDonagh Junction
Kilkenny City Hostel is the best-rated backpacker accommodation in the city, and gives you easy access to the local public transport facilities! They include a light breakfast every morning, as well as hot drink making facilities throughout the day. They offer a later check-out time than many hotels – perfect if you have a late departure.
Dublin is spectacular! Especially since you can take day trips to see the whole region!
Best Budget Hotel in MacDonagh Junction
The Kilford Arms also offers free parking – perfect for those hiring a car or camper to discover Ireland with! Only a short walk from the public transit stations, they also provide a continental breakfast with vegetarian and gluten-free options. The on-site restaurant is popular with locals and tourists alike, with typical Irish fare.
Best Luxury Hotel in MacDonagh Junction
Situated on the banks of the river, Kilkenny River Court Hotel provides you with quaint views across the city! Rooms are spacious and beautifully decorated in a contemporary style. The award-winning restaurant has a sunny terrace where you can admire the views and provides a complimentary breakfast.
Best neighbourhood in Kilkenny for families!
- COOLEST thing to do in Graignamanagh – try your hand at angling in the river – you can hire equipment from the local pubs
- BEST place to visit in Graignamanagh – visit the remains of the historic Duiske Abbey – a monastery that dates back to the 13th century
Graignamanagh is a small village in County Kilkenny that is perfect for families looking to discover rural life in Ireland! The quaint setting provides a peaceful atmosphere where you can enjoy the local culture and admire historic architecture. Formerly dominated by the monastery, it has since grown into a minor tourist village with excellent facilities.
One of the biggest draws of Graignamanagh is it’s outdoor attractions. If you are interested in fishing, hiking and cycling, there are plenty of excellent facilities around the town and most pubs offer angling equipment for hire. This makes it a fantastic choice for families that want a more outdoorsy vacation in the heart of Ireland’s Sunny South East!
- Head to Waterside Bike&Hike where you can hire bikes to ride along the Barrow Towpath – an idyllic adventure through the Irish countryside
- Brandon Hill is a fairly easy hike, making it ideal for families with young children – it is the highest point in County Kilkenny
- Graignamanagh is a major wool production town, and Cushendale Woolen Mills offer some excellent souvenirs
- Dine at Waterside Restaurant – one of the best-rated eateries in town, they have an upmarket vibe and great wine menu
- For something a bit more traditional, Murray’s Pub offers some great Irish grub and have live traditional music performances every Sunday
- Visit the town during the Town of Books Festival, where residents celebrate their literary history by turning every business and restaurant into a bookstore
Best Air BnB in Graignamanagh
If you are looking to get more in touch with nature, this cozy cottage will have you staying right by some of the best bike trails and golf courses in Kilkenny! With its bright and modern design, this is the 5-star equivalent BnB stay!
Best Hotel for Backpackers Graignamanagh
Whilst there are no hostels in County Kilkenny outside of the main city, Mulvarra House is an excellent bed and breakfast for backpackers that want to explore rural life! They also offer family rooms – perfect if you’re travelling with kids but still on a budget. The accommodation overlooks the river, providing excellent views.
Best Budget Hotel in Graignamanagh
Holiday homes are a popular choice for visitors to the Irish Countryside, and Ullard Holiday Homes are particularly great for families visiting the region! Apartments come with terraces overlooking the magnificent countryside – allowing you to soak up the best of Ireland’s Sunny South East. Kitchens are well equipped with modern conveniences.
Best Luxury Hotel in Graignamanagh
Located five miles outside of Graignamanagh, this ultra-rural B&B is great for those looking for a peaceful getaway from civilisation! Rooms are classically designed with antique furnishings and luxury finishes. A complimentary Irish breakfast is provided every morning, and free WiFi keeps you connected with the outside world.
Arriving late? Find the best hostels near Dublin AIRPORT for a worry-free arrival!
Where to stay in Kilkenny for couples!
- COOLEST thing to do in Freshford – visiting in October? Try your chances at the Irish Conker Championship!
- BEST place to visit in Freshford – St Lachtains Church is one of the main attractions in the town, dating back to 622AD
Freshford is another interesting small town in County Kilkenny that provides a relaxing getaway from urban life! For couples, Freshford provides a romantic setting where you can enjoy the Irish countryside and discover the rural culture. Whether you want to participate in quirky local events or take a horse ride through the area, this is one of the coolest things to do in Ireland.
Freshford is a little bit less touristy than other areas of County Kilkenny, giving you a calm respite from the busy crowds of Ireland’s cities. Nevertheless, the town itself is well connected with Kilkenny City and beyond. Many of the attractions are just outside of the town, however, so we do recommend hiring a car – as with most rural parts of Ireland.
- Head to Nuenna Farm Equestrian Centre where you can try out horse riding and admire the County Kilkenny countryside
- Brown’s Wood, which surrounds Freshford, is the perfect spot for a romantic stroll through local nature
- Book a seat at Loop Restaurant – they are only open three days a week but offer afternoon tea and dinner menus
- Ballylarkin Abbey is the ruins of a Catholic monastery that was built in the 14th century – great if you are fond of Gothic architecture
- Uppercourt Manor was a former bishops palace that has a turbulent history including murder and slavery
- Drive out to the Slieveardagh Hills for a challenging hike around the Irish countryside
Best Air BnB in Freshford
They may call it a cottage, but this BnB is more like an 18th-century mansion! With its vintage charm and homey atmosphere, this stay will transport you to a simpler time in the Irish countryside! To experience a different side of Ireland be sure to check into this BnB!
Best Hotel for Backpackers Freshford
This cosy bed and breakfast is right in the heart of Freshford, allowing you to explore the town with ease and enjoy public transport links to Kilkenny City! There is a large patio area where you can mingle with other guests during the summer and a fire where you can warm up during the winter. Free private parking is also available on-site.
Best Budget Hotel in Freshford
Larkside Cottage is another excellent holiday home that would make the perfect rural retreat for couples visiting County Limerick! The kitchen is well equipped with modern conveniences – including a dishwasher. This quaint little cottage is surrounded by a tranquil garden where you can relax and enjoy the sunshine.
Need specifics? We also have our favorite hostels near Temple Bar Dublin!
Best Luxury Hotel in Freshford
The Mews is a larger holiday home, making it a good option for families and large groups visiting the area! Though you will need a car to get to it, there is ample parking available at the front of the building. Free high-quality WiFi is available throughout the property, as well as various other modern conveniences.
Best neighbourhood in Kilkenny off the beaten path!
- COOLEST thing to do in Castlecomer – try out a spot of Golf at the 18 hole Castlecomer Golf Club course
- BEST place to visit in Castlecomer – the Church of the Immaculate Conception is a gothic church built during the Irish famine – interesting for history buffs
Castlecomer might be the largest town in County Kilkenny outside of the city itself, but it still has smaller tourist numbers. This makes it the perfect destination for seeing a more authentic side to life in modern Ireland! Formerly the site of a large castle, Castlecomer is packed with historic attractions.
There are also plenty of cultural delights around the town – including great restaurants and bars where you can mingle with locals and discover rural life in County Kilkenny! With a river running through the town, it is a very picturesque setting and has plenty of great hiking and cycling trails. Castlecomer is also well connected with Kilkenny City via public transport, giving you easy access to other parts of the region.
- Castlecomer Discovery Park is a huge forested area with walking trails, children’s parks and a coal experience tour where you can learn about the industrial history of the town
- There are two large lakes in the centre of the park where you can go fishing for rainbow trout – equipment hire is available from the area and is well priced
- Visiting during New Year? The Welly Race is a quirky local tradition where people race in fancy dress and wellies to raise money for charity – afterwards, there is a parade
- Brennan’s is the most central pub in Castlecomer offering a variety of typical Irish pub and a great selection of beers and whiskeys
- The Vaults Bar & Lounge is a more upmarket experience where you can enjoy innovative cuisine and a large cocktail menu
- St Mary’s Church is another historic church in the town which was rebuilt in the 18th century after the rebellion
Best Air BnB in Castlecomer
This modern stay will provide you with a hotel’s standard comfort with all the charm and warmth of a BnB. With its cozy lounges and homey atmosphere, there is no better place to call home in Kilkenny! Spacious and clean, you are sure to fall in love with this BnB!
Best Hotel for Backpackers Castlecomer
This lodge is located just outside of Castlecomer, close to the boundary with County Laois, so we suggest this mostly for visitors that are hiring a car. Nevertheless, it is an excellent log cabin style accommodation that is perfect for larger groups of backpackers! There is a huge balcony area and even an on-site sauna.
Best Budget Hotel in Castlecomer
Also located just outside of Castlecomer in nearby Durrow, Weir View is a fantastic off-the-beaten-path retreat for those seeking a quiet retreat in the Irish countryside! They offer a continental breakfast, as well as a buffet option if you have a larger appetite. There is a large garden area for guests to relax in after a day of exploring.
Best Luxury Hotel in Castlecomer
Located right in the heart of Castlecomer, Avalon House Hotel is a gorgeous four-star accommodation that is the pinnacle of luxury in County Kilkenny! The on-site restaurant is not just popular with guests but also with locals in the town. Rooms are fully kitted out with modern conveniences and air conditioning – perfect during those long Irish summers.
Final Thoughts on Where to Stay in Kilkenny?
Kilkenny is a gorgeous city that offers plenty of excellent attractions for visitors looking to discover the real Ireland! The surrounding County Kilkenny area is also packed with quaint towns and villages that offer an insight into rural life in the country. If you want a relaxing getaway, you should definitely go with County Kilkenny!
For the best area it really is a no brainer – Kilkenny City Centre is our top pick! Not only does it have the most attractions and accommodation options, but it is also well connected with the rest of the county and further afield in Ireland.
Nevertheless, each of the neighborhoods and towns mentioned in this guide have their own charms. We hope we have helped you to plan your itinerary for your upcoming trip to Kilkenny in Ireland’s Sunny South East!
Have we missed anything? Let us know in the comments!
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