The medieval Irish town of Kilkenny is on the River Nore, about a 60-mi/100-km drive southwest of Dublin. There you'll find interesting architecture, several abbeys and arguably the best pub in Ireland. Start at the tourist information center to see an audiovisual presentation of the town's rich history.
Kilkenny Castle is one of the finest castles in the country, and St. Canice's Cathedral, one of the largest in the country, is equally impressive. You can also visit the Dominican and Franciscan friaries and buildings from Tudor times, ending up for a bite of lunch and a pint of stout at Langton's Restaurant and Bar, voted Pub of the Year by various outlets so many times that it no longer participates in the competition.
Nearby, outside Thomastown, are the well-preserved ruins of Jerpoint Abbey. http://www.visitkilkenny.ie.
Just walking around Kilkenny is a delight, with its colorful storefronts and medieval alleyways, known as "slips." In fact, it's been called the medieval capital of Ireland for its many buildings dating from the 12th-15th centuries, particularly its stunning castle, cathedral and five abbeys.
But there's a wealth of other architecture, too. As you stroll through town, look for Tudor houses, Georgian facades and Victorian pubs. Note the use of black marble in the buildings—it's actually black limestone from a nearby quarry.
On High Street, look for the distinctive limestone building with the clock tower and portico. The Tholsel is a Kilkenny landmark dating from 1761, and now a government building. It stands on the site where the poor maid Petronella was burned at the stake in the 14th century after her mistress, Dame Alice Kyteler, was accused of witchcraft in Ireland's only witch trials.
When it comes to dining in Kilkenny, visitors are spoiled for choice. Options range from pleasant cafes and tea rooms to bistros and fine dining restaurants. You can even dine in Michelin-starred splendor at two local establishments.
While you'll find plenty of good, honest Irish fare, many chefs specialize in modern Irish cuisine, adding their own creative twists to traditional dishes sourced from fresh, regional produce. Kilkenny also has a good range of international restaurants serving Italian, Spanish, French, Mediterranean and Asian cuisine.
And don't forget the pubs—there are more than 60 in Kilkenny, and many are set within atmospheric buildings and serve simple but tasty grub. You'll also find lively nightlife, especially if you seek out pubs with traditional music sessions. Try a pint of Kilkenny or Smithwick's Ale, the local beers brewed in Kilkenny for more than 300 years.
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