Speak nicely to Anne Lloyd and she’ll fry some Celtic eggs and black pudding for you at the fabulous Milk Market. The eggs are wrapped with sausage meat, rolled in breadcrumbs and deep-fried. “Tourists taste them with trepidation,” she laughs, “but they love them and can’t get enough.”
Saturday morning is the best time to capture the fusion of flavour, music and good-natured banter in an old stone building that was once a corn market. With its grand new canopy, it’s a buzz of activity that attracts traders from all over the region. Pick up lip-smacking spelt breads, fish from West Cork, fruit and vegetables from Kerry, and a mouth-watering selection of organic sausages, olives, jams, pastries and local chocolates.
Make your way into the Limerick City Gallery to find a superb collection of Irish painting. Selection is the key – but a good starting point is to look for Chairopanes, Jack B Yeats’s portrayal of a fairground amusement. In 2012 the gallery opened a €1.7 million extension.
No cultural trawl is complete without visiting the impressive Hunt Museum with its outstanding displays: one of the finest collections of Celtic and medieval treasures outside Dublin, and works from Picasso, Renoir and Henry Moore. There’s also a children’s treasure trail, a gift shop, and a wonderful café overlooking the River Shannon.
3. Sit at a school desk with Limerick’s most famous writer
Explore the life of the Pulitzer Prize-winning author Frank McCourt in his old school that’s now a museum. Although born in Brooklyn, McCourt was educated in Limerick and wrote the bestselling Angela’s Ashes about his childhood there.
Leamy House, a delightful Tudor-style listed building tells the story of his impoverished upbringing. The reconstructed school is similar to his original one with maps, blackboards and inkwells; while a mannequin sits at a desk studying French grammar.
After your visit, join the Angela’s Ashes Walking Tour. It takes in a staggering 42 locations from the book, including the post office where he worked as a telegraph boy, and the beautiful Georgian Pery Square beside the People’s Park: two must-see Limerick attractions.
4. Read poetry at the White House
The Irish President himself, no less, Michael D Higgins – a Limerick man by birth – has recited his poetry in the White House, the city’s oldest pub and haunt of poets, writers and wits. If you’re lucky, you may even hear a “Limerick” (a short, witty poem) being delivered.
Every Wednesday, Barney Sheehan dons his bow tie and introduces the city’s finest bards. Visitors are welcome to read their own poetry and, for added value, free finger food is served. The manager Glenn McLoughlin calls Limerick “a big village” and says the poetry is a great outlet for people: “They inspire each other and tourists love to watch and join in.”
5. Watch the try of all tries at Thomond Park
A tour of the hallowed ground at Thomond Park stadium where Munster beat the mighty All Blacks 12-0 in 1978 is a great way to get a feel for Limerick’s sporting culture. You can visit areas usually reserved for players and officials, and visit the museum.