1. THE HISTORY: A monastic settlement, a thriving Norman merchant town and a renowned brewing centre: the city’s got a quirky past. Sold by its owner for just £50, the 12th-century Kilkenny Castle stands as a testament to the city’s rich history.
2. THOSE EXTRAORDINARY VENUES: Expect some of the finest artists in the world performing inside 12th century Kilkenny castle. The city’s oldest churches, courtyards, gardens and townhouses get in on the act too.
3. THE MUSICAL MASTERS: The festival regularly boasts some of the biggest musical acts in the world, such as Sir András Schiff (“Grand master of the viol”) and pianist Christian Blackshaw (“One of the most acclaimed Mozart specialists of our time”).
4. THE ARTISTS — ON AND OFF STAGE: Global artists converge on Kilkenny during the festival, so soak up their creativity on the streets, in cafés and restaurants. Locals are more than happy to stop for a chat as well – after all, Kilkenny was once voted the 9th friendliest city in the world.
5. IT'S LOCAL AND INTERNATIONAL: Ireland’s own top musicians, performers, writers and artists take to the stage alongside maestros from Iran, China, France and Switzerland.
6. THE LIVELY PUBS AND TASTY RESTAURANTS: Warmth and fun are always on the menu, but so is award-winning food. Stop in for a bite at the Michelin-starred Campagne, the decadent Langton Room, or in the Kilkenny Design Centre's foodhall and restaurant. Vintage Tea Rooms is perfect for some teatime delight, while Kyteler’s Inn serves great bar food with history lessons on the side.
7. IT'S THE LONGEST-RUNNING ARTS FESTIVAL IN IRELAND: Not only is it Kilkenny’s oldest and largest non-profit festival, it’s also the longest running arts festival in all of Ireland. Legendary poet Seamus Heaney, (unheard of at the time) took to the stage at the Kyteler's Inn back in 1974 when the festival first began.
8. THE PROXIMITY: Kilkenny is in a sweet spot for some exploring. Just a stone’s throw from the buzz of Dublin city and nicely placed for a day trip to Waterford’s Copper Coast: packed with cliffs, caves and coves and a UNESCO Geopark. You’re in the realm of Ireland’s Ancient East, too, which means 5,000 years of history for the sampling.
Looking for more reasons? Check out the highlights that the entire county has to offer.
The Kilkenny Arts Festival runs annually in August. Get the lowdown on the festival here.