Limerick is a charming Irish city in Munster Province, in the southwest of the country, that’s perhaps more famous for the name it gave to the infamous five-line poems that became known as Limericks than it is for any of its many attractions.
There’s much more to Limerick though than its poetry, although it is by far one of the most cultural cities in Ireland. Found on the River Shannon, where the large waterway empties into the Atlantic, Limerick has long held importance as a strategic port, and for centuries has flourished, giving rise to a long history and a huge array of historic sights.
You can visit a centuries-old castle on the banks of the river, explore the grand Victorian designs of the Newtown Pery district, or shop with the locals at the bustling Milk Market. It’s a great place to visit, and to inspire your trip, here are our favorite things to do in Limerick!
Don’t leave home without: Lonely Planet Ireland (Travel Guide)
15 Best Things to Do in Limerick, Ireland
1. King John’s Castle
One of the best things to do in Limerick is to visit St John’s Castle, an imposing 13th-century fortification which was built by the Normans during their conquests of Ireland. The castle was built by the ruling monarch, King John, who wanted to extend his influence over the region and to protect the vital port city he’d captured from the Irish.
The castle is one of the most impressive examples of Norman architecture in the British Isles, with towering ramparts and thick walls that were designed to resist any attack. The location of King John’s Castle, right on the banks of the River Shannon, makes it even more dramatic.
At the castle today, you can explore the newly refurbished exhibitions, while the visitor’s center is full of historical facts and figures that will give you a newfound appreciation for the work that went into its construction. Purchase your King John’s Castle Admission Ticket today with Viator!
2. St Mary’s Cathedral
St John’s Cathedral might have the distinction of being the tallest building in Limerick, but the equally fascinating St Mary’s Cathedral has the distinction of being the oldest building in Limerick.
If you’re into local history, then visiting St Mary’s Cathedral is one of the best things to do in Limerick, as the church dates far back to 1168 when it was founded in the city. Since then, it’s been continually in use as a place of Christian worship, although it’s gone through several renovations and extensions at that time.
3. St John’s Cathedral
St John’s Cathedral is another of Limerick’s most iconic works of architecture, as this 19th century, Roman Catholic cathedral is home to the tallest spire in the country. The cathedral’s spire also happens to be the tallest spot in the city, at 94 meters in height.
It’s a dramatic sight to see and certainly one of the best things to do in Ireland.
The cathedral is built in the Gothic-revival spirit that was common at the time, and the tall spire and the gothic elements of its design give it an almost hauntingly imposing look, as it rises high above any other building in the city.
4. Newtown Pery
Newtown Pery is one of the most famous districts in the city because it’s the modern heart of Limerick. Really, this is the city center, although it’s one of the newer parts of Limerick and is far outdated by many other, more historic eras.
The district was designed and built in the early 19th century when Limerick was benefiting from trade and in an economically strong position. Because of that, many of the streets were lined with classic Georgian townhouses that were popular at the time, and that today give it a very Victorian feel.
Today, it’s the Central Business District, where you’ll find shops, government offices, and businesses.
5. Thomond Park Rugby Games
Limerick is big on Rugby, and the city is home to several teams that play their games at Thomond Park, a stadium dedicated to the sport. The city’s most famous team is Munster Rugby, and if you can get tickets to a game at the stadium then you’ll be lucky enough to be part of Limerick’s great sporting traditions!
6. Limerick City Museum
Begin your journey to the city by visiting the Limerick City Museum. Here you can learn more about the intriguing history of the city, which is thought to have been founded sometime in the 8th century.
There were settlements here long before however, and the museum has many great archaeological relics from prehistoric times, including finds from the Stone Age through to the Iron Age which has been unearthed in the region.
The museum also has exhibits that touch on a broad range of historical eras, and you can see how the Vikings settled here, followed by the Normans. You can also learn how Limerick played a pivotal if losing, role in the Williamite Wars that would force a mass exodus of Catholics from Ireland in the 17th century.
Limerick has a long and complex history, and to better understand it, a visit to Limerick City Museum is a must.
7. The Treaty Stone
The Treaty Stone is an incredibly important piece of Irish history and it’s found right in the center of Limerick. The city was the scene of a peace treaty that ended the brutal Williamite War in 1691, that was fought between supporters of William of Orange and the Jacobites, many of whom then fled to Europe.
It’s not a sight that will take up much time, but it is an incredibly historic part of local heritage.
8. The Hunt Museum
Another of the most popular things to do in Limerick is to visit the Hunt Museum. This intriguing museum is home to a vast private collection that was amassed by John and Gertrude Hunt, local antique dealers. The museum contains a huge array of works of art and pieces of history, from paintings by Picasso to Christian relics.
9. Frank McCourt Museum
Frank McCourt is a famed Irish writer who won a Pulitzer Prize in 1996 for his novel, Angela’s Ashes, which endeared itself to the literary community with its compelling look at life in Limerick. The museum is a dedication to his life and work, and it’s a great chance to immerse yourself in Limerick’s excellent cultural scene.
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10. Terra Nova Fairy Garden
The Terra Nova Fairy Garden is a surreal yet beautiful step into Irish culture, as you can stroll through wonderful gardens that are dedicated to the traditional idea of Irish fairies. These mythical creatures play an important role in local folklore, and amongst modern art installations, you can find traditional fairy stone circles.
11. Limerick City Gallery of Art
One of the best things to do in Limerick to see more of the city’s great culture is to visit the Limerick City Gallery of Art. This is the premier art gallery in the city, located in Pery Square. The LCGA as it’s abbreviated by the locals has been here since 1936 and is home to a vast collection of Irish works of art from the last few centuries.
12. Belltable Arts Centre
Another great cultural hub is the Belltable Arts Centre, which aims to promote the city’s artistic side to both locals and visitors. It offers a unique space for artists, musicians and performers to create, and regularly puts on dramatic productions.
It’s also home to a large cinema, where you can enjoy regular showings of unique films that are unlikely to be screened elsewhere.
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Adare is a small, charming village that’s found close to Limerick. It’s a ramshackle affair, and it’s beautiful to explore. You can start at the visitor’s center to learn more about local history, which dates back to the 13th century. The village is also home to ruined, medieval castles, ancient abbeys and much, much more.
14. Milk Market
One of the most popular things to do in Limerick is to go shopping at the bustling Milk Market. The market is found on Mungret Street, and it’s been here for well over 150 years. The market had its roots in the milk trade ( hence the name!), and it’s always been one of the busiest market places in the city.
Today, it’s a big tourist attraction, but it still hasn’t lost its local charm and purpose. Milk is no longer the main business of the market, but it does deal in fresh fruit and fresh veg, alongside some of the city’s best meat and fish, all of which are generally sourced locally.
Weekends see the Milk Market turned into a huge food court too, as vendors and street stalls set up to pack the venue with excellent local and international dishes.
15. Lough Gur
Escape the city on a trip to Lough Gur, one of the best day trips you can make from Limerick. This impressive lake is a chance to see the beautiful Irish countryside, and there are some wonderful walks to make around the water’s edge.
Lough Gur is also an important archaeological site, as you can visit ancient stone circles that have been found here, and that date back thousands of years to the first humans to settle in the region.
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