Planning a dream trip to Ireland and wondering what are the best things to do in Killarney? If have got to the right place! Killarney is a charming town surrounded by the country’s highest mountain range – McGillycuddy Reeks. Not only that but it’s located right by the shores of Lough Leane in County Kerry, so you will find some of the top landmarks in Ireland in the Killarney area, plus the beauty here is unparalleled.
Whether you’re looking to head out on an Irish pub crawl or explore a historic castle, Killarney is an incredible place that has so much to offer. It’s also a great base if you want to explore the surrounding areas, with Killarney National Park just a short walk away. With endless things to do in the town itself and plenty of day trip opportunities, Killarney isn’t a town that you want to miss in Ireland!
This ultimate Killarney guide is going to detail everything you need to know about visiting this charming destination. That includes the best things to do here, where to stay in Killarney, top tours, and the best time to visit Killarney. Here you will also find very helpful insider tips to ensure you make the most of your visit here! So, get ready to discover the fantastic things to do in Killarney, and don’t miss this on your Ireland bucket list!
- 1. Visiting the charming town center
- 2. Attending a traditional Irish music session in a pub
- 3. Enjoy the local food
- 4. Going on a Pub crawl is one of the best things to do in Killarney
- 5. Golfing at one of Killarney's world-class courses
- 6. Relaxing at one of the many spas in Killarney
- 7. Visiting Ross Castle and learning about its fascinating history
- 8. Explore the amazing views at Kerry Cliffs
- 9. Boat tours on the scenic Lakes of Killarney
- 10. Admire the Ladies' View
- 11. Taking a jaunting car ride through the national park
- 12. Discovering the Gap of Dunloe and its dramatic landscapes
- 13. Make a wish on the Bridge of Wishes
- 14. Exploring the historic Muckross House and Gardens
- 15. Visit the Muckross Abbey
- 16. Admiring the stunning views from Torc Waterfall
- 17. Exploring the ancient ruins of Aghadoe Cathedral and Round Tower
- 18. Drive the fascinating Ring of Kerry
- 19. Take the scenic coastal route of Slea Head Drive
- 20. Cycling routes around the national park and surrounding countryside
- 21. Hiking and walking trails in Killarney National Park
- 22. Go on the Torc Mountain Walk
- 23. Climb the Carrauntoohil Mountain
- 24. Hike up to the Cardiac Hill
- 25. Go kayak to Innisfallen Island
Top Things to Do in Killarney Town
1. Visiting the charming town center
The first thing you’ll want to do in Killarney is explore its town center. Thanks to its charming narrow streets, colorful buildings, and fantastic atmosphere, there’s no better place to appreciate Ireland’s culture. Brimming with traditional pubs, fantastic eateries, and unique craft stores, you won’t run out of things to do in this part of town.
As Killarney town center is only small, you’ll have no problems getting around on foot. While you’re exploring, make sure to visit some of the town’s iconic attractions including St. Mary’s Cathedral, Killarney National Park Visitor Centre, and Killarney Brewing Company. There’s a lot to see, so try to spend at least a full day in the town itself. You can then spend the rest of your time heading out to explore the local area.
2. Attending a traditional Irish music session in a pub
Now this is one of the most fun things to do in Killarney! You’ll find no shortage of pubs in this charming town, and many of them feature traditional Irish music. There’s no better way to appreciate the country’s culture than to grab a pint of Guinness and listen to an Irish music session. Depending on the popularity of the bar, you may want to get there early to ensure you have a seat.
Some popular pubs offering live Irish music include:
- Murphy’s Bar, Restaurant, and Townhouse
- O’Connors Traditional Pub
- The Laurels Pub & Restaurant
- The Killarney Grand
Further on in the article, I’ll talk about one of the town’s highlights – going on a pub crawl! You can always combine these two activities so that you end your night in a fantastic pub offering traditional Irish music.
3. Enjoy the local food
If you’re looking to try local Irish cuisine then you’ve come to the right place. There’s a wealth of fantastic restaurants in Killarney so you’ll be spoilt for choice. Of course, some of the pubs I’ll mention in a minute also feature restaurants so you can head to one of those as well.
Here are some of the best restaurant options in Killarney:
- The Porterhouse Killarney – This gastropub is an Irish family-run restaurant that offers an extensive menu.
- Bricín Restaurant and Irish Craft Shop – Famous for its traditional Irish cuisine, fantastic atmosphere, and craft shop.
- Cronins Restaurant – This family-run restaurant is known for its delicious food, friendly service, and great atmosphere.
- Caragh Restaurant & Lounge Bar – Another fantastic food option in Killarney thanks to its tasty local dishes and large portions.
4. Going on a Pub crawl is one of the best things to do in Killarney
Killarney is the perfect place for a pub crawl as it’s home to over 50 pubs! Yes, you heard that right. Considering the population stands at around 15,000, that’s an impressive pub-to-people ratio. So how do you choose which ones to visit? Well, there are a couple that stand out above the rest so let’s take a look at where you should go.
Here are some of the best pubs to visit in Killarney:
- The Laurels Pub & Restaurant – This charming place has been run by the same family for nearly a century.
- Murphy’s Bar, Restaurant & Townhouse -This traditional Irish bar is known for its live music and delicious food.
- John M. Reidy – One of the most popular Irish pubs in Killarney, and a place not to be missed.
- Courtney’s Bar – This bar has been operating as a public house since the late 1800s so it’s got quite the history.
5. Golfing at one of Killarney’s world-class courses
If you’ve had your fill of exploring the local area and town (which I can guarantee you won’t) then why not head to one of Killarney’s world-class golf courses? There are several to choose from and each one has something unique to offer. Namely, the first thing that comes to mind is the jaw-dropping views, as many of them are located near the Killarney Lakes.
Here are some of the best golf courses in Killarney and its nearby national park:
- Killarney Golf & Fishing Club – One of the most prestigious and historic golf courses in Ireland.
- Castlerosse Golf Course -This golf course offers spectacular views over Lough Leane.
- Ross Golf Club – This is one of the country’s most scenic golf courses.
6. Relaxing at one of the many spas in Killarney
If you’re wondering what to do in Killarney then why not head to one of the many spas found here? Thanks to its fantastic location, you’ll find a variety of hiking and cycling trails in the surrounding area. After exploring Killarney this way, it’s important to relax those muscles so why not head to one of the town’s spas? There are plenty to choose from, and you can simply soak in the pool or you can opt for a treatment.
Here are some of the most popular spas in and around Killarney:
- Muckross Park Hotel & Spa – Set in one of Killarney’s most scenic locations.
- Aghadoe Heights Hotel & Spa – This beautiful place overlooks the scenic Lakes of Killarney.
- The Europe Hotel & Resort – This place is undoubtedly one of the most luxurious hotels and spas in Ireland.
- Killarney Park Hotel – One of the country’s finest 5* hotels so the facilities are top-notch.
7. Visiting Ross Castle and learning about its fascinating history
Visiting the stunning Ross Castle is one of the best things to do in Killarney! It’s thought to date back to the 15th century and is located along an inlet of Lough Leane. People believe that O’Donoghue Mór built this magnificent castle and every seven years (on the 1st of May), he’s said to rise along with his white horse.
This awesome jaunting cart tour will take you to Ross Castle and you’ll get to learn all about the area’s history from your guide. This iconic mode of transport was used in Ireland during the 19th and early 20th centuries, so it’s a great way to get around. As you ride along, you’ll head past other notable landmarks including St. Mary’s Cathedral and Killarney House Gardens.
Best Things to Do in Killarney for Outdoor Lovers
8. Explore the amazing views at Kerry Cliffs
The Kerry Cliffs are just a 1.5-hour drive from Killarney and are located along Ireland’s most famous coastal route. Offering breathtaking scenery and epic views of the Skellig Islands, this place is a must for any Wild Atlantic Way itinerary! At over 1,000 feet (300 meters) high, this place will honestly take your breath away so make sure you’ve got your camera ready for this iconic Irish landmark.
Aside from the cliffs themselves, you’ll benefit from plenty of facilities here. For starters, there’s an awesome cafe with both indoor and outdoor seating. If it’s a clear day, you’ll get to appreciate striking views up to 30 miles out while you eat! There’s also a campground at the Kerry Cliffs and an awesome coastal trail that offers fantastic birdwatching opportunities.
9. Boat tours on the scenic Lakes of Killarney
The Lakes of Killarney are made up of three main lakes; Lough Leane, Muckross Lake, and the Upper Lake. All are located within Killarney National Park and feature a breathtaking backdrop of lush rolling hills and mountains. The best way to experience the Lakes of Killarney is to go on a cruise, and there are plenty to choose from.
To make the most of this place, check out this Lakes of Killarney boat cruise! You’ll cruise along Lough Leane (Lough Léin) for an hour, and get to appreciate the beautiful views. Not only that, but you’ll get to see Carrauntoohil Mountain, Innisfallen Monastery, and Ross Island. Along the way, your guide will teach you all about the local area.
10. Admire the Ladies’ View
Ladies View is undoubtedly one of the best viewpoints along the Ring of Kerry. It’s just a 20-minute drive from Killarney and is home to a car park, a craft shop, and a cafe that features a terrace. From here, you’ll get panoramic views of the surrounding area including the nearby lakes. If you have the time, why not grab a drink or cake and admire the vistas?
This awesome Ring of Kerry full-day tour leaves from Killarney and lasts for around 7 hours. As well as Ladies View, you’ll also get to visit Killarney National Park, Dingle Bay, Molls Gap, and Sneem. This makes it a great option if you’re short of time, but if you can, it’s always best to hire a car and create your own itinerary!
11. Taking a jaunting car ride through the national park
If you’re looking for unique things to do in Killarney then head out on a jaunting car ride. A jaunting car is essentially a horse and carriage, and it’s a historic Irish tradition. It’s one of the more authentic ways to get around the area and will allow you to truly appreciate the town. You can hire a bicycle instead, but I wholeheartedly recommend this experience.
This 1-hour jaunting car ride will take you through the town of Killarney. Along the way, you’ll head past Ross Castle and St. Mary’s Cathedral, as well as visit Killarney National Park. Even better, your guide will teach you all about the local area and its stories, through Irish wit and humor! Although the tour only lasts for an hour, it’s well worth the money.
12. Discovering the Gap of Dunloe and its dramatic landscapes
The Gap of Dunloe was my personal favorite thing to do in Killarney. It is a scenic mountain pass that dates back around 25,000 years. It’s situated between the MacGillycuddy Reeks and Purple Mountain, so as you can imagine the scenery is rather impressive. There are plenty of ways to explore this area; you can either hike, cycle, or take a pony and trap tour. It’s completely up to you which you choose, but a tour is a great option for those who are short of time.
This awesome 5-hour tour will take you through the Gap of Dunloe on a pony and trap. Not only that, but it includes a Killarney Lakes cruise so you’ll get the best of both worlds. If you’re looking to appreciate the area’s dramatic scenery, then this is one of the best options out there.
13. Make a wish on the Bridge of Wishes
Within the Gap of Dunloe, there is a famous bridge called the Wishing Bridge or the “Bridge of Wishes.” This stone bridge crosses over the small river called the Owengarriff River. According to local legend, anyone who makes a wish while crossing the bridge is said to have their wish granted. I recommend making a stop at the bridge to partake in this tradition to make your wish. According to the legend, anyone who makes a wish while crossing the bridge is believed to have their wish granted.
While here, you can capture some stunning pictures. The mystical setting of the bridge, nestled amidst the scenic beauty of the mountain pass, adds to the allure and sense of magic associated with making a wish there.
14. Exploring the historic Muckross House and Gardens
Muckross House is one of the most popular tourist attractions in County Kerry. It was built between 1839 and 1843 on the shores of Muckross Lake and is located within Killarney National Park. This incredible Victorian mansion offers stunning architecture, beautiful gardens, and elegantly furnished rooms, so it’s not a place to be missed. If you can, spend at least a couple of hours at Muckross House.
This self-guided bicycle tour will allow you to explore Killarney National Park and all its landmarks at your own pace. You’ll be given a map to guide your way, and it includes popular attractions like Muckross House and Gardens, Torc Waterfall, and Muckross Abbey. With bikes, safety equipment, a map, and a historical information sheet, this self-guided tour is a great option.
15. Visit the Muckross Abbey
Muckross Abbey is another interesting place to visit near Killarney. It’s a gothic Irish monastery that dates back to the 15th century, although the original monastery found here was thought to have been built during the 6th century. That means it would have been here during the beginnings of Christianity in Ireland, so it’s an important historical site.
Here you can marvel at the intricately carved stone arches and columns, adorned with delicate details that transport you to a bygone era. The highlight is the awe-inspiring central courtyard, an ethereal sanctuary crowned by a majestic yew tree.
Considering the monastery you can see today is hundreds of years old, it’s pretty well-preserved. Just next door, you’ll come across an Irish graveyard that is still used to this day. Entrance to the Abbey is free, so if you’ve got the time, it’s definitely worth checking out. I spent about 2 hours here just soaking the beauty and details of this place, and taking some great pictures.
16. Admiring the stunning views from Torc Waterfall
Ireland as a country is no stranger to breathtaking landscapes and natural formations. However, Torc Waterfall is certainly up there with the best. At a height of 70-80 feet (21-24 meters), this beautiful waterfall is rather impressive with its cascading water and stunning backdrop. It’s just a short walk from the car park to reach this iconic place, so the trail doesn’t require too much exertion. If you can time your visit here after heavy rainfall, then the water’s power is even more magnificent.
This full-day Ring of Kerry tour will stop at Torc Waterfall and plenty of other incredible destinations. This 7-hour tour will see you explore the Iveragh Peninsula and its highlights including Waterville, Sneem, Killarney National Park, and Molls Gap.
17. Exploring the ancient ruins of Aghadoe Cathedral and Round Tower
Aghadoe Cathedral overlooks the Lakes of Killarney and is thought to be located on a pre-Christian site. This church is believed to have been in use up until the 17th century, and unfortunately, it fell into ruin after that. Although only ruins are left today, it’s still worth a visit – especially as there’s plenty of folklore and ghost stories that involve this place.
This Killarney Valley tour lasts for 6-7 hours and will take you to the iconic ruins of Aghadoe Cathedral and Round Tower. On this tour, you’ll also get to visit Muckross House, Ross Castle, St. Mary’s Cathedral, Ladies’ View, and Torc Waterfall. It’s a private tour, but once the cost is split between your group (up to 3 people), it offers excellent value for money.
Epic Things to Do in Killarney for Adventure Seekers
18. Drive the fascinating Ring of Kerry
Driving the Ring of Kerry is undeniably one of the best things to do if you’re staying in Killarney. This iconic road trip makes up part of the much larger Wild Atlantic Way and will take you around the Iveragh Peninsula.
The route is around 111 miles (179 km) in total, and there’s plenty to see along the way. Some of the top attractions include the Gap of Dunloe, Moll’s Gap, and Torc Waterfall. As you drive along, you’ll be treated to breathtaking views of coastal cliffs, green rolling hills, and pristine beaches.
If you’re unable to rent a car, then check out this Ring of Kerry tour. During the 6.5 hours, you’ll get to visit some of Ireland’s most beautiful locations. This includes picturesque villages, Killarney National Park, and Kenmare Bay.
19. Take the scenic coastal route of Slea Head Drive
The Slea Head Drive is another drive leaving from Killarney to the Dingle Peninsula, considered one of the most stunning routes. I recommend starting your drive from Dingle Town, ensuring a full tank of fuel and a reliable map or GPS, and be mindful of narrow roads, and driving with caution.
This 100-kilometer (62-mile) journey treats you to breathtaking vistas of rugged cliffs, pristine beaches, and charming coastal villages. En route, there are several Irish famous landmarks such as Ventry Beach, Pre-historic Fort, Beehive Huts, The Dingle Famine Cottage, views of the Blaskets Islands and Coumeenoole Beach, and Gallarus Oratory. This loop road returns towards Dingle, the capital of the Kerry Gaeltacht Irish-speaking area.
20. Cycling routes around the national park and surrounding countryside
Covering an area of 10,000 hectares and home to the country’s tallest mountain range, Killarney National Park is a must-visit. The spectacular scenery found here sweeps right down to the Lakes of Killarney, so you’ll want to spend plenty of time in this park.
Cycling is a great way to explore the national park and you can easily hire a bicycle in Killarney. Better yet, many of the rental shops will include a cycle map so you’ve got an idea of the trails available to you. You’ll find surfaced tracks throughout specific areas of the national park; namely the areas of Muckross, Knockreer, and Ross Island. Just keep an eye out for the one-way cycle routes. Allow time to make plenty of stops too!
21. Hiking and walking trails in Killarney National Park
Another great way to explore Killarney National Park is by hitting up the local hiking trails. There are plenty of accessible trails here and they range from easy to strenuous in difficulty. If you’re short of time, then the Old Boathouse Trail and Mossy Woods Trail are both great options. For those after a challenge, then check out the Old Kenmare Road Walk and Mass Path.
If you’d prefer not to be on your own, then check out this guided walking tour! Your guide will tell you all about the national park’s history as you walk through, and you’ll get to visit some hidden gems. The great thing about this tour is that it’s incredibly flexible as you can pick your start time and duration.
22. Go on the Torc Mountain Walk
If you’re wondering what to do in Killarney then make sure you do the Torc Mountain Walk. This is another hike that’s located within the national park, but it deserved its own section. The trail is around 4.6 miles (7.5 km) in total and takes around 2-2.5 hours to complete. Once you reach the top, you’ll get spectacular views of Killarney, the lakes, the national park, and the surrounding mountain range.
To start the trail, you’ll want to park up at Torc Mountain car park. You’ll then wander along Old Kenmare Road and turn left at the junction. From here, you just need to follow the signs for Torc Mountain. Shortly after the first sign, you’ll come to a boardwalk and that’s how you know you’re on the right route.
23. Climb the Carrauntoohil Mountain
Carrauntoohil Mountain is Ireland’s highest mountain at an impressive 3,405 feet (1,038 meters) tall. There are a couple of route options to reach the summit, and these differ in duration although they’re all considered strenuous. If you’re up to the task, the views from the top are 100% worth it but you’ll need to prepare yourself. It’s one of the most difficult hikes in the country, and in all honesty, shouldn’t be completed without previous hiking experience.
This awesome guided hiking tour lasts for around 6-7 hours and will take you up to Carrauntoohil Mountain. The trip will be personalized to you, and your guide will support you along the way. They’ll also teach you all about the mountain and the surrounding area’s history and stories.
24. Hike up to the Cardiac Hill
Cardiac Hill is an easier option than Carrauntoohil Mountain, although it still requires a fair amount of exertion. This return loop covers a distance of around 5 miles (8 km) and takes around 1.5 hours to complete. The trail is relatively steep and you’ll have to walk up hundreds of steps so be prepared to get a sweat on! However, don’t let that put you off.
Once you reach the top, you’ll forget all about the effort it took to get up here. Take some time to appreciate the jaw-dropping views of Killarney National Park, the McGillycuddy Reeks Mountain Range, and the Lakes of Killarney, before you start your descent. When it comes to parking, your best bet is the Lower Torc car park.
25. Go kayak to Innisfallen Island
Innisfallen Island is located within Lough Leane, in Killarney National Park. It’s the largest island located on the lake and is home to Innisfallen Island Monastery. This monastery dates back to 640 AD and used to be home to monks, with even the High King of Ireland rumored to have studied here. One of the best ways to get to Innisfallen is by hiring a kayak or heading out on a kayaking tour.
If you don’t fancy kayaking, then check out this guided boat tour to Innisfallen. The boat ride takes around 10 minutes and then you’ll have 30-45 minutes to explore the island. Along the way, your guide will teach you all about Innisfallen and its history.
Top-Rated Tours in Killarney
In my opinion, if you’ve got the time then you’ll want to hire a car to explore the surrounding area. This allows you flexibility when it comes to creating your own itinerary, and you can stop off at places for as long as you want.
However, if you’re looking to make the most of your trip and you don’t have much time, then opt for an action-packed tour. There are plenty to choose from and these often include the town, as well as some other destinations that are just a short drive away.
Below, I’ve included some of the best Killarney tours so you know what’s on offer!
This jaunting car tour will allow you to explore Killarney by horse and carriage! You’ll head past several of the town’s attractions including Ross Castle and St. Mary’s Cathedral, as well as the nearby Killarney National Park. Although the tour only last an hour, you’ll get to learn so much about Killarney and its surrounding area through your guide.
If you’re short of time, then this epic 2-day tour is one of the best options. It combines two separate day trips one after the other, and allows you to visit several iconic destinations outside of the town. This includes Killarney Lakes, the Ring of Kerry, Bog Village, and Killarney National Park. Not only that, but the other day trip will see you visit the Dingle Peninsula.
This awesome combination tour includes both a jaunting car ride and a lake cruise of Lough Léin. You’ll get to learn about the local area through your guide and explore the best of Killarney National Park. This tour will allow you to see Ireland’s last native red deer herd (if you’re lucky), visit Ross Castle, and relax on a cruise of Lough Léin.
Best Places to Stay in Killarney
Killarney is a charming town full of incredible accommodation options. Whether you’re after a cheap hostel or a luxury 5* hotel, you won’t be short of choices here. The one thing you’ll need to consider is where you’d like to stay. You can read my whole article on the best areas to stay in the Ring of Kerry for more options and reviews!
Many of the hotels are located within the town center so you’ll have easy access to shops, pubs, and restaurants. However, if you don’t mind staying a bit further out of town, then you’ll find some fantastic accommodation options near Killarney National Park.
Below, there’s an option for every budget so you’re sure to find something to your liking!
TOP OVERALL: Arbutus Hotel
This gorgeous hotel has been in the same family for nearly 90 years and is one of the town’s original hotels. Boasting a great location, spacious rooms, and beautiful decor, this place has a lot to offer.
BUDGET: Tatler Jack
You’ll be staying in a typical Irish bar if you opt for Tatler Jack. It’s one of the cheapest options in town and the rooms are beautifully designed. You can also have food in the restaurant which is really handy!
MID-RANGE: Killarney Dromhall Hotel
Killarney Dromhall Hotel is just a 10-minute walk from the town center. If you stay here, you’ll benefit from an on-site Bar & Brasserie and access to leisure facilities which are located within the hotel next door.
LUXURY: Muckross Park Hotel & Spa
Although this hotel isn’t located in town, it’s a fantastic option. It’s close to Killarney National Park and boasts an award-winning spa, a Gastropub, an on-site restaurant, and a lounge bar.
Best Time to Visit Killarney
Like the majority of destinations in Ireland, the weather in Killarney can be unpredictable. The highest temperatures and best weather are encountered during the summer months of June, July, August, and September. However, July and August is the peak season as the children are off school so you can expect to encounter plenty of crowds during this time.
The months of June and September are better options if you’re still looking for pleasant temperatures. However, if you’re not too bothered about when you visit, then November-April is the quietest time to visit. Just keep in mind, that rainfall is at its highest during this period. If that doesn’t bother you, then you can find some fantastic deals on accommodation.
In all honestly, no matter when you visit there’s a good chance you’ll encounter rainfall. Just make sure you pack layers and a raincoat, and you’ll be just fine.
Things to do Killarney Conclusion
As you can see, there are lots of fun things to do in Killarney! Boasting a wealth of traditional Irish pubs and restaurants, historic architecture, and plenty of awesome activities, this charming town has something for everyone.
Another great thing about Killarney is its fantastic location. Thanks to where it is, there are endless day trip opportunities including the Ring of Kerry, the Dingle Peninsula, Cork, and Kenmare. If you don’t mind going further, then the Cliffs of Moher, Galway, and Shannon are all within a 3-hour drive!
For the best experience, try to spend at least one day in the town itself, and then allow another 3-4 so you can take day trips from Killarney. The one thing I will say is to not rush your time here. If you’ve got any further questions about things to do in Killarney then just leave a comment below. For those who’ve already been, what is your favorite thing to do or a day trip?
If you are planning a trip to Ireland, here are some other guides for you:
- Where to Stay in Ring of Kerry: Best Hotels + Reviews
- 30 Famous Landmarks in Ireland
- How to Visit Dublin in a Day
- A Perfect 2-day Dublin Itinerary
- Wild Atlantic Way Route Planner
- Wild Atlantic Way Itinerary
- Top Things to Do in Clifden, Ireland
- How to hike the Cliffs of Moher
- How to Hike the Causeway Coast Way
- 10 Fun Things to Do in Galway
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