Let’s start with the obvious: King John’s 13th Century fortress on the banks of the Shannon River was recently renovated to better explain its history, which includes medieval battles, a siege and, naturally, a lot of inter-kingdom trade. With a self-led tour and lots of interactive displays to explore, it’s also home to the best view of the river you’ll find.
Munster, the iconic rugby team representing Ireland’s south province, plays the majority of its home games at this smart, modern stadium. Thomond Park also hosts the occasional gig and colourful storytelling tours for non-event days. Munster is at the very core of Limerick life, making this an essential stop off.
One of two cathedrals in the city, St Mary’s has been at the heart of Limerick’s religious life since the 12th Century. As the oldest building in the city, much of Limerick has grown up around this spot, and you can touch a little of that history in the scratch marks around the west door where defenders of the city sharpened their swords during the city siege eight centuries ago.
Limerick’s home to all the locally produced fresh food you could ask for (and a growing number of impressive foodie offerings based upon farm products, in particular), the iconic Milk Market is full of great finds while its gorgeous surroundings date back more than a century and a half. One of Ireland’s most enticing markets, it can be quiet during the week but really comes to life on bustling Saturdays.
Lakes are at the very heart of what’s great about the Irish countryside, and Lough Gur visitor centre uses that Emerald setting perfectly. As well as being a great spot for a stroll, the lakeside is home to an ancient stone circle and ample myths and legends that are thoroughly explained to visitors. Make sure you check out the ruins too.
Not an overly impressive sight in its own right, Limerick’s Treaty Stone symbolizes an agreement that ended the Williamite War. The truce didn’t last for long, and the events surrounding it still echo on. It’s not an overly impressive relic in its own right, but it has fantastic views, a plaque explaining the history (which dates back to 1691) and offers a real sense of stepping back in time.
The mythical side of Irish life (which is still fairly widely loved, if perhaps seen locally as a little clichéd), is one of the great Irish experiences for many people. Terra Nova is a magical garden that contains an ancient fairy fort dating back thousands of years, though the addition of modern fairy statues and magical touches will probably entice most visitors. Atmospheric, to say the least.
An unspoiled walker’s paradise, Ballyhoura Woods, with extensive trail options, is also a fantastic place to go mountain biking. You’ll find a range of difficulty options for both hikers and riders, many of which fall under the forest canopies, stretching across more rugged ground than you’re going to cover in a month of Sundays. A sublime taste of rural Ireland.
Limerick has a particular love of horses (in fact, there are plenty of rural spots around the city that specialize in riding, from learning to trekking). Horse-drawn carriage rides, though, are one of the best ways to see the place, complete with heavily accented drivers telling stories galore as you trot about. Slow-travel heaven.
For a good chunk of the younger crowd, this pub and music venue is the very best thing about Limerick city. It combines touring bands, local stars and quiet trad sessions — and at times can be impressively wild. Dolan’s has also been at the heart of the city’s burgeoning and memorable hip-hop scene over the last couple of years.
Just outside the town of Adare (which we recommend in its own right, see below) Adare Desmond Castle is a 13th-Century riverside fortress, now in ruins, sat right next to an ancient ring fort. Regular tours give a glance at the spot’s revolutionary history during the summer, while nearby exhibits give a sense of life all those years ago.
A man-made aquatic garden in the south of county Limerick, Coolwater is inspired by mountain vibes and home to out-of-place Alpine flowers. It’s not big, but anyone into quiet spots or gardening will find plenty to soak up here, from waterlily ponds to serene pagodas. Nearby Rockstown Castle — visible from the garden — is a nice stop off too.
This strange but appealing mishmash of attractions hosts a full-size replica of a B314 flying boat, an exhibition on the history of Shannon River and a nearby 1940s style tearoom. There are also Irish coffees served in this spot that claims to have invented them. For us, the exploration of ’30s and ’40s trans-Atlantic flights (the preserve of the uber-rich) is the highlight.
Frank McCourt was the Irish-American author of the Pulitzer Prize-winning ‘Angela’s Ashes’; his mother hailed from Limerick. After his birth in a poorer corner of New York, McCourt’s family returned to Limerick when he was five, to a life of abject poverty and squalor. This museum recalls both McCourt’s life and the Limerick of that time.
Sat right next to St John’s Castle, Bishop’s Place is the former home of the Protestant Bishop of Limerick city and now home to the Limerick Civic Trust. That makes it both one of the main draws for those looking to learn about local architecture and one of the key sites in any such tour its own right. Drop in to chat buildings or grab advice on other spots to drop in on.
An 1840s riverside structure that looks a lot like a castle, the Toll House is a faux defensive structure and was designed simply to collect a payment from those traveling into the city on the river. It’s just a building, but one quirky and well-located enough to be worth a stroll down the Shannon banks.
A picture-postcard 13th Century village set against a rural river bank, Adare is a vastly underrated corner of Ireland that rarely gets more than half a page in the guidebooks. The Heritage Centre, creamery, manor and abbey make it a very worthwhile way of spending a day and give a very different sense of what Limerick is than the city itself.
A tiny, playful little museum in Bruff, Old Irish Ways is a collection of things from the past hosted by a man with a transparent passion for what he does. Curator Dennis’ oddities include an old phone box, countless branded items that have disappeared from Irish shelves, concert posters, road signs and even an entire reconstructed yesteryear pub.
A locally themed, ever-changing museum displaying the largest private collection in Ireland, The Hunt Museum mixes art, antiques, early Irish history and the establishment of Christian institutions. There’s a strong collection from Greece and Italy too, but it’s the local history, covered in detail through eclectic items (ranging from tribal drinking horns to Celtic cross carvings), that’s the must-see.
A chunky contemporary gallery that’s free to enter, Limerick City Gallery of Art has a revolving series of exhibits focusing on a mix of local and international talent. The permanent collection is heavily Irish leaning and a great spot to uncover talents like Michael O’Connor and the iconic Dubliner Jack B Yeats.