12 Top-Rated Tourist Attractions in Limerick

Written by Andrew Birbeck
Aug 2, 2019

About 24 kilometers away from Shannon International Airport, Limerick—the third largest city of the Irish Republic—is made up of the older district of English Town to the north, at the junction of the Shannon and Abbey rivers, and two districts to the south of the Abbey River, Irish Town and Newtown Pery. Generally speaking, Newtown Pery is the more upmarket area, as well as the business and banking quarter, with O'Connell Street as the principal thoroughfare. In this street and in Mallow Street, which branches off it, are some attractive Georgian buildings.

Interestingly, the famous "limerick" poems didn't necessarily originate in the city, but were probably first conceived in England. As well as taking in the city's must-see attractions, visitors should see the surrounding Shannon area with such gems as picturesque Adare village and medieval Bunratty Castle. To help you get the most out of your time here, be sure to refer to our list of the top tourist attractions in Limerick.

See also: Where to Stay in Limerick

1. King John's Castle

King John's Castle

King John's Castle

Starting from Sarsfield Bridge, a leisurely 15-minute walk takes visitors to King John's Castle, arguably the city's most photographed attraction. En-route, with short detours, are the Hunt and Limerick City Museums. The 13th-century castle stands to the right of Thomond Bridge and rises imposingly above the Shannon. The pentagonal fortress, with a main block, three round corner towers, a bastion, and a two-story gatehouse has been thoroughly restored and is the historic jewel in Limerick's crown.

Parts of the complex now serve as exhibition rooms. The history of Ireland and Limerick are brought to life by means of reconstructed scenes. In addition, there's a video display, information about the excavation of Viking houses, defensive works, and siege tunnels.

Address: Nicholas Street, Limerick

Official site: www.kingjohnscastle.com

2. St. Mary's Cathedral

St. Mary's Cathedral

St. Mary's Cathedral

St. Mary's Cathedral is one of Ireland's secluded jewels. A place of worship has occupied this site since 1168. The West Doorway, originally the entrance to the former Royal Palace, dates from the 12th century, and it's claimed that marks on the surrounding stonework were made by defenders of the city sharpening their swords during various sieges. This door is now only used during ceremonial occasions when those wishing to enter must knock first before entry is granted.

A stroll through the interior takes visitors through a timeline dating from the early medieval ages to the present day. The vaulted roof, gothic stained glass windows, medieval floor tiles, and elaborately carved 17th-century choir stalls and marble tombs all bear witness to a tumultuous past.

Address: Bridge Street, Limerick

Official site: www.saintmaryscathedral.ie

3. St. John's Square and Cathedral

St. John's Cathedral

About a 10-minute walk from St. Mary's Cathedral, St. John's Square consists of 10 fine stone-faced Georgian townhouses dating from around 1750. The houses fell into serious decay over the centuries, and by the 1970s were derelict and ready to be demolished. Thankfully this didn't happen due to a combination of private and public funding. Recently, a further one million euros was spent upgrading the location.

The adjacent early-Gothic St. John's Cathedral (named after St. John the Baptist who is said to have a connection to the city through the Knights Templar) boasts the highest church spire in Ireland.

Address: St. John's Square, Limerick

4. Limerick City Gallery of Art

Limerick City Gallery of Art

Limerick City Gallery of Art | Open Plaques / photo modified

The Limerick City Gallery of Art is housed in the 1906 Romanesque Carnegie Building. The building was funded by philanthropist Andrew Carnegie (1835-1919) and was originally called The Carnegie Free Library and Museum. It's now one of Ireland's leading contemporary art galleries and displays an impressive collection of Irish 18th- to 21st-century art.

The gallery is also home to the Michael O'Connor International Poster Collection and the National Collection of Contemporary Drawing. Adjacent to the gallery is People's Park on Georgian-styled Pery Square.

Address: Carnegie Building, Pery Square, Limerick

Official site: www.gallery.limerick.ie

5. The Hunt Museum

The Hunt Museum | William Murphy / photo modified

Established in 1974 after a sizeable donation of important works of art and antiquities from the family after which it's named, The Hunt Museum has become one of the most important cultural attractions in Limerick. Consisting of more than 2,000 important pieces donated by John and Gertrude Hunt, along with numerous items added since, this impressive collection is housed in the city's old Customs House, an impressive structure built in the 1700s that was renovated specifically for the purpose.

Highlights of a visit include a chance to see works by Renoir and Picasso, as well as medieval and Celtic artifacts, including tools and weapons. There's also an impressive array of historically significant jewelry and coins. Free one-hour guided tours are available, and with advance notice they can focus on a particular theme or interest. A café and gift shop are located on-site.

Also worth a visit is the Frank McCourt Museum, a small affair consisting of a 1930s period schoolroom and exhibits telling the story of the life of the famous Pulitzer Prize-winning local author of Angela's Ashes.

Address: The Custom House, Rutland Street, Limerick, Ireland

Official site: www.huntmuseum.com.

6. The Limerick Museum

The Limerick Museum | William Murphy / photo modified

Although opened in 1916, the Limerick Museum has only been housed in its current location in the attractive old Henry Street friary since 2017. Regarded as one of the top free things to do in Limerick, this important local attraction focuses on collecting and preserving artifacts related to the city's long and rich history. With more than 60,000 items dating from the Stone Age right up to today, highlights of a visit include a chance to see a rare collection of Limerick lace, local silverware, as well as clothing and weaponry.

Also of interest is the largest meteorite to land in this part of Europe (it actually made contact with the earth in Limerick). While you needn't spend too long exploring the museum, it's certainly worth a visit.

Address: Henry Street, Limerick

Official site: http://museum.limerick.ie

7. People's Park

Rice's Memorial in People's Park, Limerick

Located beside the Limerick City Gallery of Art, People's Park, dating from 1877, is a tranquil oasis and the city's main green space. A large selection of mature deciduous and evergreen trees dot the park and, during the spring and summer, visitors can admire a wonderful display of flowers. Other features include a memorial on a giant pillar to Thomas Spring-Rice (MP for Limerick from 1820-1832), a 19th-century bandstand, an ornate drinking fountain, and two gazebos.

8. Glenstal Abbey

Glenstal Abbey

Glenstal Abbey

Under half-an-hours' drive from Limerick city along the R445 and R506 brings visitors to beautiful Benedictine Glenstal Abbey set on a serene 500-acre estate. Day visitors are welcome to visit the grounds and the church, and those who wish can attend the liturgy. Scenic walks meander around the grounds, which are adorned with beautiful trees and flowers and provide a sanctuary for wildlife. The remains of Ireland's old oak forest lie along the perimeter.

It should be noted that while the school buildings and playing fields are not normally open to the public, visitors can browse the wide range of books and souvenirs in the gift shop (generally open daily).

Address: Garranbane, Murroe, Co. Limerick

Official site: www.glenstal.org

9. Lough Gur Prehistoric Site

Lough Gur Prehistoric Site

Lough Gur Prehistoric Site

Around 26 kilometers from Glenstal at Holy Cross on bow-shaped Lough Gur, this prehistoric site is a National Monument of exceptional interest. The Heritage Centre reopened in June 2013 after a facelift and now boasts state-of-the-art facilities. Visitors can explore the fascinating heritage of Lough Gur through interactive multimedia displays covering more than 6,000 years of archaeology and history.

During the 19th century, the lough was partly drained, and evidence of occupation going back to the Neolithic period was found. Notable features include a wedge-shaped passage grave, stone forts, a Neolithic burial site, a burial mound with a circle of standing stones, a fine double stone circle, a crannog (an artificial islet now linked to the shore), and a cult site with an almost monumental entrance. There are also two medieval structures, 16th-century Bourchier's Castle and 14th-century Black Castle in addition to a ruined 17th-century church.

Address: Lough Gur, Co. Limerick

Official site: http://loughgur.com/

10. Adare & Adare Manor

Adare & Adare Manor

Adare & Adare Manor

A 25-kilometer drive from Lough Gur via the R512 and 511 lies quaint Adare village and magnificent Adare Manor. The village hugs the wooded west bank of the River Maigue on the busy road leading to Killarney. With its thatched roofs and old grey-walled church, it has something of the air of an English hamlet. The arched stone bridge gives an attractive view of the beautifully planted banks of the river and old buildings in the background.

Presiding over a park, the 1832 neo-Gothic mansion, Adare Manor, was transformed into a luxury hotel some years ago. The principal rooms, including the hall and picture gallery, are open to the public, while the Tea Room affords pleasant views of the gardens and terraces.

On the banks of the river that runs through the park are the ruins of 13th-century Desmond Castle, a beautiful sight with its round towers and vine-draped walls.

Address: Adare, Co. Limerick

Official site: http://www.adaremanor.com/en/

11. Foynes Flying Boat & Maritime Museum

Foynes Flying Boat Museum

Foynes Flying Boat & Maritime Museum | IrishFireside / photo modified

About a 40-minute drive from Adare, Foynes Flying Boat & Maritime Museum is a must-see for aviation and 20th-century history enthusiasts. Housed in the old Foynes terminal building, this is where flying boats would make their post Atlantic stopovers. There's a comprehensive range of exhibits and graphic illustrations including a Radio and Weather Room, an authentic 1940s cinema, and a full sized replica B314 flying boat. Budding aviators can practice on one of the flight simulators.

Address: Aras Ide, Main Street, Ballynacragga North, Foynes, Co. Limerick

Official site: http://www.flyingboatmuseum.com/

12. Editor's Pick Bunratty Castle and Folk Park

Bunratty Castle and Folk Park

Bunratty Castle and Folk Park

Just over 15-minutes' drive from Limerick city on the N18 and E20 is one of Ireland's most renowned and fun attractions, the much-loved Bunratty Castle. No visit to the Shannon region would be complete without coming here. Dating from 1425, the castle is the most complete and best-preserved medieval fortress in Ireland and was restored in 1954 to its former glory. It now contains mainly 15th- and 16th-century furnishings, tapestries, and works of art instilling a mood of distant medieval times. Intrepid souls can attend evening medieval banquets during which certain guests may be banished to the dungeons below.

The Folk Park is a recreation of how Ireland was more than a century ago. Occupying 26 rural acres, the park encompasses more than 30 buildings in a "living" village. Farmhouses, village shops, and streets are recreated and furnished as they would have appeared at that time according to their social standing, from the poorest one-room dwelling to Bunratty House (1804).

This impressive Georgian residence was once home to gentry and the Studdarts, the last family to occupy Bunratty Castle. The half-acre walled kitchen garden is a particular treat.

Address: Bunratty West, Bunratty, Co. Clare

Official site: www.bunrattycastle.ie

Where to Stay in Limerick for Sightseeing

To help you get the most out of your time in Limerick, we've pulled together some of our favorite hotels located near top tourist attractions such as King John's Castle.

  • Luxury Hotels: For those wanting accommodations on the higher end of the price scale, No. 1 Pery Square is just the ticket. This charming, luxury boutique hotel is set in the heart of Limerick's historic Georgian quarter and features period-style rooms, a wonderful day spa, and afternoon tea. Other good luxury hotels to look into include The Savoy Hotel Limerick, popular for its central location, posh rooms, full-service spa, and on-site restaurant, and the Limerick Strand Hotel features a great location just across a bridge from the main part of the city, beautiful river views, plus a great leisure center with multiple pools.
  • Mid-Range Hotels: A good mid-range offering is the Absolute Hotel, popular for its attractive riverside location, its contemporary décor, and great-value dining. Also worth checking out is The George Hotel Limerick, a great value boutique hotel boasting friendly staff, a great restaurant, and comfortable air-conditioned rooms. Although on the outskirts of the city, the bright and modern Great National South Court Hotel is another good option and comes with a choice of rooms or suites, an on-site restaurant, and a fitness center with a sauna.
  • Budget Hotels: On a tighter budget? The Travelodge Limerick Ennis Road features affordable rates, clean rooms with desks, and family rooms with pullout couches. It's an easy ride from Limerick train station and the downtown area. From the same well-known band, the Travelodge Limerick Castletroy is close to the city's best shopping and attractions, and features standard and family rooms (the latter sleeping up to four guests). Another budget-priced contender is Coonagh Lodge B&B, popular for its location four kilometers from the town center, as well as its good quality rooms and tranquil setting.

Day Trip Tours from Limerick

The Cliffs of Moher

The Cliffs of Moher and O'Brian's Tower

One of the best tours from Limerick is the Cliffs of Moher Full-day Tour from Limerick. This excursion actually covers two of Ireland's most-visited attractions: the Cliffs of Moher and The Burren. You'll enjoy incredible views from over the Atlantic as you stroll along the clifftops, which stand an impressive 214 meters tall, and you can learn more about this stunning part of the world with a visit to the Cliffs of Moher Visitor Center. With a bit of luck, you might even spot some of the abundant wildlife that resides here, including puffins.

The Burren section of your fun day trip also offers plenty of great opportunities for photos and memorable selfies. You'll take in some of the country's most dramatic scenery—it's largely made of rugged karst and resembles the surface of the moon—as well as such popular tourist sites as Bunratty Castle; the quaint village of Doolin, famous for its traditional Irish music; and a drive past Galway Bay.

The Ring of Kerry

Torc Waterfall, The Ring of Kerry

One of the top things to do in Limerick is to hop aboard a Ring of Kerry day tour, including Torc Waterfall. Sure, it's a long day trip that lasts 11 hours, but you'll agree once done that it will have been worth every minute. All told, your bus adventure will cover the full length of this 179-kilometer-long circular route, taking in such points of interest along the way as Killarney National Park and a number of pretty villages, such as Waterville and Sneem, plus endless picturesque scenery.

A highlight is the last stop on your journey, which takes in the spectacular Torc Waterfall. This 18-meter-tall falls is pretty no matter the season and one of the must-sees on this unique scenic driving route. The tour starts and finishes at Limerick's downtown Arthur's Quay Shopping Center.

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