Spend morning south of the Shannon
Just over the road from Limerick Colbert station, the People’s Park is the gateway to Limerick’s Georgian district, with mature trees, cast-iron benches and sculptures spread around the green. It’s a popular spot for locals to walk the dog or read a book under one of the park’s ornate bandstands. Keep an eye out for the unusual water fountain, an elaborate red and white structure with pillars, a domed roof and a weathervane on top.
At the northwest end of the park, there’s a big blue installation that looks a little like a submarine’s periscope. But it’s actually a poetry jukebox – give the crank a few turns and it’ll play specially-commissioned pieces from contemporary poets.
Leave the park at the closest exit to the jukebox and you’ll be at the door of the People’s Museum of Limerick. Set within one of the Georgian townhouses on the edge of the park, this museum tells the story of the city and its people, from notable figures like Frank McCourt (author of “Angela’s Ashes”) to the members of the local motorcycle club.
Make your way between the rooms and you’ll find loads of local memorabilia, like old bottles of poison from a pharmacy and taxidermy foxes and otters. Just watch your head when you walk in – this room was once the house scullery, and the ceilings are only around 5’10” high.
On the top floor, the Museum of Childhood has a hodgepodge of toys that’ll make people of a certain age nostalgic – there’s a whole cabinet of old Ladybird and Beatrix Potter books, as well as some classic Viewmasters displaying Disney scenes that you’re free to play with.
Walk a few minutes along the road and you’ll find the Limerick City Gallery of Art, home to a collection of 20th century paintings and contemporary works. The pieces from artists like Sir John Lavery and Jack B Yeats are on the ground floor, with the newer artwork upstairs. There’s a cool installation from interdisciplinary artist Mark Garry on the floors in between, with coloured threads passing through the atrium like a rainbow.
One of the newest attractions in Limerick is just a five-minute walk away. The International Rugby Experience is an interactive space dedicated to all things rugby, with each floor telling a different story, from the amateur teams around the world to the origins of the Haka.
The floor that gets the biggest visitor reaction is the Legendary Skills zone, where you can test your kicking, handling, running and strength at four high tech stations. There are guides at each to help you if you’re a novice, as well as giant video screens where rugby legends like Tadgh Furlong and Johnny Wilkinson show you the ropes before you give it a try (no pun intended).
After your trial, a screen displays your final score and tells you which position you’d play best were you to join a team. If you really want to dent your ego, you can ask the staff what score some visiting rugby stars got when they tried it themselves.
The journey finishes on the sixth floor, where you’ll get a great view out over the city, with the back of the nearby townhouses on one side and the castle and cathedral spires to the other.
Head to King’s Island for the afternoon
In the afternoon, head north to cross the river and onto King’s Island to reach King John’s Castle. On your way, you’ll pass street art and sculptures on the riverside path. There are some great pieces at the back of the Hunt Museum, as part of their Museum in a Garden exhibition – some giant sculptures made with a 3D printer, a bright orange dodecahedron and large-scale garden games like chess and boules.
King John’s Castle is the best-known landmark in Limerick, with more than 800 years of history contained in its grey stone walls. Much of this history is fairly gruesome, which you’ll discover in the first exhibition room. Walk past the timelines and video installations and you’ll get the full story, from the demise of Gaelic Ireland to the arrival of the Vikings, the invasions from Cromwell and the cruelty of Elizabeth I. A lot of the stories end with severed heads displayed on spikes along the castle walls.
When you leave this exhibit, you’re down in the belly of the castle proper, where you can see the crumbling stone tunnels used in the siege. Out in the castle courtyard, you can try your hand at a few medieval games, like horseshoe throwing and hopscotch (who knew?). Be sure to walk up the narrow stone staircases in the towers to get a view of the city from the top – the best is from the turret right on the river.
On your way back into town, stop into St Mary’s Cathedral – over its 850-year history, it’s withstood numerous battles, wars and sieges and somehow survived them all. Inside, you can see two of the cannonballs fired at the church during the Williamite Siege of Limerick in 1691, as well as the impressive stained-glass windows and pre-Elizabethan carved misericords.
It's worth taking your time and ambling around this neighbourhood, also known as the medieval quarter. As well as the historic buildings, there are large scale murals on the walls, as well as tiny pieces of street art painted on the pavement.
Want to get the best view of this corner of the city? Then head out onto the Shannon itself. On a kayaking tour with Nevsail Watersports and Adventures, you’ll paddle up the river until you’re right underneath the walls of King John’s Castle, so close you can reach out and touch the stone.
You’ll get an interesting vantage point of the rest of the city as you make your way up and down the river. Pass under the old arched bridges and you’ll see little stalactites dangling from their underbelly – keep an eye out for the birds that nest underneath the boardwalk by Robert Byrne Park, too. As high tide changes by an hour each day, the times of the tours vary, so check in advance of your visit to see when they’re running.
Where to eat in Limerick
Fancy a casual spot for lunch? The Larder is an upscale deli/café where you can get sandwiches made on homemade focaccia, toasties packed with artisan cheese and buddha bowls. They also have wine by the glass and a load of different coffees available, including a concoction called Morning Glory, made with fresh orange juice and two shots of espresso. Sounds weird, but it works.
For a quick weekday breakfast or elaborate weekend brunch, head to Rift Coffee off Mallow Street, where you can get a smoothie bowl, breakfast sandwich or full Irish alongside your iced oat latte.
There are not one, but two great markets in Limerick. Milk Market has been on the go since 1792, and at the weekend it’s a dedicated food zone, with stalls selling freshly made crêpes, baklava and pulled pork sandwiches. There’s more of a street food vibe at the Wickham Way market, with trucks selling birria tacos, pizza slices and sushi – it’s open from Thursday to Sunday.
If you like dinner with a view, head to the Curragower Bar and Restaurant. It has a cosy pub feel inside, but the best seats are on the covered terrace, where you’re sitting right on the edge of the river with the castle just over the water. It’s a good spot for seafood, with classic fish and chips with mushy peas or loaded boxes of fries topped with scampi, calamari and battered hake.
There’s a cool, homely feel to The Spitjack, with fully stocked bookcases and pictures hanging on the brick walls. Their specialty rotisserie chicken is excellent, dripping with the roasting juices and bacon jam. They also do a rotisserie porchetta, seasoned for 48 hours then slow roasted – but you’ll need to order it early, as it often sells out.
If you’re a craft beer fan, pop into the Treaty City Brewery, just over the road from King John’s Castle. As well as brewery tours, they have a load of beers on tap, and the main bar area is a cool mishmash of reclaimed wood, old stone walls and a floating fireplace above the bar.