This post was most recently updated on January 13th, 2020
Sometimes, a city warrants much more time than you have to visit. That was certainly the case with Limerick, Ireland. We had just flown into the Shannon airport and were making our way to Tralee to catch a performance of the National Folk Theatre of Ireland. Certainly we could at least spare a few hours looking around Limerick.
So that’s just what we did. With just a general idea of what we hoped to see, we found a place to park our rental car and set out on foot, exploring everything within about a 1-mile radius. Interested in what we found looking around Limerick? Great! Because I’m anxious to share it with you!
And to make it even better, this article has been converted to a GPS-embedded guide on GPSmyCity. Use it without internet or data to follow our footsteps! (I will receive a small commission if you purchase the guide — thank you!)
First things first
Of course that means our first priority was finding lunch. We had heard about the famous Limerick Milk Market, the giant “circus tent” of a pavillion filled with nearly 50 food vendors. Trying to find a place to park near it was a challenge, especially on a Saturday. We finally found the Charlotte’s Quay Euro Park, about a 5-minute walk away. It was pretty cool that one of the first things we saw after exiting our car was a section of the medieval Limerick city wall, right there in the parking lot.
As we walked, we continued to see more sections of the old city wall. I don’t know why that is so fascinating to me. I guess it’s because I like to think about all the things that have happened here and all the people who have been affected (or protected) by these ancient city walls. What if they could tell us what they’ve seen?!
I also saw a few buildings that caught my eye — with pretty flowers or boldly painted facades!
Looking Around Limerick and Getting sidetracked
Yes, we wanted to eat. But hey, what was that beautiful church spire I saw a little ways off? Knowing that I love to explore old churches, my husband was willing to humor me long enough to see what the really tall spire was attached to. Within a few short blocks we were staring at this sight:
This is St. John’s Cathedral. It was a challenge to get all of the cathedral in one photo. That’s because the spire is the tallest spire in Ireland! It’s 265 feet tall. The Roman Catholic cathedral was built from 1856-1859,and the tower was completed in 1882
On a lot adjacent to the cathedral was another church and graveyard, known as St. John’s Church, of the Church of Ireland. It was interesting to learn that Limerick has many churches with the same name, with one serving the Roman Catholic community and the other serving the Protestant community. While the walls around the graveyard were built in 1693, the present church building was built in 1852. Many prominent Limerick residents are buried in this graveyard, and I liked the slightly creepy graveyard vibe. The church no longer accommodates a congregation but has been remodeled and now houses Dance Limerick.
Back to the Milk Market
By now, our stomachs were growling and I had gotten my “church fix” taken care of, so off we went to the Milk Market. You can tell when you’re getting close because you can see the top of the pavillion rising above surrounding buildings. Another Ireland record being set here — the Milk Market sports the largest single column support canopy in the country. The market appears to spill out into surrounding streets as many various vendors set up tables to sell their wares, right on the sidewalks.
When we walked into the Milk Market, we were pleasantly surprised by a busy, but very welcoming armosphere. Most of the vendors are producers who grow, rear, or bake the food they sell. They are knowledgeable, friendly, and very accommodating. And prices seemed very reasonable to us. There were musicians, too, and the atmosphere was lively!
Not only did we buy a delicious lunch at the Happy Food booth (mezzanine level), but we purchased several items for a picnic lunch the following day as we would be driving the Ring of Kerry. Tip: bring cash because most vendors do not accept credit cards.
Here’s a 15-second video clip so you can get an idea of what it looks like inside the pavillion:
With our stomachs appeased, we could now fully enjoy looking around Limerick to find more treasures. We left the Milk Market and headed for the canal.
Rivers, Canals, and Bridges
The River Shannon runs through Limerick, along with canals connecting portions of the river. Where the River Shannon joins River Abbey, an island is carved out, called King’s Island. This is where we headed next.
All along the canal are pretty flower baskets and various statues or pieces of art. We even saw swans swimming in the canal! This is a beautiful area in which to walk, and in fact, it is part of a 3.2 km route called the Riverside Walk. Bridge Street, Mary Street, and Island Road all have pretty bridges crossing the canal to King’s Island. We crossed the canal on Bridge Street, as we could see another old church and signs pointing to a castle.
St. Mary’s Church and King John’s Castle
The first thing we saw was the steeple of St. Mary’s Church, of the Church of Ireland. There’s also a beautiful carved stone gate at the entrance. This church was built in 1178 AD and is the oldest building still used for its original purpose, in Ireland. The graveyard here is interesting because of the carved headstones and intricate designs. There are even some graves belonging to Roman Catholics (Shanny’s, Clancy’s, and Haye’s) — their plots were bequeathed to them by the king of Munster. This is unusual because typically the Roman Catholic and the Church of Ireland members kept things separate.
What we didn’t realize while we were walking around St. Mary’s Church was just how close King John’s castle was. This is the King John who was brother of Richard the Lionhearted, and associated with legends such as Robin Hood and the Kinghts of the Round Table. If we had known the castle was just on the other side of the church, I’m sure we would have gone to see it, at least to take a few photos.
But our time was growing short for looking around Limerick, and we needed to be on our way. Because I’m sad we didn’t get to see it, I hope your visit to Limerick allows you to see and maybe even explore this amazing medieval castle.
Street Art in Limerick
As we made our way back to our rental car, we noticed several buildings painted with quite attractive murals, even an entire alley filled with art. I’m guessing there’s a lot more art than we saw, and a tour of Limerick should include at least some of it. Here’s a sampling:
Considering we only had a few hours, I was actually surprised at all we were able to see of Limerick. I do wish we’d had more time, but isn’t that the case anywhere you go? There’s always more to explore. But that was no reason to bypass Limerick altogether. Looking around Limerick proved to be a very enjoyable use of our time. I hope you make it there, too.
Thanks for the quick tour of Limerick! This was one of the cities we just had to bypass on our most recent trip to Ireland–so much to see, so little time!
Well, as you can see, we didn’t have much time either, but glad it worked out to see some of it!
Just needed a bite but Limerick gave us so much more!
I love the old city wall too! I can totally see why you were fascinated with it. 🙂 I’m not great with crowds so the Milk Market might feel overwhelming, but wow does that food and the atmosphere sound incredible. I couldn’t pass that up while in Limerick — and the walk along the river and getting my old church fix would also make the list.
You really drew me in with the King Richard connection. Limerick seems like an authentic Irish town to visit with more locals experiences and less focus on foreign visitors. Old churches are always neet fwiw.
Even the name Limerick makes me smile. Makes me want to break out in rhyme! On a walking visit, finding a great source for food is always a high priority. A pavilion with 50 vendors would offer lots of choice. I do love when old city walls are maintained. And to find the canals all decorated with flowers. So cool to find the St John’s Cathedral. With the tallest spire in Ireland, I can see why this drew you in. I love the colourful street art you found. Always something we look for. You certainly fit a lot into a short visit to Limerick.
Churches, street art, and food, oh my! The canals look like a lovely walk, especially after sampling some of the local food from the market. That’s great to hear that a lot of the food available at the market is made locally. So many castles and so little time! Thanks for sharing!
Limerick looks just gorgeous. We missed it on our way round Ireland, but now I wish we had visited. Milk Market looks great – I love being able to try the local produce. I love seeing beautiful churches too.
Good to know at least a half day is needed in Limerick. It’s so easy to get sidetracked when time is short! I tend to eat while walking around exploring in moments like those, especially if there’s street art
This is so interesting – besides Saint Mary’s, Limerick doesn’t look that Irish to me. But then again, what do I know, I’ve never been to Ireland.
No matter what, I would love to visit because of the street art – that looks very inspiring.
Wow, that is indeed one pretty town. That spire is awesome, I would spend hours at the Milk Market, and those murals are so pretty!
Limerick is gorgeous! I find St Johns Cathedral absolutely stunning, seeing the different styles of architecture and artwork is so interesting – everything is unique! xo – Kam
Interesteing how they have preserved bits of history. That part of old wall is indeed fascinating. 50 vendors would mean quite a good range of food to choose. Great sights all around.
As a proud Limerick native I was delighted that you shared your experience and glad you enjoyed it
You are blessed to be from Limerick!
I enjoyed reading your little bio of Limerick. We are headed there in March, we are so excited. Thank you again for this little tour! Cheers!
So glad you enjoyed it. I think you’ll love Limerick!