About midway down the west coast of Ireland is the picturesque town of Limerick. With landmarks like Saint John’s Cathedral, King John’s Castle, and the River Shannon, it’s a simple and beautiful city to navigate. Though there are a number of historical attractions, the city was founded in 812 A.D. after all, it’s also worth coming for the culture. Limerick was recently named Ireland’s first National City of Culture for 2014 by the Minister for Arts, so this is the year to visit. There are many events planned in celebration and information is posted at ‘Limerick City of Culture.‘
In comparison to France or Italy, Ireland is not necessarily known for its upscale cuisine, but I can’t get enough traditional Irish food, and one of the best and most traditional places to eat (and drink) in Limerick is the Locke Bar and Oyster House. The Locke Bar is a staple of the city and boasts traditional dishes such as bangers and mash, beer battered fish and chips, and Guinness Irish stew. Surprisingly, the hot wings are one of the most popular items on the menu. My first time at The Locke Bar, I enjoyed the bangers and mash and a glass (or three) of Guinness. After dinner and drinks, it’s not uncommon in Ireland to go out for more drinks, and one of the best places to do this is a bar called Nancy Blake’s.
Located on Denmark Street, Nancy Blake’s is Limerick’s most popular pub. Open until 2 a.m. seven nights a week, Nancy’s has a place for any visitor’s preference. The front bar has a more traditional look and feel with low lighting and a fire place. The back area has a covered courtyard where smokers can smoke and dancers can dance. And both are typically filled with music as it is an integral part of Irish culture. It’s common to hear live music in most pubs around town.
Johnny Rahman, a Bengali transplant turned Limerick local, provided insight and advice on enjoying the best of the city. Rahman moved to Ireland from Bangladesh seven years ago to study at Griffith College Limerick. “When I first came to Limerick, I liked it right away because the people were quite friendly and the scenery was so nice,” Rahman said. He recommends travelers visit King John’s Castle, Adare Castle, and Saint John’s Cathedral for some local history. For pubs and restaurants he suggests the Locke Bar (of course!), Flannerys Bar, and Smyths Bar, which is also on Denmark Street. As for nightlife, Icon nightclub is his favorite place to go dance. It is located right on top of Smyths, which has more of a pub feel.
If you are renting a car while in Ireland, a drive up to Galway and the Cliffs of Moher is highly recommended by locals, Rahman included. The natural beauty is breathtaking.
With its friendly, authentic, and traditional atmosphere, Limerick should be on the top of your travel list!