How To Spend 48 Hours In Cork, Ireland

18 December 2015
Read Time: 3.0 mins

Ireland's second city has been awash with festive cheer during the annual Glow Festival (until 20 December). There was a Christmas market along the Grand Parade every weekend, with entertainment, choirs and a themed attraction in Bishop Lucey Park.

But there are more reasons to visit Cork than the festival. Here's how to best spend a couple of days getting to know the city.

Get Your Bearings

Jokingly referred to as 'The People's Republic of Cork' by its fiercely proud residents, the city hugs the banks of the River Lee in the south of Ireland.

Cork takes its name from corcaigh, the Gaelic word for marshy. Its heart is set on an island sandwiched between two channels of the river Lee before it opens out into one of Europe's largest natural harbours at Cobh, which brought the city much prosperity and was also the final port of call for the ill-fated Titanic in 1912.

 The harbour at Cobh is one of Europe's largest

With its origins in the seventh century, Cork enjoyed a flourishing period as a merchant centre in the 18th and 19th centuries with grand buildings such as the elegant Cork City Hall bearing testimony to its status.

On the north bank of the Lee lies the quaint neighbourhood of Shandon with its landmark clock tower of St Anne's Church. Cork Tourist Office is on Grand Parade and opens Monday to Saturday 9am to 5pm.

Day One

Take a hike

Start on the The Mardyke, a leafy promenade overlooking the Lee where people have strolled for centuries.

Cross Mardyke Bridge and take the Lee Walkway with the river on your right. Pass the remains of the old Jameson Whiskey Distillery and cross the river again via St Vincent's Bridge.

Continue to Daunt's Square then turn left along St Patrick's Street. To your left is Carey's Lane and the old Huguenot Quarter.

Bear right on Marlborough Street then left on to Oliver Plunkett Street, which is 300 years old and is also this year's winner of the London Academy of Urbanism's Great Street Award. Go left, up Winthrop Street and end outside the Tudor-revival facade of Winthrop Arcade.

 The quay at the River Lee

Window shopping

The Winthrop Arcade is the city's most distinctive and characterful retail spot. It opened in 1926 and was one of the first of its kind it Ireland.

St Patrick's Street is the main shopping drag, home to the usual high street names, as well as a small outpost of Dublin's high-end store Brown Thomas.

From here, make your way to one of Cork's most enjoyable retail experiences, The English Market on Grand Parade.

It's been in business since 1788 and such is its importance even the Queen called in on her state visit in 2011. Stop at Frank Hederman's stall to pick up some of Ireland's finest smoked salmon.

 St Patrick's Bridge

Cultural afternoon

In the 1700s, Cork's Butter Exchange was the world's largest butter market. The Cork Butter Museum on O'Connell Square documents the origins and progression of one of Ireland's best exports.

The Crawford Art Gallery at 11 Emmet Place is a leading cultural institution housed in the 18th-century Customs House. Its displays include a collection of prized Greek and Roman sculpture casts brought from the Vatican Museums. Leave time for a pick-me-up at its cafe.

Dine with the locals

Freshly landed lobster, crab, deep-fried calamari and traditional fish and chips all feature on the menu of newcomer Quinlan's Seafood Bar and Restaurant at 14 Princes Street. The queues for the “no reservation” tables speak for themselves. The restaurant's owners have their own fleet of fishing boats and a smokery in neighbouring Co Kerry.

Elbow Lane at 4 Oliver Plunkett Street is another new arrival on Cork's dining scene, a smokehouse serving a meat-heavy menu with baby back ribs and wood-fired steaks and beers from its nano-brewery.

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Day Two

Out to brunch

Not only is the Lewis Glucksman Gallery on College Road an architectural gem, it is also home to the Fresco Café, which serves delicious brunches at the weekend from noon to 5pm – try the French toast, pancakes and coffee.

Take a ride

Cork lends itself very well to exploration on two wheels. A three-day subscription for the city's bike-share scheme, Coca-Cola Zero Bikes, costs A$4.60, with the first half-hour free for each rental then A$2.30 for up to two hours.

 Try ringing the bells at St Anne's Church

A walk in the park

Fota Arboretum and Gardens are the grounds surrounding Fota House on Fota Island, just outside the city. There are regular trains from Kent station to Cobh, stopping at Fota station. The gardens open daily from 9am to 5pm. Admission is free.

Icing on the cake

Ringing the Shandon Bells, housed in St Anne's Church, is a bit of a rite of passage for any first-time visitor to Cork. In winter, it opens Monday to Saturday 11am to 3pm, Sundays 11.30am to 3pm. Entry to the tower is A$7.50.

Visit your local Flight Centre store or call 131 600 for more advice and the latest deals on travelling to Cork.

This article was written by Aoife O'Riordain from The Independent and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.

The Independent

The Independent is a British national morning newspaper published in London by Independent Print Limited, owned by Alexander Lebedev since 2010. Nicknamed the Indy, it was launched in 1986 and is one of the youngest UK national daily newspapers.