Founded in the 6th century, this picturesque city of waterways and colourful painted houses is nestled on the banks of the River Lee on the south coast of Southern Ireland. The city centre is unique as it sits on an island in the river itself. Referred to by locals as “the real capital of Ireland”, Cork is a quaint and cosmopolitan city with distinctive architecture and bustling restaurants and cafés at every turn. Boasting one of the largest natural harbours in the world, sprawling cobblestone streets, gothic cathedrals, a gastro dining scene and fairytale castles, it’s no wonder Cork is such a popular tourist destination.
A stroll through the 400-year-old English Market is a must for any visitor to Cork. With an impressive bounty of stalls offering the best local and imported produce and world-class cheeses, you may end up spending your travel expenses eating your way through the markets.
For great views across the city, head to Cork Cathedral and climb the many stone steps of the bell tower. Indulge your artistic side at the Crawford Art Gallery, where the famous Canova Casts, donated by the Vatican Museum in 1818, are exhibited along with other impressive treasures.
If you are a keen independent explorer, pop into the Cork City Library and pick up a free audio tour of the city to discover all manner of nooks and crannies by foot. Join the ghosts at the Cork City Gaol for a nerve-jangling night tour of the haunted old prison. And don’t forget to explore one of the many ancient castles still standing in city and country Cork, some of which are over 600 years old.
Eat and Drink
If you’re looking for a foodie holiday, you’ve come to the right place – Cork prides itself on being the food lover’s island of Ireland. This city has an abundance of eateries, from delicious market-stall food to delis, pubs, cafés, fish-and-chip shops and restaurants.
If your stomach can stand the visual, you might want to indulge in the local specialty of drisheen, a sausage made of sheep’s blood, breadcrumbs and spices then served with stomach lining and white sauce.
Cork’s black pudding is said to be the best in the country – it comes from an old family recipe and is served at many restaurants throughout the city. The hardest decision in the city will be deciding where, and what, to eat.
Where to Stay
The city centre of Cork is filled to the brim with accommodation options to suit all tastes and budgets. While there are plenty of picturesque heritage-listed abodes in the surrounding countryside, the city centre is such a treasure-trove of fun that it’s best to base yourself here. Those who are keen to inhale some of the crisp Celtic air should head to one of the many lush estates in the Cork countryside.
Although Cork is a small city of just 120,000 residents, there are many good shopping experiences to be had. The best can be found in the city centre with the newly opened Opera Lane precinct. Popular local and international fashion labels can be found here along with upmarket cosmetic houses and ubiquitous technology hubs. For department stores like Debenhams and Marks & Spencer, head to Patrick Street. If you tire of these shopping areas, you can head into the surrounding suburbs of Cork where you will find a number of shopping malls to explore at Mahon Point, Blackpool and Wilton.
Cork Like a Local
A popular pastime in Cork – and most of Ireland – is to head to the local pub for a pint of Guinness and a foot-stomping evening of Irish music with fiddles galore. If that doesn’t tickle your fancy, fishing for carp at the Lough (lake) is another popular activity, especially for families with children as the local swan community is always keen to feed on some breadcrumbs.