Things To Do In Cork
The second-largest city in the Republic of Ireland, Cork is located on the south-western coast of the country and lies in the middle of River Lee, dividing it into two streams before it meets the sea at Cork Harbour. Cork started off with just being a monastic settlement that expanded after being invaded by the Vikings. The town managed to survive through multiple occupations and raids and now stands tall as one of the most culturally and historically significant cities in Ireland. Architectural masterpieces, delightful parks and bustling markets make Cork a wonderfully versatile place to explore. Add to that the charming local residents who are always more than welcoming of their city’s visitors, and you have the total package in terms of the perfect vacation city. Read on for our recommendations on the top things to do in Cork.
Stroll Through St. Patrick's Street
St. Patrick’s Street is Cork’s main shopping hub. Dating back to the 18th-century and established by the wealthy merchants of the era, the broad, curving street is packed with fine shops and upmarket stores. However, shopping isn’t the only reason locals and tourists alike prefer to gather here. Between the hours of 3.00 pm to 6.30 pm, road traffic is prohibited here; on a good weather day, it is not uncommon to see groups of friends and families gathered here chatting and hanging out on the pedestrian walkways and lounging on the street furniture. Visitors can also observe beautiful architectural styles here that reflect the changes that have taken place over the past two centuries. The statue of Father Theobald Matthew is a prominent structure on the street. St. Patrick Street is also the venue of the St. Patrick’s Day Parade held on 17th March.
Grab a Bite at the English Market
The English Market is a quaint yet splendid Victorian Hall that serves as a covered food market in the heart of Cork City. A place that has been trading since 1788, it runs from Grand Parade to Princes Street and is also one of the oldest municipal markets in the world. While it popularly sells a variety of items like meat, fruits and vegetables, artisan bread, spices, cheese, and fresh seafood, it garnered worldwide attention when Queen Elizabeth II visited this place during her trip of the Republic of Ireland in 2011. The English market is also the source of produce for many of Cork’s top restaurants. If you are looking for some authentic Irish food, do grab some of the regional delicacies from here like drisheen (blood sausage), battlebord (salted and dried ling), spiced beef and buttered eggs. The Farmgate Restaurant here is a great place to stop by for tea or coffee while enjoying some of the local food.
Explore Fitzgerald Park
The Fitzgerald Park has been constructed on a former marshland that was reclaimed from the River Lee. It was named after Edward Fitzgerald, Cork’s Lord Mayor who proposed the plans for the park during Cork’s International Exhibition in the year 1902. The park is like a tranquil oasis that features an ornamental fountain and the original pavilion from the Exhibition even today. The beautiful Daly Bridge constructed in 1926, known as the ‘Shaky Bridge’ locally, connects the park to the Sundays Well Road. There is also the Cork Public Museum, lovely sculptures, the café Teahouse, along with splendid flora and a little pond with ducks and waterlilies here worth checking out.
Spend an Afternoon at the Fota Wildlife Park
The Fota Wildlife Park is a 70-acre wildlife park situated a few kilometres east of Cork City. The most interesting aspect of the park is the animals here that are mostly allowed to roam freely in their natural environment. The visitors also get to observe and interact with them on a personal level. Picnic-goers may often find ring-tailed lemurs joining them at their table, and giraffes wander free in the central enclosure. It should be noted though that walking through the entire park may be a lengthy and tiring affair since safari drives are not part of the wildlife interaction experience.
Take a Trip to Cobh
Cobh is a historic town located just a 25-minute drive away from Cork. Previously known as Queenstown, the town is mostly known as the ill-fated Titanic’s last port of call before it took off on its first and last voyage in the year 1912. It is still used as a popular dock for cruise liners from around the world. There’s a lot to see here; like the majestic St. Colman’s Cathedral dating back to the year 1868, an hour-long Titanic Trail walking tour, the Cobh Museum, and the Queenstown Story Heritage Centre.
Take a Boat to Spike Island
Spike Island was initially a monastery around the 6th-century; about a 1000 years later, it was fortified as the 24- acre fortress of Fort Michel. It was mostly used as some sort of a prison from the 18th-century till the 1980s. Today, the entire complex is open for tours to visitors where they can see the various prison cells and hear the stories of the famous prisoners who stayed here. There are still defence guns present in the fort’s tunnels today, with weapons like cannons to modern military equipment present in the Artillery Gun Park. Don’t forget to enjoy the Glacis Walk outside the fort, which offers some spectacular views of the Cork Harbour and the town of Cobh.
Enjoy Live Performances
There are plenty of spots in Cork where you can enjoy amazing live music; one such brilliant spot is Cyprus Avenue, which is the best place to enjoy performances from local singer-songwriters to top bands in the region. Crane Lane Theatre is part pub and part vintage ballroom, with décor that dates back to the 20s to 40s era. The admission to the pub is free and a wide range of live music gigs and DJ nights can be enjoyed here. Fred Zeppelins is popular among rock and goth enthusiasts, mostly known for its live gigs, open mics and the DJs on the weekends. Out of all these spots though, the most iconic building is the Triskel Christchurch, a performing arts centre located in an old church where there is always something happening on all days of the week. Whether its live jazz, pop or leftfield music, art exhibitions or cinema screenings, there is always something to entertain yourself with here no matter when you visit.
Explore the Fishing Town of Kinsale
Located about a half-hour drive away from Cork, Kinsale is a historic deep-sea fishing and yachting town that is also a breathtakingly scenic resort on the country’s southwest coast. This medieval fishing port is now a popular tourist spot as the boating fraternity arrives in large crowds to its shores every year during the summers. There are numerous cafes and restaurants here that blend in perfectly with the ambience of the town, with splendid scenery that surrounds you everywhere you go. In recent times, the town has also grown to be a top golf destination; additionally, an annual gourmet festival, a wine museum and heritage town walks are some of Kinsale’s top highlights.
Learn Butter-Making at Cork Butter Museum
Cork was once home to the largest butter market in the world. Not surprisingly, there is no better place than here to learn the traditional secrets of making this golden, creamy goodness that the whole of Ireland is famous for. During its glory days in the 1800s, the Cork Butter Museum exported top-quality butter to over four continents. The museum documents, not just the making, but also the production and sale of butter in County Cork. Visitors here will get to see a bunch of quirky exhibits, including a bunch of dairy paraphernalia and a 1000-year-old keg containing medieval bog butter.
Ballycotton Cliff Walk
Ballycotton is a beautiful fishing village situated about a 40-minute drive away from Cork. It is a popular escape even for locals and is known for its lovely beaches, seafood eateries, and the highlight of the village – the 8-km long Cliff Walk that extends from the Ballycotton village to the Ballyandreen beach. The walk goes along the breath-taking coast of the Celtic Sea and will appeal to anyone who enjoys hiking, nature and fresh coastal air. The track is quite well-maintained and can be embarked on by people of all ages and fitness levels. Usually lasting about two hours, the hike features amazing views of the local flora and fauna, the rugged rocks and the sea.