Tourist Places To Visit In Cork
Cork city occupies the south-western coast of the Republic of Ireland and is situated in the centre of the River Lee. It is the second-largest city in the country after Dublin, not just in size but also economically. However, it does often get overlooked as a tourist city and is usually overshadowed by the loud commercialism of places like Belfast and Dublin. Easily one of the friendliest cities in Ireland, Cork can truly hold its own with plenty of historical gems, cultural attractions like museums and art galleries, and exciting restaurants and cafes that will turn your trip into a truly fantastic experience. The liberal and youthful ambience of this cosmopolitan city is also evident in its lovely streets, its vast stretches of waterfront and the numerous coffee shops that occupy every corner. To know more about this fascinating town, here are all our top choices with some of the best places to visit in Cork.
The English Market
The English Market was established in the year 1788 in the heart of Cork City. It is a splendid-looking Victorian building that is under the possession of the Cork City Council, making it one of the oldest municipal markets in the world. Essentially a food market, this roofed structure sells a variety of fresh fruits and vegetables, an assortment of cheeses, spices and a range of baked goods as well. Fish lovers will be delighted to find excellent fresh seafood sold here as well, and if you are looking to try some authentic Irish fare, don’t forget to try regional delicacies here like drisheen (blood sausage), battlebord (salted and dried ling), buttered eggs and spiced beef. Visit the Farmgate Café at the market for some hot tea or coffee, coupled with some fresh snacks.
St. Fin Barre's Cathedral
This Anglican cathedral dating back to the 19th-century was built entirely in Cork limestone, with the interiors covered completely in Cork marble. The neo-Gothic structure was dedicated to Finbarr of Cork, the city’s 6th-century patron saint. The exteriors are decorated with intricately carved icons and stained glass windows. The grandeur of the cathedral continues on the inside as well; the sculptures in the church denote a variety of creatures, from biblical images to even gargoyles, all of which were designed by the architect himself. The choir is decorated with detailed mosaics, and while most of the cathedral’s earliest features no longer remain, the Dean’s Gate and nine carved heads from the medieval building have survived.
St. Anne's Church
The red sandstone exterior of St. Anne’s Church on the northern and eastern front and its white limestone exterior on the south and west serves as a distinct landmark on the city’s skyline and it is one of the most recognisable buildings in Cork. This is mostly associated with the Shandon Bells Tower, which is the 18th-century church. The bells of the church were made famous by Bells of Shandon, the 19th-century song by Francis Mahony. Visitors to the building can see the bell for themselves on the first floor and even participate in ringing it, catch a view of the clock’s internal workings, and enjoy brilliant 360⁰ views of the city after climbing 132 more steps and reaching the balcony. The clock is also often referred to as the ‘Four-Faced Liar’; known such as the four clocks on the tower told four different times.
Cork City Gaol
Situated close to St. Anne’s Church, the City Gaol is a historic building that opened in 1824 and shut down in 1923. The prison originally held both male and female prisoners who were charged with crimes committed within the city’s borders, but in 1878, the Gaol became an all-women prison. It remained as such till the 1920 Anglo-Irish Treaty, when the men who opposed it got incarcerated in the City Gaol between 1922-23. The condition of the complex continued to deteriorate until it was restored and opened to visitors as a tourist attraction in the year 1993. An escape attempt was made in 1923, which visitors can learn more about on a tour of the prison and check out tableaus with life-like characters.
Blarney Castle and the Blarney Stone
One of Ireland’s most talked-about attractions is the Blarney Castle. And the castle is famous for being home to the widely known Blarney Stone. Kissing the ‘Stone of Eloquence’ is a popular tourist activity here, for those who do, are believed to be blessed with the ‘Irish gift of the gab’. The Irish chieftain Cormac MacCarthy built this castle more than 600 years ago and most of the castle is still preserved as it is today. Inside, visitors more often than not proceed to the battlement to plant an upside-down kiss to the stone first before moving along to enjoy the lovely views and exploring the massive building. The Wishing Steps, Witch Stone, Badger’s Cave and the Witch’s Kitchen are some of the spots worth checking out here. The Rock Close Gardens that surround the castle are the site of an ancient druidic settlement and are filled with amazing rock formations.
The Elizabeth Fort situated right next to St. Finbarr's Cathedral recently opened up to visitors. It was initially built to reinforce the city’s walls against new artillery threat, following which it served a variety of roles between 1601 to 2013. It has also been a depot for convicts that were being sent to Australia and warehouse for food during the 19th-century’s Great Famine. From 1929 to 2013, it served as a police station and was then opened to the public. It boasts amazing views from the ramparts and there are guided tours available to lend some context to your visit to the castle.
University College Cork
The University of Cork is one of the top institutions of higher studies in Ireland and was founded in the year 1845. The university campus is a great place to visit and simply explore on warm afternoons, with an attractive collection of Victorian Gothic buildings and historical attractions spread over the campus. A visitor centre here points out all the worthwhile things to see at the university and also organises tours. The President’s Garden in the quadrangle has majestic old trees, some of which are as old as the university itself. Do check out the Crawford Observatory and its equatorial telescope here as well.
Blackrock Castle Observatory
The numerous battlements and sturdy fortifications of Blackrock Castle would seem right out of a fictional fantasy to most, which is situated right on the shores of River Lee at the spot it meets Cork Harbour. Constructed in 1828, the castle is now owned by the Cork County Council and has been turned into a visitor centre and observatory. Apart from several interactive exhibits, there is also a cinema and a planetarium here. A variety of exhibits showcase space, nature and science-related explorations, apart from hosting several interesting events through the year. Kids in particular love this place and the view from the tower definitely makes the spot worth a visit.
Crawford Art Gallery
If there is one every art lover needs to visit in Cork, it is the Crawford Art Gallery. The museum is three-floors of exquisite artworks, known for its extensive collection of paintings and sculptures, apart from other crafts like ceramics and stained glass. Most of these exhibits are permanent and the paintings range from the 16th-century to the present day. There is also a separate exhibit dedicated solely for female artists. The galleries featuring the sculptures include works by Antonio Canova and other European artists, with masterpieces from the 19th-century to the present day. The café at the gallery is also worthy of a visit and is known for its top-quality food and lovely staff.
The Fitzgerald Park has been named after Edward Fitzgerald, Cork’s Lord Mayor and Exhibition Committee chairman, who proposed the plans for the park during Cork’s International Exhibition in the year 1902. The park is the perfect place for some quiet time among greenery and was constructed on a former marshland that was reclaimed from the River Lee. There are many lovely tree-lined walks here, along with an elegant fountain that was a part of the Exhibition from 1902. A small museum in the park recounts Cork’s history and a newly renovated playground here will be a fun spot for kids. The beautiful Daly Bridge constructed in 1926, known as the ‘Shakey Bridge’ locally, connects the park to the Sundays Well Road.