Locals call Cork Ireland "The Real Capital" of Ireland, and there is certainly plenty in this lively city to rival its main competitor, Dublin. Surrounded by the beautiful River Lee, Cork is a picture postcard city, filled with cobbled alleyways and majestic Georgian thoroughfares. The main shopping street, St. Patrick's Street, is surrounded by lanes that are begging to be explored, packed with traditional Irish pubs, markets, galleries and live music venues. Those staying in Cork for longer should also explore the surrounding countryside, which is dotted with castles and stately homes from different periods of Irish history.
Now a huge centre for art, music, food and nightlife, Cork is a colourful and vibrant "Rebel City" with plenty to see and do.
The English Market
Started in 1788, this traditional market has a diverse range of fresh local food for visitors to try, buy and enjoy. Those looking for an authentic Irish culinary experience can find a huge range of Irish goodies here, from warm loaves of soda bread, baked with buttermilk, to Cork's city dish of rich spiced beef and buttered eggs. Refurbished back to its original Victorian heyday after a fire in 1980, the market has some of the freshest and best quality food available in Ireland, particularly in the local butcher and fishmonger stands. There is also a range of street food stands for those who are feeling hungry after the sights and smells of the market!
St. Fin Barre's Cathedral
Built in the 1860s as part of a competition as to who could build the grander spectacle between two architects, St. Fin Barre's Cathedral dominates Cork's skyline and is one of the most photographed attractions in the city. The French Gothic style of the building is eye catching, and the cathedral is dotted with gargoyles and sculptures, topped with a golden angel who will apparently blow its horn to warn the people of Cork when the apocalypse is happening. For now it remains silent, but the Cathedral is a must visit for those who love dramatic architecture.
Things To Do
One of the oldest areas of Cork, historical Shandon is set on a hillside which overlooks the city, and is a great spot to start exploring the quirkier side of the city. The area is dominated by the bell tower at St. Anne's Church, and has an eclectic and bohemian feel. Grab an Irish breakfast at one of the local pubs and cafes and explore the lanes of Shandon, filled with boutiques, art galleries and antique shops. A walk to the top of St. Anne's bell tower is tiring, with over 100 steps, but provides the best views of the city bar none. For an insight into a niche but important part of Irish heritage, the Cork Butter Museum is located in Shandon.
Where to Stay
Those wanting a luxury hotel can't go wrong with the River Lee hotel, which has fantastic views, a grand designer atrium and a brilliant spa for relaxing after a long day exploring. An excellent mid-range choice is the Hotel Issacs in the city centre, which has one of the best seafood restaurants in Ireland, alongside a view of a waterfall in the hotel courtyard.
A range of cosy guesthouses and pub rooms are available for budget travellers.