By Rachael Funk
Ireland’s second city, Cork charms its visitors with its exuberance and abundance of pubs, shops, and waterways. Boasting what is arguably the best foodie scene in the country, the city also offers an opera house, picturesque streets crowded with hip shops and cafes, and a totally revitalized energy. While you’re exploring everything from traditional to trendy, here are some things you can do in Cork for free!
1. Stroll through the English Market
Open since 1788, the English Market is an institution in Cork. Located in the heart of the city, the English Market comes alive with vendors selling organic cheese, fresh pasta, gourmet sausage, artisan chocolate, and rainbows of fresh produce that grace the market on a daily basis. Whether you come looking to sample some snacks or just to have a look around, this is one stop you won’t want to miss!
2. Visit Cork’s oldest surviving structure
Red Abbey dates back to the 13th century and is the only standing remains of Cork’s medieval past. Recognized as a national monument, the site was occupied by monks until the late 17th century. During the siege of the city in 1690, cannons were placed in the Abbey’s gardens in order to shell the city.
3. Meet the ducks at The Lough
Head over to The Lough for a peaceful afternoon by the lake. The shallow, freshwater lake is populated by swans, ducks, geese, and a variety of other birds and wildlife. Declared a Public Wildlife Refuge in 1881, the area is one of Ireland’s oldest protected areas.
4. Learn about the Gunpowder Mills in Ballincollig
Located on the south bank of the River Lee, the Gunpowder Mills are some of Cork’s most interesting historical buildings. Built and operated from 1794 to 1903, the Mills have a thrilling history that is worth investigation. The grounds on which the old building are located have been revitalized into the Ballincollig Regional Park which is open to the public year-round.
5. Explore the Crawford Art Gallery
Dedicated to contemporary and historic visual arts, the Crawford Art Gallery offers free admission to the gallery and exhibitions. The gallery’s permanent collection contains nearly 4,000 works ranging from 18th century painting and sculpture through contemporary video installations. The gallery also has a strong collection of 19th and early 20th century Irish art.
6. Check out the architecture of Saint Fin Barre’s Cathedral
According to legend, St. Finbarr was sent to Cork in the late 6th or early 7th century to kill the last dragon in Ireland. Once there, he built a monastery on the south side of the city. Though there is a fee to enter, a visit to the area to take in the imposing three-spire cathedral and learn a bit more about its history is free of charge.
7. Peruse the Triskel Gallery Space
A dedicated exhibition room on the first floor of Triskel Arts Centre, this gallery space features contemporary artists and is open daily until 8 pm. Triskel’s mission is to promote and present professional, multi-disciplinary arts of the highest standard for the city. In an effort to make the arts available to the public, the gallery space is always free of charge.
8. Catch a trad session
Pop across the River Lee to Sin E, one of Cork’s most beloved pubs. There, you’ll be able to take in live music almost every night of the week. This small but lively pub is sure to enchant you with its eclectic décor, cozy atmosphere, and lively patrons.
9. Spend an afternoon in Fitzgerald Park
Only a 20-minute walk from the Cork city center, Fitzgerald Park is located on the banks of the River Lee. The park has a children’s playground where the kids can blow off some steam or you can visit the famous 160-foot long “shaky bridge” that is popular with tourists and locals alike.
10. See the Cork Museum
Located in an old Georgian building inside Fitzgerald Park, Cork Museum is fee free. The museum places an emphasis on local trades, skills, and crafts, so you can look forward to learning more about the local history and seeing items such as the oldest pick and shovel in Ireland, Youghal Lace, the Cobh Famine Relief Book, and other artifacts.