Travel Guide to Cork, Ireland

By Rachael Funk


Cork crams a lifetime of energy into its narrow streets, Georgian avenues, and lively community. Ireland’s second city is located along the River Lee and is well worth a trip to the Emerald Isle. A city that offers travelers a little bit of everything from food to festivals to fun, a visit to Cork should be at the top of every traveler’s list.


Image posted by Instagram user @joshchap96

What to know

Known as Ireland’s “rebel county,” Cork has a proud history of challenging the status quo. Holding a fiery legacy, the city of Cork has built up a reputation in the travel world as a destination which rivals Dublin. Cork’s appeal lies in its burgeoning food scene and cosmopolitan energy. Landing on the “hipster” side, Cork’s revitalized city includes a multitude of artisan coffee shops, craft breweries, and plenty of restaurants serving up mouth-watering dishes. The city has its fair share of historic attractions and a lengthy history to explore, but the real pull here is the spectacular social scene.


Image posted by Instagram user @kinlayhousecork

When to Go

Boasting 24 festivals each year, you may want to check what’s on before you plan your trip. The best time for warm weather and sunshine is July and August, when city tourism is at its peak. If you’d like to avoid throngs of visitors, the months of May through July are all excellent times for a visit.


How to Get Around

Cork travel services include ferry, railway, and city bus options, but if you are visiting the city of Cork, your best option is to walk. An excellent city to tour on foot, Cork is compact and easy to navigate. As long as you don’t mind a few hills and are staying within Cork City, it’s unlikely you’ll need transport by vehicle.


Where to Eat

Make no mistake; if you’re a foodie looking for good eats and an unbeatable atmosphere, Cork is the place to be! Boasting Ireland’s richest food heritage, Cork has got every hungry traveler covered. The city is perfectly located near the sea to have access to fresh seafood and close enough to the countryside for dairy and meat. Offering everything from small plates to pit-smoked barbecue, the city’s gastronomy game is insane. If you’re having trouble figuring out where to start, take a food tour and sink your teeth into a little of everything!


What to See

Shandon Bells

Cork’s most iconic landmark, you haven’t truly arrived in the city until you’ve played the bells and climbed to the top of the tower. You can choose tunes from numbered cards and make some music to announce your presence!

Jameson Distillery

Moved from Dublin to Cork in 1975, the Jameson distillery is open for tours and tastings. Offering several tours such as the “Jameson Distillery Experience,” where you will learn about the field-to-glass processes to create the whiskey, the “Behind the Scenes” tour, where you will be guided through key buildings such as the Micro-Distillery and the Maturation Warehouse, or “The Distiller’s Apprentice Tour,” which is a comprehensive course on the whiskey making processes and heritage. Or, if you’re eager to get to tasting without the tours, you can do that, too!

Fitzgerald Park

Nestled in next to the River Lee, Fitzgerald Park is the ideal place to spend a sunny afternoon. Named after Edward Fitzgerald, who organized Cork’s International Exhibition, the park can be found on the outskirts of the city. Check out the gardens to find Cork Museum, Riverview Café, sculptures, a skate park, and more!

English Market

Discover tasty treats at Ireland's oldest covered market dating back to 1788. Located just off the main St Patricks Street, the market is a wonderful place to grab breakfast or lunch and meet the local, family-run businesses.


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Tips and Tricks

  • When eating out, specify “tap water” with your meals, or you may end up being charged for bottled water.

  • To get the best exchange rate, don’t bring cash. Instead, withdraw euros from an ATM once you’re there. (Don’t forget to check if your bank charges international ATM transaction fees – if they do, this trick may not save you much.)

  • Snap up an ISIC Card to save 20-50% on museum admissions and other tourist attractions.

  • Don’t skip the nightlife! Pregaming is a common practice in Cork, so if you’ve made some new buds, invite them over for a drink before you head out. Many of the city’s most popular clubs are located between Washington Street and Hanover Street.


Day Trips

Ring of Kerry

Considered one of the most beautiful drives in the world, you can see Ireland’s wild scenery as you drive past beaches, cliffs, picturesque villages, lakes, and peat bogs. Stop by Killarney National Park to take in the magnificent views and relax lakeside and take in Black Valley.

Cliffs of Moher

One of Ireland’s best-known attractions, the Cliffs of Moher would be a shame to miss. Take a quick jaunt up the Atlantic Coast to walk the iconic scenery. From here, you can head east to Bunratty Castle to learn about the 15th-century castle and 19th-century village.

Blarney Castle

Take a stroll through the medieval stronghold built over 600 years ago! There, you’ll also be able to find the Blarney Stone. Rumored to bestow the gift of elegance on anyone who kisses it, the stone is an icon of the area. Originally, visitors were held by the ankles and lowered to the optimal kissing level, but now people just hold tight to the iron railing and lean backward to kiss it.


Cobh

Located in the Cork city harbor, Cobh was the Titanic’s last port of call in 1912. Take a trip to the town to explore the Cobh Heritage Centre or retrace the steps of the Cobh 123 passengers at the Titanic Experience Cobh. Hire a self-drive boat from Cork Harbour and take in the views of the city from the water.

Kinsale

Kinsale has nearly endless options for things to do on land or in the water. See the town by joining a historical walking or ghost tour or by strolling through the castles, galleries, and shops nearby. Visit Charles Fort or Desmond Castle and Wine Museum on the first Wednesday of the month or stop by the Kinsale Courthouse and Regional Museum between 10 am and 2pm Tuesdays – Saturdays for free admission!

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