Aerlingus destination Cork isn’t just an affordable way to get to Ireland, the city has proven to be much more interesting and versatile than I initially thought. Whether you love getting lost in the maze of steep streets with tiny workers’ houses or you just want to experience the friendliness of the Irish in a cozy pub, Cork is a city to fall in love with.
Recently I set foot on Irish soil again, this time to see as much of the South of Ireland as I could. Cork would be my base for exploring the Ring of Kerry, but little did I know I would be falling for the charms of this cheap airline destination.
Because apart from the friendly Irish – seriously, why is everybody so nice? – and a scenic city center, Cork (and beyond) has lots to offer when you’re interested in Irish life and history. I tried to list as much of Cork’s highlights below.
19 reasons to fall in love with Cork
Play the Shandon Bells
While usually it’s strictly forbidden to touch anything at a church, in Cork you’ll be able to grab away as the church of St. Anne is famous for its bells and fact you can play them yourself. From time to time you can hear the Shandon Bells over Cork centre being played by tourists, not well I might add. On bright days you have view over Cork and even Cobh in the distance.
Cork isn’t exactly a metropole but in summer it can get a little crowded (hello tourism!). A great place to hide out is Fitzgerald Park, a serene spot for locals and travelers. Fitzgerald Park also hosts some great events, so do check that out by the time you’re paying your visit.
Hurling and Gaelic football are played all over Ireland and although you might now have heard of it yet, here it’s massive! Catch a game of Gaelic sports at the stadium or catch the game in one of Cork’s pubs. You’ll be having the night of your life, I promise.
I never knew butter could be this inspiring! Since my visit to the Butter Museum in Cork, I know all about the product that changed Ireland’s economy. The museum is located on the old butter exchange and although the museum is very small, it’s a must do when visiting Cork.
Visit the Murphy’s Brewery
Forget about Guinness in Cork! The Murphy’s brewery is located right in the city center and that’s why you drink Murphy’s when in Cork. Pay a visit to the brewery or do you own taste session in a local pub.
Ireland has a thing for name dropping. It doesn’t matter where you go, there’s always someone famous connected to the place. Whether that person was born there or his/her great aunt used to go on holiday there, they’ll mention it. In Cork you can pay a visit to the monument of Rory Gallagher, the man who wasn’t born but buried in Cork. All over the city there are places dedicated (or linked) to Rory, check all of them out here.
Finn Barre’s Cathedral
Simply spectacular and generally interesting, St. Barre’s Cathedral is one of the city’s hotspots. Visit the church or wander around it to discover the maze and the cemetery. The inside is well worth the visit if you’re interested in history and religion, although it’s ‘pretty’ enough for philistines as well.
Triskel Arts Centre
For arts exhibitions, live music and other events, Triskel Christchurch is the place for you! There’s something new every time, so don’t forget to check out the website for more information.
Good old river Lee
Taking a walk along the river Lee isn’t just great to get from A to B, with all the colored houses and numerous bridges it is a fun experience as well. There are 42 bridges going over the river Lee, 29 of them can be found in Cork City. Many of Cork’s highlights are to be found along this route, including the breathtaking view on Cobh.
The University College Cork (UCC) and the surrounding area are definitely worth visiting, even when you’re way beyond your student years. The limestone building is stunning, inside and out, and while you’re there, check out the Crawford observatory and Honan Chapel too.
The English Market
There’s no way you can visit the English market and not hear the story of the queen visiting it (again, the namedropping 😉 There’s a reason why her Majesty loved this market so much, as it sells the freshest goods in all of Ireland. Also, the amount of international foods and rare ingredients can be found here, so if you’re into cooking this place is heaven to you.
Shop At St. Patrick’s
Cork centers’ main street and the place to shop until you drop. Apart from the stores you’ll find all over Europe, there are some typical Irish (and British) shops and department stores. I always pay a visit to Boots whenever I’m in this part of Europe.
Cork City Gaol
Prison experiences are always fun when done voluntarily. The Cork City Gaol is now a museum displaying the life of prisoners in Ireland in the 19th century. Only a few steps away from Fitzgerald Park and the Cork College University (UCC).
A typical moody street with small workers’ houses.
What to eat in Cork (and where)
A very Irish thing I to serve food at any point of the day and on weekends that means it’s busy during breakfast and brunch hours too. The best brunch can be eaten at the Liberty Grill, one of Cork’s most popular restaurants. Especially their French toast and eggs benedict are worth setting your alarm for. Reservations are advised.
Fish and Chips
There’s no way you’re leaving Ireland without eating seafood. The best fish and chips can be eaten at The Fish Wife, a tiny, little take out place in the city center. It’s always busy, but your (huge) meal with be worth the wait.
Another thing you can’t miss is a good pub grub. More affordable than restaurant food and definitely more fun! Some classics are Guinness pie, Irish stew and Shepherd’s pie. Traveling on a budget? During the afternoons most pubs serve these dishes as lunch meals for discount prices.
A pub you can’t miss is the Bodega Pub, slighty different from other pubs in the area because of the less traditional menu, nonetheless a place loved by locals and tourists as well.
Day trips from Cork
Cork isn’t just a great city to be in, it also has a great location. From Cork it’s easy to explore the south of Ireland, with the Ring of Kerry as the ultimate highlight. Public transport is easy and quite fast, however when you want to see nature it’s best to rent a car or book a tour. I found Paddywagon (although touristy looking) to be a great company for that.
Just a short distance from Cork and famous for the Blarney Stone – which, if you kiss it upside down, will give you the gift of gab – is Blarney Castle. More information here.
The Ring of Kerry
One of Ireland’s most famous places and highly touristic during the summer, the Ring of Kerry, a route along the Atlantic ocean is a must visit when in Ireland. Stunning scenery of mountains and ocean and the best way to battle the forces of Irish nature. Check out my post about the Ring of Kerry here or go to explore it yourself.
Usually the start of a drive on the Ring of Kerry, however the town of Killarney is definitely worth a visit on its own. Roam the typical Irish streets, cozy up in a pub or sing the night away with the all-around Irish live music.
Cork is rough, but beautiful.
Hotels in Cork
€€€ Hayfield Manor*
Have you been to Cork? What was your favorite thing to do? As always, let me know by leaving a comment below!
*These contain affiliate links, which I use to fund my travels. Booking your hotel through these links will cost you nothing extra but will help me to bring you bigger and better stories.