For many people, Dublin is the first place they visit in the Republic of Ireland, which, of course, is a fabulous city full of world-class attractions. However, for those who can venture further afield, Cork is somewhere they soon fall in love with.
The second-biggest city in the country, Cork, is a vibrant and cosmopolitan destination in its southwest region. It is split in the middle by the beautiful River Lee and is full of historic sites and notable landmarks that make any visit there an enriching and fascinating experience. This article covers the following information:
- where to learn about Irish history
- where to see some amazing art
- where to enjoy fresh Irish delicacies
- where to see some historical sites
The city is relatively compact, making it easy to explore on foot. If you plan on visiting ‘The Rebel County’ this year, here are six places of interest to add to your must-visit list.
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Things to do in Cork
Eat at The English Market
If you love food, you will want to head straight to The English Market, which has been a stalwart in the city since at least 1788. Despite its Protestant origins, the market is far from being English. Instead, it offers traditional Irish specialties like pig trotters and drisheen (a type of Irish black pudding) and more traditional fayre like fish, cheese, bread, vegetables and fruit.
Rick Stein praised it as the ‘best-covered market in the UK’. So, take the time to wander around each stall, converse with the locals, and, of course, buy whatever takes your fancy. Whilst there, take the opportunity to order a meal at the Farmgate Café, which offers a range of delicious dishes made from the market’s fresh produce. If you love getting to know the local cuisine then hop on the Cork Culinary Tour and explore a few hidden food gems in the area.
Address: Princes Street, Cork
Opening hours: Monday to Saturday from 8am to 6pm (closed on Sundays and Bank Holidays).
Visit the Elizabeth Fort
One of Cork’s most historic and iconic landmarks is the Elizabeth Fort. Initially built around 400 years ago, the fort was named after Elizabeth I and provides an excellent opportunity to discover more about the city’s turbulent past.
Located just off Barrack Street, the fort is open all year round and offers free admission. It is a good idea to take a guided tour to learn all about its history, which includes being a defensive fortification, military barracks, police station, and prison.
It is also best to come here early to walk along the ramparts and take in magnificent city views before the crowds arrive.
Address: Barrack Street, just a short walk from the city center
Opening hours: from 10am to 6pm daily.
Pay your respects at St Anne’s Church/Shandon Bells
The people of Cork have a great affection for St Anne’s Church. It has been told that its red sandstone and white limestone, used in the church’s tower, inspired the colours of Cork’s sporting teams.
A church has stood on the site since medieval times; however, the present version was completed in 1722. It is best known for its unique clock tower, affectionately known as the ‘four-faced liar’ because all of its faces display a different time.
The church is also well-known for its eight bells referenced in the Francis Sylvester song ‘The Bells of Shandon’. It also has a distinctive weather vane designed in the shape of a salmon to represent the fishing industry that thrived as a result of the River Lee.
Address: located in Shandon, on Church Street
Opening hours: From Monday to Saturday, 10am to 4pm (closed on Sundays).
View amazing art at Crawford Municipal Art Gallery
If you love art, you’ll want to visit the Crawford Municipal Art Gallery in the Old Customs House. It has a stunning permanent collection of exhibits and displays, including a wonderful selection of Graeco-Roman casts created from sculptures held within the Vatican.
Since they were acquired in 1816, a significant local art scene has flourished thanks to these busts. The scene includes sculptures, paintings, and installations made by Corkonian artists over the years.
Complimenting these works, the museum also possesses a notable range of portraits of famous Irish literary figures, including WB Yeats, Samuel Beckett and Elizabeth Bowen.
Address: The Crawford Art Gallery is located in the heart of Cork City, just off Emmet Place, at the junction of St. Patrick’s Street and the Grand Parade.
Opening hours: From 10am to 5pm, Monday to Saturday, and from 11am to 4pm on Sundays.
Spend time at Cork City Gaol
However, appearances can be deceptive, as this elegant structure was once a notoriously tough and unforgiving prison.
It is worth coming here to gain an understanding of how harsh conditions were for prisoners who were sentenced to hard labour – many of whose crimes were fuelled by hunger, such as stealing loaves of bread.
You can choose to take an audio tour that will lead you around the cells, which accommodate models of broken prisoners and guards who seem to be revelling in their suffering. Alternatively, you can take a guided tour in the evening to gain an even eerier sense of what conditions were like.
Address: Convent Avenue, Sunday’s Well, Cork, Ireland
Opening hours: Monday to Sunday: 10am – 4pm. Last admission at 3pm
Take a look at the National Monument
Visiting the National Monument in Cork is an excellent opportunity to learn more about Ireland’s rich and varied history. The Monument is located in Grand Parade, in the heart of Cork city, and is dedicated to the memory of Irish patriots who died during the struggle for independence from British rule.
The monument is made up of a tall column, which is topped with a statue of Hibernia, the symbol of Ireland. The column is surrounded by four figures, each representing different aspects of Ireland’s fight for freedom.
Address: 48 Grand Parade, Centre, Cork
Join a Walking tour
There is no better way to enjoy a city than to hop on a walking tour where you can hear from a knowledge local guide about the history of the city, visit hidden gems and enjoy the humour that the Irish are well known for.
Some popular choices include the Cork historical City Walking Tour, the Cork Cork Private Walking Tour With A Professional Guide, and the Discover Corks hidden stories from her Rebel past!. Each of these tours offers a unique perspective on the city and its history, and can be a great way to learn more about Cork and its culture.
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