Cork may be renowned as Ireland’s second city, but ask any local and they’ll undoubtedly tell you otherwise. Celebrated for its independent spirit and home to arguably the best restaurant scene in the country, picturesque Cork rivals Dublin in many ways. Lake Lee lays claim to being the city’s leading natural beauty but Cork is packed with many man made marvels too and the grand architecture of the city contains a perfect balance of the old and new world. Compact and easy to discover on foot, a visit to Cork may well and truly have you permanently trading Guinness beer for the local Murphy’s.
For a city of such a small size, Cork sure packs a big punch when it comes to things to see and do. Some of the highlights include the Crawford Art Gallery, home to a fine collection of modern and classical art. 15th century fortress Blarney Castle is where to go for spectacular views and the obligatory kiss of the Blarney Stone, while Cork City Gaol will transport you back to the harsher times of the 19th century. Neo-gothic architecture is another one of the city’s star attractions. A walk along the riverbank will allow you to uncover St Finbarr’s Cathedral, while closer to the city you can’t miss Church of SS Peter and Paul, Holy Trinity Church and St Patrick’s Church.
Cork’s dining scene is on the up and up with a few standout restaurants essential dining stops on your trip. Orchids is widely believed to be the city’s finest establishment and features a formal dining room in a country-house laid with crisp white tablecloths. Once a Turkish bath, Les Gourmandises is another of Cork’s leading fine dining restaurants and offers original French cuisine, while Café Paradiso is believed by many to be the best vegetarian restaurant in Ireland. For something a little more low-key check out The Workshop Café for a coffee or sandwich in quirky surrounds.
Where to Stay
Cork has no shortage of great value lodging options and MacCurtain Street is the best place to head if you are arriving without a booking. Parallel with the northern branch of the river, there you’ll find Cork’s widest range of accommodation, including Hotel Isaacs and Hayfield Manor Hotel. Western Road is home to numerous Bed and Breakfasts for those wanting some old fashioned Irish hospitality, while a country home-stay is another great idea for those wanting to explore the rolling Irish hills.
Cork City and its suburbs offer a surprisingly good shopping experience. St Patrick’s Street is the city’s main shopping strip and recently an extra 50% of high street retail shopping space has been added in the city. Cornmarket Street makes up the other main shopping area in Cork where everything from designer fashion, jewelry, to Irish crafts can be found at reasonable prices. For a city of its size you’ll really be surprised by how much you can stuff in your suitcase in Cork and best of all when you’ve shopped ‘til you’ve almost dropped, never far away there’s always a pub waiting with a pint for refreshment.
Cork Like a Local
Customs are rumoured to not let you leave Ireland unless you’ve visited a pub. Okay that may be an exaggeration but as the centre of local social activity, you really can’t leave Ireland without a trip to a classic pub. Very much the epicentre of Irish culture, the pub is where locals go to eat, catch up, to be entertained and find shelter from the infamous Irish weather. These days there are still many traditional pubs left in Cork, and Dennehy’s on Cornmarket Street and Counihan’s on the corner of Phoenix and Pembroke are two of the best. Add The Bodega, Readens, Castle Inn and The Angler’s Rest to your list of pubs to visit in Cork and you’ve got yourself a full day of rainy weather sight seeing.