Although it might not be as popular a tourist destination as Dublin, the second-largest city in Ireland has a lot to offer visitors. From bustling markets to beautiful parks, art galleries and architectural sights, any culture and travel lover will find something enjoyable in Cork. Here are great things to see and do when in town.
This gorgeous walk along the coast of the Celtic Sea is an absolute must for anyone who loves nature, fresh sea air and hiking. The walk, which takes 1.5 to two hours, offers stunning views of rugged rocks, vivid wildlife, plants and, of course, the sea. The track is very well maintained and suitable for all ages.
The English Market, also called City Market, is one of the largest and best markets in Ireland. The market has been operating since 1788 but it has changed and developed throughout the years with a growing emphasis on organic products and reliance on small-scale producers. Whether its traditional Cork goods or imported foods from all over the world that the visitors are looking for – they won’t be disappointed. The market is open to the public Monday to Saturday from 8am to 6pm.
As visitors arrive at this fort they are welcomed by friendly volunteers who are there to tell the place’s history and even reenact some scenes from it! The fort, originally constructed in the 16th century and then rebuilt in the 1860s, was recently restored by the same volunteers, and now offers an amazing historical walk within its stone walls, passing through underground tunnels, stone staircases, barracks and a moat, and finishing on a beautiful pier with gorgeous views on the harbor it was built on. There is also a lovely coffee shop with a stunning view to warm up in afterwards.
One of the absolutely unmissable things to see when in Cork is the campus of University College Cork (UCC) and its beautiful surrounding grounds. Take a stroll around the Hogwarts-like 19th-century university buildings with gardens, bridges and little stone houses here and there, and you will feel as if you were transported into a fairytale. For those wanting to find out more, there a few interesting spots to visit on the campus, such as the Lewis Glucksman Gallery of visual arts and the Crawford Observatory, dating back to 1880.
This park, named after city Lord Mayor and exhibition committee chairman Edward Fitzgerald, is a perfect place of quiet and greenery not far from the city center. The park is situated on the riverside of the River Lee and boasts many beautiful tree-lined walks, an elegant fountain, a cozy café and a recently renovated playground perfect for a family day out. There is also a small museum located within the park which tells the history of Cork – a perfect place to visit when it starts raining!
This stunning theatre, built in the Victorian era, has been renovated since its construction but has kept its beautiful antiquity. Do not be deceived by the unassuming exterior – the inside of the theatre is anything but modest, with a luxurious decor of reds and golds which is sure to take visitors some years back in time. The programme of the theatre is varied too, from classical plays to modern adaptations, and from concerts to stand-up comedy to circus. The theatre often hosts foreign artists and companies such as the Chinese State Circus and the Royal Shakespeare Company.
This lovely vintage market is a true treasure trove, where visitors can find anything from vintage books and vinyl records to perfume bottles and clothes. There is also a little café inviting passers-by with the aromas of fresh coffee and freshly baked pastries. There is even a massage space with qualified professionals if you get tired after browsing around for hours.
This zoo, located on Fota Island in Cork, is a perfect place to visit for a fun day out surrounded by nature. The best thing about the zoo is that the animals have open enclosures and are free to roam in large spaces, while the smaller animals don’t have enclosures at all so visitors can meet them basically anywhere as they walk through the park. One of the best things to see is the butterfly house. The entrance fee is €15 (£13.90) with concessions available to students and young people.
This magnificent cathedral, built in the neo-Gothic style and inspired by French churches, includes many interesting features, such as the biggest organ in Ireland and beautiful stained-glass windows to boot. The cathedral is as imposing today as it was centuries ago and for a small entrance fee, visitors get the chance to do a tour with a guide book explaining the hidden histories of the building.
For all art enthusiasts who find themselves in Cork, this is probably the best place to go. The gallery has three floors and includes many different expositions, from classic to modern art, so visitors are sure to find something to their liking. The café is an excellent place to dine or have a coffee, and is loved by locals almost as much as the gallery for its top-notch food and friendly and welcoming staff. Overall, the gallery is an oasis of art, culture and contemplation.