This post will be a bit different since I’erse felt impelled to write this list for a long time and with Jazz weekend approaching want to reach out to visitors to let them know where to find the REAL gems of Cork City while they’re here. For locals, I’d love you to add your own post script (P.S.) to this post with a comment about what you’d tell a visitor coming to Cork for the first time.
Dear Cork City visitors,
WELCOME!!! My advice to you is…
• Enjoy yourself. The pace is slower than Dublin and people are almost always willing to lend a moment to offer directions.
• Don’t worry if you don’t understand everything locals are saying, I’ve got you covered with a comprehensive Cork Slang Dictionary. I compiled this myself over the years.
• If you want the view from the top, ring the bells and climb the clock tower at St. Anne’s Shandon Bells. Not good for small children or mobility-challenged visitors since there is a ladder involved.
• Wear layers and be prepared for rain. Also, when you don’t know why the city smells like a brewery, it’s because it is downwind of one.
• If you can’t get through the day without exercising outdoors, there are nice paths for running or nature walks. Most can accommodate a jogging stroller/buggy too (first-hand knowledge). Walk Jog Run and Map My Run each have nice collections of running routes with maps and distances.
• Save the rental car for outside the city and walk everywhere in town. It’s easy and you see more. Here are four transportation-related blog posts I’ve written that you may find useful:
Now, on to specific categories that may interest you. But before I leave you with those, I’m on Twitter so if you have specific questions, just tweet me at @FreckledPast and I’ll do what I can to help or I’ll RT so an expert can chime in. If I don’t respond right away, it’s just because I have a family/job and am often baking/sewing/knitting/eating, so if I don’t reply right away it is because life (usually my son) has a strong grip of me at that moment.
• For the children in your travel group, schedule down time without the bustling stimulation of the city. The Cork City Central Library on Grand Parade has a room devoted to children’s books with a few toys. This is ideal if your child’s toys didn’t make it in your luggage for the trip. The library opens at 10am Monday through Saturday, except for bank holiday weekends when it is closed Saturday/Sunday/Monday.
• When out and about and walking in Cork City, if a diaper or breastfeeding need arises, go to the two-story Boots pharmacy store at the corner of Half Moon Street and Paul Street (between Crawford Gallery and Tesco). Upstairs, in the far corner past the pharmacy is a designated breast feeding and diaper room. Diapers, wipes, and hand washing facilities are in this room. If the correct size diaper isn’t available, ask at the pharmacy. There is no adult bathroom in this store though.
• Sometimes kids get sick while traveling so worth noting a few product names… Calpol is the equivalent to Tylenol over here, kinda. Bonjela is a teething gel and Seetha is the homeopathic version. Dioralyte is a powder that creates a beverage like Pedialyte.
• Let them run wild at Fitzgerald Park. There are fallen logs for climbing, swings and a castle for more structured play, and a cafe. Open green areas make it easy to kick a soccer (ahem “football”) ball around too. It is open during daylight hours every day. Adjacent parking is pay parking, but street spots are free on Sundays (and certain spots are free on Saturdays too).
• Joyce & Co. (30 Princes St, Cork, 021 427 1143) and Pinocchio (2 Paul St, Cork, 021 427 1771) are the two hidden gems for children in Cork City. Independent toy stores! You won’t see countless toys that have their own cartoons at these shops, it’s all about creative play and tactile enjoyment. Gifts for babies to big kids (like adults) are available. They are more expensive than the big box stores would be, but the experience is enchanting. Also, Pinocchio has a train set on display with the sign “please touch” so if your child is restless, let him/her play with that while you choose a gift to distract the smallie later so you can enjoy a nice dinner.
• Dining out with children can be tough in your hometown, so a new place can add to that intimidation. Restaurants in Cork are welcoming to patrons of all ages and sizes. Most will even warm milk for you or whatever you need. Baby bowls (mashed potatoes in a bowl, sometimes with gravy, veg, butter, cheese, or herbs) are readily available and nice for the babies and wobblers. For older children, the classic crayon and drawing paper combination is winning and usually offered. If not offered, just ask since some places only offer it if the child looks restless or bored.
FOOD & DRINK
• Chocoholics should skip the chains and go for local spots, like
Eve’s on the outskirts of town (you’ll need a car), The Chocolate Shop in the English Market, David also in the English Market, or O’Conaill’s on French Church Street. One thing I love about Ireland is that hot chocolate is made with milk, not water. Which means it has calcium which builds strong bones. So it’s good for you!
• The English Market is the heart of the city. Visit it. Love it. But don’t go at lunch with a stroller/buggy because it will be crowded. It opens at 8am, with most stalls getting going at 8:30am. Stalls start to close up at 5pm with the gates closing at 6pm. I mention this in my guest post I HEART My City: Evin’s Cork on National Geographic Travel Blog.
• If you want real Irish food, I highly recommend Farmgate upstairs in the English Market or Fenn’s Quay by the courthouse for modern Irish cuisine with a nod to tradition, made using locally-sourced ingredients.
• For a quiet pint in a real Irish pub, go to Dennehy’s on Cornmarket of Castle Inn on Main Street (across from Brick Lane, which is a classic yet hip spot for epic teriyaki steak sandwiches, sweet potato fries, cocktails, and brunch). It is small and friendly without imposing. I know there are others as well, so check the comments for reader’s suggestions. Readers, suggest away. I have a blog post about the Best Pints in Cork City.
• For a pint and a chance of being thrown out, go to the Hi-B Bar across from the GPO (General Post Office). It is one flight up (so not good for wheelchairs/strollers/buggies) and a small sitting room with a bar and hearth in it. Do not wear a necktie, use a mobile phone, or take photos while inside or you may get kicked out. I once saw two ladies get barred for ordering pints while unescorted by men. That having been said, it is a charming throwback to simpler times and if you want to get away from it all for an hour or so, this is the place. I wrote about it previously.
• For a craft beer pint, go to Franciscan Well, Rising Sons, or buy a few (like Cork’s own 8 Degrees and the witty and moustached Mountain Man Brewing) from Bradley’s Off-Licence to enjoy in your hotel room. I know I’m missing a few hot spots here and am hoping my readers can comment with suggestions.
• Irish pubs in Ireland are not the full-service gastropubs they are often in the States. Most pubs in Ireland only serve drinks and potato chips (aka “crisps”). Clancy’s does serve food and have traditional (aka “trad”) Irish music though if that is the vibe you’re looking for.
• There are only two places in Cork City where I regularly eat a corned beef or spiced beef sandwich and they are Long Valley (my related blog post) and
Fenn’s Quay. A sandwich at either of these places will cost about €5–6. Accept no substitutes.
• When wandering town and a little hungry but not wanting to sit down for a proper meal, stop into O’Flynn’s Gourmet Sausages for a sausage on a stick. It is €2 and tides you over so you won’t get angry. Locations on Winthrop Street (by GPO) and in the English Market.
• If you sew or knit, a weekday visit to Cork Button Company is in order to choose button baubles for yourself. Reasonable prices and totally local. Liam manages the place and the ladies who work there are very helpful. You will be astounded by the selection. They also sell notions, sewing supplies, and some knitting items.
• For crafters and artists of all ages, from children to seasoned professionals, Vibes & Scribes on Bridge Street is a mecca. Three stories of supplies, books, fabrics, yarns, and more for just about any craft or art project imaginable. And it’s an independent and local shop too!
• In instances when you’ve forgotten something, there are plenty of shops. Penneys is handy if you need a cheap replacement for something. TK Maxx if you want to buy something like an Italian leather handbag for less. Tesco or Dunnes to buy Barry’s Tea or candy/sweets only available in Ireland, such as Cadbury Mint Crisp or Eskimo Mints. Also, Cadbury Golden Crisp is a nice one.
If you’ve read this far, you must really be visiting Cork soon (or maybe you’re already here), so here are more blog posts and resources on my blog for you. I’ve been writing this blog since May 2008 when I learned I’d be moving here.
All about FOOD & Drink:
Getting here and getting around:
Enjoy your travels! Tweet me or comment to say hi or ask about your plans for Cork.