This post will be a bit different since I’ve felt impelled to write this list for a long time and 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.
Post updated: November 2018.
Dear Cork City visitors, WELCOME!!!
My Main Advice
• 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.
• Dress in layers and ones that breath and can handle rain (my survival list). There is no predictable warmest time of the day and the weather changes rapidly. Pack an umbrella or rain jacket in your backpack/purse 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:
Arriving in Cork by Plane, Train, Automobile, or Ferry
Taxis, Hackneys, and Limousines in Ireland
Now, on to specific categories that may interest you.
Experiences, Views, and Attractions
• Cork City Gaol for history. I visited it twice, once on Halloween!
• 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.
• Check out the tree-filled UCC campus and Glucksman museum. You can also take a detour by St Vincent’s Bridge to see the house where George Boole once lived.
• Visit wide open spaces and animals at Fota Wildlife Park in Little Island is easily accessible by car or train. Fota Wildlife Park is great for kids of all ages. Ideal for cloudy days or sunny ones. Check out the cheetah run and stroll among the animals. The staff know so much and are always willing to share facts, tid bits and history. I particularly love hearing about their Bald Eagles.
• For science buffs or rainy days, I recommend a visit to Blackrock Castle Observatory. There is even the option for a tasty meal at Castle Cafe which has really nice menu options (not too pricey). Free parking at Blackrock Castle around the corner by the water.
• For history, scenery, food (Good Day Deli), and a gift shop, visit Nano Nagle Place, named for Cork woman Honoria Nagle who founded Catholic schools in a time when it was illegal and helped others to made the world a better place.
• Cork is the food capital of Ireland! Proof from Vagabrothers, Bobby Flay, and more.
• Brunch has enjoyed a recent resurgence so take advantage and follow @BrunchCork on Instagram for the latest mouth-watering photos and updates. I made a Brunch in Cork map and list.
• 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. To witness the market waking up, go early and have breakfast at Cafe Marius.
• 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 hangry. Locations on Winthrop Street (by GPO) and in the English Market.
• In my mind, Long Valley is the best place in Cork City to eat a corned beef or spiced beef sandwich (my related blog post). A sandwich will cost about €5–6. Accept no substitutes. Drink a Tanora soda (tangerine-flavoured and very local) or a pint of something local with it. Sit in the snug for privacy or if you have kids you need to contain.
• Chocoholics should skip the chains and go for local spots, like 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! One of my favourite hot chocolates in the city is at Ali’s Kitchen.
• For Japanese food in Cork city, definitely visit Miyazaki’s a small spot serving up a carefully selected menu and also doing take-away. It is the counterpart to Michelin-star restaurant Ichigo Ichie.
• If you want real Irish food, I highly recommend Farmgate upstairs in the English Market or
Fenn’s Quay by the courthouse (closed) for modern Irish cuisine with a nod to tradition, made using locally-sourced ingredients.
• I’ll mention this again below, but Irish pubs in Ireland don’t have hot food menus like Irish pubs in the States and elsewhere. Some do, but not many. If you’re looking for that kinda of thing in Cork city and a bit of trad[itional] music, you’ll do well to visit The Oliver Plunkett.
Pints & The Drink
• 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”). Naturally, there are lovely exceptions, like The Oliver Plunkett.
• If someone buys you a drink, buy one back. If they insist you don’t, that’s ok, but at least try three times. “Go on, go on, go on…” More about that here in my post about buying your round.
• For a quiet pint in a cosy, no-thrills, small unimposing, authentic Irish pub, go to Castle Inn on Main Street or Dennehy’s Bar on Cornmarket. 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.
• Irish gin is a thing and there are many to choose from! Bertha’s Revenge, Blackwater Gin, Boatyard Gin, Dingle Original Gin, Drumshambo Gunpowder Gin, Glendalough Gin, Ha’penny Dublin Dry Gin, Kinsale Gin, Mór Gin, Old Carrick Mill Gin, Shortcross Gin, and St. Patrick’s Gin. That’s just a few that I’ve tried or seen at Bradley’s Off-Licence, but there are over 30 gins being made in Ireland!
• If you want a modern bar for creative cocktails, mocktails, or whiskey neat, you should check out Brick Lane, Cask, Electric, The River Club, Arthur Mayne’s or The Oyster Tavern.
• The Franciscan Well has made it so no visit to Cork City is complete for a beer aficionado without a visit to this spot on the north side of the city centre along the River Lee. There is a pizza place tucked into the beer garden. They host many festivals and celebrations, including their Easter Craftbrewing and Autumn beer festivals.
• About three blocks east of The Franciscan Well Brewery is The Bierhaus. Just the right size as to feel intimate without being cramped, Bierhaus offers a choice of over 70 beers from around the world. They know what they’re talking about and care about what they’re serving, fostering an environment conducive to a local pub that just happens to offer an astounding selection. This place reminds me of Monk’s in Philadelphia, minus the food menu.
• For a craft beer pint in city centre, go to Rising Sons or Elbow Lane, 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.
• Looking for some quiet time or an evening in with a few cold ones, check out Abbot’s Ale House. An off-license with a little pub upstairs, Abbot’s has a wide selection of beers, ciders, and wines both at room temperature and chilled. The staff here are knowledgeable, helpful, and passionate about the drink.
Visiting with Children
• I already mentioned Fota Wildlife Park and Blackrock Observatory which are great for visitors of all ages, but they’re especially fun for kids.
• 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. If you need a prescription at an odd hour when you’re in Cork there is a late-night pharmacy on Patrick’s Street and Irwin’s Late-Night Pharmacy is on Shandon near North Gate Bridge. Boots is a large chain pharmacy with three city locations.
• 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). Though it’s only about 15 minutes from the centre of town (hint: it’s near UCC).
• 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.
• 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. I write about crafts/knitting and life and cooking over on my main blog, EvinOK.com
I HEART My City: Evin’s Cork on National Geographic Travel Blog
Your Guide to Visiting Cork City
Visiting Ireland: An Extended Q&A Session
Guest Post by Glass of Win: A Day In Cork
All about FOOD & Drink:
Cork City Brunch Options List by Day
Drink Local. Ode to Bradley’s Off-Licence
Getting here and getting around:
Arriving in Cork by Plane, Train, Automobile, or Ferry
Taxis, Hackneys, and Limousines in Ireland
Vintage & Second-hand Shopping in Cork City
36 Hours in Cork – New York Times Article
Where to Buy Yarn in Cork City
Jameson Whiskey’s Old Midleton Distillery
Guest Post by Moonstruck Q: A Day In Cork
Welcome to Ireland: A Newcomer’s Survival Guide
Enjoy your travels! I’m on Twitter & Instagram so if you have specific questions, just tweet me at @FreckledPast or comment/reach out on Instagram 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 sons) have a strong grip of my spare time.
6 thoughts on “Dear Cork City visitors, My advice to you is…”
Great list, Evin, for locals as well as visitors. Just an update for you: Eve’s Chocolates has closed. Eve moved to Berlin. 😦
So sad about Eve’s. They were like an elegant daydream out of Willy Wonka! My ignorance is proof I never leave the city centre island anymore.
Vibes and Scribes on Bridge Street – another great place for knitters, sewers, and the like!
Good one to include, Joan! Thanks.
Love all of your suggestions! Makes me miss Cork so much! I would add Lennox’s for some fish and chips! I am dying for some chips with curry! Also recommend walking around UCC, the campus is gorgeous!
Ugh, I need to get back for a visit!