Cork is the second largest city in Ireland and has so much for tourists to see and do. The island city has such a rich history, which is still evident in many aspects today. It started out as a monastic settlement, which was then taken over by Viking invaders before it was granted a charter in 1185. You will experience so much insight and charm in Cork and with its medieval architecture, unique attractions, and friendly residents. Be sure to visit places like the Cork City Gaol, which is a prison turned museum, or the ever popular Blarney Stone at Blarney Castle. No trip to Ireland is complete without a drink so be sure to stop by one of the largest whiskey bars in the entire country - The Old Town Whiskey Bar at Bodega.
1.Cork City Gaol
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Cork City Gaol originally opened in 1824 as a prison to house male and female prisoners who committed crimes within the city’s boundary - today, tourists from all over the world come to explore the prison turned museum and sneak a peek into the city’s past. The prison’s location was chosen because of its altitude, which was believed to keep typhus or “gaol fever” at bay - hence the name. You’ll see so many different things and learn unique facts like how the famous sculptor John Hogan worked on the building as a draughtsman. You’ll also see where famous former prisoners such as Irish republican leader Brian Dillon and politician and revolutionary Constance Markievicz were held among other things.
Address: Convent Ave, Sunday's Well, Cork, Ireland, Phone: +35-32-14-30-50-22
2.Cork Opera House
© Cork Opera House
Formerly known as Athenaeum and Munster Hall, the Cork Opera House is one of the most historic establishments in Cork, Ireland. The theatre and opera house originally opened in 1855, though what you see today is the version that was rebuilt in 1963 after it tragically burned down due to wooden materials and old wiring. During your visit, you’ll be able to explore the unique building with its wonderful architecture and decor; you can also dine in one of their cafes or restaurants. Of course, the main attraction would be to attend one of their many shows hosted throughout the year such as comedies, musical performances, theatre plays, opera concerts, and more.
Address: Emmett Pl, Centre, Cork, Ireland, Phone: +35-32-14-27-00-22
3.Red Abbey Tower
Red Abbey Tower is the only structure in all of Cork that has survived since medieval times. It was originally found in the 13th or 14th century as an Augustinian friary and was occupied by the friars until 1641. The tower then became the private property of Dean Boyle of Cork and was later used as an observation post during the siege of the city by a Wiliamite army. Red Abbey Tower is one of the most historic attractions you’ll come across in Cork; the national monument will be sure to amaze visitors of all ages.
Address: Address: Ballintemple, Cork, Ireland
4.The Crawford Art Gallery
© The Crawford Art Gallery
A museum and art gallery situated in the heart of Cork, the Crawford Art Gallery is a designated National Cultural Institution that is dedicated to both historic and contemporary visual arts. Over 200,000 people from all over the world visit the gallery annually, all of whom come to see its extensive collection. Some of their best pieces include casts of classical Greek and Roman statues by Antonio Canova, sculptures by Eilis O’Connell, paintings by William Orpen, photographs by Bob Carlos Clarke, and stained-glass works by Harry Clarke among others. There are also a number of exhibitions, educational classes, and outreach programs hosted at the gallery throughout the year.
Address: Emmett Pl, Centre, Cork, Ireland, Phone: +35-32-14-80-50-42
5.The Everyman Theatre
© The Everyman Theatre
The Everyman Theatre in Cork was originally built in 1897 by renowned Scottish architect Richard Henry Brunton. It is the oldest theatre in Cork which was built specifically for the purpose of hosting modern theatre programs. The Victorian building has a large auditorium and stage, four elaborately dedicated boxes, a proscenium arch, a studio space, and a bar. The theater’s program varies from musicals and concerts to operas and plays, but it’s true specialty is dramas and the theatre stages at least three in-house productions a year. Other annual events include the Guinness Jazz Festival, which is an absolute treat for music lovers.
Address: 15 MacCurtain Street, Victorian Quarter, Cork, Ireland, Phone: +35-32-14-50-16-73
6.The Father Mathew Statue
© Cork Past and Present
The Father Mathew Statue in Cork is a renowned statue of Father Theobald Mathew found on St. Patrick’s Street. Father Mathew was the Apostle of Temperance and served for most of his life in Cork, eventually becoming one of the most influential social figures of the 19th century. He made massive efforts to ease distress during the cholera epidemic as well as during the Great Famine. The monument to him was erected and unveiled in 1864 as a way of showing the respect and love the citizens of Cork had for him. The statue still stands tall today, overlooking the people of Cork with great affection.
Address: St Patrick's St, Centre, Cork, Ireland, Phone: +35-32-14-92-40-00
7.The Honan Chapel
Formerly known as Saint Finbarr’s Collegiate Chapel, the Honan Chapel is a Catholic collegiate church which is dedicated to Finbarr of Cork, a former patron saint of the city, bishop, and abbot of a monastery. The chapel was completed in 1916 and was designed by leading members of the Celtic Revival and Irish Arts and Crafts movement. Today, visitors will be able to take in all of its beauty, much of which represents an interesting Art Nouveau style. Be sure to view the gorgeous mosaic flooring, altar plates, and the nineteen stained glass windows which were designed by renowned artist Harry Clarke.
Address: University College, Cork, Ireland
8.The Shandon Bells at St Anne’s Church
St. Anne’s Church took around four years to build and was completed in 1726. The church - specifically its tower and bells - is a symbol and landmark of the city which was made popular in a 19th century song titled “The Bells of Shandon” by Francis Sylvester Mahoney. The song refers to the eight bells which were originally cast by Abel Rudhall of Gloucester. It’s location on a hill overlooking the River Lee makes it a popular place for visitors to spend the day and explore. Other aspects to note include a weathervane at the top of the tower in the shape of a salmon to represent fishing at River Lee, the clock on the tower, and the original inscriptions on the bells.
Address: Church St, Shandon, Cork, Ireland, Phone: +35-32-14-50-59-06
© Shandon Sweets
Take a trip down memory lane and feast on treats from your childhood at Shandon Sweets. Everything you remember like Satin Cushions, Clove Drops, and Butter Nuggets are all freshly made and taste just as good as you remember them. The traditional sweet factory has something for everyone - you can choose from an array of candy, fudge, hard boiled sweets, and marshmallow goodies. Be sure to get all your favorites while also getting some for friends and family back home as a sweet little souvenir. It smells so good when you walk into Shandon Sweets that you’ll never want to leave.
Address: 37A John Redmond St, Shandon, Cork, Ireland, Phone: +35-32-14-50-77-91
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Fitzgerald Park is a popular outdoor space in Cork, Ireland which comprises manicured landscapes, walking paths, fountains, sculptures, and even an on-site museum. Relax by the riverside on the banks of the River Lee; bring along a frisbee or a picnic lunch and make a day of your visit. The quiet 18-acre retreat is one of the best places to get away from the hustle and bustle of the surrounding city. Spend your time exploring the flower beds and rose gardens, walking through the tree lined avenues, and taking in the many sculptures and statues scattered around the park.
Address: Mardyke, Cork, Ireland, Phone: +35-32-14-92-43-33
Dating back to an original stone structure which was built in 1210, the Blarney Castle which visitors see today is what was rebuilt on the same site in 1446 after the original building was destroyed. The castle has a rich history of being a medieval stronghold, being besieged during the Irish Confederate Wars, and even getting captured during the Williamite War in Ireland in the 1690s. It’s been a popular tourist attraction for several years now, with its most famous aspect being the Stone of Eloquence, or the Blarney Stone as it is often called. Tourists can not only see the stone, which has many legends of its own, but also the remnants of the castle ruins and the extensive garden which surrounds it.
Address: Monacnapa, Blarney, Co. Cork, Ireland
12.Rory Gallagher Monument
© Rory Gallagher Monument
Rory Gallagher was a popular Irish rock and blues artists who considered his hometown to be Cork, Ireland. He was raised there as a young boy, before growing up to be one of the most revered musicians around the world. The solo artist also founded the band, Taste, and produced various award-winning songs throughout his career such as A Million Miles Away, Bullfrog Blues, and Cradle Rock. Two years after his death in 1995, Gallagher’s childhood friend, sculptor Geraldine Creedon, created a tribute sculpture for the music icon. The unveiling ceremony brought together people of all generations and you can still see the monument in the middle of Cork on Rory Gallagher Place.
13.The National Monument
© C Vincent Ferguson/stock.adobe.com
The National Monument is one of the most impressive stone carvings you’ll come across during your vacation in Cork. It was unveiled in 1906 and the early Irish Gothic style monument really stands out from its surroundings near the River Lee. The monument commemorates the several rebellions that had taken place over the years prior. In its center is a statue of Mother Erin, while other figures around it include Peter O’Neill Crowley, Theobald Wolfe Tone, Thomas Davis, and Michael Dwyer - who was a member of the United Irishmen. You’ll also see an engraved list of the names of all those who have died during the rebellions.
Address: 48 Grand Parade, Centre, Cork, T12 PY86, Ireland
14.St Fin Barre’s Cathedral
The absolutely gorgeous Saint Fin Barre’s Cathedral in Cork took fourteen years to build before it was completed in 1879. It was built by William Burges, an English designer and architect who was one of the greatest of his time. The Gothic Revival three-spire cathedral now belongs to the Church of Ireland and is one of the most visited attractions in all of Cork. You’ll see so many breathtaking aspects as your explore the cathedral; be on the lookout for the 74 stained glass windows, each panel of which was designed by Burges, as well as the 1870 pipe organ which was built by William Hill & Sons.
Address: Bishop St, The Lough, Cork, Ireland, Phone: +35-32-14-96-33-87
15.The English Market
© Roberto Sorin/stock.adobe.com
Some form or another of The English Market has been present at the same site you’ll presently wander since 1788. The name was originally coined to ensure that patrons wouldn’t get it confused with the nearby St. Peter’s Market. The market has changed little over time and is a marvelous place for tourists to really immerse themselves within the local culture and people. You’ll be able to see original Victorian designs and mid-19th century architecture on the surrounding buildings as you purchase local artisanal foods, goods, and other products. It’s one of the best places to purchase fresh produce, fish, meats, and much more - be sure to indulge in the local cuisine during your visit.
Address: Princes St, Centre, Cork, Ireland, Phone: +353-18-71-54-39
Huguenots are an ethnoreligious group of French Protestants, and this particular cemetery in Cork is believed to be only one of two remaining graveyards in all of Western Europe. The cemetery was created in the early 1700s and is the final resting place for many of the Huguenots who came to Ireland fleeing religious persecution from France. Though the last recorded burial was in 1901, the cemetery has become somewhat of an attraction in the more recent years. The cemetery is now a recorded monument and you’ll learn so much about the people and Cork’s history as you wander and explore this amazing sight.
Address: Carey's Ln, Centre, Cork, Ireland
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17.Cork Arts Theatre
© Cork Arts Theatre
Located right in the middle of Cork City, the Cork Arts Theatre is one of the most visited attractions in the area. They’re known as “the little theatre with a big heart” and rightly so since the theater makes such a big impact on the community and with the people visiting Cork. The 100-seat theater is cozy and intimate and is the perfect place to go for a memorable evening. They have quality performances and programs scheduled throughout the year, so you never have to worry about missing out during ‘off season’. Some of the upcoming popular shows on their schedule include the Cork International Short Story Festival as well as The Comedy improvised Halloween Murder Mystery.
Address: Carroll's Quay, Shandon, Cork, Ireland, Phone: +35-32-14-50-56-24
18.St Peter and Paul’s Church
From 1786 onwards, the intimate structure of Carey’s Lane Chapel stood where St. Peter and Paul’s Church stands today. The church was built under the guidance of Archdeacon John Murphy and was designed by renowned English architect E. W. Pugin. It took nearly seven years to build and was finally completed in 1866. Visitors today will be able to see many of its original aspects such as the ornamental ironwork on the ridge of the roof, the grand altar carved out of Carrara marble, and the gorgeous white and black marble floors. It’s an amazing sight to see in Cork City’s St. Patrick’s Street and shouldn’t be missed while there.
Address: Centre, Cork, Ireland, Phone: +35-32-14-27-65-73
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19.Blackrock Castle Observatory
Situated on the banks of the River Lee, Blackrock Castle Observatory is a coastal defense fortification that was originally developed in the 16th century to protect upper Cork Harbour and port. Today, the site is a much-loved attraction that visitors, especially architecture aficionados, enjoy exploring. The castle’s observatory is one of its main features and includes a radio telescope from which you can beam messages to nearby stars, an astronomy center which is open to the public, and exhibits such as a “tour of the universe”. Other aspects also include a visitor center as well as a restaurant.
Address: Castle Rd, Blackrock, Cork, Ireland, Phone: +35-32-14-32-61-20
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20.Camden Fort Meagher
Camden Fort Meagher is one of Ireland’s many coastal defense fortifications. It was originally built in the 16th century as a means of defending and protecting the mouth of Cork Harbour - although, much of what you see today dates closer to the 1860s. The fort was initially operated by the British Armed Forces and was then handed over to the Irish Defence Forces in 1938. It continued to be a part of the Irish military installation until it was given to the Cork County Council in 1989. It sat desolately for twenty years before local volunteers restored and developed the fort so that tourists would have a place as such to visit and learn about the local history. It is popular for its exhibits on the Brennan torpedo installation as well as having one of the only resident 9/11 exhibits outside of the United States.
Address: Camden Road, Crosshavenhill, Crosshaven, Co. Cork, Ireland, Phone: +35-38-58-50-14-83
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© Liberty Grill
If you’re looking for a hearty and healthy meal full of fresh ingredients and vibrant flavors, then the Liberty Grill in Cork is the place to be. The menu changes seasonally to ensure that they highlight the fruits and vegetables which are available at the time. The menu has something for everyone and offers a number of seafood and fish dishes as well as an array of entrees suitable for vegans and vegetarians. Their brunch menu is extremely popular and includes choices such as brioche French toast with maple fried bananas, quinoa fritters, and eggs royale with Irish smoked salmon and hollandaise.
Address: Washington House, Washington St, Centre, Cork, T12 T880, Ireland, Phone: +35-32-14-27-10-49
© Brick Lane
Located in the heart of Cork City, right on South Main Street, Brick Lane is a delicious restaurant that has been serving local and visiting patrons since 2015. The establishment converts from a weekend brunch spot to a late night bar, serving drinks until 2:30 a.m. while the finest local DJs keep you entertained. The vegetarian breakfast from the brunch menu is a popular option and includes poached eggs, field mushrooms, spinach, roasted tomatoes, avocado, and sautéed potatoes. Their evening menu has everything from burgers and homemade pizzas to pastas and steak. It’s also a great place for post-drink snacks like cheesy fries and jalapeno poppers.
Address: 1-3 S Main St, Centre, Cork, Ireland, Phone: +35-32-12-29-01-93
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23.Orso Kitchen & Bar
© Orso Kitchen & Bar
Orso Kitchen & Bar is a Cork dining establishment that prides itself on serving dishes concocted mostly with their partnerships with local food suppliers. The restaurant is intimate and stylish, much like the neighborhood that surrounds it. Inside, you’ll find the atmosphere to be perfect for a meal with friends or a date with your significant other. Everything on the menu is based on using the best ingredients, sourcing seasonal fruits and vegetables, and the infinite love and creativity of the kitchen team. Enjoy dishes such as whole roasted fish, chicken shawarma with apricot chutney, and the ottoman lamb shank tagine with dates and couscous.
Address: 8 Pembroke St, Centre, Cork, Ireland, Phone: +35-32-12-43-80-00
24.The Castle Cafe
© The Castle Café
Located in Cork’s historic Blackrock Castle, the Castle Cafe is one of the area’s most frequented dining establishments. It’s truly an integral part of the community and gives residents and visitors of the neighborhood a place to come together and enjoy delicious food and friendly service. The family-focused restaurant has a menu that is based on working with local vendors to supply patrons with fresh, delicious, and unforgettable cuisine. Start off with appetizers such as the soup of the day or the chicken liver parfait, and then move on to the main courses like the seafood salad, marinated chicken with apricot stuffing, or the slow cooked lamb with chickpeas.
Address: Blackrock Castle, Castle Rd, Blackrock, Cork, Ireland, Phone: +35-32-14-35-79-11
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© The Bodega
The Old Town Whiskey Bar at Bodega, or better known as just The Bodega by locals around town, is one of the largest whiskey bars in all of Ireland. It’s housed in of the most beautiful buildings and has been recognized with several awards and accolades not only for the architecture and drink collection, but also their delicious food. All of their dishes are prepared from scratch and use locally sourced seasonal produce to really take patrons on a culinary journey. Choose an entree such as slow cooked duck leg or grilled sea bass from their set menu, or instead opt for an Irish beef burger or chicken schnitzel from the bar menu.
Address: 44-45 Cornmarket St, Centre, Cork, T12 W27H, Ireland, Phone: +35-32-14-27-37-56
25 Best Things to Do in Cork, Ireland
- Cork City Gaol, Photo: Luis Santos/stock.adobe.com
- Cork Opera House, Photo: Cork Opera House
- Red Abbey Tower, Photo: TATIANA/stock.adobe.com
- The Crawford Art Gallery, Photo: The Crawford Art Gallery
- The Everyman Theatre, Photo: The Everyman Theatre
- The Father Mathew Statue, Photo: Cork Past and Present
- The Honan Chapel, Photo: IVAN/stock.adobe.com
- The Shandon Bells at St Anne’s Church, Photo: slongy81/stock.adobe.com
- Shandon Sweets, Photo: Shandon Sweets
- Fitzgerald Park, Photo: Darren/stock.adobe.com
- Blarney Castle, Photo: bacothelock/stock.adobe.com
- Rory Gallagher Monument, Photo: Rory Gallagher Monument
- The National Monument, Photo: C Vincent Ferguson/stock.adobe.com
- St Fin Barre’s Cathedral, Photo: agephotography/stock.adobe.com
- The English Market, Photo: Roberto Sorin/stock.adobe.com
- Huguenot Cemetery, Photo: woodpencil/stock.adobe.com
- Cork Arts Theatre, Photo: Cork Arts Theatre
- St Peter and Paul’s Church, Photo: pixssell/stock.adobe.com
- Blackrock Castle Observatory, Photo: spectrumblue/stock.adobe.com
- Camden Fort Meagher, Photo: Darren/stock.adobe.com
- Liberty Grill, Photo: Liberty Grill
- Brick Lane, Photo: Brick Lane
- Orso Kitchen & Bar, Photo: Orso Kitchen & Bar
- The Castle Cafe, Photo: The Castle Café
- The Bodega, Photo: The Bodega
- Cover Photo: Jenifoto/stock.adobe.com