Cork is the second largest city in the Republic of Ireland (about 125 000 inhabitants), a lively „rebel city“, whose center lies on an island between two channels of the river Lee. Known for its rich culture and gastronomy, the Cork County is also a home of the second largest harbor in the world after Sydney harbor, the largest emigrant port Cobh and one of the largest historical prisons on Spike Island.
What to see in Cork?
1) Shandon Tower & Bells
The Shandon's church of St. Anna, built in the 18th century of red brick and white limestones, is a landmark of the Cork city. It's famous for its original 8 bells and a song by Francis Sylvester Mahony, „The Bells of Shandon“.
The entrance to the church is free (inside, you'll also see posters and flags of the LGBT community accepted in this Catholic church), but the visit to the tower costs 5€. You certainly won't regret climbing to the tower, where you can choose a song and play it on the church's 8 bells and see a breathtaking panoramic view of the city. Just follow the golden salmon on the church's tower and it'll lead you to the church from any part of the city.
2) The Butter Museum
Just across the street of the Shandon's church is the Butter Museum. Ireland is the world's largest butter exporter and in Cork, the international Butter Exchange was located in the 19th century. The museum represents a unique experience, where you'll get to know more about the production of butter and Ireland's dairy culture. The admission fee is only 4€.
3) St Fin Barre's Cathedral & Elizabeth Fort
The Cork city's cathedral is a Gothic Revival three-spire church from the 19th century, dedicated to the patron saint of the town, Finbarr. Right next to it, you can climb onto the walls of the 17th-century star-shaped fort, named after Queen Elizabeth I. You can learn more about the fortification and defense of the city in a guided tour (3€) or you can just enjoy the stunning view of Cork for free.
4) Cork City Gaol
Another former prison in Ireland from the 19th century, where Irish convicts and revolutionaries served their sentence. At the end of the 19th century, the prisoners were exclusively women, who were arrested for small „crimes“, such as obscene language and drunkenness. Later, the building was used as a seat of the Cork's first radio station, 6CK, and today it's turned into a museum. The entrance fee is 10€ and you can take an audio guide in different languages for additional 2€.
5) Fitzgerald's Park & University College Cork
Fitzgerald's Park is Cork's largest green area and an ideal place for a picnic and relaxing on the grass. Across the river Lee, there is the Cork's version of Trinity College – the University of Cork.
Where to eat and drink?
1) English Market
It's one of the oldest markets in the world, that trades since 1788 and the landmark of Cork. It's so popular that in 2011, it was visited by Queen Elizabeth II! Inside, you can find fresh fish, fruits, vegetables, Cork delicacies such as Drisheen, Spiced Beef, etc. Make sure you try something from the daily menu in the always busy café on the mezzanine floor (a meal for around 15€) and don't miss the most delicious sushi ever (4€) at the stand Maki Sushi Rolls downstairs. The Market is open from Mon-Sat until 6 p.m.
2) The Linen Weaver
The cheapest pub in Cork and maybe the largest one. You can choose to sit anywhere on two large floors, order food and drinks at the bar (make sure you remember your table number and tell it to the waiters) and wait for your order. They have a large breakfast offer for an average price of 5,50€ (refill coffee included), burgers and pizzas during the day and beer for 3€.
3) The Oliver Plunkett
The Oliver Plunkett pub is the Temple bar of Cork. The most popular pub in town, always crowded, with a good atmosphere, delicious food (from the breakfast offer until the evening menu) and live music. It's hard to find a place to seat, so make sure you come earlier in the afternoon.
4) Deep South
A spacious pub with an inner beer garden, big TV screen with music videos and two bars, where you can order Chieftain beer (about 6€), the Cork's specialty (an American IPA style beer brewed by Franciscan Well Micro Brewery in Cork).
5) The Old Town Whiskey Bar at Bodega
A large pub, whose sealing looks like a theatre set, intertwined with bricks and installations. They offer great food in big portions (from burgers to seafood chowder) and a variety of beer.
6) The Crane Lane Theatre
A mix of theatre and pub with the popular beer garden, smoking alley with sitting places, 4 bars and live music or performances (blues, jazz, country, Burlesque nights) seven days a week. The decor of the place is from the 20s, 30s, and 40s and it completes the atmosphere perfectly.
7) The Fish Wife
For the fish lovers, there is a fast food offering fish (cod, hake, haddock, scampi) and chips for an average price of 10€. You'll find The Fish Wife on two locations in Cork city (25 Grand Parade; 45 MacCurtain Street) and you can enjoy their delicious meals at the spot or you can order for takeaway. Another advantage is that it's open until late at night (11 p.m. or 12 p.m. during weekends).
Cobh is a small picturesque Victorian fishing village only 25 minutes train ride from Cork (5,50€ for the one-way ticket). In the past, it was an important port, that shipped goods throughout the world to become the largest Irish emigration port in the 19th and 20th century.
The Neo-Gothic style St. Colman cathedral dominates the town (with its 49 Carillon Bells – the largest number in Ireland and UK!), which then spreads down the hill with its Victorian houses, charming cafés and restaurants, parks and beautiful coastline.
You can enjoy long relaxing walks throughout the town or you can visit some of the city's attractions, such as:
Titanic Walking Trail and Titanic Experience
Cobh was the last port of call for the Titanic in 1912 before it sank into the Atlantic. Since that time, the town hasn't changed a bit. You'll have the opportunity to walk the historic streets of the town in Titanic Walking Trail, guided by an expert on a subject, Dr. Michael Martin (13€) or to experience the life of Titanic passenger in the Titanic Experience museum (10€).
Spike Island is an abandoned island about 15 minutes ferry ride from Cobh's Kennedy pier, where the star-shaped Fort Mitchel lies, which, thanks to its excellent strategic position, was able to defend the whole Cork harbor (the second largest harbor in the world!). The fort was later turned into the largest prison in Ireland and Britain with 2500 convicts in 1850, thus, called Ireland's Alcatraz.
The island offers different tours (two guided daily tours at 12 a.m. and 1 p.m. and after dark tours that include ghost stories), horror movie nights and theme nights. The guided tour lasts for 3 hours and costs about 20€. During the tour, you'll walk around the fort yard, enter the punishment cells, enjoy the view of the Cork harbor and hear many interesting facts about Irish history and this unique place.