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Top 7 Best Things to Do in Cork, Ireland

things to do in Cork, Ireland

Guest Post by Janelle Axton

The second largest city in Ireland, Cork is vibrant and full of life. It’s often overlooked for Dublin or Galway as a place to visit. However, there are so many incredible things to do in Cork, Ireland that make a stay well worth your time!

Cork is known as the foodie capital of Ireland, largely due to the popular English Market. It’s the oldest market in Europe and is still full of delicious delicacies from local cheeses and fresh seafood to chunks of decadent handmade chocolates. The city is perfect to simply wander around and stroll down by the river to take in the sights, sounds, and people. 

Take a walk down St. Patrick’s Street for some shopping, marvel at the funky street art, and take breaks at some of the unique coffee shops around town. Cork has plenty of great attractions, things to see and do, and is in a great location for exploring the nature of southern Ireland.

7 Best Things to Do in Cork, Ireland

Here are the top 7 best things to do in Cork, Ireland:

Visit the Blarney Castle and Kiss the Blarney Stone

Located just 14 minutes from Cork, most people come to the city for the sole purpose of making it to the Blarney Stone. For over 200 years people have traveled to kiss the famous Blarney Stone. It’s said to give the gift of eloquence – if you kiss it upside down!

There is much more to the Blarney Castle than just the Blarney Stone. You can tour Badger’s Cave, where it is said the main garrison fled during sieges on the Castle, ruins of a late 18th century Gothic mansion, the remains of the Castle prison, and more.

Plan to bring a picnic with you as the Estate grounds have plenty of walking trails and serene areas to sit and eat. There is a beautiful lake to discover, and the Castle Gardens offer a tranquil escape as well.

There is always something going on at the Castle, from outdoor performances such as choirs and orchestras to special rotating events. The Blarney Castle is one of the top attractions in Ireland for a reason and shouldn’t be missed during your stay in Cork! 

Blarney Castle tickets range from €8 for children to €18 for adults.

Gaze at the Stars at the Blackrock Castle Observatory

Blackrock Castle Observatory

Blackrock Castle is a 16th century fort and the oldest surviving structure still in use in the city of Cork. It’s a sight to see on its own, but it now also houses a popular observatory. You will learn about some of Cork’s history with an interactive experience and tour through the heart of the Castle, including the gunnery, riverside terrace, and towers.

Then, you can learn about the Universe with the award-winning exhibition that highlights recent discoveries of extreme life forms on Earth and their implications for life in outer space. Discover the night sky in the Planetarium, explore the basics of physics with the SFI Discover Zone, and hear from a virtual astronaut about the theories on alien life.

The Blackrock Castle Observatory is a great experience and a fun thing to do in Cork for the whole family, with plenty of unique information to learn for adults and fun, explorative activities for kids.

Blackrock Castle Observatory tickets range from €5 for children to €7 for adults.

Marvel at St. Fin Barre’s Cathedral

St. Fin Barre’s Cathedral

St. Fin Barre’s Cathedral is a Gothic Revival three-spire Church of Ireland cathedral built in 1879. The cathedral is located on the south bank of the River Lee and is dedicated to Finbarr of Cork, the patron saint of the city.

The cathedral is marvelous to view. Its structure is built with Cork limestone, the interior walls are made with Cork marble, and there are detailed mosaics and bright stained-glass windows that are beautiful to see.

You can view St. Fin Barre’s Cathedral from the outside, participate in a church service, or pay a small admission fee to tour the building. 

St. Fin Barre’s Cathedral tickets range from €3 for children to €6 for adults.

Listen to Live Irish Music in the Pubs

Ireland is known for its pub culture, so of course, Cork has plenty of great pubs to choose from! Whether you are looking for a casual pint, a unique stop, entertainment, or just some good craic for the night – you will be able to find it in the Cork pubs.

Pubs often have planned Irish music and dance shows (more often in the touristy areas of a city), but you can also often stumble across a pub where musicians bring their instruments for a casual night of music and singing. It’s truly one of the more magical things you can experience in Ireland!

A few of the top pubs to find Irish music at are:

  • Sin E – A traditional Irish pub built in 1889 adorned with gorgeous stained-glass windows. They run a traditional (trad) set every night at 6:30pm that is well-known with both tourists and locals.
  • An Spailpín Fánach – More popular with the local regulars, it has a homey feeling to it and plays live music from Wednesday to Sunday. Trad music typically happens on Thursday and the rest of the nights feature folk music.
  • The Oliver Plunkett – This pub does a range of music from Indie to traditional Irish music and the occasional Irish dance show. They have a fantastic whiskey selection as well. 
  • Costigan’s Pub – A fun Irish pub that has a friendly atmosphere. It’s one of Cork’s oldest and finest pubs and has a great outdoor beer garden during the summer months.

Admire University College Cork

Cork College

The university in Cork is a popular tourist destination with audio tours available to take in the history and culture of the college and its part in the development of Cork city. Founded in 1845, it is known for its beautiful campus and vibrant student life.

The campus has many interesting buildings and unique features. You can walk around the campus and take it in yourself, or the tour will provide you with information and facts on more of the historical and cultural relevance. The tour takes you through the Lewis Glucksman Gallery, President’s Garden, Stone Corridor, Crawford Observatory, and more.

More information for tours can be found at the University College Cork’s Visitors’ Center located along the Stone Corridor in the North Wing of the campus.

Spend the day in Cobh and Go to the Titanic Museum

Cobh

The historic port of Cobh is about a 25-minute drive outside of Cork and is famous for being the last port of call for the famous Titanic ship. The town is adorable to wander around and take a stroll down by the docks. The St. Colman’s Cathedral is the prominent point of reference for Cobh and towers above the small town. 

The top activity in Cobh is to visit the Titanic Experience. Housed in the original White Star Line Ticket Office dating back to the 19th century, you will go on a tour and experience what life was like as the passengers of the Titanic.

The guided tour lasts 30 minutes after which you will be able to explore the exhibition areas.

The Titanic Experience tickets range from €7.50 for children to €11 for adults.

Explore Southern Ireland’s Gorgeous Nature

Ring of Kerry

Ireland is covered in vibrant greenery, dramatic coastlines, and stunning scenery. Some of the best of it, and most popular natural sites, are in the southern part of Ireland. Especially if you plan on driving in Ireland, you should take some time to explore the surrounding natural attractions such as the islands on the Wild Atlantic Way and the Ring of Kerry.

The islands in the Wild Atlantic Way are simply gorgeous and one of the more unique things to do from Cork. One of the most popular islands to visit is Inchydoney (about an hour’s drive from Cork).

It has two pristine beaches with golden sand and consistent surf for the adventurous traveler. It’s connected to the mainland by a causeway, making it easy to get to. Covered in rolling green hills, there is plenty of beautiful nature to explore.

The Ring of Kerry is one of the most popular natural attractions for visitors to Ireland and is just over an hour drive from Cork. It’s a 179km-long, circular scenic drive around the Iveragh Peninsula that takes you through incredible coastal landscapes, magnificent views, and adorable rural seaside villages. 

It’s best to drive (or take a private car tour) through the Ring of Kerry. There are plenty of stops and attractions you will not want to miss along the way.

The Gap of Dunloe in the Ring of Kerry (a standalone attraction in its own right) is one of the most popular stops for gorgeous views, lakes, waterfalls, outdoor adventures, stone bridges, and unique ruins. Visitors can walk, bike, boat, or even take a horse and carriage through the Gap to see the scenery. 

If you are looking to stay in a big city in Ireland besides the capital of Dublin, you should certainly consider some time in Cork! The city itself is full of life and a unique place to stay and visit. Plus, there are many incredible things to do in Cork to explore this stunning and vibrant part of Ireland.

Author Bio

After traveling to over 25 countries and living abroad in Ireland, Janelle created Make the Trip Matter –  a travel blog dedicated to helping budget travelers and remote professionals travel more, live abroad, and discover a more meaningful experience from their travels.

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