39 BEST Things To Do in Cork City (From a Local) in 2024

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Looking for the best things to do in Cork? Keep reading for all of my favorite spots!

Cork City is Ireland’s second largest city and the southernmost point of the Wild Atlantic Way. It’s well worth a visit when you’re in Ireland, partly because there are so many fabulous things to do. Whether you enjoy listening to trad music in a local pub, sightseeing, or exploring the smaller surrounding towns, you’ll find something to love in Cork. 

I lived in Cork for two years and absolutely love the city’s rebellious spirit (and fabulous food!). In my view, it’s well worth a visit on most Irish itineraries (and I always tell travelers to get out of Dublin for at least a few days of their trip!). 

If you do decide to visit or are just researching, here’s my list of the best things to do in Cork. 

Table of Contents
Best Things To Do in Cork
Activities Near Cork
Where to Stay
How to Get to Cork from Dublin
Conclusion + Podcast Episode

A rainbow spreads out over the northern side of Cork City, Ireland. Two cars wait at a stoplight in the foreground.
Cork City, Ireland

39 Best Things To Do in Cork

Cork is one of my favorite places in Ireland, in part because there are so many fabulous places to visit and things to do. From ringing the Shandon Bells to watching live performances to the coziest pubs, here are all of my top recommendations for anyone visiting Cork. 

1. Shop at the English Market

Arguably, the English Market is the most iconic landmark in Cork. This covered market is beloved by locals for its fresh produce and other food items, but tourists can enjoy artisan local olives or a reasonably priced sandwich from the sandwich stall. 

Cork is considered the Food Capital of Ireland, and the English Market is the best place to try some of the finest local ingredients. If you’d like to experience a guided tour of the English Market and Cork’s food scene, the Cork Culinary Tour might be the perfect addition to your itinerary. 

Nuts and other dry goods are piled high in an olive stall in the English Market in Cork
Stalls in the English Market

2. Ring the Shandon Bells

One of the most unique things to do in Cork is visit St Anne’s Church, home of the Shandon Bells. St Anne’s Church is one of the oldest churches in the city, dating back to 1722. At the top of the tower, there are a set of bells that you can ring (and even play a few simple songs) using a set of corresponding ropes. 

After you ring the bells, you can complete the adventurous climb to the top of the tower and look out over the city. You’ll be provided with ear protection because of the sound of the bells. 

There’s a €6 fee to climb the tower. If you simply want to see St Anne’s Church, you can do so for free. Note that this activity is not suitable for those with mobility issues. Check current hours and entry rates here

An aerial view of Cork City, with a church and residential areas
The view from the top of St Anne’s Church

3. Look out over Cork City from Elizabeth Fort 

My favorite view of Cork City is from Elizabeth Fort, a star-shaped fort that looks out over Saint Fin Barre’s Cathedral and the River Lee. This 17th century fort was constructed following the 1601 siege of Kinsale and it has an interesting history.

Today, Elizabeth Fort is free to visit and only takes a few minutes. The entryway has a wooden pillory and several statues of soldiers and weapons. 

Note that you’ll need to climb stairs to reach the top of the lookout, so this is not an accessible activity.

A view of the cathedral, a small labyrinth, and residential homes in Cork
The view of St Fin Barre’s Cathedral from Elizabeth Fort

4. Take in the sights on Oliver Plunkett Street

The main shopping and pub street in Cork is Oliver Plunkett Street, and it’s the liveliest spot to be on a Friday or Saturday night. I recommend that you spend at least a few minutes walking along this bustling street and stopping at a few shops along the way. 

One of my favorite spots on Oliver Plunkett Street is Murphy’s Ice Cream, a small local creamery that started in Dingle. They have unique Irish flavors like brown bread and Dingle gin, along with a few more traditional flavors. The butterscotch is my absolute favorite, and I usually can’t help but grab a cone when I walk by the shop.  

Two scoops of ice cream in a waffle cone in front of Murphy's Ice Cream
Mango and sea salt ice cream from Murphy’s on Oliver Plunkett Street

5. Explore the Victorian Quarter

Set just to the north of the city center and Oliver Plunkett Street is the Victorian Quarter, which runs along MacCurtain Street. On Friday and Saturday nights, it’s often just as busy as nearby Oliver Plunkett Street. 

You’ll find many of Cork’s important venues in the Victorian Quarter, including the Everyman Theater. My favorite restaurant in the Victorian Area is Son of a Bun, a local burger spot that’s usually packed to the brim. 

A nearby hotel, The Dean, is my favorite place to work remotely in Cork if you’re planning a European workation

A few patrons in the Dean Hotel near the Victorian Quarter in Cork
The Dean is my favorite place to work remotely in Cork

6. Take a Walking Tour

You can stretch your legs and learn a ton about the city’s unique history by taking a walking tour of Cork. There are several tours to choose from, but most of them will highlight the city’s interesting history and top landmarks. 

Remember to bring a few euros to tip your tour guide, especially if you choose a free tour! 

A group gathers on a sidewalk to listen to a tour guide. Walking tours are one of the top things to do in Cork
A walking tour gathers in Cork

7. Visit an Irish Pub

There’s really no two ways about it: you really ought to visit an Irish pub while you’re in Ireland. Pubs are a central part of the social network of Ireland – they’re places to meet friends, go on dates, sit quietly, or chat with a stranger. 

Not all pubs are alike; some are historic, some frequently have live music, others are for partying, and still others are known for their cuisine or drink specialties. 

Some of my favorite pubs in Cork include the Franciscan Well, The Woodford, O’Sho, and The Friary

The Oliver Plunkett Pub on a sunny day with a few patrons at tables outside
The Oliver Plunkett is a great pub along Oliver Plunkett Street

8. Immerse Yourself at the Crawford Art Gallery

The Crawford Art Gallery is Cork’s best art museum, and it’s also free to visit. There are three floors of exhibits, including a mix of visiting and permanent collections. The building was originally constructed in 1724, and today the gallery serves as a refuge from the hustle and bustle of Cork’s city center. 

There are free tours available every Thursday at 6:30 pm and Sundays and Bank Holidays at 2pm. Locker facilities are available if you need to store your coat or backpack. 

A few paintings and a statue in a gallery space in the Crawford Art Gallery
Exhibits at the Crawford Art Gallery

9. Eat your fill at the Marina Market

If the English Market is where local chefs go for their produce, the Marina Market is where local foodies go for lunch with friends. This enormous covered market is positively bustling on weekends. There’s something for everyone, so it’s great for groups with diverse culinary preferences.

My favorite stalls have changed a few times, but I never leave without stopping for a coffee at Guji. This hot pink cafe is set just outside of the market and serves up some of the best coffee in Cork. 

Note that none of the vendors serve alcohol, so this is strictly a food and coffee stop. 

Several tables and empty food vendor stalls in the Marina Market. Lights are strung across the walkways.
A quiet morning at the Marina Market

10. Admire the Greenery in Fitzgerald Park

Fitzgerald Park is the central green space in Cork, set just across the street from the UCC Campus along the banks of the River Lee. This park is a Cork gem, and it has walking paths, a large playground for kids, sculptures, a beautiful pond, and a pavilion. For a quick bite to eat or cup of tea, swing by the small cafe towards the back of the park. 

There are events in the main pavilion of Fitzgerald Park throughout the warmer months. If you’re lucky, you just might stumble upon an outdoor yoga class, Cork’s Pride events, or the annual Midsummer Festival

A fountain in the center of Fitzgerald Park surrounded by grass
The fountain in Fitzgerald Park

11. Stroll through the University College Cork Campus 

The University College Cork (UCC) is the preeminent university in the city, attracting thousands of students from around the world. The campus is set on the western side of the city near Fitzgerald Park and is a peaceful place to go for a walk on a nice day. 

My favorite part of the UCC campus is the set of ancient funerary stones that line a corridor in the main quad. Many of the stones date back to 300-600 AD and feature an early, coded version of the Irish language. 

The Stone Corridor is free to visit, as is the rest of the UCC campus. 

A tree stretches across the water on a quiet day on campus. A person walks across the bridge.
A tranquil bridge on the UCC campus

12. Learn about Corkian History in the Cork Public Museum in Fitzgerald Park 

Nestled into an unassuming building in Fitzgerald Park is the Cork Public Museum. It might be small, but this little museum has a number of relics of Cork’s past, as well as a fascinating exhibit about the city’s medieval history.  

When I visited, there was also an exhibit dedicated to Traveller Culture. The Irish Travellers are an ethno-cultural group within Ireland that is often discriminated against by the government and local population.  

Admission to the museum is free. Visit the Cork Public Museum’s website for hours and additional information. 

Exhibits holding Cork's relics and historical items
Exhibits in the Cork Public Museum

13. Listen to Trad Music at Sin é Pub

I strongly recommend that you go to at least one traditional music session (“trad” session) while you’re in Ireland. In Cork, Sin é is the place to be, with trad sessions every day of the week. The space at Sin é is very small and cozy, bordering on cramped if you sit downstairs. 

If you have your heart set on seeing a session at Sin é, I recommend that you go early (say, 5pm) for the best chance at getting a seat. There is some turnover throughout the night, but I’ve been on evenings when the bouncer was simply turning people away. You can find additional seating upstairs, and, although the music is harder to hear, it’s typically less crowded. 

A sign reads Sin é: traditional Irish Music 6:30-12. Live music. Sin é festive drinks, hot ports, and toddys available here.
Sin é pub is the spot for trad music in Cork

14. Check out Blackrock Castle 

Although it’s not as popular as nearby Blarney Castle, Cork does actually have its own castle along the River Lee. A fortification was first built at the site of Blackrock Castle in 1582, and the first components of the current castle were added around 1600. In the early 2000s, an observatory was added.

You can visit Blackrock Castle today by driving or taking a long walk from the city. There’s a cute cafe that serves tea, scones, and a full menu just to the right when you walk into the castle. You can tour the castle and observatory for €7, and booking in advance is recommended.  

The Blackrock Castle and Observatory next to a small outdoor cafe space
Blackrock Castle and Observatory

15. Visit St Fin Barre’s Cathedral 

St Fin Barre’s Cathedral is one of the most instantly recognizable landmarks in Cork, and it’s my favorite cathedral in the city. Set just off the banks of the River Lee in the southwest portion of the city, you can see the best view from the Elizabeth Fort. 

Tours of the interior of St Fin Barre’s Cathedral are available on the hour from 10am to 5pm for a €7 fee per adult (kids under 16 are free). However, I found that I most enjoyed the views from outside the building. Unless you’re really called to look around inside, I’d skip the tour. 

The imposing St Fin Barre Cathedral in Cork with cars parked along the road on the way in
St Fin Barre’s Cathedral

16. Learn about Local History at the Cork City Gaol

The Cork City Gaol is a former prison that first opened in 1824 and was later converted into a museum in 1993. The prison held female inmates for some of its history, which is distinct from Spike Island’s prison near Cobh, which only housed men. The structure itself is beautiful and made of stone, and the museum as a whole offers a unique view into life in a 19th century prison in Ireland. 

The Gaol is located in a peaceful section of the Sunday’s Well area, not terribly far from my former home. The area is full of trees and very green, so it’s also a chance to see a more residential side of Cork. 

Entry to the jail starts at €6 for adults. You can learn more and book your tickets by visiting the Cork City Gaol’s website

Carefully groomed shurbbery outside of the stone walls of the Cork Gaol
The Cork City Gaol

17. See a Performance at the Firkin Crane

I love to try to see live performances when I travel, and the Firkin Crane is a wonderful and distinctive small venue with local performers. Although they host several types of events, they’re best known for their contemporary dance performances. Many of the Firkin Crane’s events are free to the public, often preceded by a reception with wine and snacks. 

Here is the event calendar for the Firkin Crane

A few houses face the rounded concrete side of the Firkin Crane
The rear side of the distinctive Firkin Crane building

18. Cycle along the Marina 

My dad has visited Cork a few times and I recently asked him about the activities that most stuck with him after his trips. He surprised me when he said cycling along the Marina was one of his favorites. Maybe it shouldn’t have surprised me, because it’s one of my favorite things to do in Cork, too. 

The Marina cycling path starts at Cortado Coffee and continues on along the River Lee until you reach the Catholic Grotto To Our Lady of Lourdes. You can rent bikes from a few places in town, but I’ve used TFI Bikes in the past and had a great experience. They’re self-service bikes that charge by the ½ hour or hour, depending on how long you borrow them, and the rates are reasonable.  

If you prefer, you can also rent bikes from a vendor towards the back of the Marina Market. 

I cycle with my dad on a wide, open street next to the River Lee. The path is lined with trees.
Cycling with my dad alongside the River Lee

19. Bask in the Sun at Audley Place/Bell’s Field

On a sunny day in Cork, Bell’s Field is the place to be. This little park is set up on a hill that overlooks some of the prettiest views of Cork, including St Anne’s Church. Audley Place, the road that runs above the park, offers the clearest, most picturesque view of all. 

You may wonder to yourself: Ireland is full of grassy fields and parks, what makes this one so special? I’d say the answer is that it’s on a rather steep hill, which means that the water drains downhill instead of collecting under the grass. 

As a result, you can lay in the grass on a warm summer day without fear of ending up sopping wet when the water seeps through your towel or blanket. 

An aerial view of a brewery, churches, and homes from the grassy expanse of Bell's Field
The view from Bell’s Field

20. Have an Irish Coffee at the Shelbourne Bar

The Shelbourne Bar is known locally for being the spot for Irish whiskey in Cork, and possibly even Ireland as a whole. They have extremely knowledgeable staff and whiskeys from around Ireland, including speciality bottles from Jameson and other local distilleries. 

This pub’s decor consists of dark wood and vintage-looking signs, all set around a large island bar. If you like Irish whiskey, or if you’re looking for a great Irish coffee, it’s well worth a stop when you’re in Cork. 

Note: if you want to try the best Irish coffee in Ireland, I recommend that you visit Bar 1661 in Dublin! 

A man holds a cream-topped Irish Coffee in a wine glass from the Shelbourne Bar
An Irish Coffee from the Shelbourne Bar

21. Try a Traditional Irish Breakfast

I don’t usually eat a lot of traditional Irish dishes, but I must admit to loving a traditional Irish breakfast. These hearty dishes typically include bacon (known as rashers), sausages (bangers), potatoes, baked beans, eggs, tomatoes, toast, white and black pudding, and mushrooms. Juice and coffee are also typically included in the meal price. 

The dish dates back to Ireland’s agricultural roots, when farmers relied on heavy breakfasts to fuel them for a day of hard labor. Today, many restaurants and hotels will also offer a vegan and/or vegetarian version – my favorite, as a longtime vegetarian myself.

For a cheap and tasty Irish breakfast, I usually take my guests to the Linen Weaver Pub by JD Wetherspoon. There, you can order a full Irish breakfast with unlimited coffee for less than €10. 

A plate with sausages, black pudding, toast, butter, baked beans, eggs, ham, and hash browns.
Full Irish breakfast from the Linen Weaver Pub by JD Wetherspoon. Vegetarian versions are also available.

22. Listen to the Street Performers

Ireland is known for its musical roots, and you can often find people performing in the streets of Cork. The two best places to find street performers are along Oliver Plunkett Street and the Grand Parade. Although performers sometimes set up on weekdays, the weekends are a more reliable time to find them. 

Sometimes you can find more local-feeling buskers on weekdays along Paul Street in front of The Woodford

A man plays a guitar to a crowd dressed in green on St Patrick's Day
Street performer on Saint Patrick’s Day in Cork

23. Sip a Coffee from a Local Coffee Shop

Cork may be known for its vibrant food and restaurant scene, but its coffee shops are great, too. Many locals love to grab an espresso, a flat white, or a cappuccino and chat with friends late into the afternoon. 

I love Cork’s more modern coffee shops, which I think serve up great coffee and have pleasant cafe spaces. Two of my favorites are Soma, which reminds me a bit of San Francisco, and the nearby and light-filled Three Fools. Both are great places to grab a cortado while walking around the city. 

A cortado with latte art in a black cup and saucer
A cortado from Soma Coffee

24. Have Brunch at the Good Day Deli in Nano Nagle Place

True story: I first decided that I wanted to move to Ireland while eating strawberry and cream pancakes in the garden at Nano Nagle Place, home of the Good Day Deli. Believe me when I say this little eatery is special. The breakfast, lunch, and brunch dishes are wonderful, the service is generally flawless, and the ingredients typically very fresh. 

The menu is small, but the staff is adept at accommodating dietary needs and preferences. I love the halloumi and egg toast, which is served with a roasted tomato. They also have excellent coffee drinks, earning them a spot on my list of the best coffee shops in Cork

Toast topped with halloumi, eggs, pesto, and edible flowers from the Good Day Deli
Halloumi and egg toast from the Good Day Deli

25. Learn All About Butter at The Butter Museum

If you immediately think of Kerrygold butter when you think of Ireland, there’s a reason for that: butter is an important part of Ireland’s history. There’s evidence of Irish butter being stored in bogs dating back 3,000 years, and its long lifespan meant that it was perfect for shipping. In fact, Corkian butter was the first ever global food brand. 

You can learn more about Irish butter and its local significance at The Butter Museum, located near St Anne’s Church and Shandon Sweets. Adult entry tickets are €5. You can find more information about visiting by checking out the museum’s website

I pose for a photo in front of the orange doors of the Butter Museum. The main entry doors are open for visitors.
The Butter Museum in Cork

26. See a Performance at the Cork Opera House

The Cork Opera House first opened its doors in 1855 and has since been the city’s premier spot for operas, comedy, dance, and live theater. It’s the perfect place to include in your itinerary if you’d like to experience Irish arts and culture during your visit. 

Check the event schedule before you go and be sure to dress appropriately for the venue. 

Two women embrace and a few other people stand or walk in front of the Cork Opera House. The building has large glass windows and a stone brick facade.
The exterior of the Cork Opera House

27. Shop for Veggies at the Coal Quay Farmers Market 

My local farmers market sets up every Saturday morning in Coal Quay, and it’s a great place to swing by for a sense of local life. During the summer, you’ll find fruits and vegetables, a local cheesemaker, and a baker, among other shops and stalls. If they’re not too busy, the vendors are usually chatty and happy to share about their farms, the weather, or just other things to do in Cork. 

The market is set up along Cornmarket Street in front of Cork Rooftop Farm, near the city center’s TK Maxx. Typically, the market starts around 9am and the vendors head home around 1pm. Technically you can visit this market year round, but I’d recommend sticking to April through September for the best options. 

Crates of apples, squash, leafy greens, and onions piled high at the Cork farmers market
My favorite stall in the Coal Quay Farmers Market

28. Search for Vintage Finds at the Mother Jones Flea Market

I love to look through vintage signs, contraptions, and photos when I have the chance. In Cork, there’s nowhere better to hunt for vintage treasures than at the Mother Jones Flea Market in the Victorian Quarter. 

You can swing by for a few minutes or comb through the aisles for hours, depending on how much you enjoy antiquing. This indoor flea market is also completely protected from the rain, so it’s a perfect activity for when the weather is dreary. 

Hint: the Mother Jones Flea Market would be a great place to pick up a unique and authentic Irish souvenir while you’re in Cork!

A magazine cover from The Picturgoer from July 4, 2953. A woman wearing a bathing suit and holding a flask leans forward in amazement, as if hearing something unbelievable.
A magazine issue from July 4, 1953 that I spotted in the Mother Jones Flea Market

29. See a Film at the Arc Cinema, Gate Cork

The Arc Cinema, Gate Cork is a modern and recently renovated cinema in Cork’s City Center. It’s a great place to visit on a rainy afternoon when you just want to be warm and dry, and they often show a more curated list of movies than your average commercial cinema. They run about four films at any given time, and the prices are reasonable. 

Three people smile for photos in front a billboard for the Barbie movie
Pausing for a photo at the Arc Cinema, Gate Cork before we saw Barbie

30. Try Irish Candy at Shandon Sweets

Kids and adults alike will love a quick visit to Shandon Sweets, Cork’s local candy shop. This traditional sweets shop is known for their handmade, boiled sweets, which have been produced at the site since 1929. The shop is very small, but it has a distinctly old-time feel that I love. 

My favorite treats are the lemon bonbons. I liked to buy them for my guests so that they had a chance to enjoy a very local treat when they arrived in Cork. 

The exterior of Shandon Sweets. The sign reads Linehan: Hand Made Sweets
Shandon Sweets

31. Dance the Night Away at a Pub or Local Venue

When most people think of an Irish pub, they probably picture locals cheersing their pints and talking into the evening. You can absolutely find that experience in Cork, but you might instead want to cut the chatter and just dance. 

There are a few clubs in Cork and several pubs that become nightclubs on some weekend evenings. My favorite spot is The Pav, an unexpected cocktail bar that almost feels like a speakeasy. Bodega is also a great Irish bar/nightclub, and they often host Latin Nights with great music, affordable (for Ireland) drinks, and live DJs late into the night. 

Finally, The Crane Lane is worth swinging by on your night on the town. From dance parties to matches, there’s usually something fun happening at this local haunt. 

Taylor Swift fans will want to check the Swiftogeddon schedule to see if there’s a Taylor Swift Club Night during your visit. They only run a few events a year, but it’s a fun and lighthearted night of dancing to – you guessed it – only Taylor Swift, all night long.  

A band displaying the Irish flag plays at set in the Pav bar.
The Pav

Top Things To Do Near Cork

If you’ve already explored the center of Cork or are just looking for something a little different, here are some great things to do near the city. With the exception of Blarney and Cobh, which are easy to reach using public transit, I’d recommend that you rent a car for most of these activities. 

32. Kiss the Blarney Stone

Kissing the Blarney Stone is one of the most iconic activities you can do in Ireland. The stone is located at the top of Blarney Castle, and it’s said that those who kiss the limestone slab will be blessed with the “gift of eloquence” or the “gift of the gab.” A photo of your kiss makes for a great souvenir of your time in Cork.

Beware that this activity is not appropriate for those with mobility issues and may be a little scary for travelers with a fear of heights. 

After kissing the Blarney Stone, leave some time to explore the surrounding gardens. The Blarney Gardens are some of my favorites in Ireland, and there’s even a Poison Garden with various poisonous and dangerous plants. The castle and gardens are open year round, except for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. You can book tickets directly through the Blarney Castle website

Blarney Castle is an easy day trip from Cork, only a 15 minute drive or a 30 minute bus ride. 

Blarney Castle is visible through the lush greenery of the castle gardens
Blarney Castle and Gardens

33. See the Fota House and Gardens

Set on the picturesque Fota Island, the Fota House and Gardens are a popular place to visit near Cork for a peaceful garden escape. As the name suggests, you can visit both the Fota House, which is a great representation of Regency architecture in Ireland. If you can’t make it to Powerscourt Gardens in County Wicklow, Fota House and Gardens would be a great alternative. 

The interior of the house is decorated in the neoclassical style and showcases how wealthy Irish families once lived. Tours of the Fota House are available for €12 for adults.

The surrounding gardens contain a number of exotic plants and trees, the result of nearly 200 years of horticultural work at the site. The Fota Arboretum & Gardens are free to visit. You can also tour the Victorian Working Garden, which was restored with the help of grant funding. 

Check hours and availability before you go, as this activity is not available during the winter months. 

Several tall trees are visible behind a pond covered in lilypads and lush greenery
Fota Arboretum and Gardens

34. Tour the Midleton Jameson Distillery 

Whiskey enthusiasts can tour the Jameson Distillery in Midleton, just a short 30 minute drive from Cork City. 

You can try the Jameson Experience with a whiskey tasting during your visit. The tour includes a distillery tour, a history of the Jameson brand, a chance to see whiskey aging in casks, and more. End the tour with a glass of whiskey or a Jameson-based whiskey cocktail. 

Other behind the scenes tours are also available. Check the Jameson website for additional options. 

Three bottles of Jameson whiskey are on display with tasting glasses. One is Jameson Crested, another is Single Pot Still, and the third is Cooper's Croze.
A sample of Jameson whiskeys (this photos was taken at the Shelbourne Bar in Cork)

35. Explore the Quirky Town of Kinsale

The colorful and quirky town of Kinsale is only a short 40 minute drive from Cork City, and it’s home to a series of cute shops, restaurants, and a small harbor. I personally prefer this little town to the possibly better-known town of Cobh. 

My favorite restaurant in Kinsale is the OHK Cafe, which makes a wonderful mushroom toast and pastries (skip the Turkish egg, though). 

To stretch your legs, take the Scilly Walk from Kinsale’s Harbor to the 17th century Charles Fort. There are great views of the water along the way!

The colorful exterior of a building in Kinsale. The sign outside reads Stone Mad Gallery.
The quirky town of Kinsale, Ireland

36. Admire the Sights in Cobh

The seaport town of Cobh, also known as Queenstown, is a major attraction in Ireland. It was the final port of call for the fated Titanic, and it’s the final town that most Irish emigrants to the US would have seen before setting off across the Atlantic. 

The major attractions in Cobh include the iconic St. Colman’s Cathedral and the “Deck of Cards” Houses that overlook the cathedral. There are also a few restaurants and pubs near the waterfront. My favorite cafe in Cobh is the Seasalt Cafe and Deli

While you’re in Cobh, you can visit Spike Island, known as Ireland’s Alcatraz. The tour of Spike Island was surprisingly enjoyable and engaging, especially on a warm day. Most of the tour takes place outside, so be prepared to stand in whatever weather Ireland throws at you when you visit. 

The imposing St Colman's Cathedral is visible behind several rows of houses in Cobh
The colorful town of Cobh, Ireland

37. Try an Irish Sauna by the Sea at Garretstown Beach

There aren’t any hot springs in Ireland, unfortunately. Instead, one of my absolute favorite things to do in Ireland to warm up is to visit a sauna by the sea. In Ireland, entrepreneurs tend to set up mobile saunas near popular beaches, where you can warm up inside and then dash out into the frigid Atlantic waters.

My favorite sauna in Ireland is the Wild Wellness Collective at Garretstown Beach near Kinsale. 

As wild as it may sound, I most enjoy visiting the saunas when the weather is chilly during the winter months in Ireland

A wooden mobile sauna is set up overlooking the sea
The Wild Wellness Collective sauna at Garretstown Beach

38. Admire the Lighthouse at Mizen Head

Mizen Head is an iconic lookout spot along the Wild Atlantic Way. From the headlands, you can enjoy incredible views of the Irish cliffs, look out over the Atlantic Ocean, and cross a footbridge that connects two of the headlands. There’s also a small museum, which is worth visiting while you’re there. 

A short drive from Mizen Head is the spooky and rugged site of Three Castle Head. This smaller area contains the ruins of three castles, as the name implies. It is thought to be haunted, and it was the final place that Sophie Toscan du Plantier visited before she was killed in West Cork. 

Note that Mizen Head often closes during the winter months, so check availability before you go. Even if you visit during the summer, be sure to pack warm clothes because the winds along the coastline can be quite chilly. 

The ruins of a castle are visible next to a lake. The area is covered in a dense fog.
Three Castle Head near Mizen Head

39. Get into Nature at Gougane Barra

I recommend going for a hike or woodsy walk when you’re in Ireland, and one of the best places near Cork is Gougane Barra. This memorable and intriguing park is full of twisty-trunked trees, windy lake, and mossy-lined walking trails. The best part? None of the trails are very challenging, so you can spend a few hours just leisurely walking around. 

Gougane Barra is not accessible by public transit from Cork, so you’ll need to have access to a car. You can park for free just outside of the park and walk in, or pay the fee and drive right up to the start of the trails. 

A wide, well-maintained path cuts through a forest of tall pine trees.
Gougane Barra walking trail

Where to Stay in Cork

Luckily, Cork isn’t a huge city and it’s fairly walkable. So long as you choose a hotel that’s within 20-25 minutes of the English Market, you should be able to travel within the city on foot. For further distances, like Blarney or Cobh, you’ll need to drive or use public transportation. 

If you have a car, double check that parking is available when you book your accommodation. Parking within central Cork can be challenging, but luckily most guesthouses have private lots.

📍 Top Budget Pick: Shandon Bells Guest House is a small and basic guesthouse between the UCC campus and the English Market. I stayed here on one of my first trips to Cork and thought it was convenient and sufficient for our stay. I especially loved the seating area along the river, which was perfect for having a coffee or just relaxing beside the water. 

📍 Top Mid Range Pick: The Gabriel House Guesthouse is located in the Victorian Quarter and features uniquely fabulous views because it’s set up on a hill. I stayed here with my family in 2021 and was blown away by the back garden, which had a few farm animals and plenty of places to sit and relax. The breakfast at Gabriel House is the best I’ve had at a B&B in Ireland. 

📍 Top Luxury Pick: The Imperial Hotel Cork City is a beautiful and luxurious hotel set right in the middle of Cork City, just steps from most of the main attractions. It features a few onsite restaurants and bars, a spa, and Nespresso machines in every room.

A large chandelier hangs above the ornate lobby of the Imperial Hotel in Cork
The entryway to the Imperial Hotel in Cork.

How to Get to Cork from Dublin

Cork and Dublin are about 3 hours apart by car or bus, or 2.5 hours by train. The drive is mostly larger roads and highways, but it’s not very well marked so I would recommend following Google Maps the whole way. 

When traveling to Dublin, I typically drive or take a charter bus, depending on the circumstances of my visit. The buses are great because they go all of the way to the airport, are clean, and typically run pretty much on time. 

I’ve never taken the train service from Cork to Dublin, but it’s also an option. Note that the train from Cork ends in Dublin’s Heuston Station and does not continue on to the airport. Train fares are typically a little higher than the coach bus fares, so you might want to compare the ticket prices before you go. 

Passengers board Bus 704X Corcaigh to Cork City
The Aircoach bus from Dublin Airport to Cork City.

FAQs: Things to do in Cork

Planning your visit to Cork and still have more questions? Here are some of the answers to popular queries from travelers visiting Ireland’s second city. 

How do you spend a day in Cork?

Within one day in Cork, you can see many of the city’s main landmarks, from Elizabeth Fort to the English Market to Fitzgerald Park. A walking tour would help you to see as many sites as possible while learning a bit about the city’s history and the significance of the places you’re seeing. 

Be sure to also try at least one Corkian restaurant. I love the Good Day Deli and Market Lane for nicer, modern Irish cuisine. For a budget-friendly dinner, I prefer the pizza from Pompeii Pizza inside the Franciscan Well or a noodle bowl from Laodao Jianbing

A life preserver sits on a pole next to the calm waters of the River Lee and some dilapidated buildings
The River Lee in Cork City.

Is it worth visiting Cork?

Yes, Cork is definitely worth a visit in Ireland. I always encourage travelers to spend some time outside of Dublin in order to get a sense of the Irish countryside. Cork has a great mix of historical sites, bustling streets, and nearby green spaces that you can visit. It’s also a very safe city, with little violent crime. 

How many days in Cork is enough?

Two or three days is enough time to see Cork and explore one of the nearby towns like Cobh or Kinsale. If you’re only planning to spend time in Cork City, two days should be long enough to do most of the main activities. 

Is Cork near the Cliffs of Moher?

No, Cork isn’t particularly close to the Cliffs of Moher. From Cork, the Cliffs of Moher are about a three hour drive if you don’t stop, so it’s ambitious for a day trip. Instead, I’d recommend spending at least one night near the cliffs so that you can experience the area and see the west of Ireland.

When visiting the Cliffs of Moher, I recommend that you stay very close by in Doolin or in a nearer city like Limerick or Galway

A view of the Cliffs of Moher from above
The Cliffs of Moher aren’t particularly close to Cork.

Is Cork Ireland a walkable city?

Yes, Cork is a walkable city. It takes about 20 minutes to walk across the center of Cork City and most streets have sidewalks. Note that there are very few sidewalks and walkable areas outside of the city center. I recommend renting a car if you choose a hotel or Airbnb in the surrounding area. 

Conclusion: Things to do in Cork

After moving to Ireland in 2020, I had the chance to visit Cork many times before I finally moved there. Even when visiting, it quickly became one of my favorite places in the country. One of the best things about Cork is how lively the city is, from the formal events to the bustling English Market to the shops along the Grand Parade. 

From strolling through Fitzgerald Park to eating in Nano Nagle Place to enjoying the nightlife on Oliver Plunkett Street, there’s a lot to love about this small city. Even if you only have a few hours in Cork, I’d recommend that you find a way to get a view of the city from above, either at St Anne’s Church or Elizabeth Fort. 

If you’d like to learn more about Cork and all of the things I love about it, check out the episode I recorded with Lee of the We Travel There podcast.