The 20 Best Things to Do in Cork, Ireland

Sample Local Produce at the English Market

A popular destination for those visiting the Republic of Ireland is Cork. Not only is it the country’s second-largest city, but it also has many fascinating landmarks and fun attractions. Cork is also the name of the county in which the city lies, and it is Ireland’s largest county. The city is known as the culinary capital of Ireland as it has a fantastic food scene, and it is also known for its historic buildings. Even if you are not a foodie or a history buff, you will find plenty of things to see and do in this amazing Irish city. Here are the 20 best things to do in Cork, Ireland.

Glengariff Nature Reserve

20. Explore Glengariff Nature Reserve

A fantastic outdoor space to explore during your time in Cork is Glengariff Reserve. It is predominantly a woodland area that mainly features oak trees, and then it opens out to Glengariff Harbor. There are sections of new woodland as the aim is to regenerate the reserve. There are various trails within Glengariff Nature Reserve, and these vary in difficulty. One of the easiest trails is the River Walk, while Lady Bantry’s Lookout Trail is a steep and challenging hike.

Spike Island

19. Take a Boat Trip to Spike Island

There are multiple day trips that you can make from Cork, and an often-overlooked destination is Spike Island, which has a fascinating history. It began as an island monastery more than 1,300 years ago, then it became a grand fortress and then a prison. It is now a small island community. The island has a public museum that focuses on the island’s fascinating history.

Pub Crawl

18. Enjoy Music on a Pub Crawl

Visiting the city’s pubs is one of the most popular things to do in the evenings in Cork. Pubs are an important part of Irish culture, and no matter where you visit in Ireland, you will probably end up enjoying a pub crawl at some point. There are more than a few beverages on offer when you go drinking in Cork’s pubs, as many venues also have live music. A favorite is Irish folk music, which will have you tapping your foot to the beat, if not getting up and dancing along.

Go Whale Watching

17. Go Whale Watching

Many people who visit Cork do so for a city break. However, that does not mean that there is nothing in this location for nature lovers. A top activity to enjoy is going whale watching. Whales are magnificent creatures, and seeing them in their natural habitat is an amazing experience. There are several companies in Cork offering whale watching experiences.

Dursey Island

16. See the Rock Features of Dursey Island

There are multiple outstanding natural features to enjoy in the area surrounding Cork, and you will find some of the most interesting on Dursey Island, which is one of the few inhabited islands off the southwest coast of Ireland. The three rock features to see on the island are Bull Rock, Calf Rock, and Cow Rock. The main feature of Bull Rock is its lighthouse, which was built in 1888 and automated in 1991. Calf Rock also had a lighthouse, but a storm destroyed it in 1881. However, the ruins of the lighthouse remain. Cow Rock is better known for its wildlife, as it is home to various species of nesting colonies of seabirds, and you will see whales, dolphins, and basking sharks in the surrounding waters. The two ways to get to Dursey Island are by boat or by cable car.

Take a Trip to Cobh

15. Take a Trip to Cobh

While you are in Cork, you should visit some of the surrounding cities and towns. One that you should add to your vacation itinerary is Cobh, previously known as Queenstown, which is a seaport town in County Cork. One of the main features of the town is St. Colman’s Cathedral. The town is also known for its picturesque rows of brightly colored cottages.

Enjoy the Titanic Experience

14. Enjoy the Titanic Experience

One of the most significant historical events for the Irish is the sinking of the Titanic. The Star Line Ticket Office in Cobh was where 123 of the Titanic’s passengers embarked on their journey to a new life in the United States before tragedy Struck. Visitors to the Titanic Experience are presented with a boarding pass on arrival before being given a tour that includes a virtual journey on the ill-fated ship. There are also opportunities to experience life onboard the Titanic, and there is a large exhibition area to explore that displays memorabilia and artifacts relating to the ship and the people who lost their lives.

Fota Wildlife Park

13. See the Animals at Fota Wildlife Park

A fun day out for people of all ages is a trip to Fota Wildlife Park, as this is an attraction that will appeal to children and adult animal lovers alike. The wildlife park is on the outskirts of Cork, and it covers more than 100-acres of land. It is run by a charity that focuses on conservation, and it is home to some of the world’s most endangered species. Fota Wildlife Park is not your typical safari park experience, as you walk through the grounds rather than driving through the park. On the one hand, it gives visitors a more interactive experience with the animals. On the other hand, it is a long walk, so make sure you wear suitable footwear and set aside enough time to get the most out of the experience.

Blackrock Castle Observatory

12. Go to the Blackrock Castle Observatory

Although it is a historic structure, Blackrock Castle has been transformed into a modern attraction. The castle sits on the water’s edge of the harbor, and it is an interactive museum and exhibition space with interesting displays and fun workshops. However, the highlight of a visit to Blackrock Castle is its observatory.

Hike the Ballycotton Cliff Walk

11. Hike the Ballycotton Cliff Walk

If you enjoy hiking and want to take a walk in a scenic location, head for the Ballycotton Cliff Walk. The trail takes you along a stunning section of the cliffs, and there are spectacular coastal views. Some of the terrain is steep and uneven, so appropriate footwear is essential.

Stroll Around Fitzgerald Park

10. Stroll Around Fitzgerald Park

Despite the urban location, Cork offers plenty of pretty outdoor spaces where you can enjoy a stroll, and one of these is Fitzgerald Park. The park is a beautiful space with manicured lawns, several lakes, interesting sculptures, and paved walkways despite its city center location. Ireland Before You Die says that it is an excellent place to kick back and relax or to enjoy a picnic.

Cork Public Museum

9. See the Exhibits at Cork Public Museum

One of the best attractions for learning about Cork’s history is the Cork Public Museum, which is Ireland’s oldest public museum. The museum consists of two buildings. One is a Georgian-style house, and the other is a modern extension that was added in 2005. Visitors can view fascinating exhibits that cover all aspects of Cork’s history and culture.

Visit St Fin Barre's Cathedral

8. Visit St Fin Barre’s Cathedral

You should try to take the time to visit several religious structures during your Cork vacation, and one to add to your list is St. Fin Barre’s Cathedral. It is a Gothic Revival Cathedral with three spires and intricate stone carvings on the exterior. The site of the cathedral has been used as a site for Christian worship since the 7th-century. In the 12th-century, the original cathedral was destroyed during the Norman invasion of Ireland. Several church reconstructions followed, and the current structure was built using locally-sourced stone in the mid-19th century.

Peruse the Shops on St. Patrick's Street

7. Peruse the Shops on St. Patrick’s Street

Planetware says you should spend time shopping on St. Patrick’s Street during your visit. It is one of the main streets in the city center, and it is where you will find many shops for you to peruse and enjoy some retail therapy. You should also head to St. Patrick’s Street if you are looking for somewhere to eat, as there are multiple excellent cafes, restaurants, bistros, and bars along this stretch. Many of the city’s attractions are located close to this street. Therefore, you can start your day with a hearty Irish breakfast before spending the day sightseeing, stop for a spot of lunch between activities, or end the day with a delicious meal.

Blarney Stone

6. Go to Blarney Castle and Kiss the Blarney Stone

Blarney Castle and the Blarney Stone are two of the most famous features of Ireland, not just Cor, and they are amongst the country’s top tourist attractions. Therefore, it makes sense that these attractions should come high on your list of things to do in Cork. Most visitors to the attraction head straight to the Blarney Stone. According to the legend, those who kiss the stone will be blessed with the gift of the gab. Visitors then head into the castle to take a tour and admire the structure’s architectural features. Finally, visitors can take a stroll around Blarney Castle Gardens. The gardens are divided into themed sections, including a fern garden and a garden featuring poisonous plants from around the work.

Take a Trip Along Wild Atlantic Way

5. Take a Trip Along Wild Atlantic Way

The Irish coastline is breathtaking and dramatic, especially along the rugged Atlantic Coast. One of the best and easiest ways to experience this is to take a drive from Cork along Wild Atlantic Way. Some of the features of the drive are Mizen Head and the Old Head of Kinsale. You will also enjoy views of the local islands, jutting peninsulas, and rugged headlands. If you pull over to take in the scenery, you might also see dolphins and humpback whales.

Visit Crawford Gallery

4. Visit Crawford Gallery

Art lovers visiting Cork should set aside time to visit Crawford Gallery. It is a free attraction that is located just off St Patrick’s Street. The best-known feature of the gallery is the Canova Casts, which are a series of plaster casts that were donated in 1818 to the Cork Society of Arts. Some of the casts on display include The Disc Thrower, The Laocoon, and The Belvedere Torso.

Cork City Gaol

3. Experience Historic Ireland at Cork City Gaol

An attraction not to miss when visiting Cork is Cork City Gaol, which has an excellent museum. Not only will you learn about the jail’s history during your visit, but you will also learn more about Cork and Ireland’s history. Inside the museum, there are restored cells, realistic sound effects, and lifelike figures, all of which add to the experience of prison life during the 18th and 19th centuries. In the evenings, the jail hosts ghost tours.

Ring the Shandon Bells at St. Anne's Church

2. Ring the Shandon Bells at St. Anne’s Church

A memorable experience when visiting Cork is ringing the Shandon Bells at St Anne’s Church, as it is not every time that you visit a religious landmark that you get to have a go at ringing the bells. At this 18th-century church, visitors are encouraged to climb the church tower and have a go at ringing the famous Shandon Bells. Although it involves climbing 132 steps, it is worth the effort for the bell ringing experience and the panoramic views. The top of the tower is the ideal place to take some photographs of the city from a bird’s eye perspective.

Sample Local Produce at the English Market

1. Sample Local Produce at the English Market

As Cork is the culinary capital of Ireland, it makes sense that Ryan Air ranks visiting the English Market as the best thing to do in Cork, Ireland. It is Europe’s oldest market of its kind, so it is steeped in history. In 2011, Queen Elizabeth II visited the market and gave it the royal seal of approval. There are stalls selling fruits, vegetables, meat, and fish, alongside artisan stalls selling local cheeses, chutneys, and handmade chocolates. An interesting feature of the market is the Butter Museum, which is a quirky attraction devoted to Ireland’s butter industry.

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