Cork city is one of those places that never fails to put a smile on my face; the minute I cross over the River Lee and start to hear the buskers in the distance, alongside the animated lilt of the nearby conversations, I’m blasted into a good mood that will usually last for the entirety of my time there.
Cork’s 37.3 km² radius makes it feel more like a bustling town than it does a city, and it has managed to retain a welcoming feel, thanks to the affable locals who are always up for some banter and a chat.
Aside from the inviting ambience and the friendly locals, Cork is most well-known for one thing in particular: its food. There is no county in Ireland that takes such a fierce pride in its offering of edible delights than Cork does, and as a result, people flock there from far and wide to get a taste of the goods.
We’ve compiled a list of the best that Cork city has to offer, which – considering the range of high-quality establishments here – is no easy task. Have a scroll, see what tickles your fancy, and check your calendar for when you can next pay a visit to this dreamy city.
Image via William Murphy
Filled with fresh fruit, veg, fish and meat, not to mention sweet treats, cheese, bread and every jarred condiment imaginable, The English Market acts as a showcase of the best that Cork has to offer. And even if you’re not hungry, the traders and architecture will make the visit worthwhile.
Explore the county from a different side with a tour of the harbour and coastline surroundings with a sea safari experience. Tailor the tour to suit your group and choose from stops in seaside towns of Cobh and Crosshaven, BBQs and even dolphin and whale watching.
When the sun is shining, the grounds at UCC are perfect for picnics and exploring. Guided tours are run daily, where you can learn about the extensive history of the University including the collection of Ogham stones on display. The onsite Glucksman Gallery is worth a visit, with regular art exhibitions running throughout the year.
Brunch is always on the cards when it comes to weekends away especially you’ve spent the evening pub crawling from Cask to Frank Barry’s. The Sextant serves brunch from 11 on Sundays, providing all the remedies for a sore head – Bloody Marys included and riverside views included.
Liberty Grill is renowned for its top quality breakfast, brunch and lunch, with the french toast being the star dish of the brunch menu and the daily specials never fail to impress at lunchtime. The offering of vegetarian and vegan options is also notable, and the well-informed staff are always happy to guide you through the menu, taking your specific allergy needs and preferences into account.
Owned by the unofficial king of Cork, Ernest Cantillon, this stunning fish bar and restaurant boasts some of the best seafood dishes to be had in the city. The setting is marked by lots of light within this gorgeous renovated art deco building. It’s worth mentioning that Electric also makes for a great, buzzy spot for after-work drinks out in the sun on the boardwalk, or weekend cocktails when they have live bands performing.
What was once a pharmacy – over 120 years ago – has been home to the hugely popular wine and tapas bar over the last number of years. The interiors have been kept largely the same with prescription books and medicines adding to the decor. Aside from the extensive wine list, Arthur Mayne’s tapas menu offers a selection of delicious light snacks that they serve until 11PM – and a shorter menu of meat and cheeseboards served until 1:30AM.
Sticking to a very common, and much respected, theme throughout Cork’s restaurant scene, the menus at Greene’s are all about supporting local. Menus are created accordingly, by using what is available according to the seasons and the result is always something special. Head chef Bryan McCarthy has also opened Bao Boi on Barrack Street serving steamed Taiwanese buns -it's quickly becoming a hotspot in the city.
The husband and wife duo at Idaho are passionate about what they do; Richard mans the front of house, while Mairead whips up the delicious food. There’s a lasting impression left after a visit to Idaho, you’ll see that too when you visit. Aside from excellent coffee and food, they are strong advocates for supporting local businesses in the city.
Hidden down a side alley from The English Market, with a striking mural to guide the way, Mutton Lane is probably one of the oldest drinking spots in the city. Known for being a stop off for many traders from the market, you’ll no doubt hear a story or two if you stay long enough. The candlelit surroundings add to the buzzing atmosphere – the perfect place to enjoy a good pint.
Taking inspiration from the surrounding nature and all that it has to offer, Cask creates a new cocktail menu every 12 weeks. Think warming and comforting for the winter months, and refreshing and light for the longer summer evenings. They even run cocktail master classes from Monday to Wednesday evening, should you want to channel your inner mixologist and get behind the bar.
A brilliant place to head along to with friends, Sober Lane has become somewhat famous for their gorgeous pizzas, and unanimously infamous for the drinks deals that they run every night of the week. The Sunday “Flip Coin” is a deal of particular notoriety; in that punters are encouraged to make their order and then flip a coin against the bartender. If they win, the next round is for free, and if they lose? Well, no harm done, you can try again next time!
If you’re a fan of excellent coffee, you’ll be guaranteed to get it with all the passion included at Filter on George’s Quay. Chat with your barista about your likes and dislikes when it comes to your coffee and they’ll recommend a suitable brew from their rotating selection of beans on the bar.
If you’re looking to treat yourself or a loved one to a night away in Cork, then Hayfield Manor is just the spot. While the extremely comfy beds, fine dining and range of spa facilities might entice you to stay indoors for the whole weekend, the hotel is within walking distance of the city, meaning you can get the best of both worlds on your trip.
Everything about this particular Airbnb makes it the perfect excuse to visit the city. Located a short walk from the city centre, with amazing views and excellent facilities, this makes for a gorgeous home away from home. (And if that’s full, then rest assured there’s always a good selection of Airbnb homes on offer around the city, which cater to various budgets and needs)
Both the train and bus stations are central, so if you do opt to leave the car at home you’ll be within walking distance of everything in Cork City. Make sure to pre-book your tickets on irishrail.ie, aircoach.ie or buseireann.ie.
The 226 from Cork Airport will bring you right to the bus terminal.
HIRING A CAR?
Enterprise run weekend deals from as little as €15.99 a day at selected sites. This doesn’t include the likes of Easter and Christmas, understandably, but for the rest of the year, you’re guaranteed to get yourself a great deal if you don’t have your own car, or even if you want to do a day trip from the city.
Main image via getyourguide.com