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Cork City, Ireland: Two Delightful Days of Food, Art, and History

Cork City Ireland Fitzgerald's Park. A rainbow arching over a tree with a blue bicycle beneath it.
Fitzgerald's Park.

Cork City is pretty to picnic in, full of art to appreciate, and with a history that goes back to the sixth century, it has more than its fair share of stories to tell. Beamish stout is brewed here. Cork Airport, the second-largest airport in the Republic of Ireland, is here, making Cork City a convenient spot to arrive and depart from if you have the Wild Atlantic Way, Ring of Kerry, or Blarney Castle on your itinerary. 

We’ve put together a two-day Cork City travel itinerary that’ll give you a good taste of what the Republic of Ireland’s second-largest city (the island’s third) has to offer.  

Day One in Cork City

Get an early start if you can, dress for the weather, and head to Cork City’s famous English Market to buy a breakfast pastry from Alternative Bread Company (ABC). At midday, the market can feel a bit hectic and overwhelming. Between eight and nine in the morning, you can take in the historic space as stalls open and maybe a dozen locals get a coffee or a pastry. While there, Chris picked up a Custard Baguette, and I ordered a Pistachio Croissant – both were excellent choices.

Cork’s iconic English Market has been around since the 1780s. It has survived floods, fires, famines, wars, and economic downturns. Plans to demolish the market were proposed in the 1970s and again in the 1980s. Today, it’s a popular foodie destination full of local, independent food producers and retailers. The businesses are often family-run. 

Once you have your pastry, we recommend walking to the perfect picnic spot – Fitzgerald’s Park. 

Cork City, Ireland. Melissa holding up a pistachio croissant from Alternative Bread Company. She is in Fitzgerald's Park. A red building is behind her.

Fitzgerald’s Park is about a thirty-minute stroll from the English Market. In our opinion, it’s worth it. Nestled near University College Cork, it offers a tranquil oasis perfect for indulging in your pastries and soaking up the beauty of nature. 

There’s something for everyone inside Fitzgerald’s Park’s twelve acres: a pond to relax by, lovely gardens, a sculpture trail to explore, Cork Public Museum for the history lover, and a large children’s play area. The Natural Foods Bakery is there, so if you spend so much of your day in the park that you need refreshments or would rather not stop at the English Market, you have an option.

Don’t leave without taking a moment to cross River Lee on Daly’s Bridge, which locals call Shaky Bridge. It’s fun to cross and a great spot for photos. Once you cross it, it’s just a short walk to Cork City Gaol.

Chris standing on Daly Bridge in Fitzgerald's Park -- Cork City, Ireland.

The Glucksman is an art museum on the historic University College Cork Campus. While the campus was built during Queen Victoria’s time, the award-winning building itself and the artwork it showcases on its three floors of galleries are far more contemporary. 

Unobtrusive to the landscape around it, galleries within the Glucksman “provide a variety of scale and lighting conditions appropriate to the exhibition of a wide range of artworks and artifacts.Built in 2004, the building has earned no fewer than 9 prestigious awards, and is listed in the book 1001 Buildings You Must See Before You Die. Its limestone, galvanized steel, and sustainably sourced untreated hardwood exterior are intended to weather into the landscape. 

Admission is free. Donations are welcome.

O’Flynn’s Gourmet Sausages is one of Cork’s best-known food brands. The family-run business opened in the English Market in 1921 and has been going strong for four generations. In addition to its market location, O’Flynn’s Gourmet Sausages has a fast-casual restaurant on Winthrop Street, just a six-minute walk away. The space might look small from the outside, but there’s ample seating upstairs. We found it to be the perfect spot to try their famous sausages.  

Their menu is full of fun sausage sandwiches like The Cork Boi, the Chorizo Chili Dawg, the Kransky, and more. You can also build your own, which is what I did. Chris loved the Kransky, which has sriracha mayo, cheese, crispy onions, jalapeños, and sriracha sauce. 

Chris and Melissa on the balcony of Shandon Tower in Cork City, wearing protective headphones.

To find St. Anne’s Church, look for the goldie fish in the sky on top of the church’s tower. The gilded salmon (aka goldie fish) is both a symbol of Christianity and of salmon fishing in the River Lee. Getting to the church from O’Flynn’s is a breeze—it’s only a twelve-minute walk. Climbing the tower, however, can pose a bit of a challenge. 

Happily you can ring the bells from below. You can play a pop song on the bells with a bit of help from the song sheets provided. I managed to play a portion of Sailing Away by Rod Stewart. 

The climb is 132 steps. If you plan to climb, you’ll be provided with noise-reduction ear muffs to protect your hearing from the ringing bells. As you approach the belfry, the path narrows to half a meter (just over a foot and a half). At one point, if you’re my height, 5’6”, you’ll have to duck down a bit to get through. The incredible views of Cork City from the tower balcony make the climb more than worth it. 

Hurling is the fastest and oldest field game known to man. It’s been around for 3,000+ years and originated in Ireland. You can watch a game at SuperValu Páirc Uí Chaoimh, a  Gaelic games stadium.  We watched the Junior Hurling Championship Final between Ballygiblin and Tracton in 2022. We’ve never seen so many players in any sport injured at one time before as we did watching that game. If you have our luck, you’ll have an enthusiastic fan behind you hollering at the players and refs in an upbeat enough way to help you know what’s happening on the hurling pitch. 

We should recommend a good pub here, but Tequila Jack’s is close to Clayton Hotel, the fabulous hotel we stayed in. I love margaritas. Chris loves tacos. After watching the hurling match, it felt like the perfect spot for a bite and a beverage. 

Tequila Jack’s opened in 2017 on the Lapps Quay boardwalk and overlooks River Lee. When we went, the place was hopping, so the only available seats were at the bar. We had a wonderful time and could definitely see why so many people wanted to be there for dinner and drinks. If you plan to go, be better than us – make reservations in advance. 

Their margaritas were top-notch and the dishes we tried hit all the spicy notes and were full of fantastic flavors. When we went, we devoured their Blue Cheese Empanadas, Queso Fundido, Chicken Tacos, and Vegetable Tacos. 

Day Two in Cork City

Starbucks Stop

The Starbucks in the Queen Anne House on Opera Street in Cork City, Ireland.

If you like to start your day with Starbucks, stop into the one on Opera Lane. It’s in the historic Queen Anne House, which dates back to around 1730. It’s a pretty place to start your day and is just across the way from the itinerary’s first official day-two stop, the Crawford Art Gallery.

Built in 1724 as the city’s customs house, the Crawford Art Gallery has over 3,000 works in its collection. It features works from 18th-century Irish and European artists as well as more contemporary pieces. Crawford Art Gallery is also home to the famous Canova Casts, some of which represent masterpieces from the Vatican collection like Laocoon and His Sons. The Canova Casts, made under the supervision of sculptor Antonio Di Canova, were commissioned by Pope Pius VII as a gift to Prince Regent George IV (who later became King). It was a gift given in gratitude for Britain’s role in deposing Napoleon at the Battle of Waterloo. 

Admission is free. Donations are welcome.

After walking by Perry Street Market Cafe and seeing how busy it was, we decided we had to give it a try. There was one and only one table available when we went in, so make reservations if you can. The food is delicious, and the service is delightful. On the day we went, a brunch menu was available. I enjoyed their Waffles with Berry Compote and Whipped Cream. They were light and fluffy and wonderful. Chris gave one of the day’s specials a try, Peri Peri Chicken. 

Cork City Gaol (Jail)

Touring Cork City Gaol is more than wandering through a historic jail; it’s a walk through the repercussions of The Great Famine and the Irish Civil War. Its prisoners included men, women, and children. Cork City Gaol accepted its first prisoner in 1824 and closed its doors as a working prison in 1923. 

Guided tours and audio tours are available. We missed the guided tour and had to opt for the audio one instead. It was no worry, though, as the audio tour was excellent. On it, you hear compelling stories of inmates and guards told with compassion and a touch of humor. Each story on the audio tells the story of a corresponding display or space. 

A tale of divine intervention that precipitated the existence of what might be Western Europe’s most coherent French Neo-Gothic style cathedral — St. Fin Barre’s Cathedral. According to legend, the chief smith of the King of the Hy Eachach of Munster married a young woman of the King’s household in defiance of his wishes. So, like any King might’ve at that time, he sentenced them to be burned alive. When it was to be done, a thunderstorm with heavy rain prevented his orders from being carried out. The storm was considered a divine intervention, so the couple was set free. 

Later, the couple had a son. When he was seven, three clerics of Munster stopped by their home. The clerics thought the Holy Spirit shone from the boy’s face and asked to take him away to be educated. His parents agreed to let him. While studying, a cleric renamed him Fin Barre. 

Saint Fin Barre arrived in Cork in 606 A.D. and founded a monastery where St. Finn Barre’s Cathedral now stands. Designed by William Burges and consecrated in 1870, the Saint Fin Barre cathedral that currently stands is most definitely gorgeous. 

Shop Saint Patrick’s Street, One of Ireland’s Best Shopping Streets

After its 2004 redevelopment, Saint Patrick’s Street in Cork has twice earned the title of Best Shopping Street in Ireland. It’s pedestrian-friendly and like all good shopping streets offers a mix of stores selling wares at a variety of price points. Stop into Brown Thomas for an experience similar to Nordstrom’s. I bought the best pair of booties that I have ever owned there – a black pair by Kurt Geiger. At Dunnes and Marks & Spencer you can find cheery and cheap apparel, groceries, and goods. They’re similar to Wal-Mart and Target. You’ll find Lululemon (one of my favorites) and North Face (one of Chris’s favorites) on Saint Patrick’s Street as well. There are also unique local shops like Miss Daisy Blue to explore.

As you wander, keep an eye out for The Echo Boy, a sculpture depicting one of The Echo Boys. Until recently, they hollered from early afternoon to early evening, “Echo, Echo, get your Evening Echo.While you’re near it, you might notice a bronze pavement plaque on the ground in memory of the Examiner news office’s original entrance.  

Chris standing next to The Echo Boy sculpture on Saint Patrick Street -- Cork City's main shopping street.

How many days should you spend in Cork City?

It might be best to plan at least three full days there. Our 48-hours in Cork were fantastic. Our only regret was not giving ourselves more time to explore. Someday, we’d like to do a full tour of University College Cork’s campus, visit the Cork Public Musuem, the Cork Butter Museum, Elizabeth Fort, and at least one of the city’s many pubs. The 48-hour itinerary that we put together will give you a solid sense of what Cork has to offer and we know from experience that it’s a great time. 

Where to stay in Cork City

We loved our time at Clayton Hotel Cork City. Everything in our itinerary is within walking distance of the hotel, so long as the weather isn’t too dire. Our room was fantastic, clean, and comfortable. The staff was friendly and helpful, and breakfast was great. 

To see how our adventure went and to get a tour of our hotel room, check out our video:

Planning your first trip to Ireland? Check out our posts 17 Must-Do Activities That Deserve a Spot on Your Ireland Itinerary and  7 Tips to Plan Your Best Ever Trip to Ireland

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