Best of Cork City: 6 Places to visit

Cork has a new identity as an exciting food and tourism hub. Today, this city offers wonderful food, a historic gaol that looks more like a castle, a chance to see superb wildlife just outside the city, and lots more for the visitor.

Our first stop is the superb food market right in the city centre. If you leave this visit off your itinerary, then you will miss the true spirit of the city.

Cork English Market-the food emporium

Cork English Market is an essential visit for anyone coming to the city. This market may date back to 1788 however, the food is totally modern. The delicious fresh ingredients from producers in the surrounding area attracts shoppers and tourists alike to this very well stocked market. Try to take some time and eat in the market as it is a very enjoyable experience.

Here is a small selection of the inviting food available in the Cork English Market:

  • The family run Farmgate Gate restaurant serves traditional Irish Dishes like Fish Pie and Corned Beef sourcing the ingredients right in the market.
  • Heaven’s delicious cakes blend the classic recipes with a modern twist.
  • The Good Food Shop supplies organic vegetables and uses green electricity.
  • The Roughty Foodie is the spot for small scale producers to showcase their products.
  • Toonsbridge Dairy delivers the tastiest of West Cork cheeses and in addition use cow, sheep and buffalo milk for their cheeses.
  • The Real Olive company has an amazing 40 varieties of olive to choose from along with a great selection of Mediterranean food.

Don’t leave the city without visiting this sophisticated market. Here is the link to the website;

Shandon Bells and Tower at St Anne’s Church

Shandon Bells at St Anne's Church, Cork City

After a good meal in the English Market you will be ready for the steep climb up Shandon Street to St Anne’s Church which dates back to 1722. This unique church with their 18th century bells and tower, which is visible throughout the city, is ideal to visit.  So why not climb the church tower on your visit.

Here are some facts about the tower:

  • 7-foot-thick walls, 132 steps and 36.65m/120 feet tall.
  • Rope handrail to aid you during your climb of the narrow stairs.
  • Steep Steps are not for the faint hearted and you can admire the clock mechanism on your way up.
  • The bells weigh over 6 tons.
  • Stunning city views from the tower viewing balcony.
  • Known as the Four Faced Liar as not all 4 faces appeared to show the same time.
  • Always take care on the narrow stairs.
  • Remember you may have to wait before your climb.
  • Open 7 days a week but check their website for opening hours as opening hours may change depending on weather conditions.

This is the website for opening times and further information:

Fota Wildlife Park

Fota Island - Giraffes

Fota Wildlife park is very popular, with over 450,000 visitors each year, and has a wonderful range of wild animals in this creative outdoor setting.

Here are just some of the animals that you can discover in Fota Wildlife Park:

  • The Humbolt Penguin who is slow on land but can reach 50kph in the water.
  • The Meercat, has lovely big eyes, and likes to stand up on their back legs to watch for any predators. These groups of Meercats are known as gangs or mobs and live underground.
  • The Rothchild’s Giraffe herd which are so graceful in their movements are sometimes referred to as the “Watchtowers of the Serengeti”. These animals have the longest tails which can grow to about 2.4 metres (8foot) in length.
  • The cute Red Panda, found in the Himalayas, grows to the size of a house cat with a long bushy tail. They are a close relative of the racoon and spend their lives mostly in trees eating bamboo shoots.

Wild Experiences Tour

The very popular Wild Experiences tour takes you behind the scenes where you can learn about feeding and caring for the animals.

To make your visit easier, maps and animal feeding times are displayed throughout the park.

This wonderful park is open 7 days a week and always remember to check for last entry times.

Above all respect the animals. Here is their website to plan and book your visit:

Cork City Goal

Cork City Gao

The remarkable thing about this jail is that it looks more like a castle from the exterior and not a jail. At first, this building housed 19th century prisoners but from 1923 onwards this building was no longer used as a jail and later became a broadcasting studio. The building resembles the shape of the letter H.

In the mid-1800s very harsh sentences were handed down to the unfortunate individuals and today wax-like figures bring the historic prison cells to life.

The sentences of the day were very severe and included:

  • Stealing a Bar of Soap had a very harsh sentence of 8 months hard labour.
  • Stealing a Mule had a sentence of 12 months in this jail.
  • Stealing a “Spoone” resulted in the poor individual spending one month in jail.

Here is the website to organise your visit and for further information:

Spike Island in Cork Harbour

View from Spike Island, Co Cork

Take the short, 10 minute, ferry trip from Cobh out to Spike island. Here you can marvel at this historic island setting which was once known as the world’s largest prison and Ireland’s Hell. In previous times, the star shaped fortress, crammed 2,300 prisoners into the jail. It was also used as a holding centre in Cromwellian times before the unfortunate people were transported to a new life.

Learn about the famous characters of the day including:

  • “Jack in the Box”
  • “Chain Man”.
  • “The Gravedigger”

Speciality tours are of Spike Island also available:

  • After Dark Tours and includes special areas not included in the day time tours and exclusive behind the scenes experience.

Today, the island has wide open spaces for children to run around and have fun.

Click on this wonderful website to get a glimpse of Spike Island in Cork Harbour with very clear drone footage giving a bird’s eye view of the island. These images truly give a taste of what you can experience here.

Here is the website for full information of Spike Island:

Crawford Art Gallery

Man and woman admire painting at the Crawford Art Gallery Cork

This much loved art gallery, which is a favourite of the locals, has over 250,000 visitors each year and is situated right in the city centre.

There is a permanent collection, with over 3,000 works, along with wide ranging temporary and visiting exhibitions which are always well worth a visit. These can include film and contemporary shows.

The gallery has a number of interesting options available:

  • The Online Collection giving an insight into the works in the gallery.
  • The Work of the Week. Each week, the gallery selects one work from their collection and highlight interesting facts about the work and the artist
  • Talking Pictures is an online resource for children.
  • To get a feeling for your visit, there is a very impressive virtual tour of the gallery including all the floors. Here is the link:

This is the link to their website for up to date information on exhibitions and opening hours:

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