The Craic of Cork: Top 10 Things To Do In Cork, Ireland

The Craic of Cork: Top 10 Things To Do In Cork, Ireland
| 7 min read

Craic is an Irish word that refers to fun, entertainment, and enjoyable conversation. There is no exact English translation for it, just like how Cork escapes strict definition. With its stunning coastline, bustling markets, and lush greenery, Cork is magical, beautiful, exciting, and serene all at once. Fill your tummies with delicacies and savour the hearty flavours of southern Ireland, get lost in the rich surrounding landscapes, or go on a sightseeing adventure. In Cork, which is also nicknamed Rebel County due to its independent spirit throughout history, you will never run out of things to do. For a start though, here are some of our favourite picks on what to do in the Rebel County:

Within Cork city

If time is limited, why not consider a hop on hop off bus tour to easily hit the highlights of Cork? It is well-worth taking the time though to discover all that the city holds. Here are some of Cork’s top attractions and activities:

Cork Hop On / Hop Off Sightseeing Bus

Price: Adult: 15 EUR (16.50 USD); Student: 13 EUR (14.30 USD); Child: 5 EUR (5.50 USD)

Duration: Around 90 minutes

Contact: +353 21 4309090

Website: Cork City Tours

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1. Fill up at the Old English Market

the craic of cork: top 10 things to do in cork, ireland | fill up at the old english market
Source: Photo by user

Lots of great foods and variety. It was booming with locals and visitors. Grab a bite to eat and chat with the vendors they have great recommendations to share! Nat0x
The Old English Market is a covered food market in the city centre that is a popular hub of activity for both locals and tourists alike. Located just off Cork’s main street, fresh local produce, artisan foods, chocolate, and traditional Cork fare are just some of the offerings available in this vibrant market. Savour the aromas and atmosphere of the market as you sample the delicacies and admire the colourful wares on sale. Visit the market for breakfast or lunch, or purchase some fresh produce if you are staying in accommodation with self-catering facilities. Remember to try the traditional dish of Cork, tripe (stomach lining) and drisheen (blood pudding), if you come across it. A good place to try it is at Farmgate Cafe, a popular dining option in the market that specialises in classic Cork dishes. In 2011, the market was graced by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II and it was reported that her royal party enjoyed the visit. Fit for the Queen, this market is a must-visit when in Cork.

The Old English Market

Address: Princes St, Cork, Ireland

Opening Hours: Mon - Sat 8 am - 6 pm; Closed on Sundays and Bank Holidays

Duration: Around 1 - 2 hours required

Website: The Old English Market

The Farmgate Cafe

Address: 33-34 Princes St, Cork, Ireland

Opening Hours: Mon - Sat 8.30 am - 5 pm

Contact: +353 21 427 8134

Website: The Farmgate Cafe

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2. Visit the Campus of University College Cork

University College Cork has a wonderful feeling of history and learning about it. Stepping into certain areas of the quad feels like you are stepping back 150 years or so. The narrow stone corridors and exquisite rooms of the original buildings are juxtaposed with the modern buildings. A lovely educational location. Bean_Limerick
One of the most beautiful campuses in Ireland, old world and modern architecture are harmoniously married at University College Cork. Stop by the Visitor’s Centre first to enquire about the audio tour or guided walking tour that will take you around the landmark buildings on campus. One of the prominent landmarks on campus is the Stone Corridor, a covered walkway where the university’s collection of Ogham Stones (stones with inscriptions of the early Irish language) are on display. If you visit the university during the summer months (May 9th to September 30th), try to do the George Boole Interactive tour, which features student actors portraying key characters from the university’s history. George Boole Interactive tours run every Friday at 3 pm and Saturdays at 12 noon. Fans of art can also pay a visit to the Lewis Glucksman Gallery, an award-winning art gallery that is free to enter.

University College Cork (Visitor's Centre)

Address: North Wing, Main Quad, University College, Cork, Ireland

Opening Hours: Mon to Fri: 9 am - 5 pm, Sat: 12 noon - 5 pm

Contact: +353 (0)21 4901876

Website: UCC Visitor’s Centre

Lewis Glucksman Gallery

Address: University College Cork, Main Entrance on Western Road, Cork City, Ireland

Price: Free

Opening Hours: Summer (Jun - Aug): Tues to Sat 10 am - 5pm; Sunday 12 noon - 5 pm; Closed Mondays

Contact: +353 21 4901844

Website: Lewis Glucksman Gallery

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3. Experience 19th-century prison life at Cork City Gaol

Great sightseeing trip in Cork City. The tour is definitely a must do. The architecture and history is flawless and we enjoyed every minute of it. It is like being transported back into time and reliving history. Stop over at the radio museum as it is very informative. Krimpvark
From afar, the old Cork City Gaol may look like a castle, but do not be fooled. This prison used to house 19th-century prisoners, and conditions back then were miserable and wretched. The cells have been furnished with life-like wax figures to recreate a semblance of prison life back then. Sound effects help visitors to get a deeper insight into what went on behind the walls and why people turned to crime. Private guided tours are only available on request, so if you do not make a booking, you will have to do a self-guided tour with an audio guide or information booklet. For those looking to get a little spooked, join the evening tour and listen out for the whispers and shuffling feet of the ghosts of prisoners past. Note that tickets must be booked no later than a week in advance, and the minimum requirement for the tour is 8 people.

Cork City Gaol

Address: Convent Ave, Cork, Ireland

Price: Adults - 8 EUR (8.80 USD); Children - 5 EUR (5.50 USD); Student - 7 EUR (7.70 USD)

Opening Hours: 9.30 am - 5 pm (April to September); 10 am - 4 pm (October to March)

Contact: +353 21 430 5022

Website: Cork City Gaol

Cork City Gaol Evening Tour

Price: 10 EUR (11.05 USD)

Starting Time: 5.45 pm

Duration: Around 1 hour

Contact: +353 21 430 5022 .

Website: Evening Tour

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4. Enjoy a quiet moment at Saint Fin Barre's Cathedral

Really enjoyed the atmosphere and the environment, very relaxing. Ideal for the ones that are interested in old monuments, history and/or Religion. Breathtaking interior! Christos T
Sometimes we just need a quiet moment for reflection amidst the usual frenzy of going from tourist attraction to attraction. The serene grounds of Saint Fin Barre’s Cathedral will provide just that. Designed by the English architect William Bruges, the French gothic-style cathedral is adorned with ornate sculptures and the external grounds are free to enter for the visitor to admire the cathedral. There is a 5 EUR / 5.50 USD (3 EUR / 3.30 for students) charge to enter the cathedral. Some features of the interior include magnificent stained glass windows and the largest cathedral organ in Ireland. Look out for the 24-pound (10.9 kilogram) cannonball, which was lodged in a spire of the old cathedral that used to occupy the same site. Take your time to explore the interior and exterior of the cathedral, and appreciate the rich history of the place.

Saint Fin Barre's Cathedral

Address: Bishop St, Cork, Ireland

Price: Adult 5 EUR (5.50 USD); Seniors 4 EUR (4.40 USD ); Children and Students with I.D. 3 EUR (3.30 USD)

Opening Hours: Mon to Sat 9:30 am -5:30 pm; Sun 1:30 pm - 2.30 pm & 4.30 pm - 6 pm (April-November only)

Contact: +353 21 496 3387

Website: Saint Fin Barre’s Cathedral

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5. Observe the universe at CIT Blackrock Castle Observatory

This is a great tour not only for people interested in their history, but also people who love space science! The location is off the beating track and may be hard to find but once there it is well worth it. There is a restaurant there which is always packed, as the food is just wonderful! The staff in both the tour end restaurant area are very helpful and full of joy. Highly recommend! DeegoLAD
We are but one small speck in an endless universe. Be prepared to marvel at the cosmos when you visit the Blackrock Castle Observatory. Ideal for the whole family, you can visit the interactive state-of-the art science exhibit ‘Cosmos at the Castle’, which features multimedia and touchscreen content. Learn about radio signals when you send a message to space at the Pan Galactic Station via interactive kiosks that beam your message towards nearby exoplanets. You can also sign up for the daily tours to the Gunnery and Dome Tower Top and learn about the history of Blackrock Castle, which used to be a 16th-century defence fortification, and also about stars and their constellations. If you intend to visit as a family, purchase a family ticket for 18 EUR (19.90 USD), valid for 2 adults and 2 children.

CIT Blackrock Castle Observatory

Address: Blackrock, Cork, Ireland

Price: Adults: 6.50 EUR (7.18 USD); Students, Seniors and Children (5 - 14 years): 4.50 EUR (4.97 USD)

Opening Hours: 10 am - 5 pm

Contact: +353 (21)432-6120

Website: CIT Blackrock Castle Observatory

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6. Spend an afternoon at Fitzgerald Park

This park is such a great walk to enjoy nature and feel like you’ve escaped the city. The birds sing and the brooke bubbles away. It has fun playground equipment for children to play on and nice seating areas for adults. Travelingzody
This picturesque park is well-worth spending a leisurely afternoon in, especially if you have young children. Within the park, there is a newly renovated playground with exciting features like a climbing wall and pirate ships that will occupy your kids for the afternoon. Not just for the kids, the park is also a lovely place to take a romantic stroll and take in the beautiful sights of the landscaped gardens and sculptures. Keep your eye out for the original pavilion and ornamental fountain from the Cork International Exhibition in 1902. Find your way to Daly’s Bridge, known locally as Shaky Bridge, a suspension bridge that vibrates and shakes when people move on it. In the centre of the park, there is the Cork Public Museum where you can peruse the exhibitions including an expansive archaeological collection of finds from the region and also from digs around the medieval town wall. At the back of the museum, by the river, the Riverview Cafe provides visitors with a serene place to enjoy a cup of coffee / tea and views of the river.

Cork Public Museum

Address: Fitzgerald Park

Price: Free

Opening Hours: Mon to Fri: 11 am - 1 pm, 2.15 pm - 5 pm; Sat: 11 am - 1 pm, 2.15 pm - 4 pm; Sunday: 3 pm - 5 pm (April to September)

Contact: + 353 21 4270679

Website: Cork Public Museum

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Outside Cork city

If you have the time, explore past Cork city. The surrounding towns and scenery will enrapture you. Here are just some out of the many things that the countryside of Cork has to offer:

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7. Get up close with animals at Fota Wildlife Park

get up close with animals at fota wildlife park
Source: Photo by user

I’ve been here several times over the years and my most recent visit was delightful! There is lots of educational information about every animal and a chance to see the animals being fed - the Cheetah Run is particularly great! You get to see the cheetah’s chase their food as they would in the wild. The whole park is great for both kids and adults - there’s plenty of wide open spaces, play areas, food stops and a chance to feed the birds by the duck pond. Fota do great work for animal conversation and public education so I feel supporting them is a great idea. Corin_p
About 20 kilometres (12.4 miles) east of Cork city (20 minutes’ drive), Fota Wildlife Park is one of Ireland’s top wildlife attractions. Unlike the usual zoo where animals are placed in enclosures, some animals are allowed to roam free and mingle among visitors at Fota Wildlife Park. These free-roaming animals include the ring-tailed lemurs and wallabies. Another wonderful aspect of the wildlife park is that visitors have the opportunity to see highly endangered species such as the European bison, Rothschild giraffe, and lion tailed macaque, most of them in exhibits with only a simple barrier separating them from visitors. The barrier does not restrict their movements and gives visitors an up-close viewing experience. Fota Wildlife Park is also home to Ireland’s first and only Cheetah Run, an activity for the cheetahs to maintain their wild instincts and work for their food.

Fota Wildlife Park

Address: Fota Island, Carrigtwohill, Co. Cork, Ireland

Price: Adults: 15.50 EUR (17 USD); Children (Under 16): 10 EUR (11 USD); Students (with valid student card), seniors, and disabled: 11 EUR (12 USD)

Opening Hours: Mon - Sat: 10 am; Sun: 10.30 am; Last entry: 4.30 pm every day

Contact: +353 21 481 2678

Website: Fota Wildlife Park

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8. Take a tour of Cork Harbour

Went to Cobh on a really hot sunny day and saw Cobh Harbour Boat Hire. Safety first filled out forms and had life jacket procedure explained. Went to boat and met guide nice bloke showed how to control boat. Allowed to manoeuvre in our own time then off we went following lead boat such a gas. Great views and real sea experience. We stopped for information and photos saw seals and islands. It was such fun and value. I won’t spoil by telling all but do go and see, it’s a good hour and to see Cobh from the water is excellent Andrew143182
Cork Harbour is one of the world’s largest natural harbours, and its waters and surrounding towns can be explored on a boat tour. Cork Harbour Boat Hire offers self-drive boat tours where you can discover the harbour at your own pace. Set your safety concerns aside as all tours are accompanied by a fully-qualified safety boat guide. Additionally, the boats are easy to navigate and do not require any prior experience. Even your kids can try their hand at driving the boat! They offer different types of tours so depending on what you choose, you could do some dolphin-spotting or explore the beautiful seaport town of Cobh. This is an adventure you should not miss!

Cork Harbour Boat Hire

Address: The Port of Cork City Marina, Custom House Quay, Cork City

Price: From 49 EUR (54.30 USD)

Contact: +086-0747926

Website: Cork Harbour Boat Hire

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9. Ballycotton Cliff Walk

Ballycotton and cliff walk
Source: Photo by user Elaine used under CC BY-ND 2.0

Amazing views, regardless of the weather! Would avoid in heavy rain but otherwise, it is a very nice walk with steps down to small beaches. Excellent way to work up an appetite before enjoying one of Ballycotton’s many great restaurants. Lucy J
Ballycotton is a seaside resort village about 25 miles (40 kilometres) east of Cork city. The current village is actually a re-settlement of an older village that is now entirely underwater due to coastal erosion. This idyllic coastal village is known for its cliff walk flanked by the glistening Atlantic Ocean and verdant green meadows. The unspoilt beauty of the cliffs and Irish country is spectacular, and you might even spot some dolphins or whales in the water. The path is well-maintained and the walk is suitable for children and the elderly (with no major mobility problems). However, it is advisable to wear a sturdy pair of walking shoes and to be prepared for any sudden changes in weather. This is Ireland, after all! You can even go down to the beach for a dip and explore some of the coves in low tide. In the distance, you will see Ballycotton Island Lighthouse, which is only accessible on a boat tour. The fresh sea breeze will invigorate you and you will leave with good memories and amazing photos.

Ballycotton Island Lighthouse Boat Tour

Price: Adult: 20 EUR (22 USD); Child (under 15): 10 EUR (11 USD)

Duration: Around 1.5 hours required

Contact: +353 21 4646875 (10 - 4pm)

Website: Ballycotton Island Lighthouse Tours

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10. Discover your gift of the gab at Blarney Castle

The dramatic landscapes of Ireland might have robbed you of words with its pure beauty, but a trip to Blarney, a town that lies 8 kilometres (5 miles) north-west of Cork, will cure you of that. Visiting the Blarney Stone at Blarney Castle is one of the top priorities of visitors. Legend has it that all who kiss the Blarney Stone will gain the gift of eloquence, known locally as the gift of the gab. While the Blarney Stone is the main reason why people visit the castle, don’t miss out on the other attractions that the castle has to offer. Blarney Castle is set in acres of gorgeous woodland, and you will discover the true magic of Blarney when you venture out. Rock Close, with its Wishing Steps, Witch’s Kitchen, and Druids’ Cave, is a place of mystique and enchantment. It is not difficult to imagine fairies gracefully flitting between the swaying trees. Another highlight is the Poison Garden, which houses a collection of poisonous plants from all over the world. These plants are so toxic that they are kept in cage-like structures to prevent visitors from accidentally touching them. Steeped in history and enchantment, Blarney Castle is a fascinating attraction.

Blarney Castle

Address: Blarney, Cork, Ireland

Price: Adult: 12.50 EUR (13.70 USD); Student / Seniors (over 60): 11 EUR (12 USD); Children (8 - 16 years old): 5 EUR (5.50 USD)

Opening Hours: Open year round. Jun - Aug 9 am - 7 pm. (See website for other months)

Contact: 00 353 21 438 5252

Website: Blarney Castle

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Enchanting Cork

You might just start believing in the existence of magic when you visit Cork. This postcard pretty destination doesn’t need to try very hard to get you to fall in love with it. The delicious food, the stunning coastline, and even the unique singsong cadence of the Cork accent that will become endearing to your ears with time, will leave an everlasting impression on you.

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Any must-sees we missed? Tell us about them in the comments section or write a post here to help out fellow travelers!
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Eunice became hooked on travelling 2 years ago when she embarked on a student exchange programme in Stuttgart, Germany. Among the many places she’s visited, Europe has captured (most of) her heart...Read more

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