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16 Best Things To Do In Cork City In 2024

16 Best Things To Do In Cork City In 2024

The best things to do in Cork City are, in my opinion, Blackrock Castle, Cork City Gaol and the Shandon Bell Tower, but they’re just the tip of the iceberg!

Ireland’s second larges city is often overlooked, with many that visit the county heading straight for West Cork or the likes of Cobh and Kinsale.

The city, which was founded by Saint Finbarr in the 6th century, is steeped in history and it boasts a bustling food and pub scene.

In the guide below, you’ll discover what to do in Cork City at any time of year. Enjoy!

The best things to do in Cork City

what to do in cork city

Photos via Shutterstock


You’ll find many of the most popular places to visit in Cork, like Elizabeth Fort, right in Cork City centre.

While the city is very walkable, some attractions, like Cork Gaol, are a little outside the city centre.

1. The English Market

English Market 

Photos by Chris Hill via Tourism Ireland

Even if you’re not in need of a feed, the city’s English Market is worth nipping into.

Although there has been a market running on this site since 1788, the current building dates to the mid-19th century.

Admire it from the outside, first and then pass beneath its impressive, ornamental entrance before taking in an eyeful of stained windows and the magnificent archways.

If you’re here in the morning, you’ll get some of the best breakfast in Cork from the O’Flynn’s Gourmet Sausage Company!

The name: Before the arrival of the English Market, the nearby St. Peter’s Market went by the nickname ‘The Irish Market’. This market was given the name ‘The English Market’ to avoid confusion!


2. Cork City Gaol 

Cork Gaol

Photo left: The Irish Road Trip. Others: Shutterstock

If you’re wondering what to do in Cork City when it’s raining, head out to Cork City Gaol and take the guided tour.

A visit here offers an insight into what 19th and early 20th-century life was like in Cork, both inside and outside of the prison walls.

The exhibition takes visitors through furnished cells and delves into the day-to-day life of the prisoners and those that worked at Cork City Gaol.

Although it’s the stories that shine bright, the building, which opened in 1824, is a marvel both from inside and out.

Get the bus: Cork Gaol is around a 30-minute walk from the city centre. If you’re stuck for time, the 202, 202A, 208, 40 buses all stop nearby!


3. The Shandon Bell Tower

Shandon Bell Tower

Photos courtesy Catherine Crowley via Tourism Ireland

You’ll find one of the more unique things to do in Cork City in the 17th-century Church of St. Anne.

The tower here is 170 feet high and its walls are an impressive 7 feet thick.

After you’ve trudged up the tower’s 132 steps (yes, 132…), you’ll be treated to a 360 view out over Cork City.

Keep an eye out for the fish-shaped weather vane when you visit. It’s known locally as the ‘Goldie fish’ and it’s over 4 meters long and painted in fancy gold leaf.

The vane symbolises the salmon fishing industry, which was hugely important in Cork at the time.

Ring the bells: This is one of the only churches on earth where you can ring the bells unaccompanied. You grab the clapper (the rope) and it bounces off the bell!


4. Blackrock Castle

Blackrock Castle

Photos via Shutterstock

You’ll find one of the most impressive castles in Ireland standing proudly over the River Lee around 2km from the centre of the city.

Blackrock Castle started its life in the 16th century as a coastal defence against potential invaders.

Like most castles, it encountered plenty of action during its lifetime, including a fire in 1827 that destroyed many of its buildings.

Much of the castle that stands today was rebuilt by 1829.

Fast-forward to 2024 and Blackrock Castle now houses an astronomical observatory and a museum, both of which are worth visiting.

Fancy a ramble? You can set-off on a 8km/1.5-hour looped walk that follows a former railway line. When you finish, you can enjoy one some of the best brunch in Cork at the Castle Cafe!


5. St. Fin Barre’s Cathedral

Saint Fin Barre's Cathedral

Photos via Shutterstock

You don’t need to be a seasoned admirer of architecture to appreciate the beauty of St Fin Barre’s Cathedral.

As you approach the cathedral, you’ll start to see the distinct features that don its exterior, such as spires, gargoyles and other elaborate sculptures.

When you enter the building, you’ll see mosaics on the floor, a bright chancel ceiling, and a bishop’s throne.

When you visit the cathedral, keep an eye out for the cannonball.

It arrived at the cathedral in 1690… when it was fired from the nearby Elizabeth Fort during the siege of Cork.


6. Elizabeth Fort

Elizabeth Forth

Photos by Eileen Coffey via Failte Ireland

One of the more overlooked places to visit in Cork City is the imposing Elizabeth Fort – a 17th-century star fort.

Named after Queen Elizabeth I, the forth was built in 1601 to act as a defensive fortification outside of the city walls.

Over time, as the city expanded, it started to grow around the fort, making it redundant. This resulted in the fort being used as a military barracks and then a prison.

Visitors to Elizabeth Fort can enjoy a fantastic view from the fort walls while also diving into the history of where and how the city was developed.

Feeling hungry/thirsty? Elisabeth For is a short ramble from Tom Barry’s where you’ll find great pizzas, pints and a roaring fire during winter!


7. Traditional pubs

Mutton Lane

Top right: The Irish Road Trip. Others via Mutton Lane on FB

Speaking of feeling thirsty! Cork City is home to a plethora of wonderful, traditional-style pubs that make perfect little stop-offs when you’re in need of a rest.

While there are many pubs in Cork City, the ones that I find myself returning to are Costigan’s, the Shelbourne Bar and Hi-B Bar.

Another lovely pub, especially in the colder months when it feels that-bit-cosier, is the candle-lit Mutton Lane Inn – one of the city’s oldest pubs.

The pub is situated on one of the alleys that leads to the English Market and it’s said that it was through this alley that farmers would pass with their sheep.

Need a place to stay in the city? Check our our Cork City hotels guide or our Cork bed and breakfast guide.


8. The Cork Butter Museum

Cork Butter Museum

Photos courtesy Catherine Crowley via Tourism Ireland

Yes… a butter museum. If you’re looking for unique things to do in Cork City, the Cork Butter Museum is worth a nosey around!

But first, some context – between 1770 and 1925, the Cork Butter Exchange was the largest exporter of butter on earth!

From the Exchange, butter was exported right the way across Europe and the world, with the likes of the West Indies and Spain benefiting.

Tens-of-millions of pounds worth of butter were traded from this corner of the city each year.

You can discover the very interesting history from the Butter Museum, which is located inside a building that dates to 1849.


9. The Rising Sons Brewery

Rising Suns

Photos via Rising Suns on FB

Time for another pit-stop, this time on Cornmarket Street!

If you’re wondering what to do in Cork City with a group of friends, the award-winning Rising Sons Micro-Brewery is well-worth considering!

There’s a very reasonable €15 tour on offer here that’ll take you through the history of the brewery along with the beer-making process.

You’ll sample 2 or 3 beers while learning everything there is to know about the Rising Sons.

You don’t need to do the tour: If you just fancy a drink and a bite, you can head into the bar area


10. The Crawford Art Gallery

If you’re looking for things to do in Cork City when it’s raining, the Crawford Art Gallery at Emmett Place is well-worth seeing.

This is a National Cultural Institution and regional art museum that’s dedicated to the visual arts.

The collection here boasts over 4,000 works, ranging from 18th-century Irish paintings and sculptures to a collection of Greek and Roman sculpture casts.

The best part of all? Admission to the Gallery is free!


11. The guided cycle

cork city cycle

Photos via Beyond The Glass Adventure Tours on FB

If you fancy an active morning out, there are several different cycle tours you can tackle with James from Beyond the Glass Adventure Tours.

The City Cycle Tour is a relaxing ride that takes those that join through the city’s rich and vibrant past.

The Greenway Cycle Tour (the more scenic of the two) follows a route along Cork harbour and a disused railway line while taking you past the Marina, the home of Cork GAA and the impressive Blackrock Castle.


12. University College Cork

University College Cork

Photos via Ireland’s Content Pool

UCC is arguably one of the most popular places to visit in Cork City, and you don’t need to be a student to explore the grounds.

University College Cork was founded in 1845 and opened 4 years later in 1849 with 23 professors and 181 students.

One of the reasons a visit to this place tends to be regarded by many as one of the best things to do in Cork City is that it’s home to plenty of things to see and do.

The campus is packed with a number of interesting buildings and features, from the highly recommended Lewis Glucksman Gallery in the Lower Grounds of the campus to the Stone Corridor of the Main Quadrangle.

If you’re planning to drop by when you visit Cork, nip into the Visitors’ Centre on campus.

It acts as a central point of information for those visiting and it’s from here that you can join an audio tour that take visitors through the history and culture of the University.


13. Cork Public Museum

Cork Public Museum

Photos by Eileen Coffey via Failte Ireland

Next up is Ireland’ s oldest Local Authority museum.

You’ll find Cork Public Museum in the middle of the gorgeous Fitzgerald Park, where it has been exhibiting Cork’s rich heritage since 1945.

The museum’s exhibitions offer an insight into Cork’s extensive civic, political, military, and cultural histories that make the county what it is today.

Visitors to the museum can marvel at archaeological exhibits that trace 7,000+ years of human settlement in Cork and delve into historical exhibits that tell the stories of many prominent people from the county.

Visiting the city in December? You’ll be able to ramble around the Cork Christmas market


14. The Everyman Theatre and Crane Lane

If you’re wondering what to do in Cork City at night that doesn’t involve pubs or food, carve out some time to visit the Everyman Theatre.

On a mission to bring the best or Irish and international performances to Cork City, the Everyman is a fine spot to soak up a bit of culture.

It also helps that the 123 year-old theatre is also stunning on the inside, which makes the experience all the more enjoyable.

Another to consider is the Crane Lane Theatre located inside a swanky old Gentleman’s Club in the centre of the City.

Since opening its doors, it’s hosted the biggest names in blues, jazz and indie music. Here’s what to expect:

  • Live music 7 days a week
  • Decor from the 20’s 30’s and 40’s
  • 4 bars to choose from (along with a beer garden)
  • Theatre performances

15. Tramore Valley and Fitzgerald Park

Fitzgerald Park Cork

Photo via Shutterstock

You’ll find Fitzgerald Park a handy stroll from University College Cork. This is the perfect place for those of you looking to escape the city for a while.

Those that head for a wander here can expect gorgeous, tree-lined avenues, finely-manicured flower beds, a number of statues and a large fountain.

The park covers an impressive 18 acres and it’s also home to a playground and a cafe. Grab a coffee and head for a ramble here to clear the head.

Another good option if you’re after short walks in Cork is Tramore Valley Park off the Link Road.

It’s located in Cork City, but it’s off-the-beaten-path enough to make you feel like you’ve ventured out to the countryside.


16. Attractions under a 35-minute drive

The Blarney Stone

Photos via Shutterstock

Cork City makes a great place to explore a good chunk of the county from and there’s heaps of beaches near Cork City and places to explore close by. 

Here’s a few places to visit near Cork City worth considering:


Explore beyond Cork City

best things to do in Cork Ireland 2024

Now that I have what to do in Cork City tackled, it’s time to focus on the wider county.

There are endless things to do in Cork – here are my favourites:

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Eileen Wray

Wednesday 17th of November 2021

Great info. Thanks a million

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