There’s an almost endless number of things to do in Cork City.
In fact, the city is home to many of the most popular places to visit in Cork.
From historical landmarks and mighty restaurants to museums and buzzy little pubs, there’s a little bit of something to tickle every fancy.
In the guide below, you’ll discover a loooooad of different things to do in Cork City in 2021 and beyond.
Our favourite things to do in Cork City
In the first section of our guide, I’m going to tackle our favourite things to do in Cork City, from walks and pubs to food and much more.
Later in the guide, we’ll tackle what to do in Cork City at night and we’ve also thrown in some stuff to do when it’s raining.
1. Fuel up at the English Market
If you’re looking to make your belly happy and you’ve never visited the English Market, you’re in for a treat!
They’ve been serving Cork City at the English Market since 1788 – that’s pretty damn impressive! It’s here that you’ll find some of the best breakfast in Cork!
Head in, soak up the sights and sounds, and follow your nose – there’s plenty of places to eat here to choose from.
2. Explore Cork City Gaol
If you’ve read our other guides on things to do in Ireland, you’ll know that our little island is home to its fair share of historic Gaols.
The Cork City Gaol is excellent (4.5/5 out of 1,200+ reviews on Google). A visit here will help you discover what 19th and early 20th-century life was like in Cork, both inside and outside of the prison walls.
The exhibition here takes visitors through furnished cells and offers an insight into the day-to-day life of the prisoners and those that worked at Cork City Gaol.
This is a handy spot for any of you looking for things to do in Cork City when it’s raining. The tour here is brilliant and a great way to whittle away a wet afternoon.
3. Nurse a pint in the snug at the Mutton Lane Inn
If you enjoy kicking back in a cosy pub with a finely poured pint, you’ll love Cork City’s Mutton Lane Inn (one of the best pubs in Cork).
I’ve been to the Mutton Lane Inn the last two times that I visited Cork, and I’d happily visit it 20 times more. You’ll find this pub down a pokey alley off St. Patrick’s St, where it’s illuminated by candles and fairy lights.
Although the Mutton Inn is small, it packs a serious punch. If you can, try and get in early and see if you can nab a seat in the snug.
4. Grab a 360 view of the city from the Shandon Bell Tower
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 towers 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.
5. Then ring the Shandon Bells
This is another of the more unique things to see in Cork City. St. Anne’s Church is one of the only churches on the planet where visitors can ring the bells unaccompanied.
The Shandon Bells are fixed, so when you grab the rope a thing known as a ‘clapper’ bounces off the bell. The bell itself doesn’t actually move!
Now, these bells can be heard right the way across Cork City, so make sure that you’re respectful and that you don’t bang away at them for hours on end!
6. Spot the swinging cannonball inside St Fin Barre’s Cathedral
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.
7. Take a day trip
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:
- Cobh (home to Spike Island, Titanic Experience, Fota Wildlife Park lots more: 30-minute drive)
- Midleton (home to the Jameson Distillery and not too far from Roches Point Lighthouse: 25-minute drive)
- Kinsale (home to the Scilly Walk, the Old Head of Kinsale and more: 35-minute drive)
8. Plan your trip around the Cork Christmas market
If you’re looking for things to do in Cork City during the chillier months, plan your trip around GLOW (the Cork Christmas market).
GLOW tends to be one of the more popular Christmas markets in Ireland (along with the ones in Galway and Belfast) and it’s perfect for those of you looking for a winter break.
Read more about the Cork Christmas markets in our guide to GLOW Cork (note: 2021 dates and info are yet to be releases).
Things to do in Cork City if you fancy exploring on foot
One of the beauties of Cork City is its size – although the City is one of the biggest in Ireland, it’s handy enough to explore on foot.
And, as a result, it’s home to several of the best walks in Cork. Below, you’ll find several rambles to head off on in Cork City.
1. The Shandon Mile
The first of our Cork City walks is what’s known as the Shandon Mile or the Shandon Walk. This is a marked trail (see map above) and it takes you around one of the older corners of Cork City.
One of the beauties of this trail is that, as you stroll, you’ll be taken past everything from old churches and art galleries to theaters, pubs and cafes.
The walk begins at Daunt’s Square and ends on North Main Street, not far from the site of Skiddy’s Castle (keep an eye out for the plaque).
2. University College Cork
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 loads 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.
3. Explore on a guided cycle
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 relaxed 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. Tours are €45 per person.
4. Tramore Valley Park
If you’re wondering what to do in Cork City that’ll take you away from the hustle and bustle, make your way to Tramore Valley Park.
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.
There are a few different walks that you can head off on here, and fairly handy. If you want to stretch out a stroll here, leave the car where it is and walk from the city to here.
5. Fitzgerald Park
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.
A morning spent kicking-back here with coffee is one of the more popular things to do in Cork City. Grab a blanket, a coffee from somewhere nearby and soak up the sounds.
6. The Blackrock Castle Walk
If you’re wondering what to do in Cork City that you can combine with a decent bit of brunch, make your way to Blackrock Castle.
You can visit the castle, first, and then head off on a nice looped walk that follows a former railway line (it’s now paved).
The walk stretches for 8km and takes 1.5 hours to finish, but you can follow it up with some of the best brunch in Cork at the Castle Cafe.
Things to see in Cork City when it’s raining
The next section of our guide is packed with things to do in Cork City when it’s raining, to help bate away any rain-induced cabin fever.
Below, you’ll find unique Cork City attractions, like the brilliant Butter Museum, to a brewery, more food and some other indoor activities.
1. Visit the Cork Butter Museum
Yes… a butter museum. If you’re looking for unique things to do in Cork City, make sure you get yourself here for a nosey around!
The Cork Butter Museum helps visitors dive into the culture of dairying in ancient Ireland and the growth of the Cork Butter Exchange.
If you visit, you’ll learn about the craft of traditional butter-making via video and an on-site museum. Interestingly enough, the butter exchange here was once the biggest in the world when tens of millions of pounds worth of butter was traded every year.
2. Tantalise your tastebuds at the Rising Sons Brewery
The lads at the award-winning Rising Sons Micro-Brewery offer a very reasonable tour for just €12 per person (note: prices may change).
Those that visit will be taken through the history of the brewery along with being offered an insight into their beer-making process.
The tour is rounded off with a guided beer tasting of two to three beers. Perfect for those of you visiting Cork City with friends and looking for an activity that can cater for a group.
3. Soak up some culture at the Crawford Art Gallery
If you’re looking for things to do in Cork City when it’s raining, lash this one on your to-visit list. Crawford Art Gallery 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!
4. Step back in time at Elizabeth Fort
Many people that I chat with that are planning to visit Cork tend to miss out on Elizabeth Fort for some reason. Elizabeth Fort is a 17th-century star fort in Cork City that was built 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.
5. Have a wander around Cork Public Museum
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.
6. Grab a feed at Market Lane
I’ve heard from several people that the food at Market Lane in Cork City is sensational, but I’ve my eye on the deserts. Look at that thing above…
It’s called a ‘Bam Berry’ and it’s a concoction of blackberry meringue, Baldwin’s vanilla ice cream, blackberry compote, and lemon cheesecake.
Get in and satisfy the sh*te out of your sweet tooth. There’s also plenty of great places for brunch in Cork if you fancy something for lunch.
What to do in Cork City at night
When it comes to night-time attractions, Cork City has its fair share of places to whittle away any evening.
From old pubs and some of the best restaurants in the land, there’s plenty of after-dark activities to keep you occupied.
1. Catch a show at The Everyman Theatre
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 incredible 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.
2. Make your belly happy
There’s an almost endless number of incredible restaurants in Cork where you can make your tastebuds happy!
From award-winning contemporary style restaurants to family-run seafood eateries and 5-star international dining establishments, there’s an lots of great places to eat in Cork City.
In this guide, you’ll discover our favourite places to eat in the city. Dive on in!
3. Very old pubs
If you’ve read our guide to the best old-school pubs in Cork, you’ll know that the City is home to a hoard of traditional pubs that pack a punch.
From heavyweights like the Shelbourne Bar and Hi-B Bar to sometimes overlooked pubs, like Costigan’s, there’s a clatter of ancient public houses to wander into.
If you’re wondering what to do in Cork City with a group, a mini pub-crawl of Cork City’s oldest pubs is a fine way to spend an evening.
4. Catch a show at the Crane Lane Theatre
Our next spot should appeal to those of you looking for things to do in Cork City at night. Cork’s Crane Lane Theatre is 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 you can expect if you visit:
- 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
- Burlesque nights
- Loads more
Things to see in Cork City: What have we missed?
I’ve no doubt that we’ve unintentionally left out on some brilliant places to visit and things to see in Cork City from the guide above.
If you have something that you’d like to recommend, let us know in the comments below. Cheers!
FAQs about Cork City things to do
We’ve had a lot of questions over the years asking about everything from where to go in Cork City when it’s raining to what to do with a group of friends.
In the section below, we’ve popped in the most FAQs that we’ve received. If you have a question that we haven’t tackled, ask away in the comments section below.
What are the best things to do in Cork City
Personally, I think the best things to do in Cork City are Cork City Gaol, the Blackrock Castle Loop and Elizabeth Fort.
What is there to do in Cork City when it’s raining?
There are plenty of indoor attractions in Cork City, from the Butter Museum and Elizabeth Fort, to many a theatre, gallery and museum.
What to do in Cork City at night?
At night, you could catch a show at Crane Lane or in the Everyman. You could munch away in one of the City’s many restaurants, or you could step back in time in one of Cork’s many old pubs.
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