As Ireland’s largest county, Cork has an incredible amount of sights, attractions, activities and amazing food to offer.
In this article, you will discover why we recommend a visit to Cork on everyone’s bucket list.
We will also tell you why you should visit Cork and when is the best time to make this trip.
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We love the vibe in Cork county and Cork city and highly recommend a visit if you are heading to the south of Ireland!
Cork city on the banks of the River Lee is Ireland’s second city and has quite a different atmosphere to the capital, Dublin.
It is an absolute haven for lovers of music, art and food and was awarded the title of European City of Culture in 2005.
Things to Do and See in Cork
Music lovers are in for a treat in Cork as the city has a thriving music scene.
The abundant pubs and arts centers are great venues for live music sessions and gigs.
You should check out the Old Oak, Triskel Arts Centre, Opera House and more to get involved in Cork’s happening arts scene.
The Guinness Cork Jazz Festival takes place in October each year and marks one of the biggest events of the Irish annual music calendar.
Musicians and jazz fans from all over the world flock to the city during the many great events and concerts that are spread all over the city.
Take some time to wander about the streets of the city and discover the many fascinating sights.
These include the Cork City Gaol, the Elizabeth Fort and the Cork Butter Museum.
(Fun Fact: During the 19th century, Cork was the largest export of butter in the world!)
Art and history lovers should add Harry Clarke’s impressive stained glass windows at the Crawford Art Gallery, as well as the Lewis Glucksman Gallery on the University College Cork campus.
Discover a little known Gem!:
When visiting the University College Cork, be sure to check out the impressive and large collection of ogham stones!
As you head back to the city from University College Cork you can saunter through Fitzgeralds Park (with the Shakey Bridge or Daly’s Bridge as it is also known.)
You could also stop by Bishop Lucey Park and take a look at St. Fin Barre’s Cathedral (just one of several beautiful churches in the city).
Another must-see sight in Cork is the English Market, especially for anyone interested in sampling Cork’s excellent local cuisine.
This indoor market dates back to the 18th century and is well known not only for its tasty food, but also unique architecture.
If food is your thing, then search no further than the gourmet capital Kinsale.
There you will be spoilt for choice with sumptuous options, with special emphasis on seafood.
Discover an observatory with a difference! Blackrock Castle located a little outside the city should be on your list of places to see!
Bonus Tip from a local Corkonian:
The recently opened Nano Nagel Place is an oasis in the city that you should visit.
While Cork offers a lot to see and do, it does not have a lot of green spaces close to the city center to relax in.
We enjoyed a break from the hustle and bustle in the refreshing gardens of the Nano Nagel Place. You can also grab a bite to eat in the cáfe here too.
As well as the gardens, you can also find out about the life and work of Nano Nagel.
This 18th century pioneer in the education system is also known for her work with the poor and establishing the Presentation Sisters.
Blarney Castle and Gardens
One of the most internationally famous sights in County Cork is, of course, Blarney Castle and Gardens.
This popular tourist attraction sees thousands of people each year.
Many visitors take part in the unique tradition of “kissing the Blarney Stone” for lifelong eloquence.
Visiting Blarney Castle is just one of the main sights included in the Get Your Guide Cork Highlights Tour.
This is well worth checking out if you want to have an overview of the main sights in Blarney, Kinsale and Cobh.
Cobh and Cork Harbour
Cobh in Ireland’s Ancient East is another famous tourist attraction located just a short train ride from Cork city center.
The town is well known for its superb views of Cork Harbour, as well as the imposing cathedral of St. Colman’s perched on a hill.
This emigration port was also the last port of call of the ill-fated Titanic liner. Find out more in our post on things to do in Cobh.
The former prison on Spike Island in Cork Harbour (named Europe’s leading tourist attraction at the World Travel Awards in 2017) is another fascinating sight to visit.
Jameson Whiskey Distillery in Midleton
Whiskey lovers should visit the nearby market town of Midleton.
This is the home of Jameson Whiskey.
Sign up for a tour where you will be treated to the one of a kind Jameson Whiskey Distillery Experience.
Beaches in Cork
Cork also has many wonderful beaches along its coastline that are well worth checking out!
Find out some of our own favorite beaches in the Cork Beaches Guide.
For those of you near Kinsale, there are also some lovely beaches in the Kinsale area.
Make your trip to the town even more special, by adding one of these to your itinerary.
Day Trips from Cork City
Cork is conveniently located in the south of Ireland so it is an ideal spot to stay in if you want to explore the highlights of the south, east and west coasts.
There are so many fun activities and outings that fit perfectly into a day trip from Cork.
By joining one of these highly rated guided tours, you can maximize your holiday experience without the need for a car.
Plus you will benefit from the knowledge of experts, which always help to bring the tours to life and make them more memorable.
We’ve covered some of the main day excursions from Cork in a detailed article.
Some of the highlights include:
- The Cliffs of Moher (where Harry Potter was filmed)
- The Burren (County Clare)
- The Ring of Kerry
- Blarney Castle and Gardens
- The Wild Atlantic Way
- Killarney National Park
You should keep in mind that there are lots of other great locations to visit as well.
For example, you can visit Ireland’s most southerly point Mizen Head.
Tip from an Irish person!: While the cliffs in Mizen are not as high as the ones at the Cliffs of Moher, we thought they were far more impressive!
Cork is an excellent place to base yourself, if you are planning on doing some day tours to discover the south of Ireland.
There are plenty of great accommodation options to choose from in the Cork area.
In the city center, there are many high quality hotels in convenient locations.
These include the River Lee Hotel located close to University College Cork.
For those of you who would like a view, then The Montenotte Hotel offers an impressive vista over the city.
If you want to be right in the center, then perhaps The Imperial Hotel with its charm is what you are looking for.
Depending on where you want to stay and the time of the year, it might be worth booking a little in advance.
For example, accommodation can get a little tricky to find around the Jazz Weekend in October. It is best to book ahead if you can.
Cork Car Rental
Getting around Cork city is possible by foot for many places. There is also a bus service.
Outside the city, there are public transport links to the main towns. If you want some freedom, then it is worth investing in a rental car.
This will enable you to be flexible with your itinerary. You can stay longer at places you really enjoy and skip over the other locations.
A car also comes in useful when it comes to the unpredictable weather in Ireland.
Check out Discover Cars for great deals in car rental in Ireland.
Cork Ireland FAQ
What is Cork in Ireland known for?
Cork is the second largest city in Ireland and the largest county.
It has gained an international reputation for being the gourmet capital of Ireland.
The city also has a strong connection with the arts and is a great location to catch live bands.
Is Cork worth visiting?
Definitely include Cork on your itinerary, if you are in the south of Ireland.
Your taste buds will be treated to lots of tasty food and you will revel in the vibrant arts scene.
Head out of the city and you have plenty of great places to visit that are located nearby, such as Cobh and Kinsale.
When is the best time to visit Cork?
Personally, our favorite time of the year in Cork is probably May. The days are long and there might be a decent chance of good weather.
It is also just a little early for the main tourist season, so most attractions tend to be a bit quieter.
September is another good month to visit and if you like Jazz, well then make sure you plan your stay for the Jazz Festival!
Does Cork Ireland have an airport?
Yes, Cork does have an international airport that flies directly to many other European cities.
It is located a short distance from the main city and is served by public transport.
There is also a direct ferry connection from Cork to Roscoff in France.