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Nicknamed the rebel city, Cork is dynamic, fast-paced and steeped in culture and history. The city is built on the banks of the River Lee, with part of the city centre actually an island, and has one of the world’s largest natural harbours.
Book one of our Cork hotels and discover why the locals refer to the city as the real capital of Ireland.
Shandon Steeple, officially St Anne’s Church, is one of Cork’s most famous landmarks. It is known as the Four-Faced Liar due to the propensity of its four clocks to all tell slightly different times. You can ring the church bells, see how the clocks work, and enjoy panoramic views of the city from the tower balcony.
St Fin Barre’s Cathedral stands on the spot where Cork’s patron saint Finbarr founded his monastery in the 7th century. There’s plenty to admire here too, including marble floor mosaics, a stunning ceiling, stained glass windows and more than 1,260 sculptures.
Museums and galleries
Cork Public Museum’s varied collection includes ancient Egyptian, Greek and Roman artefacts, medieval objects found near the city walls, 18th-century silverware and collections relating to sport and costume. There’s also an exhibition on Cork’s role in the Irish War of Independence.
Crawford Art Gallery’s historic and contemporary collection of more than 2,500 works includes paintings, prints, drawings, sculpture and video, with 19th and 20th-century Irish art a particular strong point. Admission is free.
At Cork City Gaol, you’ll get an insight into life in an Irish prison in the 19th century, and through that, the social history of the period. The jail was operational from 1824 to 1923 and is a listed building notable for its architecture. The top floor of the Governor’s house was used for broadcasting by Radio Eirann from the 1920s to the 1950s, and there is also a radio museum here.
Cork is a big shopping destination. You’ll find lots of high street shops in Opera Lane and St Patrick’s Street, including department stores Debenhams and Dunnes in the Merchant’s Quay shopping centre. The Mahon Point Shopping Centre has more than 60 shops, plus food outlets and a 13-screen cinema. It also hosts a farmers’ market every Thursday. Cork’s English Market, in Grand Parade, has been officially trading since 1788, but is thought to date back in reality to 1610. Here you can buy produce from Cork and further afield, including cheeses, herbs, spices, fruit, vegetables and baked goods.
Eating and drinking
For Irish steaks, freshly-caught fish, cocktails and more than 25 beers, head to Electric, an Art Deco former bank with excellent views of St Fin Barre’s Cathedral. Fine and inventive vegetarian dining can be found at Café Paradiso, a TripAdvisor Travellers’ Choice 2014 winner, whose chef, Denis Cotter, has written four cookbooks. The Elbow Lane Brew and Smokehouse has both its own smokehouse and a microbrewery, where it produces the Elbow Lane craft beer from just four ingredients. Or head to the Franciscan Well Brewery, built on the site of an old monastery and well, the water from which was supposed to have curative properties. Come on a Thursday for pizza cooked in the wood-fired oven, or book a beer tasting or a brewery tour.
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