Cork Country is one of the bigger areas in Ireland with a vibrant community and a number of popular attractions to visit. Although many people tend to stick to the West side of the country, if you have some time and want to get some rural countryside experiences, Cork surely won’t disappoint.
It’s hard to list all the things to do in Cork as there are so many, but we gave it our best shot as far as some of the more popular attractions that will make you extend your stay. From the Blarney Stone to English Market, here are some hidden gems in Cork County.
1. The English Market
For all those food enthusiasts, The English Market in Cork is one of the best places to visit. With local meats, vegetables, baked foods, spices, and more, this Victorian style building not only attracts tourists from all over the world, but also supplies many of the restaurants all throughout the area. If you have some time, stop by The English Market and get a good meal while talking to the locals. There are some great parks nearby as well to sit back and relax.
2. St. Patrick’s Street
We quickly go from eating to shopping on Saint Patrick’s Street in Cork. As one of the busiest places to visit, St. Patrick’s Street is lined with commercial stores for tourists to find the perfect souvenir or sit down for a coffee or pint. As it has become more popular in the last several years, there are now tables and furniture for the wondering traveler to sit down and relax while taking in the sites.
St. Patrick’s street has been updated recently with better paving and now prohibit vehicles between 3-5:30pm for foot traffic. If you come to Cork at the right time you can enjoy St. Patrick’s Day parade down it on March 17th.
3. Shandon Bells, St. Anne’s Church
Constructed back in the 1700’s, St. Anne’s Church has become a stable of Cork with it’s beautiful views of the River Lee. It’s nestled in downtown Cork with streets surrounding it from all sides and is an iconic centerpiece for the town. What makes it a great tourist attraction are it’s bells which had a song written about them by Francis Sylvester Mahony. These days you can go to the top to get a scenic view of cork and ring the bells.
4. Fota Zoo
For families, the Fota Zoo is a perfect day to spend viewing animals and wildlife from all over the world. This non-profit park is well known for it’s conservation efforts and has very large enclosures for tourists to take pictures. However, there are animals that roam the park freely such as the ring-tailed lemurs who won’t hesitate to take food from your hand.
Fota Zoo is broken out by continents. You can see Lions, Rhinos and Tigers in the Asian section or Giraffes and Zebras in the African part. We definitely recommend spending the day and taking in all the sites. The African cheetahs top the attraction as you can watch them hunt down their dinner at full speed as the zoo uses a running lure.
5. St. Fin Barre’s Cathedral
Cork has many historical buildings, but St. Fin Barre’s Cathedral is one of the oldest and most biblical places in the city. Dedicated to Finbarr of Cork, the cathedral has intricate windows (74 in all) and gargoyles that protect the cities borders. As you tour St. Fin Barre’s, you’ll see many sculptures of saints depicting religious scenes including the Last Judgement from the Bible.
6. Cork City Gaol
Prison life wasn’t easy back in the day, and once you tour Cork City Gaol you’ll see why. Through their audio tour you will be able to see inside cells and get a real life experience on just how bad prisoners had it. As poverty was the biggest crime in Cork (mainly the poor stealing bread), they were made to do hard labor while the prison guards watched.
Cork City Gaol looks more like a castle and fortress than anything else. It as chosen to be built at a high elevation to help stop the spread of typhus. For 99 years this prison was up and running and closed in 1922 during the Irish Civil War.
7. Fitzgerald Park and Cork Public Museum
We wanted to recommend Fitzgerald Park as it’s the perfect place to spend the afternoon and relax in Cork after a long day of traveling. There is some shopping nearby as well as the Cork Public Museum to learn about the history of Ireland. At the end of the park is the University of College York if you want to continue your walk around this beautiful area. This 8 hectares use to be marshland, but was revitalized by the city and now is a great place to have a picnic and enjoy Cork city.
8. Blarney Stone
This one doesn’t need any introduction as people from all over the world come to Ireland to see the Blarney Castle and kiss the stone. The area around Blarney Castle is also a tourist hot spot as they have a beautiful garden to tour. Take your time and climb the castle to get the best scenic views of Cork and Ireland. It is a little tight in the castle so utilize the ropes and be prepared to bend backwards to reach the epic stone.