Cork Travel Guide
Cork, or as the locals call it, “The true capital of Ireland”, is the third largest city in the country. While it may not be as popular as Dublin, Cork offers visitors a great deal of things to see and do. From trendy coffee shops, to scenic tours, to some of the best pubs in the country; Cork is not a city to be missed when visiting Ireland.
What to Budget
€15-25 per night Hostels in Cork will typically cost you €15-25 per night depending on how close to the city center you want to get. Cork is a very easy to walk city, so if you can save some money by being a little out of the way, don’t hesitate to do so. Check out hostels here on Hostel World.
Going out to Eat
€5-20 per meal There are some great restaurants in Cork, to be sure, but this isn’t a luxury travel blog. You’re reading this because you want to spend as little money as possible while out seeing the world. Skip the fancy restaurants and opt for the delicious and plentiful pub food found all throughout the city.
If you really want to be frugal, keep an eye out for Hillbillies; a fast food restaurant with a location in the city. Their most famous menu item is a chicken sandwich which they’ve named “breast in a bun”. Is it high quality? Not exactly. Is it cheap? Yes. Does it taste like heaven after a night of drinking? Absolutely.
€0-15 Cork really doesn’t require any transportation as far as getting from one end of the city to the other is concerned, but if you’re looking to travel to somewhere entirely different for a day trip, you’re in luck. Cork is very well connected by both train and bus, with fares to Dublin and Galway available for as little as €10.
€5-13 per day You can buy tickets to most museums in Cork for around €5. The one major exception here is Blarney Castle; home of the famous Blarney Stone. Personally, I don’t think paying €13 to wait in line for hours to kiss a rock is worth it, but to each their own!
How to Save
When it comes to buying groceries in Ireland, you can’t do much better than Cork’s English Market. This massive covered market is open 6 days a week and houses vendors selling meat, fish, cheeses, bread, and pretty much anything else you could want. Given the choice between going out for two meals or buying fresh food everyday that you can prepare for yourself at the same price, I think the answer is obvious.
Many hostels you’ll come across offer free breakfast during your stay. It’s usually just the basics like toast and cereal, but regardless, it’s one less meal you have to pay for.
Free Walking Tour
While not a guided tour, the city council of Cork has put together a free map for visitors of the most famous spots in Cork. You can find the map here and follow along the path they’ve laid out to learn about the history of the city.
Located just outside the city center, the Cork Public museum houses classic works of art and ancient archaeological discoveries. Best of all, it’s free to the public!
Without a doubt, this is my favorite hostel in Cork. While it is a little bit of a walk to the city center, the price is great, the common areas are fantastic, and if you’re lucky enough, you’ll get to meet your host, Oscar.
You can check out their website for more information on the hostel or to book a room.
Church of St. Anne
The Church of St. Anne and its accompanying bell tower are located on the outskirts of Cork, but can be seen from almost anywhere in the city. The tower is more commonly known by it’s other name; The Shandon Bells. Admission to the bell tower is €4, but the view from the top is well worth the price.
Inside, you’ll find a series of numbered ropes which connect to the bells above. Next to these ropes is a book of classical music, written in numbers rather than notes, so that you can play along on the famous bells. You can climb up through the bell tower to get to the lookout point in the photo at the top of of this page, but be warned, if someone rings the bell while you’re up there, it gets very loud.
The English Market
I’ve already recommended the English Market once on here as far as where to get groceries, but simply walking around in there is a great experience in and of itself. Many of the vendors will offer samples of whatever it is they’re selling, so it’s a great way to spend an afternoon sampling new and different foods that you may not have otherwise tried. Last time I visited, there was a cart the size of a small New York City apartment selling different varieties of olives. I was in free sample heaven.
Enjoy the Coffee Shops
While you might not immediately associate Ireland with great coffee, coffee shop culture is on the rise here and Cork is home to some of the best in the country. Two of my favorites are Cork Coffee Roasters and The Bookshelf Coffee House. They’re the perfect places to hide away on a rainy afternoon with a good book (or travel blog!).
Visit the Pubs
This wouldn’t be an Irish destination guide without a pub recommendation. Cork has many fantastic drinking establishments, but I do have two favorite that stand out amongst the rest. First, there is Suas; one of the only bars in Cork with a roof deck. Cocktails here are a little pricey, but for €5-6 you can grab a beer and enjoy the views. At the top of my list is Mutton Lane Inn.
This hole in the wall pub is quite literally tucked in an alleyway that also functions as overflow seating. The modern art murals painted along the alley walls and the Christmas lights hanging overhead make for an almost surreal ambiance. That, plus delicious local beers on tap make for a perfect combination in my book.
Murphy’s Irish Stout
While on the topic of beer, consider this a warning: don’t order Guinness in Cork. The hometown pride runs deep in this city, and that extends to their local stout, Murphy’s. They might not throw you out of the pub for accidentally ordering what they’d consider the second best stout in Ireland, but just to be safe, when in Cork, do as the Corkonians.