The promise of international kudos led to extensive renovations of public works, so, unfortunately, a forest of cranes and scaffolding took over the city in recent years. But the bandages are off now, revealing a hip, pedestrian-friendly town that prides itself on good food and hospitality. The completion of public works has also seen a jump in the number of budget flights between Cork and London. For a large city, Cork is surprisingly intimate, with an easygoing feel during the day and a vibrant, good-natured pub circuit in the evenings.
A city built on seven hills
The town centre is situated on an island between two channels of the Lee River. While there is no train service that runs from Cork Airport to the city centre, there are plenty of buses. If you have the dosh, try the shuttle bus to Parnell Place bus station (route numbers 226 and 249), or hop onto a public bus. There are plenty heading to Cork City throughout the day.
North of the river, the Shandon area is a quirky, historic part of the city where the rich forefathers of Cork built their homes. Sights to the south include the French gothic St Finbarr’s Cathedral, the Cork Museum (largely given over to the nationalist struggle, in which Cork played an important role), the 19th century Cork Jail, and the City Hall. For a good tour of the town’s key attractions, take a walk from the Mardyke via Fitzgerald Park and City Museum over the Daly foot bridge (shaky bridge”) turning right into Sunday’s Well Road via Cork Gaol and St Vincent’s Church along the Lee riverside back into the downtown area.
A roof for the night
As a larger city with a keen focus on tourism, Cork has a good selection of hostels to offset the swanky hotels that cater for weekend culture vultures. The Cork International Youth Hostel and the vibrantly painted Kelly’s Hostel located just off the city centre, are two of the more popular hostels. But there are other great options, including Kinlay House in the old part of Cork under the famous Bells of Shandon and the cosy, family-run Sheila’s Hostel.
Up for a pint
You’re in Ireland, enough said. The streets of Cork are lined with places to sink a pint and because locals tend to pub crawl from one place to another, almost every establishment attracts a healthy crowd throughout the evening. For a great atmosphere, check out An Crannóg, Bodhran Bar and the Scotts Bar on Oliver Plunkett Street and Counihans Bar on Pembroke Street. Two tips: if you thought the cost of a pint is scandalous in London, you haven’t used the euro yet – be prepared to shell out around €5.50 for your beer. And be warned, the local tipple is Murphy’s, not Guinness.
WORTH A LOOK
The English Markets
An amazing array of local delights can be found at the Victorian English Markets, including some of Europe’s best meat and fish, olives by the barrel load and handmade breads.
Shandon Bells & St Anne’s Church
The best view of Cork can be found from the tower of St Anne’s, which dates from 1722 The church and tower are open to visitors, and you can actually pick a song you like and play the tune on the great bells yourself.
The finest natural harbour after Sydney’s, its islands and river estuaries are worth exploring by boat, car or suburban rail.
Bonus points for: The great food and beer
Loses marks for: Early pub closing times”