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Here’s a flashback! Take a walk down memory lane with me as I finally share lots of fun things to do in Cork this weekend.
I visited Cork on my big UK/Europe trip in 2017. It was an under-the-radar destination, as not a lot of people recommended it to me when I was planning my trip. I hopped on the train from Dublin to spend the weekend in Cork, before venturing west to Galway. In the end, I was very happy with my decision as I had a great time. Keep reading for my top recommendations, including things to do in Cork and where to stay in Cork.
Where to stay in Cork
I stayed at Sheilas Cork Hostel in a 6-bed female dorm. To be honest, it wasn’t my favourite hostel of the trip. I thought the room and bathroom were quite small, but it did have good common areas and wasn’t too far from the city centre. If I had the option, I probably would have stayed at either Kinlay House or Bru Bar & Hostel, as both have better reviews on Hostelworld. Don’t do a Hayley and make sure you book all Irish accommodation in advance!
Here are my top hostelling tips and travel essentials for fellow solo travellers
Top things to do in Cork
1. Take a photo from St Patrick’s Hill
One of the top free things to do in Cork is to visit St Patrick’s Hill. I headed up here for a little photo session early in the morning, as it offers a great view of the city centre. There are also some colourful buildings to photograph in the area as well. Find St Patrick’s Hill on Google Maps here.
2. Visit a castle
Blackrock Castle is located about two kilometres east of the city centre. You can walk or take the bus to the Cork attraction, which dates back to 1582. Today, the castellated fortification features an observatory, exhibitions, visitor centre and restaurant. Another castle you can visit on a day trip from Cork is Blarney Castle, where you can kiss the infamous Blarney Stone.
3. Go for a walk
One of the best things to do in Cork is to go for a walk beside the River Lee to Fitzgerald Park. I visited in autumn, so the trees bordering the river were varying colours of green, orange and gold. There are also many pretty pastel buildings lining the river too. Once you reach Fitzgerald Park, there’s a large pond with plenty of seating surrounding it. I also recommend checking out Daly’s Bridge, which is the prettiest suspension bridge I may ever see.
From here I decided to walk back into the city centre past the university, Saint Fin Barre’s Cathedral and Elizabeth Fort. It was a lot of steps but well worth it, as always.
4. Check out the view from St Anne’s Church
I didn’t have enough time to visit St Anne’s Church, but I’ve heard its tower offers fantastic views over Cork. The tower entrance fee also allows you to ring the Bells of Shandon. This is one of the most popular Cork attractions.
5. Stop for fish and chips
You have to have fish and chips in Ireland. I visited Quinlan’s for lunch, which is a highly-rated restaurant that offers so much more than fish and chips. The team were very friendly and my meal was delicious. Another popular place to get fish and chips in Cork is The Fish Wife.
6. Go on a Cork walking tour
I ended up doing my own Cork walking tour, but there are free and paid walking tours available if that’s more your thing. You know how much I love a free walking tour (I only mention them in every single European post on this blog).
7. Take the train to Cobh
I decided to spend my other morning in Cobh, which is less than a 30-minute train ride from Cork. I headed straight to the local tourism office to grab a map and find out the best things to do. Unfortunately, many of the town’s main attractions weren’t open when I visited, which was a Monday in October. Those attractions include Spike Island, the Titanic Experience and The Sirius Arts Centre.
So I ended up going for a walk to check out St Colman’s Cathedral on the hill and then West View, which has a row of brightly-coloured houses. You can find it on Google Maps here, but beware the steep hill! Because there wasn’t much to do, I ended up heading back to Cork at lunchtime, but you could easily spend a day in Cobh checking out the sights (when they’re open!).
8. Listen to Irish music at The Oliver Plunkett
On my first day in Cork, I walked past The Oliver Plunkett and saw an ad for their nightly Traditional Irish Dinner and Show Experience. This is one of the best things to do in Cork. You can choose from a two or three-course meal to enjoy while you listen to traditional Irish music. It was definitely a highlight of my time in Cork. It was a two-hour show with a trio performing music and two young dancers accompanying them for some songs.
I liked their enthusiasm and the fact they discussed each song before performing it. The food wasn’t bad either – I had the Irish stew for main, a chocolate brownie for dessert and a pint of Magners Cider, of course. I also didn’t feel uncomfortable dining solo either, which is always a bonus.
9. Spend time in the city centre
Not only home to the food options I mentioned above, but Cork’s city centre also has a lot of great shops and cute buildings. The English Market is closed on Sundays, so make sure you visit before then, as Rick Stein called it the best-covered market in the UK and Ireland. It’s definitely built for foodies. There’s also Kilkenny Shop, which stocks clothing, gifts and accessories from top Irish designers and artists. It’s the perfect place to pick up a souvenir.
10. Visit Cork City Gaol
Another one of the top Cork attractions is Cork City Gaol. Although it used to be a jail, the building resembles a castle. Today it houses a museum, where you can travel back in time and learn more about life in 19th-century Cork (both in and outside the prison). You can purchase admission tickets here.
11. Do a day trip
If you want to see more of Ireland on a weekend in Cork, there are actually several organised day tours available. I’ve included them in the below widget, but you can visit the Cliffs of Moher (I did a day trip from Galway), the Ring of Kerry, the Dingle Peninsula and more.
There you have it – my weekend guide featuring my favourite things to do in Cork.
Enjoy those colourful buildings and a pint of cider for me. For more inspiration and information, check out my fall packing list, my guide to Dublin, my Ireland and Northern Ireland itinerary and my entire UK/Europe itinerary, which is filled with corresponding blog posts.