Cork is set on an island between two arms of the River Lee. A stroll along any of its waterways can be rewarding, while the island itself invites the visitor to wander at will.
St Patrick's Street runs through the heart of the city. It offers a host of shopping opportunities and boasts some of Europe's largest retail chains. Oliver Plunkett Street, which runs partly parallel to Patrick's Street, bustles with smaller shops, life and color. Second-hand books, hand-made chocolates, an infinite array of surprises can be found in the alleyways and lanes around this central shopping district. The English Market is not only the foodie heart of Cork, boasting a huge array of fresh local produce, and tantalizing international delicacies, but a major attraction in its own right. Following St Patrick's Street eastwards leads to the statue of Father Mathew, the much respected founding father of the Irish Temperance Movement. Tucked off to the left is the Cork Opera House, a venue for national and international theater, movies, opera, and concerts. The Crawford Art Gallery with its impressive collection to suit modern and traditional tastes is also to be found here. At the other end of St. Patrick's Street lies Grand Parade.Turn left here, past the cheerful greenery of , and view the impressive Nationalist Monument, or turn right to ramble along the Coal Quay, with its bustling Saturday open-air market, second-hand shops, and enjoy a pint or a coffee in the spacious, gracious Bodega. One block further west lies North Main Street, and the Cork Vision Centre: situated in the historic St Peter's Church, it offers the visitor the opportunity to really get a feel for the city with a magnificent 1:500 scale model of the whole city plus changing art exhibitions.
Heading west, away from the inner city center, go past corner-shops, and pubs, and toward Mardyke Walk. This delightful stretch, which has been an institution amongst locals for over a century, leads directly to Fitzgerald Park. The Cork Public Museum is situated within the park and deals with local and national history. Its recently opened Riverview Café, is a tranquil haven for a coffee break.
North of the City
The "North Side" is defined by hills rising up from the river, and toward the city's more hidden charms. Dominating the landscape is St Anne's Church; its lime and sandstone clock tower can be seen from all over the city. You can climb the tower alongside the famous Shandon Bells, and enjoy the spectacular view from the top. Directly below is the old Cork Butter Exchange, now home to the intriguing Cork Butter Museum, and the Shandon Craft Centre. Perched on a more western point of the hill, lies the Cork City Gaol; this gloomy 19th-century prison welcomes the modern visitor with interesting exhibits and audio-visual displays.
To the east, St Patrick's Bridge links the city center with the charming MacCurtain Street, a busy stretch of road offering everything from antiques shops to ice cream parlors. Worth noting on this street is the majestic Everyman Palace, venue for local and touring theater productions, and the historic Gresham Metropole Hotel, head-quarters for the annual Cork Jazz Festival.
South of the City
The Gothic grandeur of St Finbarr's Cathedral dominates the horizon of Cork's "South Side". This 19th-century Anglican cathedral is as impressive on the inside as the gargoyle festooned exterior . Legend has it that the golden angel, perched on the cathedral's eastern extreme, will blow her horn to announce the ending of the world. (In 1999, her two horns were stolen during construction work; they were returned some days later, to the great relief of locals.) Nearby are the ruins of 17th-century Elizabeth Fort, a sombre reminder of the Cromwell's era, and the rambling character of Barrack Street, as featured in the film Angela's Ashes. The street also offers a number of bars and live-music venues, popular with students of the nearby University College Cork (UCC). The stately college quadrangle is itself worth a visit, while the fascinating collection of Ogham stones (on public display), and the stained-glass windows of the Honan Chapel, make a visit to the campus an enlightening experience.
The eastern end of the South Side is dominated by the City Hall, from the steps of which President John F Kennedy gave a public address in 1963. Closeby is the bustling docks area, while further out of town parks and walkways follow the river as far as Blackrock Castle, now home to a pubic Observatory. Currachs (Irish traditional rowing boats), schoolboy eights, and mammoth container ships share this stretch of the Lee, reflecting the tradition and the industry that so define the city.
Beyond the City
Cork makes an ideal base from which to explore the surrounding area. Buses leave frequently to the famous Blarney Castle. Traditionally, kissing the Blarney Stone invests the visitor with the "gift of the gab", though the more reticent guest might prefer a silent stroll in the beautiful surrounding gardens. Cobh (pronounced Cove), is connected by an hourly train to Cork. The Cobh Heritage Centre documents the town's place in history as the departure point for generations of emigrant, commercial and leisure vessels, as well as the last port visited by the Titanic. Picturesque Kinsale, boasting some of Ireland's finest restaurants, is only a short bus-ride from Cork, as is the Jameson Experience Whiskey Distillery in Midleton. Further afield, the beauties of West County Cork lie waiting to be discovered.
R617, 8km (5 miles) northwest of Cork City
15 Cook Street