by Josh Davies
Plan the perfect short break in Cork by visiting the many attractions. Whether it is for the family, your partner or your four-legged friends, there are many things to do in Cork city.
With staycations becoming more popular, Cork has become a hot spot for those looking to explore. From live music and bars to museums and kayaking, there are many things to do in Cork. Take a look at our list of things to do in Cork and plan your perfect getaway.
Read more to see some of our favourite things to do in Cork city…
– Outdoor Adventure
Cork is a great place to learn about the history and heritage of Ireland. Whether you want to learn about the general history of Cork or how butter production started, there is a museum for you.
Dotted about the city are several art galleries, museums and forts to explore. If you are a history buff or want to teach the family about Cork’s history, museums are a perfect opportunity for learning and discovery.
With an abundance of things to do in Cork, it would be a shame to miss out on what makes the city special. Here are three of our favourite Cork museums to explore.
Located on the North bank of the River Lee, the Cork City Gaol is full of history and gruesome stories. Once home to Cork’s most notorious criminals, the city gaol was a functioning prison until 1923.
Nowadays, the impressive building is open to visitors looking to learn more about the city’s history. There are several exhibits to explore, and you can walk in the shoes of Cork’s criminals with a self-guided audio tour.
The website says that no pre-booking is required. However, as with many things to do in Cork you can also buy tickets online.
Opening Hours: Wed – Mon, 10:00 – 16:30
Location: Convent Avenue, Sunday’s Well, Cork
In the centre of the city, the Crawford Art Gallery is a must-visit for any creative influencers. With regular changes to the exhibitions, you are sure to find something new each time you visit.
Crawford Art Gallery is on our list of things to do in Cork due to the mix of traditional and modern art. Whether you want to examine Picasso’s Le Vieux Bouffon or get imaginative in one of the many workshops, you can find your creativity at the Crawford Art Gallery.
Opening Hours: Mon – Sat, 10:00 – 17:00; Sun, 11:00 – 16:00
Location: Emmett Place, Centre, Cork
The Independence museum in Kilmurry is an educational stop if you want to learn more about the War of Independence (1919 – 1921) or the Irish civil war (1922 – 1923). Telling a story of the country’s fight for Independence, you can see genuine relics, artefacts and stories left behind from the war.
The museum is about 30 minutes away from central Cork but is a must-visit destination if you are interested in the history of Cork.
Opening Hours: Thur – Mon, 14:00 – 17:00
Location: Lissardagh, Kilmurry, County Cork
With so many things to do in Cork, guided tours can be a great way of seeing the best of the city. Whether you are looking for a city tour or a specialist whisky tasting experience, there is a tour for everyone in Cork.
Tours offer a local insight into the area that you cannot find anywhere else. They are a perfect activity to keep children engaged in the city’s history, learning as they go.
Why not try one of these three tours to get you started on your discovery of Cork.
If you are only visiting for a couple of days, a hop-on, hop-off city tour can be one of the best ways to see all the main tourist stops. Starting from any drop off point along the route, you can see the city from the relaxation of an open-top bus.
No matter which Cork attractions you are looking to visit, the City Tours are one of the best things to do in cork.
The tours operate continuously throughout the day and are accessible for persons with disabilities.
Operating Hours: Times vary throughout the day
Location: There are several hop-on, hop-off, locations in the city
With Irish companies exporting over €676m of alcohol in 2019, the whisky industry is thriving. Jamesons is a world-famous whisky that has distilleries in Dublin and Cork.
As a whisky enthusiast, a visit to the Jameson Experience Tour is one of the best things to do in Cork. Learn master techniques of distilling whisky, what to look for in a good whisky and much more. Then follow up the tour with a taste of world-famous Jameson’s whisky straight from the cask.
Get to Midleton via trains departing from Cork’s Kent Station. The distillery is then just a short 20-minute walk away.
Operating Hours: Tours run throughout the day. Check online for availability.
Location: Old Midleton Distillery, Distillery Walk, Midleton, County Cork, P25 Y394
If you want to explore the extremities of County Cork, why not try a day trip to the Ring of Kerry and Killarney. The nine-hour tour takes you along the stunning Irish coast before stopping at the jaw-dropping Ring of Kerry.
After that, you will then visit Killarney, a town that is one of the most beautiful in Ireland. Here you can expect to experience the quiet town life and explore a number of independent shops and attractions.
This tour is ideal if you want a day away from the busy city of Cork. You can find the full details about tickets and departure times on the tour website.
Operating Hours: These tours run daily and last around 9 hours
Location: Departs from Cork City, check tour operator for more details
After a day of exploring the city, there is no better way of relaxing than a cold pint of Guinness, surrounded by cheery, joyful people. Visiting a traditional pub is one of the most popular things to do in Cork.
Cork has many traditional Irish pubs full of atmosphere. You can find live music, sports and local food in many of these wonderful pubs.
If you are unsure where to start, head to one of these charming Irish pubs on our list of things to do in Cork.
Noticing the collection of green banners and flags, Costigan’s is a traditional pub that comes with a welcoming atmosphere. Stepping in off the bustling Cork streets, you will be greeted with an authentic dark wood aesthetic and a broad selection of beers and whisky.
Serving its patrons since 1849, the pub caters to all and offers food to any weary travellers. You are sure to find a welcoming atmosphere at Costigan’s pub.
Opening Hours: Mon – Thur, 17:00 – 23:00; Fri – Sat, 17:00 – 00:30; Sun, 17:00 – 23:00
Location: 11 Washington Street West, Centre, Cork, T12 N768
Hosting some of Cork’s favourite musicians, Coughlan’s is the perfect venue to explore live music. Grab a pint of stout, sing along and get merry as local bands entertain you throughout the night.
If pints aren’t what you’re looking for, the bar is also home to over 200 gins, one of the largest selections in the country. In the summer months, you can make the most of the sunny beer garden, or you can curl up inside throughout the winter.
Opening Hours: Mon – Thur, 14:00 – 23:30; Fri – Sat, 14:00 – 00:30; Sun, 12:30 – 23:00
Location: 7 Douglas St, Ballintemple, Cork, T12 DX39
Ireland is full of history. Since the sixth century, Cork has been an integral part of the Emerald Isle. Since then, Cork city has become a thriving hub for food, alcohol and entertainment.
One of the best ways to explore this rich history is by discovering the city’s famous castles. Put on your suit of armour, sharpen your sword and charge into a world of heritage at one of these stunning castles.
Just 2 kilometres from Cork city centre, Blackrock Castle Observatory is an enchanting place for the whole family. Dating back to 1582, Blackrock castle has a number of exhibits, tours and astronomy shows.
Focused on inspiring children, the Blackrock Castle Observatory has many scientific workshops. From preschool upwards, your children can put on their discovery hats and explore the stars under the guidance of trained experts.
Whether you are on your own or travelling with your family, the Blackrock Castle Observatory is a unique place to explore all year round. Be sure to check online to book your tickets and find out what exhibitions are currently on.
Opening Hours: Thur – Sun, 10:00 – 16:00
Location: Castle Rd, Blackrock, Cork
Home to the famous Blarney Stone, Blarney Castle is one of the most well-known castles in Ireland. Once home to the King of Munster, the castle has relics, gardens and aerial sights of the surrounding areas.
If you enjoy the outdoors and exploring nature, there are several stunning walks around the Castle gardens. From poisonous flowers to tropical plants, the garden surrounds the Castle exterior. Therefore, providing an insight into how occupants over the years chose to showcase the weird and wonderful.
With memberships, guide books and unique wedding photography, Blarney Castle has something for everyone to enjoy.
Opening Hours: Mon – Sun, 09:00 – 16:30
Location: Monacnapa, Blarney, County Cork
Surrounded by the beautiful Irish countryside, Cork is home to some of the most beautiful walks on the Emerald Isle. Whether you are looking for rolling hills, mountains, river walks or anything else, you can be sure to find what you are looking for in County Cork.
Wrap up warm, lace up your boots and set off on an adventure across the Irish countryside.
If you enjoy the outdoors, Mizen Head is also a great place to enjoy with the family.
On the County Cork border, Gougane Barra Forest Park is a picture-perfect nature park. Often compared to the Canadian Rockies, the forest is full of jagged rock formations, pine trees and stunning views, perfect for the whole family.
Whether it’s walking, cycling, orienteering or fishing, the Gougane Barra Forest Park is a captivating place to visit from Cork.
The Gougane Barra Forest Park is about 70km from Cork City but is one of the best places to escape and enjoy the beautiful Irish scenery. Some of the activities at the park may need reservations or licenses, so please check online to find out more and book any necessary permits.
Opening Hours: Mon – Sun, 24 hours
Location: Coomroe, County Cork
If you are a keen birdwatcher, Dursey Island is a must-visit destination on your visit to Cork. Including a large colony of Gannets, there are a number of common and rare seabirds to be seen. One of the best ways to explore the whole island is to follow the Dursey Island loop.
With the preferred method of transport to Dursey Island a cable car, you will have the experience to remember on your journey across the water. Once you get to the island, the seabirds, rolling hills and greenery are sure to greet you.
The island is about 6.5km long and 1.5km wide. That creates a 13km loop walk that is best for intermediate to experienced walkers. However, several smaller loops are accessible for beginner walkers.
Opening Hours: Mon – Sun, 24 hours
Location: Dursey Island
From surfing and kayaking to zorbing and paintballing, Cork is a county full of adventure. For adrenaline junkies seeking out exciting things to do in Cork, then look no further.
County Cork’s dramatic coastline makes it a hub for those in need of outdoor adventure. Although many of the available activities cater to water sports, there is much more to see and do on dry land. Check out the two activity centres below and get started on your County Cork adventure holiday.
Focusing on all things aquatic, Atlantic Offshore Adventures is a great place to start when looking for kayaking, paddleboarding, surfing and much more. With activities running throughout the year, you will find something to get your blood pumping.
Atlantic Offshore Adventures hosts a number of summer camps for children hoping to try a range of water sports. Check online to find out when the summer camps are running this year.
If water sports aren’t your thing, Atlantic Offshore Adventures also run dry activities such as archery tag and the woodland warrior afternoon programme. Be sure to book in advance to avoid disappointment during your stay.
Hours: Times vary throughout the day. See the website for details.
Location: Locations vary, depending on the tour. See the website for the details.
Funmanway Adventure Land is the perfect destination if you are looking for an adventure with your family. With zorbing, mountain boarding and paintballing, you will never be too far from the entertainment at Funmanway.
If zorbing piques your interest, take a tumble down the course inside the giant inflatable ball. Plus, if you want to intensify your experience, you can add a splash of water to the inside of the zorb as you follow the course to the bottom of the Cork hills.
Opening Hours: Mon – Sun, 11:00 – 21:00
Location: Lakelands, Dunmanway, County Cork, Ireland
Sometimes on a short break to Cork, all you want is a relaxing day shopping. If you are looking for places to go shopping in Cork, you will never be too far from your favourite high street brands. For those who love a little luxury, there are a few boutique hotspots dotted around the city.
Send the family on an ocean adventure while you enjoy the peace and tranquillity of scouring the shops for the latest bargains. Just be sure to enjoy some of the local food delicacies on your day of retail therapy.
Located in central Cork, Merchants Quay Shopping Centre is full of high street retailers. Whether you are looking for food, clothing, gifts or want to pamper yourself at one of the beauty salons, Merchants Quay has it all.
Open seven days a week; you can avoid the busiest times by going throughout the day. The shopping centre has a paid car park and a few cafes and restaurants to enhance your shopping experience.
To find out more about the retailers at the Merchants Quay Shopping Centre, please visit the website.
Opening Hours: Mon – Wed, 08:00 – 18:30; Thur – Sat, 08:00 – 19:00; Sun, 11:30 – 18:30
Location: 1-5 St Patrick’s Street, Centre, Cork, T12 ERW9
If you are looking to explore some more of Cork’s luxury brands, Brown Thomas may be the right choice for you. With designer labels such as Jimmy Choo and Moncler, you can spend hours looking through what’s on offer.
Located in the heart of Cork, Brown Thomas is the perfect place to search for clothes, homeware, tech and much more. There are also a number of beauty counters where you can consult with experienced make-up artists to perfect your look.
To find out more about all the brands on offer and shop online, visit the website.
Opening Hours: Mon – Thur, 10:00 – 19:00; Fri, 10:00 – 20:00; Sat, 09:00 – 19:00; Sun, 11:00 – 18:00
Location: 18-21 St Patrick’s St, Centre, Cork, T12 HC60
If you are interested in some attractions in other counties, take a look out our things to do in Donegal guide and things to do in Killarney.
Cork is a stunning county with so much to offer. When looking for things to do in Cork, you will never be short of inspiration. Make the most of your visit by booking a stay in one of these Cork holiday cottages today.
Image Credits – William Murphy – (CC BY-SA 2.0); The Speckled Bird – (CC BY-SA 4.0); William Murphy – (CC BY-SA 2.0); Joseph Mischyshyn – (CC BY-SA 2.0); William Murphy – (CC BY-SA 2.0); David Hagwood – (CC BY-SA 2.0); William Murphy – (CC BY-SA 2.0); Fabian Walden – (CC BY 2.0); Bartux – (CC BY-SA 3.0); Andy Doyle – (CC By 2.0)
Hi, I'm Josh. I recently joined the Sykes team and love all things travel.
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