To spend 36 hours in Cork City might not seem like enough to those who know the city well, but for first-timers to Ireland's second-largest city, it's just enough to whet their appetite for this fun-loving metropolis.
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Spending 36 hours in Cork City on a budget is also doable. Read on to find out how.
To begin your adventure, you could start off at either Dublin or Shannon.
Dublin to Cork is a pretty direct route, and thanks to Ireland’s improved road system, you should be able to get there by car in about 2.5 hours.
Once you get off the M50, which encircles the city of Dublin, you’ll find yourself on the M7 and later the M8, which leads directly into Cork City.
From Shannon, the drive is definitely shorter, about one hour and 35 minutes.
Take the N18 toward Limerick, then transfer to the N20, which will bring you to Cork’s city center.
Cork City is on an island with 16 bridges.
Its main commercial area is situated along St. Patrick’s Street, where you’ll find many of Cork’s most fashionable stores and restaurants.
Other areas of the commercial downtown include Grand Parade, Washington Street, Oliver Plunkett Street, and Main Street.
Cork is a lively city, with lots of pubs, theaters, and restaurants. Enjoying them all on a budget might seem difficult, but the ones you'll find in this post are all reasonably priced for the budget traveler.
Perhaps the most famous event of the year in Cork is the Cork Jazz Festival, which takes place each year at the end of October.
It has been attracting musicians and jazz enthusiasts from across the world since 1978.
The 2021 festival is expected to take place from Friday, Oct. 21 through Thursday, Oct. 28.
Getting Around Cork
Cork City Tours will give you an excellent sense of the city and its main attractions and is an ideal choice if you want to spend 36 hours in Cork City.
The Hop On Hop Off option is very reasonable. You’ll pay €15 for an adult ticket, €13 for students and seniors, for children ages 6-15, the price is €5, and for those under 6, there is no fee.
Hop on the red double-decker bus at Grand Parade, which is outside the city library or you can pick it up at other locations throughout the city.
As an alternative, you could use the local Bus Eireann transportation system.
You don’t have to use cash to get on a bus in Cork. Instead, purchase a Leap Visitor card online before you leave home. The card can also be purchased from specific agents in the Dublin area.
A Leap card for a 24-hour period will cost you €10, for 3 days, it will cost you €19.50 and for 7 days, it will set you back €40. You can get on and off Bus Eireann buses in Cork as often as you'd like with this card.
This is important if you decide not to rent a car in Ireland.
Take a look at this useful how-to video to learn how to take advantage of the Leap card and save money while you’re traveling around Ireland without a car.
Cork is a very walkable city. Whether you choose to tour it by yourself or with the help of a guide, here are my suggestions for your 36 Hours in Cork City trip.
Read More: Where to Stay in Cork City: 7 Hotels & Guesthouses to Suit Your Budget
Friday – Day One
6 p.m., Dinner – Market Lane, 5-6 Oliver Plunkett Street, Cork City
Cork city is brimming with great restaurants, craft-beer pubs, and the oldest closed food market in the country,
If you only come to Cork for the food, you’ll be pleasantly surprised.
Market Lane, located on Oliver Plunkett Street, the city center’s longest street, is an award-winning restaurant and bar that takes over two floors.
Ingredients come largely from the nearby English Market and local artisan producers.
The menu includes a wide range of fish, meat, game, salads, and sandwiches, as well as vegetarian dishes and meals suitable for Coeliacs.
Why not avail of the restaurant’s early bird dinner, which is valid on Sundays from 1 to 7 p.m. and Monday through Thursdays from 5 to 7 p.m?
The offer includes a three-course meal for €26.90 each.
Whet your appetite on starters like Roaring Water Bay Mussels (from West Cork) served with white wine cream, herbs, and shallots served with crusty bread.
Just because it’s a special deal doesn’t mean you won’t get variety at the Market Lane restaurant.
There’s plenty to choose from this early evening menu, including lots of delicious entrees like the roast hake, potato and seaweed gratin, roast beetroot, sprouting broccoli, and wild garlic velouté.
If it’s a traditional Irish pub you’re looking for during your 36 hours in Cork City, then a visit to The Mutton Lane Inn is in order.
Situated in an alleyway near the English Market, this popular watering hole, one of Cork’s oldest drinking establishments, is illuminated by candlelight.
Expect to get a great stout while you’re there, but if that’s not your thing, there’s plenty more to quench your thirst.
In years gone by, butchers and farmers from the surrounding countryside visiting the English Market next door would often stop into Mutton Lane for a whiskey and leave a tip for the junior staff.
Many say that is why the pub has had the highest whiskey sales in all of Ireland.
You won’t find a TV at Mutton Lane, which means that like many an Irish pub, the conversation with others is encouraged, plus it's the perfect place to while away an hour or so during your 36 hours in Cork City.
Lots of famous people adorn its walls, including President John F. Kennedy and his wife, Jackie Kennedy-Onassis, as well as the country singer Johnny Cash.
Saturday – Day Two
9:30 a.m, The English Market
If you’re planning to take the Hop On Hop Off tour, one of the first stops on the tour is the English Market.
The best time to explore Ireland’s only indoor market is in the morning.
In fact, Cork County Council, the local authority that operates the market, suggests that tourists visit outside of the peak trading hours (between 11 a.m. and 4:30 p.m.) so that they can leisurely walk around the stalls and explore.
The Victorian-style market was founded way back in 1788.
The English Corporation, which governed the city at the time, built the market, which was hugely important to Cork’s local economy. Goods were brought in from the surrounding rich farmland and then exported abroad.
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Serving a City: The Story of Cork's English Market
One commodity that served Cork very well was the export of its butter.
More information on the history of butter-making in Cork can be found at the Butter Museum, mentioned further down in this post.
You’ll find here everything from local seafood to international sauces and spices. Butchers, bakers, fishmongers, and other merchants are all located within this popular Cork attraction.
11:30 a.m., Elizabeth Fort
An 8-minute walk from the English Market will take you to Elizabeth Fort, where you’ll get a fantastic view of the city.
The fort, an early 17th-century star-shaped structure, played a pivotal role in the history of Cork for over 400 years.
A guided tour will provide you with some interesting information, like the fact that in 1603, the death of Elizabeth I sparked a revolt in Cork City and a subsequent attack on the fort.
The people of Cork were forced to pay for the damages after English reinforcements took control.
Or that between 1817 and 1837, the fort served as a prison for convicts as they awaited shipment to Australia and other far-off lands.
The fort is open Monday to Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and on Sundays from 12 p.m. to 5 p.m. during the period from May through September.
From October through April, it is closed on Mondays.
Guided tours are available at 1 p.m. Admission is €3. Children under 12 are admitted free of charge.
1 p.m., Lunch – Liberty Grill, 32 Washington Street, Cork City
This popular Cork eatery, which has received TripAdvisor’s Certificate of Excellence for three years in a row, serves up brunch or lunch Monday through Saturday from midday until 5 p.m.
This is the perfect place to stop for a bite to eat, and it's only a mere 6-minute walk from the fort.
You can indulge in the restaurant’s excellent fish and seafood dishes, its inventive burgers, or perhaps a salad is all you need.
Check out the menu here. Prices are reasonable as well, with no meal costing more than €15.
2:30 p.m., St. Finn Barre’s Cathedral
A 7-minute walk will take you to St. Finn Barre’s Cathedral, the Gothic Revival-style Anglican church that towers over the city.
Constructed in the 1860s, the three-spire cathedral is dedicated to Finbarr, the patron saint of the city.
The ground where the cathedral stands has been a place of worship since the 7th century, where a monastery once stood.
The original building survived until the 12th century when it was destroyed by the Normans.
In the 16th century during the Protestant Reformation, it became part of what was then considered the established church, later known as the Church of Ireland.
Perhaps the answer to why it is such a magnificent structure is that when the building of the cathedral was commissioned, there was a competition of sorts as to who could build the most beautiful church.
It was, in fact, the first Protestant cathedral to be built on the British Isles after the construction of St. Paul’s in London.
The cathedral is open Monday through Saturday from 9:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. and from Sunday, 1 p.m. through 2:30 p.m. and 4:30 p.m. through 5 p.m. from April to October only. Guided tours of this Cork City landmark are provided during those times.
It is free to enter the church, but if you want to take a guided tour, which is highly recommended, you must pay.
Admission for adults is €6, seniors and students with an ID, €5, and children under 16 are free.
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4 p.m., St. Anne’s Church, the Shandon Bells
You may want to hop on the double-decker bus again to get to this location, which is about a 17-minute walk from the cathedral.
The Shandon Bells and Tower at St. Anne’s Church is one of the most important early 18th-century churches in Ireland and one of a small number that still retains its original bells.
The church was built in 1722, but the site has been a place of worship since medieval times.
It features a barreled, vaulted ceiling, colorful stained-glass windows, and a baptismal stone that dates to 1629.
Don’t leave this iconic Cork attraction without climbing the narrow stone steps to the top of the tower and ringing the famous bells., which weigh 6 tons.
A selection of sheet music is available to help you turn the bell-ringing into a fun activity.
7 p.m., Dinner – Amicus, 23 Paul Street, Cork City
Amicus, located in the city’s Huguenot Quarter, is housed in a late 19th-century warehouse.
You’ll get a real feel for historic Cork here, but you’ll also experience some of the best food the city has to offer, all sourced from local producers.
The restaurant owners grow their own fruit, vegetables, and herbs in their gardens outside of the city.
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The pickings are used in pretty much all of their dishes, including entrees, house cocktails, homemade ice cream, jam, and preserves.
Sweet treats are baked daily in its in-house bakery.
The menu includes starters like the Crispy Panko Crumbed Squid, Pulled Pork Lollipops, and Tiger Prawn Pil Pil, each for about €8.
Also worth a try are entrees like the Amicus Curry, Lemon & Thyme Chicken, Roast Darne of Cod, and lots more.
The most expensive main dish is around €20. There are also the usual burgers, pizza, and pasta dishes, as well as sharing boards.
Take a Hop-On, Hop-Off Sightseeing Tour of Cork City
Sunday – Day Three
9 a.m., Breakfast – Idaho Café, Caroline Street, Cork City
Voted the best café from the 2013 Irish Restaurant Awards, the Idaho Café continues to get glowing praise from locals and visitors alike.
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Located on Caroline Street in the Victorian Quarter (behind the department store, Brown Thomas), expect “piping hot” porridge with brown sugar and cream or cinnamon for €4.90, hot Belgian waffles with organic maple syrup for €5.50 (add bacon for an additional €1.60), a black pudding, bacon and sausage bap for €4.90, and crispy bacon and melted cheddar croissant for €4.90, among other delicious options.
Like many of the eateries in Cork, this one uses only Irish meats, fish, poultry, dairy, and eggs.
“Not just because they are the best,” the restaurant owners say, “but because we believe in Ireland.”
10:30 a.m., Cork City Gaol (Jail)
Cork City Gaol (the Irish language version of Jail), located in the heart of Cork City, is now a popular museum, which received the TripAdvisor Certificate of Excellence in 2018.
It was opened in 1824 and at the time, was described as the “finest in 3 kingdoms.”
No mention anywhere of who claimed that, but it was seen as a step up from other prisons at the time.
Maybe it was because at least one of its cell wings was brighter and more spacious than most, that there was a separate confinement area for women, or that its beautiful Georgian/Gothic architecture, coupled with turreted battlements and such, makes it look more like a castle than a prison.
During your visit, you’ll learn about the first execution that took place at the prison as well as some of the famous prisoners who spent time there, including the revolutionary hero Countess Markievicz (Constance Gore-Booth) from Sligo, who was arrested in 1919 and spent four months in Cork Jail.
The museum is open 360 days a year, from April through September, 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. and from October through March, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Admission is €10 for adults, €8.50 for students and seniors, and €6 for children.
12 noon, The Butter Museum
The Butter Museum is a fascinating place that delves into the production of butter.
Since it's a 23-minute walk from the jail, it might be best to hop on the double-decker bus again (tickets are valid for 24 hours) and make your way to Butter Museum or take a Bus Eireann bus.
At the museum, you’ll learn about Ireland’s most important food export and its importance to the Cork region.
Lots of great visuals here on the history of butter-making and the Butter Exchange in 19th-century Cork.
You’ll also learn about the traditional craft of butter making, which was at one time a common practice in many rural Irish homes. In addition, you’ll read about the success of the Kerrygold brand, which has gained a huge following in the U.S. in recent years.
The museum is open from March through October, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
There’s lots more to see and do in Cork City if you have the time. Check out this tourist map courtesy of Pure Cork for some more ideas.
Accommodation in Cork City
The Cork International Hotel is located at Cork Airport and has consistently received rave reviews from TripAdvisor readers.
Prices are between $121 and $186 per night. The hotel has a restaurant, bar/lounge, in addition to a fitness center Parking is free. It is located about 15 minutes from Cork City Center by car. Buses are available from the hotel to the city center every half hour.
Hotel Isaacs Cork is another hotel worth checking out. Located in the heart of Cork's Victorian Quarter, rooms per night range from $123 to $194 per night for a standard room. The hotel is within walking distance of all the major attractions.
The hotel also offers self-catering accommodation in the form of 2- and 3-bedroom apartments. A 2-bedroom apartment costs approximately $194 per night. The apartments include the services you would normally get if staying in the main hotel.
A 15-minute walk from The English Market is Garnish House, a Victorian townhouse that is very popular with tourists.
Rates at this popular B&B start at €51 per person per night (that's about $62 per person per night). Breakfast is included. Check out its website for a look at the delicious options available.
You can also choose from a variety of Airbnbs in Cork City for $50 per night and up.
Have you been to Cork? If so, what did you like about the city? Let me know in the comments below.
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