Dublin is a beautiful city full of history, culture and food but let's be real-- it's also had its fair shake of praise. Head down country though and you'll come to The Rebel County- Cork, Ireland. This county is known for its brave, rebellious past in far, far reaching histories. We're talking destroyed a Viking Castle and killed their leader type rebellion (culturetrip.com). Later in the 20th century Cork was a key player in the Irish War of Independence (culturetrip.com). Revolts and rebellions have been a constant in the county's past and that tough, gritty vibe is smattered across it to this day.
In the epicentre of that uncompromising, stouthearted (literally) county lies Cork City- a city with so much heart it deserves its own list. Stepping into Cork City, it's easy to see and better yet feel, that Cork is truly the beating heart of the country. So forget the crowds, grab a stout and read on for 6 reasons why you should visit Cork City on your next trip to Ireland.
1. The Beer
Stouts are the name of the game here of course and Cork comes to play. Order a Guinness in Cork and not only will you flag yourself as a tourist, you'll most definitely be countered by the bartender on the other side of the wood urging you to try one of two local stouts: Murphy's (est. 1856) or Beamish (est. 1792). Both are brewed locally and are fantastic examples of what a stout should taste like: light, subtle tasting notes of coffee and chocolate (not the over powering flavours you get in North America) and absolutely delicious. Make sure you try (a lot) of both while you're in town.
For those who really can't get onto the stout bandwagon (but we think you'll change your mind- they taste so different in Ireland!), you need to try the beer at The Fransiscan Well! Fransiscan Well Brewery was established in 1998 and is now considered Ireland's number one craft brewery--- for good reason! The beer is freakin' delicious. May I recommend the Rebel Red? Head over to their Brew Pub, hidden away down a stone alleyway for an amazing hangout spot (more on that), delicious pizza (that too) and of course...beer.
2. The People
The best part about Cork is the people that live there and we aren't just saying that! They may be tough but they're also the nicest people you'll every meet. Still steeped in Gaelic tradition, Cork residents love hanging out in little hole-in-the-wall pubs, watching football and having a few pints together. It's easy to find a genuine pub full of locals where everyone knows each other by name and where anyone is willing to strike up a conversation. Whether they're shouting at you over a loud band about Cork City politics or history or they're a raucous group of college students- Cork folks are good folks.
3. The Lifestyle
There is seriously nothing like spending a day bumming around Cork. Little boutiques, restaurants, pubs around every corner, buskers galore and amazing views make it a city worth visiting alone. Add that to the laid back lifestyle of the locals and you've got it made. One of our favourite things to do when living there was to try and find a different pub each time we went out. We never ran out! A few I'd recommend are: Charlie's, Ryan's Bar, Crane Lane, Fred Zeppelin's and of course, The Fransiscan Well.
4. The Food
Okay no joke- the food in Cork is one of the best reasons to go there. From your traditional Irish breakfast or Irish breakfast with a twist (hello Duke's), to AMAZING stone-oven pizza with sliced potato (Franny Well gets another shout out) there are so many fantastic places to eat in Cork City.
The beating heart of the city (and not just the food scene) however, lies at The English Market. Full of fresh farm producer stalls, farm to table food is easily at your fingertips every single day. You'll find everything from delicious produce and fresh-caught fish to all the meat you could ask for, desserts and what is possibly the best bread in the world.
Head upstairs in the market and you'll find Farmgate Cafe, a delicious spot to grab lunch whether you're craving soup, sandwiches or some amazing shepherd's pie. Now wipe up that drool.
5. The Crowds (or lack their of)
Hate crowds? Waiting in lines? Meeting only other tourists? Cork is mostly locals (so let's keep it our little secret, ok?). That being said, there are two post-secondary schools in the city that draw in a large international student base so if a variety of people from all over the world is what you seek, you'll be able to find that too!
6. The County at Your Fingertips
One of the most attractive reasons to visit Cork City is its proximity to so many other beautiful and scenic spots in Ireland! The few spots listed below (and there are many more) are just a short drive away. Better yet, the city has loads of buses and tour vans leaving everyday! Here are just a few of the coolest spots nearby:
Cobh (29 mins)
Cobh was the last stop the Titanic made and also happens to be an absolutely stunning town home to Ireland's second-tallest church, St. Coleman's Cathedral.
Blarney (13 mins)
Blarney is home to the famous Blarney Stone as well as a stunning castle (where the stone lies) and lush gardens to waste the day away.
Gougane Barra Garrynapeaka (1h, 6 mins)
This little national park is nestled in between sheep farms and is an amazing, serene oasis of peace and quiet. Wander the hilly trails, say hello to some new sheep friends and just enjoy the scenery.
Inchydoney Beach (55 mins)
Known by the locals as a pretty good surf spot, Inchydoney beach offers more than beautiful ocean views and rocky shores. There's also a hotel there with the best some of the best mashed potatoes I've ever had. Go! Now! Run!
Mizen Head (1h 57mins)
Mizen Head, just under two hours away is what I would consider the Cliffs of Moher's super underrated, prettier stepsister. With crystal blue water as far as the eyes can see, sealions on the rocky beach far below and jagged cliffs, this landscape is absolutely unbeatable. Enjoy the view from the cafe on site or take a stroll along the cliffs for a truly stunning view.
I can't oversell Cork City as a must-go destination. The people, the food, the scenery and everything in between...it's all there.