Dotted with roasteries, specialty coffee shops and quaint cafés, Cork city has something to offer all coffee drinkers. Nestled in a row of shops in Bishop Lucey Park is SOMA, a cool industrial café serving their own Cork-roasted beans alongside unique drinks like the Cascara Tonic, a refreshing, summery beverage combining a tea made from coffee husks with tonic water and grapefruit. Get your caffeine fix and take your dog to the park, or turn the corner and grab an espresso drink and something sweet from Three Fools Coffee, a light-filled glass pod on the Grand Parade.
In what was once the old city library you’ll find The Bookshelf, filled with local artwork and locals gathering over cold brew coffee, balanced brunch and pastries – the chocolate-covered croissant is a winner. If you’re on the northside of the city, stop by Lab 82 for an extra-decadent brunch and some award-winning coffee.
A dive into Cork’s food culture begins at the English Market, where you can browse local delicacies including speciality cheeses, drisheen (a type of black pudding) and crubeen (pig’s trotter). The market is a main stop on the comprehensive Cork Fab Food Trail. If you’re not an adventurous eater, don’t worry — they have great brunch, too.
Alongside these traditional Irish offerings sits Cork’s vegetarian and vegan restaurants. One of the city’s oldest and most influential is Paradiso, which has been serving the unique vegetable cuisine of Denis Cotter since 1993. A new addition to the scene is Sonflour, dishing up Italian street food with a strong focus on Irish ingredients. Think potato focaccia with local mozzarella, or linguine with fried aubergine and breadcrumbs.
Market Lane is another great spot for vegetarians (and coeliacs) though they also serve up excellent meat dishes, often using ingredients picked up in the English Market. This is the place to go when you’re craving hearty comfort food, like gooey moussaka or a slow-cooked venison pie.
While it’s worth trying to get a reservation at the Michelin-starred Japanese restaurant Ichigo Ichie, bear in mind that chef Takashi Miyazaki also runs the more casual option Miyazaki on Evergreen Street, where it’s easier to nab a table or get a takeaway.
You’ll find unique flavours and the buzz of a bar at Elbow Lane. With both a smokehouse and a nano-brewery right on site, expect to see American-influenced barbecue with an Irish twist, like slow smoked baby back ribs or wood grilled rib eye. Their beers are brewed specifically with the menu in mind, so you can ask for a beer pairing or dabble in a few options with the taster tray.
A night of fun in Cork begins with a stop at one of the city’s watering holes. Set in a beautiful Victorian building, Cask is an award-winning bar with a unique “farm to glass” menu of cocktails. There’s a story behind every sip, and you can expect to see foraged ingredients like young spruce shoots and nettles from Farran Forest Park. There’s an excellent selection of non-alcoholic cocktails, too.
For something a little different, Arthur Mayne’s Pharmacy is a 120-year-old chemist turned wine bar, with bottles of wine on display alongside cabinets filled with centuries-old medicine vials. While the apothecary vibe rules the downstairs, you’ll find a newer cocktail bar upstairs, where you can sip on inventive concoctions late into the night.
Cork is known for its breweries and Franciscan Well is a long-time favourite among locals. Set in a former Franciscan monastery, the brewery has been a part of the city’s tapestry since 1998, and the brew pub is always a good night out. There’s often live music as well as themed nights like ‘Seanchaí’ (storytelling) and ‘Drink and Draw.’
The oldest independent bookshop in Cork, Vibes and Scribes is something of an institution in the city. You’ll find a huge selection of both new titles and second-hand books, with plenty of bargains and arts and craft material on the shelves of its 5000 sq ft space. If you’re a stationery fiend, you’ll love the handmade notebooks from Badly Made Books for their beautifully illustrated covers and recycled paper.
There’s always an excellent selection of vintage clothing at Miss Daisy Blue, whether you’re after a perfectly battered flannel shirt from the Nineties or a Sixties shift dress. At weekends the stalls at the Mother Jones Flea Market are filled with oddities and vintage finds, like ceramic Beamish bottles and old typewriters. The market is right by the new café 5 Points, so you can pick up a proper New York-style bagel after a morning’s browsing.
While there is plenty to explore in County Cork, you don’t need to leave the city to get a taste of the great outdoors. Try your hand at Stand-up paddle boarding (SUP) right in the city centre with Cork City SUP. You’ll head out from Pope’s Quay in Shandon and paddle your way around town, drifting under historic bridges and past city landmarks. If you’d rather enjoy the sights without adding in a workout, hop aboard Cork Harbour Cruises and learn about local maritime history and marine life on a tour from the city centre out to the sprawling Cork Harbour and town of Cobh.
To explore on two wheels, join the leisurely Cork City Cycle Tour that leaves each morning, Monday through Saturday, from St. Patrick’s Quay. If you’re looking for free things to do instead, go on a green stroll through Fitzgerald’s Park.
One of the newest additions to the city is The Dean Cork, with artsy rooms complete with Marshall amps and Smeg fridges. There’s also a slick rooftop bar with killer views of the city, where you can sit and gaze with a wood-fired pizza and a cocktail.
There are plenty of stylish spots to unwind in the Montenotte Hotel, from the cool in-house cinema to the panoramic rooftop bar the Greenhouse, with botanical themed cocktails inspired by the hotel’s sunken Victorian gardens.
Hotel Isaacs is a boutique 3-star spot in the heart of the Victorian Quarter offering classic hotel rooms but also two or three-bedroom apartments, which are perfect for groups of friends looking to get together for a weekend.