Cork: A city renowned for its independent spirit

It’s got this style many cities strive for. And it has made its mark on the country’s canvas. Now the world wants to be part of it all.

Inder Raj Ahluwalia

Boasting one of the world’s largest natural harbours, which has made it a major Irish seaport, Ireland’s second-largest city, Cork, is an amalgamation of the old and the new, and the traditional and the modern, which makes it a rather interesting place to visit.

The city offers an interesting mix. It was once fully walled, and several wall sections and gates remain today. Many local buildings are in the Georgian style. For good measure, the River Lee flows through it, giving it character.

Don’t waste too much time before you start your sightseeing, the local highlight and attraction. Places of interest abound. Your local sightseeing tour could include several landmarks. The imposing St. Finbarre’s Cathedral dominates the landscape! The Roman Catholic St. Mary’s Cathedral (commonly called the North Cathedral). St. Patrick’s Street, is known for the architecture of the buildings along its pedestrian-friendly route. The adjacent tree-lined avenue called Grand Parade. And Cork City Hall is illuminated at night, reflecting in the River Lee, which it fronts!

Other notable places include the Cork Opera House; Fitzgerald’s Park; and the grounds of University College Cork, through which the River Lee flows. Amidst all this, the most famous local building is the church tower of Shandon, which dominates the North side of the city.

An interesting city facet is its maritime sailing heritage that is maintained through its sailing clubs. The Royal Cork Yacht Club located in Crosshaven, is the world’s oldest yacht club, and ‘Cork Week’ as it is known, is a notable sailing event.


Don’t miss visiting The English Market, which provides a taste of rural Ireland in an urban setting. And the taste tends to stay fresh in the mouth.

Located in Princess Street, this is Cork’s famed, landmark food shopping area that goes way back, tracing its origins back to England’s King James 1 in 1610, hence its name.  It’s got no pretence or hype, it’s just an everyday sort of place selling quality, fresh food that reflects the bounties of the land and the sea. The covered market is renowned for selling farm-fresh food from surrounding regions.

Shops overflow with pears, peaches, cherries, apples, lettuce, carrots, potatoes, onions, garlic and green pepper; an array of butchers sell traditional meats that include beef, pork, lamb, and poultry; fishmongers peddle fresh lobsters, crabs, salmon, tuna, squid, prawns, shrimp, and oysters; cheese-mongers sell Irish, Italian and French cheeses.

I met up with food historian, writer, broadcaster and cook, Regina Sexton in the Farmgate Café. Her exuberance and zest set the tone. With her life revolving around food, Regina exulted in explaining the finer points of Irish food. What it is, what it isn’t, and what it all means to the Irish. She then placed things in context by highlighting the special attributes of food shopping at this unique, famous market.

The right place with the right person with the right passion. I wasn’t complaining.

Taxis, buses, and two tram networks provide local transportation and ensure easy commutes. Use them to experience the city’s restaurants and shopping options.

If food excites you, eating out can be a wholesome experience. Assorted restaurants function daily. The city has many local traditions related to food and customs. Traditional Cork foods include Crubeens, Tripe and Drisheen.

Take time out for shopping. There is a mix of modern, state-of-the-art shopping centres, and family-owned local shops providing unique crafts. Department stores cater to all budgets, with expensive boutiques and high street stores also available. Shopping centres can be found in many of Cork’s suburbs, including Blackpool, Ballincollig, Douglas, Wilton and Mahon, and also in the city centre. The main shopping site is St. Patrick’s Street, the most expensive street in the country per sq. metre after Dublin’s Grafton Street. Other shopping areas in the city centre include Oliver Plunkett Street and Grand Parade.

Sure, it isn’t Paris or Rome, and doesn’t feature the constant buzz of large metros, but Cork provides everything you need to enjoy a genuine Irish experience.



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