Located on the banks of the River Lee, Cork has a small, but pleasant downtown that is easy to walk around. The city was built up on marshland, and many of the streets today, including St Patrick's Street, the South Mall and the Grand Parade, are actually built over what was once river channels. Today there are more than thirty bridges that cross over the channelized River Lee. As an orientation, it's nice to take a historic walking tour of downtown. Then you can explore the area more by yourself and in depth. There are cathedrals, museums, and galleries around town so you can keep yourself quite entertained. If the weather is nice, head out to Lough park, which has a small freshwater limestone lake and some interesting water fowl to see. It's a great place to people watch and see daily life in the city of Cork.
Some of the must see attractions in Cork include Elizabeth Fort, which offers a great view of the city. Near the fort you will find St Finbarr's Cathedral, with is a gothic building constructed during the 19th century. In town you will want to swing by the Lewis Gluckman Gallery if you're interested in art and swing through University College Cork while you're in the area.
During the summer and fall months there are some great local festivals that are worth checking out. The Midsummer Festival lasts for a month between June and July and includes art, poetry, and drama. The Film Festival, which is more than 50 years old, is in November and has both Irish and international films. The Jazz Festival is one of the largest in Europe and is at the end of October. Finally, the Elizabeth Fort Market Festival showcases Cork heritage and takes place every Sunday. It's a great place to check out some local crafts, taste some good food, and have a cultural experience.
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While this is one of the more touristy and popular castles around Ireland, there is a good reason. It's truly worth the crowds and lines, but it's still advisable to get here around 9 am when it opens. There's a good chance you'll miss the crowds. The stairs to the top can be a little uneven, but nothing you should really be concerned about. And definitely don't pass up the opportunity to kiss the Blarney stone, even if you do have a fear of heights.
Cork City Pub Crawl
Friday nights are a great time to see some of Cork's fun pub culture. You can join the Cork City Pub Crawl which is organized every Friday by young residents to bring tourists and locals together for a pub crawl (kind of a tour really). It starts every Friday at 8 pm just outside of the GPO on Oliver Plunkett St. You hit four different pubs and one of the best clubs in Cork. You do have to pay ten euros to join the crawl, but it includes one shot of jaegermeister, one shot of whiskey, and two shots of apple sourz, plus entry into the club, so it's really a good value. At the club you'll find both travelers and locals, so it's a great way to get out and about in the town. It's a great way to experience Cork nightlife and meet some fellow travelers as well as locals.