Though Cork is the country’s second city after Dublin, the locals patriotically refer to it as the ‘true capital of Ireland’. And so they might. With its burgeoning arts scene, lively music halls and multi-cultural influx of aromatic restaurants, it was rightly awarded the European Capital of Culture in 2005.

The greater part of the city centre sits on an island in the River Lee. The grand Georgian parades and cramped 17th century alleyways and filled with stunning architectural masterpieces and surrounded by one of the largest natural harbours in the world its charms are a pleasure to roam around. Add to this the urban renewal of vibrant bars, snug pubs staging live music and the charismatic characters of Corkian locals, the city buzzes with an infectious energy.

Dominating the landscape in the north of the city is St Anne’s Church with its looming lime and sandstone clock tower. Climb to the top where you will be rewarded with stunning views of the city and have the chance to ring the famous Shandon Bells. Or you may want to catch the latest production at the impressive Cork Opera House.

Culture vultures will not want to miss out on the Crawford Art Gallery with its impressive collection of modern and traditional artwork, nor should you overlook the Cork Public Museum situated in the scenic surroundings of Fitzgerald Park.

At the heart of the city is St. Patricks Street, crammed with an eclectic range of shopping stores and boasting one of Europe´s largest retail outlets. Explore the quaint boutiques, handicraft stores and second-hand book shops around Oliver Plunkett Street and in the cobbled streets of the back alleys look out for shops selling delicious hand-made chocolates.

Perched on a hill you will find the gloomy nineteenth-century Cork gaol which invites visitors to experience life in the cells with and interesting exhibition of audio and visual displays. Or why not take a look at the thought-provoking 17th century ruins of Elizabeth Fort which provides a sombre reminder of Oliver Cromwell´s ´Scorched Earth,´ tactics which crushed Irish rebels.

With the friendly locals and strong contingent of student bars, Cork has a vibrant nightlife with traditional pubs getting into the party spirit every night of the week. Live music is not only provided by bands, but more often than not the talented Corkians who love nothing more than taking their instruments down to the local and entertaining the crowd. Entertainment doesn´t come any better.

Ferry to Cork and Ireland

There is a direct ferry from Swansea to Cork, though this is the longest sailing time between the UK and Ireland, but don’t worry you have 9 alternative ferry routes to choose from.

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