Cork is the third-largest city in Ireland and has miles upon miles of beautiful coastline looking out onto the Atlantic. Breathtaking all year round, Cork is a great place to visit — whether it’s to relax or to explore, there are plenty of activities to be found. It’s one of the more popular cities in the country with a lot of good food and pubs. Most visitors come here so they can go kiss the Blarney stone (it’s nearby) but there’s so much more to this former industrial city than that. Spend some added time here away from the hordes and enjoy the area!
Hostel prices — Most dorms are around 19 EUR per night while private rooms in hostels start around 45 EUR. Hostels offer free linens and free WiFi and some offer free breakfast. There’s only a couple in the city.
Budget hotel prices — A night in a 3-star budget hotel starts around 60 EUR and will include a private bathroom and some include an Irish breakfast (read, scone). On Airbnb, private rooms average around 31 EUR per night and you can find entire homes starting around 50 EUR.
Average cost of food — Lunch and meals on the go cost around 9 EUR (pub food is the cheapest), while dinners at a restaurant with a pint begin will cost around 18 EUR. If you go out early to lunch or dinner, you’ll find many restaurants offer “early bird” specials where you can save a few Euros. Ireland is known for their dark, thick stouts (think Guinness) and this kind of beer tends to be the default. A half-liter of domestic beer will cost around 5 EUR. If you cook your meals, expect to pay 60 EUR per week for groceries that will include pasta, vegetables, chicken, and other basic foods.
Transportation costs — Cork has a very walkable city center. Buses will take you to and from the outskirts of the city and tickets cost about 2 EUR each way. Taxis cost a minimum of 4 EUR and fares are 1.45 EUR per km. It costs about 45-65 EUR to get to Cork from Dublin by train and takes about 2.5 hours. A bus takes a little longer but costs 16-23 EUR. It costs about 22-35 EUR to get to Cork from Galway by bus and takes about 3 hours.
Suggested daily budget — 35-45 EUR / $36-47 USD (Note: This is a suggested budget assuming you’re staying in a hostel, eating and cooking, and using local transportation. Using the budget tips below, you can always lower this number. If you stay in fancier accommodation or eat out more, expect this to be higher!)
Money Saving Tips
- Have an ISIC Card — To save 20-50% on the cost of admission to museums and other tourist attractions, be sure bring your student ID or ISIC card!
- Eat the pub food — Eat at the pubs for good, hearty local Irish food that won’t destroy your wallet.
- Get an OPW Heritage Card — For those of you that love to tour heritage sites, you should definitely pick up one of these (especially if you’re visiting many cities in the country). It guarantees access to main attractions (including most of the castles) throughout the country. The card costs 25 EUR for adults.
- Drink less — Ireland’s strong pub culture will hit your wallet hard. Temper the cost by visiting happy hours, drinking at home, or skipping drinks altogether.
- Couchsurf — Nothing’s cheaper than sleeping for free. Couchsurfing connects you with locals who will give you not only a free place to stay, but also a local tour guide who can introduce you to all the great places to see.
Top Things to See and Do in Cork
- Visit Baltimore fishing village — Take the ferry to explore the islands of Cape Clear, Sherkin, and Heir before going sailing, angling, diving, or whale watching.
- Hike around Gougane Barra — For a taste of the great outdoors, make a trip to Gougane Barra in inland Cork. Walk around the mountains that surround the lake and view the famous site of St. Finbarr’s island. This area is recognized as a forest park and is full of natural vegetation and animals.
- Kiss the Blarney Stone — Built nearly six hundred years ago, the castle itself is now a partial ruin, however at the top of the castle lies the Stone of Eloquence, or more famously known as the Blarney Stone where visitors can hang upside down to kiss the famous stone. The gardens around the castle are the real prize here. Admission is 13 EUR and it’s open daily from 9am to at least 5pm.
- Butter Up — While in Cork, visit the Cork Butter Museum. Here you can learn the process that goes into butter making, a story that begins with the Irish practice of preserving butter in bogs. This is certainly a unique and quirky museum if you’re looking to do something different! Admission is 4 EUR and it’s open daily from 10am-5pm except in the winter when it’s only open on the weekends from 11am-3pm.
- Tour Bantry House — Dating back to 1740, the house is known for its art collection and display of tapestries. There is also the possibility of a guided tour. Probably one of its most redeeming features, however, is the fantastic view over Bantry Bay. It’s open daily (except Mondays) from 10am-5pm. In the summer, it’s open 7 days a week.
- The Church of Saint Anne Shandon — Shandon, meaning “Old Fort” in Gaelic, was formed as one of the original settlements in medieval Ireland. Here you can play the famous Bells of Shandon, watch the infamous clock, and view Cork from above. It costs 5 EUR and is open 11:30am-3pm with some hour variations depending on the season.
- Take a walking tour — Cork City Walking Tours offer walking tours that run from April to October that take you through the English Market, the Opera House, Pembroke Street, St. Finbarrs Cathedral, and more. Tours leave from the Imperial Hotel Monday-Saturday at 11am. Tours cost 8 EUR per person.
- Drink whiskey — For whiskey lovers or just the plain curious, a tour of the Old Midleton Distillery will address the making of Irish whiskey and offers the opportunity to view the world’s largest pot. You even get to sample some whiskey afterward! For FREE!!!
- Escape to Doneraile National Park — This park has 400 acres of deciduous trees, herds of deer, and numerous pathways from which to get away from the crowds of the city. Pockets of land have been fashioned into canals and ponds and can be enjoyed on an enchanting walk.
- Admire the view at The Mizen Head – Positioned as Ireland’s southernmost point, the peninsula is ideally located beside small fishing villages like Schull and Goleen. While at Mizen Head, make a point of climbing the 99 steps and walk the suspension bridge to enjoy the crashing Atlantic as it smashes against this stunning landscape.
- Shop at the English Market — An enclosed market, its usage dates back to 1786. Besides offering a wide array of world foods to sample, the market also plays host to boutiques and department stores.
- Visit the Lewis Glucksman Gallery — Located on the UCC campus, this gallery is a major hotspot for students and locals. It also happens to be a favorite for most tourists. There are three display areas, all with rotating exhibits, as well as a basement café with delicious food. Admission is free (suggested donation is 5 EUR) and it’s open daily (except Mondays) from 10am-5pm except on Sundays, when it opens at 2pm.
- Attend a festival — Once dubbed the European Capital of Culture, it’s no surprise that there is a range of music, theater, and film festivals held here annually. From June to July is the Midsummer Festival (an homage to the arts), while the Elizabeth Fort Market Festival is held every Sunday, and offers entertainment all day, local handicrafts, and yummy gourmet foods.
- Explore the Cork City Gaol — During the 19th century, this was home to an array of prisoners. There is a great audio tour, which features a glimpse at the restored cells. Some of them even have prisoner and guard dummies. Beware, though, this exhibit is slightly morbid. Admission is 8 EUR. It’s open 10am-4pm with extended hours in the summer.