I'll start by saying that this is by no means a comprehensive list. Know why?
If I were to attempt to write a complete list of the truly astounding things that Cork has to offer I would quickly wear out the keyboard of my Macbook Pro, and have to phone Apple customer support… or just pop around to my neighbours as Apple are based in Cork.
Yes, that’s right, Apple didn’t even make the list. Set your expectations accordingly.
1. Cork Butter Museum
You think you know all you can or want to know about butter? Think again.
2. Fota Wildlife Park
I suppose zoos are okay if you like seeing animals arranged in very specific locations for your viewing pleasure. And I guess if you squint really hard you can trick yourself into thinking they’re in wide open spaces and roam freely.
Alternatively, you could just go to Fota Wildlife Park in Cork and have a lemur steal your Taytos while you’re distracted by how close that giraffe is getting.
3. The Cupcake Cottage
They just make cupcakes, with a variety of different flavours everyday. I cried the first time I ate one knowing that I would never taste anything as good again.
I’m crying now because I don’t have one.
4. Murphy’s Irish Stout...
Yes, you can buy Murphy’s Irish Stout in Dublin, but what you don’t get is the quiet nod of approval from the barman as you order it in Cork, wrapping you in a warm fuzzy blanket of smugness.
5. ... and Beamish
See above. The hipster’s Murphy’s
6. Micheál Martin
You might have him up there for the moment, but just so we’re clear, you’re just borrowing him.
7. Cork City Gaol
Experience the horror of what it was like living confined in a crumbling, 19th-Century edifice, hope long since departing from your shattered mind; a shell of a human being, eking out an existence as an empty husk, with the singular goal to merely survive your wretched existence.
An experience unlike any other, bar living in Dublin.
8. Craft beer at The Franciscan Well
Long before craft beers were available on tap in every pub, bar, restaurant and creche in the country, The Franciscan Well in Cork was brewing its own beer on site. We were hipsters before it was cool, which raises a whole load of questions about the space-time continuum.
9. The English Market
One of the oldest in the world of its kind. The most notable tourist of recent times was probably Queen Elizabeth in 2011, who said that the visit to the market caused her to put a halt on her plans to recolonise Ireland, realising she couldn’t improve on perfection.
Though she didn’t actually audibly say this, we could all see it in her eyes. You’re welcome.
10. Spike Island
Europe’s Alcatraz. With fewer hippies and fewer escapes.
11. Sminky Shorts
Yes, they are from Cork. A fact that we are very proud of/apologise for.
12. There's no bad side of town
As Cork city is so small, it is in a constant, Schrödinger’s Cat-style state of flux where every area is simultaneously the best and worst part of Cork – except for a three square-metre area at the back of Brown Thomas.
Cork is basically a class free Marxist Utopia where the bourgeoisie and unwashed masses live in perfect harmony.
13. West Cork
Jeremy Irons lives there. JEREMY IRONS!
14. The Ferris Wheel on the Grand Parade.
Every year the Christmas market is set up on the Grand Parade in Cork City Centre, complete with a ferris wheel by the river.
You can ride the wheel, despite the fact that it is far too cold to do so but it seemed like a good idea at the time – and while you’re up there you can take part in Cork’s favourite past time: looking down on people.
15. Veggie paradise at Cafe Paradiso
An iconic Cork vegetarian restaurant. Redefining vegetarian cuisine for over 20 years, and a perfect place to bring your vegetarian first date.
16. ALL the options at Jacobs on the Mall
For the second date bring your vegetarian companion to Jacobs on the Mall. Located in a former turkish bath, which provides a stunning, bright and spacious setting, Jacobs has both full vegetarian and vegan menus alongside its standard menu. So you can still have a steak while your date munches on a falafel.
It’s like the French Riveria, without the sunshine.
That money you save on sunglasses can be reinvested in a meal in one of the several top-notch seafood restaurants in the town, or used to plan another holiday somewhere else in Cork.
18. The queue at KC & Son & Sons
Not only does it have the most delightfully humorous name of any chipper in the country, it is so popular and renowned that they set up a webcam so you can check just how long the queue is before you head down.
The queue has been known to stretch so far that it is visible from space. It’s worth the wait.
19. The Cork Jazz Festival
When someone says Cork, inevitably the first word that jumps into your mind is jazz. I used to hate jazz, but then I saw Whiplash and now it’s my favourite genre of music of all time ever.
Cities like Memphis and New Orleans have tried, but nowhere quite embodies jazz the way Cork does. All of the greats, like Charlie Parker and Thelonious Monk wanted to play Cork – but few of them ever managed to reach the standard required for the Jazz Capital of the World.
Which is Cork.
20. Burgers with chicken at Coqbull
A restaurant that serves either burgers or full roast chickens. Oh, and there is a burger with shredded roast chicken on top. Again, you’re welcome.
21. The best burger (and breakfast) in Ireland
This crown belongs to Liberty Grill. A hugely popular burger restaurant, but for me, the real treat is the breakfast menu – and it’s not uncommon to see a queue stretching down the street on a Saturday morning.
Bacon, poached eggs and pancakes are my usual breakfast choice, but feel free to make your own. I mean it won’t be as good as my choice but whatever.
22. The most unique cinema in Ireland at Triskel Christchurch.
Going to the cinema is great, but they’re all the same really aren’t they? Seats, drink holders, sticky floors. Not the Triskel Christchurch. Located in a former church, complete with traditional pew seating, the Triskel provides the most unique cinema in Ireland. And depending on the film, the churchly surroundings can really add to the experience.
23. Sarcasm. REAL sarcasm.
Whoever said sarcasm is the lowest form of wit had obviously just been on the receiving end of a particularly artful sarcastic burn from a Corkonian and was simply being bitter.
I would say Cork people bring sarcasm to the level of an art-form, but I think it has surpassed what art can achieve.
24. The Comedy Club at City Limits
Sure you have comedy clubs in Dublin, but you don’t have the longest running comedy club in Ireland. You don’t have a comedy club with a late bar afterwards where you get to hang out and play pool or giant Connect 4 with comedians.
You don’t have the resident MC Ross Browne, blowing the roof off the place every week. And you don’t have me every couple of weeks, staying admirably restrained, keenly aware of the cost of replacing the roof on such a large building.
25. Wine and tapas in L’Atitude 51
I’ve been a bit of a wine buff ever since I saw Sideways, and my favourite place to have a glass of Pinot Noir (not Merlot!) is L’Atitude 51. Located in the former location of The Lobby Bar, this cosy venue is great for wine and tapas, free of the pretension of other wine bars in other cities I could mention so I will. Dublin.
26. The last stop of the Titanic
The Titanic’s last port of call was Cobh, or Queenstown as it was known then, before it set off on its fateful journey. The Titanic was built in Belfast, had her home port in Liverpool, set sail from Southampton and ignored Dublin completely before stopping in Cobh.
James Cameron’s film Titanic skipped the moment where the ship stopped in Cobh, as he felt the audience would not be able to suspend their disbelief, that, on seeing Cobh, anyone would ever have wanted to leave there.
Also, if your borderline sociopathic fixation on maritime disasters hasn’t quite been sated you could visit The Old Head of Kinsale where the Lusitania was torpedoed and sank 12 miles offshore in 1915.
27. Sherkin Island
A small 5km by 3km island off the coast of Cork, with two pubs, and a church. The laws of man do not apply here. The pubs never close, nor does the church.
A hedonistic paradise, except for the church bit.
28. The ability to drink on the river and not have to wonder where it all went wrong
Sitting by the river while having a drink and a bit to eat in Dublin usually means that somewhere back down the line, a couple of life decisions didn’t quite work out the way you planned. Not so in Cork, where you can sit by the river sipping a drink at a variety of different locations from Electric to the Angler’s Rest.
The picturesque setting no doubt informs you that some life decisions that will inevitably go wrong somewhere down the line.
29. Ballymaloe Cookery School
You can wow your friends by learning to cook at the internationally renowned Ballymaloe Cookery School. Learn to cook like a top chef. Then decide to stick with just the one dish as it’s the only one you can do really well, as you never got the hang of sautéing.
30. Head starts on hangovers at Tony’s Bistro
You leave a house party and find yourself drunk in the city centre at 6am. What do you do? You walk around aimlessly for an hour until Tony’s Bistro on North Main Street opens so you can get a fry. People will ask you have you ever eaten in Tony’s and you’ll say no, because you’ve never ate there sober enough to remember.
31. A true University City vibe
With UCC owning more land than Cork City Council, Cork is a true University city. Some 20% of the population of Cork city is made up of students. Isn’t that great? We really love them to bits. They’re great craic altogether and not annoying in the slightest.
Especially on a Thursday night.
32. The ability to walk everywhere
No one cares what time the last bus/train leaves in Cork. Nights go on as long as they have to, because pretty much everywhere in Cork is walkable from the city centre. If it’s 1am and you either have enough money for one more drink or a taxi home, well you have your drink and walk home. Sure it’s dangerous and ill-advised, but you’re from Cork, nothing phases you!
Think of the adventures you may have! Meet new people! Make new friends! Wake up in your garden!
33. Whiskey tasting at The Jameson Distillery
Yes, you have the Old Jameson Distillery but we have the New Jameson Distillery in Midelton. It’s scientifically proven that new is better than old, especially when it comes to whiskey.
Remember, without Jameson, Hollywood films and TV shows would have to resort to dialogue to imply that a character has Irish heritage.
34. The lush majesty of Fitzgerald’s Park
Fitzgerald’s Park, located a stone’s throw from UCC, has recently undergone an extensive renovation.
It provides an oasis in the city with its newly installed sky garden designed by Diarmuid Gavin – this was originally designed for the Chelsea Flower show, but it since moved to Cork. Unfortunately this led to Diarmuid Gavin disassociating himself from the project as he was too proud to admit that we had managed to improve on his award winning design.
35. Music and comedy Live at the Marquee
Every year a large marquee is set up at the Docklands in Cork for a series of live music and comedy events nightly over the course of the summer months. This year we have Beck, ZZ Top, Dara O’Briain and Billy Idol amongst many others. All under a giant tent within walking distance of the city; the lovely summer rain providing an atmospheric soundtrack as it pitter patters on the roof of the marquee.
Rumours that the rain consists of the reconstituted tears of Dubliners are unverified.
36. The Choral Festival
If it wasn’t enough that Cork has established itself as the world leader in jazz, we also host the Cork International Choral Festival.
37. Stunning (south-westerly) views off Mizen head.
The most south-westerly point in Ireland provides stunning scenery that just doesn’t get more south-westerly. Enjoy stunning views of the sea unobstructed by anything to the south or west of your vision.
38. Cork Coffee Roasters and Idaho Cafe
We recently got Starbucks in Cork, which left us all nonplussed as we already have the best coffee in Ireland with independent coffee shops like Cork Coffee Roasters and Idaho Cafe.
It might look like Cork people actually go to Starbucks as there’s usually a crowd there, but on closer inspection you’ll realise that they’re just Dubliners who got lost.
39. The Hi-B Bar
Phones are banned in this pub off Oliver Plunkett Street. So if you want a nice, relaxing drink that could be deemed the wrong type of drink/relaxing, and thus lead to a scolding, then the Hi-B is the place for you.
40. Our Very Own Dinosaur
This dinosaur fossil was unearthed in the Lee Fields in Cork in 1985 by artist Jim Buckley. I’ve been keenly interested in dinosaurs ever since I saw Jurassic Park III, and so I can tell you that the Rebelsaurus Rex had a red metallic skeleton making it what palaentologists describe as ‘the best dinosaur ever’.
It was the only dinosaur to survive extinction, and stands ready in the Lee Fields to come back to life and protect Cork in the event of another asteroid.
41. A top-class hurling team
Cork has legitimately won the All Ireland Hurling Championship Final a record 30 times.
I’m not saying Kilkenny are cheating or anything, I’m just saying that the black and amber jerseys are unfair as it intimidates the opposition, making them believe they are being chased by giant bees. Lose the jerseys, lads, and then we can have a real game.
42. The tallest and longest buildings in Ireland
The tallest building for many years in Ireland used to be the County Hall in Cork, an impressive show of dominance by Cork that would go unchallenged for decades. Dublin responded with The Spire, which is basically just a stick, then Cork upped the game by building an even taller building, The Elysian.
Cork also is home to the longest building in Ireland, the former Our Lady’s Hospital asylum. Our Lady’s, pictured here before its extensive renovation into a residential building, happens to be where I live – and living there makes me feel like Batman.
Unfortunately there is little to no crime in Cork, so my vigilante justice is restricted to leaving passive-aggressive notes on inconsiderately parked cars.
43. The oldest surviving strain of the cold sore virus at Blarney Castle
No visit to Cork is complete without picking up a strain of the oldest surviving cold sore virus in the world at Blarney Castle in Cork. Affectionately known to locals as The Gab, this virus will instantly bond with you as your lips brush against the Blarney Stone.
If you ever find yourself having to leave Cork to escape debtors or because you used your phone in the Hi-B, the gift of The Gab will always remind you of your time in Cork as it flares up every two to three months.
44. Stargazing at Blackrock Castle Observatory
Finally, after you have visited all that Cork has to offer and realise that nowhere on Earth could possibly match its magnificence, it’s time to look to the heavens.
Blackrock Castle is home to an observatory where you can look to the stars and wonder if there could possibly be another planet out there as nice as Cork, or failing that, perhaps a desolate, inhospitable planet barely able to support life.
Just like… no I won’t say it. I don’t need to. I’m from Cork.