Cork City is Ireland's third city (after Dublin and Belfast) and has always been an important seaport. It began on an island in the swampy estuary of the River Lee (the name Corcaigh means a marsh), and gradually climbed up the steep banks on either side. Today the river flows through Cork city in two main channels, so that you find yourself constantly crossing bridges.
Some of the main streets are built over channels where ships nuzzled their anchor-chains a century ago. Along the South Mall, you will see large gateways at street level, under steps leading to a higher main door. These were once boathouses, when merchants arrived at their warehouses by water.
The best way to see the city of Cork and sample the flavour of its life, is to walk. There is a signpost Walking Tour, so get the accompanying booklet and set off to explore the hilly streets and meet the people.
St. Finn Barre's Cathedral is a splendid triple-spired example of French-gothic architecture. It stands where the saint established his monastic school about 650 AD. Among its most striking features are the fine rose window, the mosaic pavements and the elaborate carving throughout.
Walk along the Western Road to Tudor-Gothic University College with its attractive riverside quadrangle, and visit the Honan Chapel there. It is modeled on Cormac's Chapel at Cashel, and has a superb interior including stained-glass windows by Sarah Purser and Harry Clarke.
Make your way up the North Main Street where the Cork Vision Centre is located, then over North Gate Bridge and climb up Shandon Church, the tower of which you will have noticed dominating the north side of the city from its lofty hill-top position. Two sides of the tower are faced with red sandstone, two with white limestone - "Partly coloured like the people, red and white is Shandon Steeple" goes an old doggerel. Its peal of eight bells, cast in Gloucester in 1750, have become famous, and you may play them yourself, from "music" cards supplied. Your rendering of Danny Boy or Ave Maria will drift gently down the hill and over the river, to be heard all over the city. Corkonians depend on Shandon clock for their time, and its fish weather-vane for their weather forecast.
Walk up a bit of Patrick' s Hill, if you have the legs for it, just to feel the steepness. Then maybe up Summer Hill or Wellington road which runs parallel till you come to St. Luke's Cross and Montenotte, the latter the former residential area of the Merchants of Cork, from here you can look down over the port and harbour, and the river widening away to the south passing Blackrock Castle and on towards the sea. The Cork Heritage Park at Blackrock is well worth a visit.
Back on "the flat" of the city again, See the City Hall, a fine modern building nicely reflected in the river. Visit the Markets, The English Market with openings off Princes Street, Patrick Street and the Grand Parade, a covered market for fish, fruit, meat and vegetable, on the Coal Quay (pronounced Kay), the open-air market which is as much part of the folk-culture of Cork as is Shandon.
The Crawford Gallery in Emmet Place houses an interesting sculpture collection, including some Rodin bronzes and a fine collection of paintings. In the Grand Parade you will find the Berwick Fountain, The National Monument, and Bishop Lucey Park, which you enter through magnificent gates, which have been relocated from the old entrance to the Corporation yard in Anglesea Street. Exit the park at the South Main Street. Here you will see Beamish & Crawford Brewery where Beamish Stout is brewed and exported all over the world.
You will hear Corkonians refer to "the statue" (it may sound like "de statcha" in some voices). They will be talking about the monument to Father Theobald Matthew, 19th century Apostle of Temperance. Unpopular as you might expect his cause to be in a place like Ireland, in fact it became a national crusade. His status at the end of Patrick Street, near Patrick's Bridge, is Cork's best known landmark
The Old Gaol in Sunday's Well has been restored and is one of the many Visitor Attractions in Cork. It tells the story of the everyday life in the Gaol in the 19th and early 20th centuries. Some of the original cells have been restored and an Audio Visual programme has been provided.