Best Places to Visit on a Christmas Shopping Trip to Cork
There’s never much of a reason needed to visit the Rebel City of Cork. But if you need one, Christmas provides just about as good a reason as they come. This city buzzes at the best of times. As Christmas approaches, the buzzing ramps up several gears, as shop window displays light up and the bright Christmas lights glow on Patrick Street and Oliver Plunkett Street. There’s the twinkle of fairy lights reflected in the River Lee and a mighty craic to be had after dark in the trad pubs and bars.
At Christmas, Cork is a city to combine shopping with a heap of history and culture.
ENJOY A LITTLE HISTORY
Take in the history of Cork, built on a great marsh. All the city’s quays were once quays for Merchant ships to dock and offload their goods. It’s hard to imagine as you wander the modern city, that these huge sailing ships once came right up into the city centre as we know it today. Merchant’s Quay, Pope’s Quay, Union Quay, these were all pathways for trading ships. As the city was gradually reclaimed from the bog over centuries, the quays became the roads that stand today. The Coat of Arms of Cork, of two castles with a ship in full sail, means ‘safe harbour for ships’. The castles probably represent the King and Queen Castles of the original harbour of Cork, once situated in the area now known as Castle Street.
Look upward as you stroll the famous Patrick Street, or ‘Pana’ as it is fondly known by locals, to see the origins of the buildings which now house shops and department stores. You will see the original archticture and may even get a clue as to what the building was once used for. Most of the city centre buildings don’t have basements, because the rivers that made up the bog still flow under the streets. Don’t miss the original ancient stone dog’s drinking water trough that protrudes onto the pavement under a modern shop at the top of Patrick's Street , at the legendary Patrick’s Bridge end. There used to be horse’s troughs too, showing how the former residents of Cork got around their reclaimed city in times gone by.
SHOP TILL YOU DROP
Cork is a superb shopping city. It’s the perfect size to ramble in a day on a festive shopping spree. You’ve got the styles and luxury brands of Brown Thomas, the choice of high street names for fashion, floor after floor of gift choices in stores like Dunnes and Debenhams, and the small independent family fashion, shoes and jewellery shops that still survive in this city.
Markets abound, with the permanent English Market open six days a week and Coal Quay street market for food and crafts, taking place every Saturday morning. Wander the flea market and vintage shops if you fancy something a bit retro and quirky. Explore the little shops in the small lanes which join Patrick Street to Oliver Plunkett Street or Carey’s Lane and French Church Street off to the other side of the road, where pavement café culture abounds. Street performers brighten the city centre as you shop.
ART AND CULTURE
Culture vultures can take in a movie at the city centre cinema complex or enjoy a show at the Opera House or Everyman Theatre. The historic Crawford Gallery begs to be explored. Just a stroll away, the beautiful grounds of University College Cork provide a great spot to walk before visiting the Glucksman Gallery in the grounds of UCC or taking in the University Art Collection on campus.
Check the programme of music, theatre and visual art at Triskel Christchurch. Enjoy a tour amid the beautiful architecture of Saint Finbarr’s Cathedral. Never a dull moment in this city.
When you’ve done all that, visit one of our members for some good food, and a good night’s sleep if you decide to make a break of it.
THE RIVER LEE
Right on the banks of the River Lee, this hotel is close to UCC and a short walk from the city centre. The perfect spot to spend a couple of nights. The Weir Rooms or the newly festive decorated, Terrace on the Weir provides a choice of food selections, as well as drinks and cocktails. Check out the hotel website for midweek break rates.
Situated close to UCC, Hayfield Manor is in the heart of the vibrant University Quarter but enjoys its own private grounds for peace and quiet. Five-star luxury in accommodation and a choice of two dining options. Casual food is served in Perrott’s Garden Restaurant while fine dining is available at Orchid’s. You can also take Afternoon Tea in the public rooms. Very elegant. Log on to find value breaks and special offers, including The Winter Sale of overnight stay plus €20 dining credit per person and €20 Boutique Spa credit for any one hour treatment.
Offer available on selected dates in November, December and through to January.
MARYBOROUGH HOTEL & SPA
The Mayborough Hotel & Spa is located just a short drive out of the city centre. Convenvient for the shopping hub of Douglas and the fine café of Isabelle Sheridan’s On the Pig’s Back, and not too far to drive to the Mahon Point Shopping Centre, where you’ll find all the big names, plus a multiscreen cinema showing all the festive movies. A farmer’s market also runs at Mahon Point every Thursday morning. When you choose a break at The Maryborough you choose to go back to a time in history.
Maryborough House was once one of Cork’s largest landed estates, home to one of the city’s Merchant Princes. Now a luxury hotel with spa, where you can kick back in splendour of the Georgian architecture of this listed building and enjoy fine food at Bellini’s Restaurant or dine casually at Bellini’s Bar and Garden Room. Currently running at The Maryborough, one-night bed and breakfast, at €155.00 for two people, includes €20 credit for Bellini’s Restaurant plus €20 Spa credit per person. Book online for remaining available dates this month.
THE ENGLISH MARKET
A wander of the famous English Market is an absolute must for any food lovers visiting Cork. Open Monday to Saturday, the market has a collection of flagship fresh food stalls to browse. Enjoy a casual lunch of traditional Cork dishes like Tripe and Drisheen at Farmgate Café at the top of the market.
Or grab a sandwich to go or a perch at the small counter at The Sandwich Stall. On The Pig’s Back has a selection of deli items to go. If you want to do some food shopping, the best of Cork traditional Spiced Beef is available at Tom Durcan butchers. You can even buy a whole Durcan Spiced Beef joint beautifully boxed, as a gift. Fresh fish and seafood, including home smoked salmon and gourmet items, are available from K. O’Connell’s fish stall and Ballycotton Seafoods.