After spending two months in Cork, Ireland, I feel like I can provide good advice for a nice day tour in Cork. I think the best way to go around is on foot, as you can really enjoy the town, but there are the Coca Cola bikes that can be rent for 3 days: you just need to register online, pay a few euros, and then pick a bike in the many bike points scattered around Cork, and return it in any other one.
A day tour in Cork
If you want to go to the tourist office, for example to take a map or ask for some information, the best time to do so in when you get in town. In fact, the office is near both the bus station and the CityLink stops. In the building just in front of the tourist office, at the second floor, there are free toilets!
In Shandon (St. Anne’s Church) you can ring the church bells! It really is amazing! It is a bit out of the centre, but it does even go through nice streets. For students, it’s just 4 euros, and you can also get to the top of the bell tower and see Cork from above. Beware that the last entry is early in the afternoon, at around 16. This church is also called The Four Liars.
Exactly on the other bank of the river there is Elizabeth Fort. It is not much, they are basically some high walking paths, but again you can see Cork from above (although not as high as the Church), and it is free! Closes at around 17. Near here there is also St. Fin Barre’s Church, which is patron saint of the city. The church surroundings are not bad, the church is huge (but entry is not free) and there is a very disappointing labyrinth.
On a clear day, Fitzgerald Park is a beautiful place. It’s the biggest park of the city, there are often events in the weekend (music/festivals). There is even a bar that makes nice launches for reasonable prices (~5 euros for a sandwich), and you can then eat on the grass on the river banks. It’s a bit out of town, like 20 minutes on foot, but you can go there basically all through pedestrian-only streets, and there is a walking route that goes along the river bank on the other side: it starts from Shandon’s side and is called something like Banks of Lee Walkway.
Even if you don’t need any groceries, the English Market is a great place to visit. Besides all the stalls that sell sweets & chocolate, there are all local farmers and it’s very nice to go around. It is located right in the centre and has several paths in and out.
While going around the centre, my favorite narrow street can be accessed by North Main Street: it’s a tiny hole going towards the river: you will go through a narrow path all painted by local guys.
For a snack, there is an awesome place called Sticky Fingers that serves a stunning variety of donuts for 2/3 euros, and they are really good! It’s just in the centre, opposite to the Opera House.
If you happen to be in town later than 18, the “Sin è” pub always has some great live music and a lively atmosphere, peculiar of Irish pubs, and is definitely worth a visit. If it is crowded, you can get into for the music and don’t even take anything to drink. What I have found to be the best burger in town is offered by West Cork Burgers, 2 minutes from the centre.
Always go around and look for street art: it’s everywhere! Rubbish bins, houses, electrical boxes, walls… anything that can be decorated is likely to actually be so!
A nice bookshop, both for second hand and new books, is called Vibes and Scribes, just 5 minutes out of the centre.
If you happen to be in town at sunset, and it’s a good day, on the river walk that heads away from the centre starting from Fitzgerald Park you may be lucky enough to appreciate one of the most beautiful sunsets. There, I witnessed one of the best sunsets I have even seen. However, it will take you at least a full hour to complete it.