Chances are you’ve heard of our two capital cities: Dublin and Belfast. But sit back and let us introduce you to the other 11 stars in our city galaxy, you my friend, are in for a treat!
It’s a Cork thing!
They call it the Rebel City, why? Maybe because this is a city that simply refuses to be anything other than extraordinary. County Cork is Ireland’s largest county, so they refer to themselves as the “Real Capital”…it’s a Cork thing!
The city is small enough that you can cover it on foot, but don’t let its size fool you; Cork City packs a punch. Think friendly locals, buzzing bars and genuine Irish character. The city is revelling in its reputation as the foodie capital of Ireland. The restaurants, cafés and bars of Cork City use fresh ingredients from the rich pasture lands of West Cork and seafood from the wild Atlantic. But when it comes to food and Cork City, one place ranks above the rest: The English Market. Picture laden stalls, full of yummy artisan produce. The scents of fresh coffee and spices and the happy chatter of traders are all around. Even England’s Queen Elizabeth II couldn’t resist popping for a bite when she visited in 2011. Located on Grand Parade the English Market is a treasure trove of foodie delights gathered under one roof.
Cork does culture too. The Crawford Art Gallery is free in and is home to works of art from famous Irish and European artists. You’ll also find gorgeous plaster casts of the great sculptor Antonio Canova’s works here as well.
Come night time, you’ll have worked up a thirst. You’re in the right place. You’re spoilt for choice when it comes to watering holes in this city. Whether you want to catch a traditional Irish music session in An Spailpín Fanach Bar or a live rock show in The Crane Lane Theatre, Cork’s got you covered.
Ultimately, Cork’s most attractive feature is its natives. The people of Cork possess a unique sense of fun and welcoming spirit. Spark up a chat with the old man at the bar, he’ll tell you a tale or two. Ask the barman for the best restaurant in town, he’ll have a list as long as your arm.
Put simply, there’s no place like Cork City.
Celebrating the honour of being chosen as the first ever UK City of Culture, Derry~Londonderry is having a MASSIVE year. Tripadvisor also gave the city a nod when the named it one of the top ten destinations in Europe for 2013.
If you love history, you’re in Ireland’s only fully walled city here. Those cannon-holding, invader-repelling walls were built way back in the 17th century! Today you can take a guided tour around the walls, snap a photo with a cannon and learn all sorts of cool historical facts.
It seems no matter where you look in this city history is calling. The award-winning Tower Museum is housed in a replica 16th Century tower. The museum documents the story of an ill-fated Spanish Armada: La Trinidad Valenciera. The ship crashed in the wild coast of County Donegal and its story is lovingly told in Derry~Londonderry with exhibits and audio-visual delights.
UK City of Culture 2013
But enough history, and into the present. The colossal musical party that is The All-Ireland Fleadh Cheoil is set to fill Derry~Londonderry with trad musicians from around the world. Think of this as the Olympics of music. Trad musicians battle it out to win heats of contests and eternal glory. In a city that’s usually buzzing anyway, the All-Ireland Feladh Cheoil is going to set the city to party overdrive. There won’t be a pub in the city that doesn’t have a trad session shaking its rafters. This is just one of the thousands of awesome events taking place during 2013.
Let’s get cultural!
You’re spoilt for choice when it comes to the arts here. Take your pick from the ultra modern Millenium Forum, The Playhouse or the newly refurbished Waterside Theatre. All house works by local and international artists.
Outside the arts, we advise getting lost in the culture of the city itself. Walk the little side streets; grab a coffee at little café. Watch the people of the city go by and listen to their stories. There’s a whole new world happening within those 17th century walls. So what are you waiting for?
Goin’ for Galway
When the rest of Ireland wants to cut loose and have a good time, they head for Galway City. Tiny in size but huge in character Galway City typifies that laidback, chilled attitude the West of Ireland is known for. All the action is located within a short stroll of a few streets around Eyre Square. Pubs such as The King’s Head, The Townhouse Bar and (our favourite) Roisín Dubhs are famous for their lively night time antics.
Place your bets!
One of Ireland’s most epic celebrations is the Galway Races. This annual horseracing event takes place just a five-minute drive outside of Galway City. Expect glitz, expect glamor and dress to impress. Whether you take a risk and place a bet or just watch the horses race by for the heck of it, you’re odds on for a brilliant time.
Another name for Galway is the “City of Equals”, which will make sense when you hear all the different languages going on around you. Many different cultures and creeds call Galway home, add in a generous dollop of genuine Irish flair and you’ve got a tasty city dish.
But beneath the bohemian exterior of Galway beats a traditional Heart. Did you know the world-famous Claddagh Ring was first designed in Galway? Check out the history of this romantic ring at Thomas Dillons jeweller. Most pubs host traditional Irish music sessions nightly too, so wear comfortable shoes. Because you will be dancing. Don’t forget, Galway City is only a short drive from Ireland’s traditional heartland: Connemara.
Small in size with a big heart and gigantic sense of fun, Galway’s got it goin’ on.
Ready for adventure?
And we've barely scratched the surface. There are plenty more Irish cities waiting to be explored. All the thrills of Kilkenny City and the wonderful Waterford City. You could fall in love with Limerick, discover Armagh, go nuts in Newry or get lost in Lisburn. Each city, a new adventure.
The only question left is...
When are you visiting?