City Bikes Part I: Belfast, Dublin and Cork

Exploring Belfast, Dublin and Cork with their city bike schemes.

Robust and simple to use, Ireland’s Coca-Cola Zero city bikes are specially designed for urban pedalling. Did you know that Ireland is one of the few countries in Europe with such an impressive spread of bike schemes? There are bike stations close to all the must-see landmarks, making it super easy to freewheel your way around Dublin, Cork and Belfast.

Dublin

How easy is it to get to Kilmainham Gaol, one of Dublin’s most famous museums? Simple. Park your bike at the station outside and take a tour of the biggest unoccupied gaol in Europe. After that, cruise your way around the nearby attractions, such as the Guinness Storehouse for the story behind Ireland’s iconic tipple or the National Museums of Ireland, housing a staggering collection of archaeology, natural history and art. Just eight minutes away is Phoenix Park, the largest urban park in Europe. Make like Beyoncé and pedal your way around the magnificent landscapes, home to a herd of fallow deer, Dublin Zoo and the residence to the President of Ireland.

Book buffs will adore the James Joyce Centre. Housed in a 17th century Georgian building, here you’ll find furniture from Joyce’s Paris apartment and the original door of 7 Eccles St, the home of Leopold and Molly Bloom in Ulysses. The Winding Stair near the O’Connell Street bike station is a bright, cosy spot for a tasty bite. Enjoy a steaming bowl of seafood chowder and have a browse through the ground-floor bookshop.

Cork

Cork is a vibrant hub renowned for its traditional music, shopping and distinct architecture. The River Lee is at the city’s heart, so a riverside cycle is the perfect way to start your tour. Hop off for a stroll along Grand Parade boardwalk, and wander down the little side streets, alleys and laneways. There are plenty of independent shops around for a surprise vintage buy. Arthur Mayne’s Pharmacy is a treat: a 120-year-old chemist turned wine bar with restored original fittings and pharmaceutical ephemera on display.

Stop off at the magnificently Gothic St. Finbar’s Cathedral. The stained glass windows and marble mosaics from the Pyrenees are breath-taking, and don’t miss the golden angel on the eastern side: according to local legend, it will blow its horn when the Apocalypse is due to start… If you’re feeling peckish, park up and make for The English Market, Cork’s famous food market. Beneath its vaulted ceiling is a selection of fresh tasty produce as well as an eclectic mix of novelty items. For some arty inspiration, pedal to the Lewis Glucksman Gallery, at University College Cork. This limestone, steel and timber construction is home to stunning contemporary art exhibitions. 

Belfast

First stop in Northern Ireland’s capital city has to be Titanic Belfast. Get the story of the ship of dreams, with eight interactive galleries, gantry rides, an underwater cinema and stunning recreation of Edwardian quarters. Just a seven-minute cycle away and you’re at the Cathedral Quarter, Belfast’s creative and cultural hub. The attention-grabbing St Anne’s Cathedral dominates the skyline and inside, the black and white marble floors and mosaic ceilings are simply stunning. Head to Avoca for a freshly made lunchtime bite, and then it’s back on your bike. 

Stop off at St George’s Market, one of Belfast’s oldest attractions. There’s been a market on this spot since 1604 and it has pretty much everything you could think of. Browse antiques, jewellery, artworks, books, photography, local foods and lots more. Another don’t-miss is the Botanic Gardens, a glorious tribute to the city’s Victorian heritage. Blooming with exotic flowers and birds of paradise, it also boasts some of the oldest seed plants in the world. Want to get outside the city limits? Grab a bike from nearby Divis Street, and make for the Divis Mountains – an arduous climb, but the views are worth it!

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