Cork, as the third city of Ireland after Dublin and Belfast, is a superb place for shopping.
As well as a number of big stores there is a lively community of small shops and independents. It’s not possible to do justice to all of this in a short blog, but hopefully this will give you an idea and encourage you to get out and see what’s on offer in this great city.
The English Market
The first place for any retail tour of Cork has to be the English Market. The name came about because another Market in the city was known as the Irish Market, and there was a need to make this market stand out as a different place. There has been a market here since the late 18th century.
Run by the City Council, the English Market was refurbished in the 1980s. Within the market you will find fresh food at greengrocers, butchers and fishmongers as well as a range of other stalls and cafés. The best know café/restaurant is the Farmgate Restaurant where you can sit up high and watch the world of the market below. There is also a pub at the Mutton Lane entrance with a lot of market history behind it. It is probably my favourite pub in Cork.
So you can buy wine and Cuban Cigars from the Bubble Brothers, artwork from local Cork artists at the Market Gallery, Cork T-shirts from the Rave Cave, fantastic Irish Farmhouse cheeses from On the Pig’s Back, traditional Irish bread from the Alternative Bakery, and many other lovely things at excellent stalls all over the English Market. Then down a pint at the Mutton Lane Inn to recover.
For those wanting serious fashion, the independent Samui at 17 Drawbridge Street, at the back of Dunnes Stores, has in the past been voted Ireland’s best fashion store. As you might expect, this is not bargain basement shopping.
Nearby on the same street is Paper Dolls and, on Oliver Plunkett Street, Olori.
The Retro Workshop on Washington Street, just near the junction with the Grand Parade, sells vintage clothes for both men and women. There is also Miss Daisy Blue in the English Market which stocks women’s vintage clothing.
Irish Arts, Crafts and Design
For those who want a piece of traditional Irish woollen wear - a scarf, an Aran sweater maybe - or perhaps a piece of traditional Irish craft, a good place to start may be Kilkenny.
This shop is in Emmet Place just near the Crawford Gallery. Their mission is declared as promoting Irish Design, and they claim to promote the largest collection of Irish design in the country. The shop grew out of a 1960s government-funded project to foster Irish design.
As well as lovely woollen wear, Kilkenny stock Irish jewellery, art, ceramics, home items, and a wide range of quality souvenirs of your visit to Ireland. Prices are pretty good for the quality and in the past they have done discounts for residents of particular hotels so it is always worth asking.
The Lavit Gallery at 5 Father Mathew Street just off South Mall, is a non-profit gallery founded in the 1960s promoting the work of local and national artists if you fancy taking home some local art.
The Crawford Art Gallery also has a shop and tea room.
Cork Craft and Design is unfortunately out of the City Centre but represents professional craft makers in Cork. It is run by its members and stocks ceramics, wood, and many other crafts. It is at St Patrick’s Woollen Mill, Douglas, about a 10 minute taxi ride from City Hall.
I have written a separate blog about Books about Cork, but for those wanting to buy any of the books I mention or anything else, then the booksellers Eason at 113 St Patrick’s Street and Waterstones, 69 Patrick Street provide the usual ‘high street’ offer. However if you want to find a more original bookstore then on your list should be:
Vibes and Scribes on Lavitt’s Quay. This is just on the River Lee back from the Crawford Art Gallery. There are two shops next to each there, one new and one secondhand. They have a lot of art and photography and graphic books. Vibes and Scribes also have an art and crafts materials shop at 3 Bridge Street, which is at the bottom of St Patrick’s Hill.
The Time Travellers’ Bookshop on Wandesford Quay near where it meets Western Road. This is a specialist store aimed at collectors, and
Uneeda Bookshop on Oliver Plunkett Street which sells used/secondhand books and also CDs etc… Full of character.
Strolling along any of the small city centre streets you will find shops with character. Oliver Plunkett Street and the streets off it is excellent for independent shops as is the area around Paul Street.
The big stores Brown Thomas, Penneys, Dunnes and Debenhams are on St Patrick’s Street. Debenhams is part of the Merchants Quay Shopping Centre.