A vibrant city with a small-town feel, Cork’s narrow streets and lively atmosphere combine to make it one of the best places to experience true Irish culture. Known for having a friendly and welcoming population, you can walk the streets at your leisure and if you happen to get lost there’s always a friendly local to help you on your way. Experience a warm welcome as you walk through the busy city centre streets.
Cork city is renowned for its enormous variety of traditional pubs and fantastic nightlife thanks to its blend of old Irish heritage pubs and new contemporary clubs. If you’re planning a romantic break away and are coming up short of ideas on where to go, Cork city is a great place to explore a new place with many bars to choose from. Whether you’re in the mood for a trad session or for cocktail tasting in a new surrounding, Cork city has the answer!
The Shelbourne Bar
This one is for the whiskey drinkers; they have an extensive whiskey list including the “100 whiskeys to try before you die”. This historic cosy pub opened its doors in Cork’s famous Victorian Quarter in 1895. The Shelbourne Bar received a gold medal at the Irish whiskey awards for being the best Irish whiskey bar in Munster. They also offer Whiskey Boards designed to satisfy the needs of every whisky drinker, no matter if it’s your first time tasting whiskey or if you consider yourself a whiskey expert.
Since The Shelbourne Bar is the next-door neighbour to Cork’s cultural home, The Everyman Theatre, it’s a popular venue for those planning to catch a show. You could plan a whole evening of catching a show before hitting The Shelbourne Bar.
Another claim to fame by this pub is their employee Rory McGee, who is the 2020 Guinness World Record Holder in making Irish coffees – having prepped 49 Irish coffees in 3 minutes.
The Corner House
This bar and its neighbour, Sin É, should be mandatory drinking stops for tourists looking for authentic Irish bars. Fitting in with the locals is as easy as drinking a pint of Murphys or Beamish stout. This traditional Irish pub is one of the best bars in Cork for live music from many talented artists who you can catch live every night of the week bar Tuesday. You can enjoy the talents of local musicians and a wide selection of classic beers all from this welcoming, family-run pub.
From its long list of regulars to tourists passing through, this pub has welcomed characters from all walks of life since 1889. This pub is one of the best known in Cork city, often referred to as the home of traditional Irish music in the rebel county. The pub’s name is in Irish and translates to ’That’s It’ mainly because of its next-door neighbour, which is a funeral parlour.
Sin É hosts a variety of gigs throughout the year which can be found on the events page on their site. You’re bound to find an act that suits your dates’ tastes with everything from the ‘All Ireland Poetry Slam’ to live acts from all genres.
For craft beer enthusiasts, this pub has a wide range of high quality international beers that have been carefully selected by their expert staff. With over 220 beers on offer and 30 taps – 24 of which are rotating guest draught taps there’s bound to be one for your taste buds. If you’re feeling adventurous, The Bierhaus gives you the opportunity to taste the flavours of the world all under one roof.
An open fireplace, candlelit setting along with welcoming staff makes The Oval an unforgettable experience. Right on the corner of South Main Street and Tuckey Street, this 20th-century pub is named after its building shape. This pub was designed by a Scottish architectural firm on behalf of the Beamish and Crawford brewery, which was previously open across the street.
The pub gained its spot as the sole pub in Cork to be listed on a list of significant 20th Century structures in Cork city because it is still in its original condition. In addition to the pub’s historic nature, there are several creepy stories from multiple sources of a soldier in a ragged uniform who haunts The Oval.
An Spailpín Fánach
This popular pub can be found on South Main Street and has been around since 1779. The pub has live music playing almost every night. An Spailpn Fánach, which translates to “the migrant worker,” embodies traditional Irish architecture with low ceilings, exposed brick, and a classic wooden bar.
Traditional music is played year-round, 7 nights a week. Also noteworthy, An Spailpn Fánach was voted as one of the best places in the world to spend St. Patrick’s Day.
One of the more unusual and unique bars in Cork city, this 120-year-old chemist turned wine bar on Pembroke Street. Very little has been done to the ground floor of the building, so once you walk in you’ll be greeted by large cabinets of not only fancy bottled wine but also old medicine bottles. Take advantage of the bar’s creativity by bringing a date for a selection of wines and cocktails in a unique setting.
The Old Town Whiskey Bar at Bodega
Bring your date along to Ireland’s largest whiskey bar housed in one of the country’s most beautiful bars. They boast award-winning mixologists as waiting staff and the comfortable surroundings make it the ideal place to get to know your other half. This bar offers a good food menu that puts a unique twist on traditional dishes to reflect the local area.
The Oliver Plunkett
This character filled traditional Irish pub is a delight any time of the day and offers an aesthetic feast for the eyes with its intricate historical decor. You’ll always find interesting reading material here, as the walls are adorned with quirky historical Cork facts, poems, songs, and old Irish.
Apart from delicious food and a wide variety of drinks, The Oliver Plunkett is also a popular place for live performances. While enjoying your meal, experience the jigs, reels, and other Irish music styles performed by the finest local traditional musicians and dancers at ‘The Traditional Irish Dinner and Show’.
The Long Valley
One of the most famous landmark pubs in Cork, and said to be ‘a pub with history as long as its bar counter’. It is landmarked by the sign above the entrance ‘An Cleann Fada’ meaning the long valley in Irish. The pub has been owned by the same family and passed through generations of the same family so definitely knows a thing or two about traditions. You’ll definitely have to add this pub to your list to learn more about its rich history from one of the bar staff.
After you’ve enjoyed the city life of the rebel county why not enjoy a night in our Cork city centre hotel. Our Maldron Hotel South Mall is centrally located and is a short walk away from all pubs mentioned, as well as being around the corner from Beasley Street Dining. The classy new on-street dining option is a welcome addition to Cork’s bucket list for foodies. It has seating for up to 180 people and offers a variety of food and drink options from our very own Grain & Grill Restaurant and our Red Bean Roastery. Beasley Street is the perfect place to enjoy an al fresco meal as it overlooks the scenic banks of the River Lee.
FAQs About the Best Bars and Pubs in Cork City
What Cork Pubs Host Live Trad sessions?
Most pubs covered on this list host their own traditional music sessions, such as The Corner House, Sin É, An Spailpín Fánach and The Oliver Plunkett. Other noteworthy pubs that didn’t make the list that host trad sessions are Coughlan’s Bar, Costigan’s Pub and The Welcome Inn.
Are There Other Good Pubs and Bars In Cork?
Yes, you have the likes of Mutton Lane Inn, Preachers and The Poor Relation, each serving Irish and craft beers on tap alongside a great cocktail menu.
Do You Have to Book Pubs in Cork?
Walk-ins are welcome in most pubs and bars as some do hold back tables for walk-ins. However, if you know it is going to be a busy night you are always better off ringing in advance to secure a good spot.
Does Cork Have a Good Nightlife?
Cork is arguably the best city for a night out in Ireland due to its large variety of bars and pubs it has to offer, from traditional Irish bars to nightclubs. Also, it has a small-town feel meaning you can walk from bar to bar and the fun and friendly people that inhabit the city mean it’s never dull. Moreover, another crowd-puller is the music played at these bars. While in some places you will find traditional Irish music, other joints play modern electronic beats.
What are the best bars in Cork City for food?
Cork is known as Ireland’s ‘foodie capital’ so there’s always a menu to be found that will satisfy your taste buds. The Old Town Whiskey Bar at Bodega, The Oliver Plunkett offers great pub grub if you’re in the mood for a pint and hearty Irish meal.