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Cork's rivalry with Dublin is legend, with locals calling it the 'real capital of Ireland', or, from those with a more mischievous air, 'The People's Republic of Cork'. And one of the best things about Cork is that there are plenty of folk here with a mischievous air - and a song in their hearts, or on their lips even. Our recommendations for the best places to stay in Cork offer both traditional luxury and contemporary city centre properties.
Cork's youthful energy comes partly from its rebellious traditions and partly from its university, which injects new blood and ideas into the city on a regular basis. This makes for vibrant nightlife and a great live music scene. And even Dubliners might agree that Cork is Ireland's foodie capital. Visitors should visit the markets as well as sampling some of what's on offer in the slew of cafes and restaurants.
It's Cork's traditional charms which will really draw you in, though. Originally built on marshland, Cork's main thoroughfares were once channels of the River Lee. Some of modern Cork's main streets, including St. Patrick's Street, the South Mall and the Grand Parade, where you can still see moorings, began as canals - which is why they're so wide.
This complementary relationship with the river has shaped the city's layout - the very centre of town used to be an island. And this is where you can find the glorious Georgian parades and tiny streets crammed with pubs, shops and cafes.
It's been mentioned, but you should really see Cork's market. A port city, Cork once made a packet providing butter to English ships. As well as butter, Cork has wonderful cheeses, sausages, breads, and Cork even makes its own stouts, to rival Dublin's…
Some of Cork's other, more formal attractions, are the Crawford Municipal Art Gallery, with its small but excellent collection, St. Fin Barre's Cathedral, Cork City Gaol - don't worry, it's not a prison anymore - and the Blackrock Castle Observatory.
If you're looking for a good spot for a stroll and an explore, head to Shandon. As well as having good city views and plenty of galleries, restaurants, cafes, boutiques and antique shops, Shandon also has those famous rows of much photographed narrow houses.
- The River Lee Hotel is a large hotel, right on the river, as the name suggests, with a contemporary, yet welcoming feel. It's modern, but elegant, with the feel of an especially tasteful business hotel, but one with a great spa, as well as fitness centre.
- Hayfield Manor is almost as central, yet feels a world away: a county house hotel in its own secluded grounds. There's gourmet food here on offer in two different restaurants, plus a spa and family suites. Certainly one of the best places to stay in Cork if you want to treat yourself.
Best Hotels in Cork
Hayfield Manor 88 rooms from $182Cork, County Cork
Hayfield Manor has all of the elegance of a country house hotel in its own secluded grounds yet it is only minutes from Cork city centre. Stylish & luxurious bedrooms and suites, plus gourmet dining, spa and gym. Family friendly too. An indulgent spot from which to explore County Cork.Restaurant - Fine dining in Orchids Restaurant plus Perrotts Garden Bsitro for more casual mealsSights nearby - Close to all of Cork's attractions including the University and Shandon Chruch.Spa - Wide selection of Elemis treatments available at the Beautique SpaLocal markets - Cork's famous English Market is only 1.5km awayRecommended by - Fodors, Frommers, Kiwi Collection, Small Luxury Hotels, CN Traveller
The Imperial Hotel 125 rooms from $162Cork
An elegant hotel located in the heart of Cork. Spacious rooms are contemporary in style standing in contrast with the opulent rooms downstairs. A handful of superlative dining options offer everything from fine-dining to tapas. The spa is utterly spoiling and worthy of a visit alone.City Style - A glamorous city centre property complete with atmospheric bar and restaurant and spoiling spa.Local markets - Sample local produce at the indoor English Market.TraditionalOpulent
The Montenotte 126 rooms from $130Cork
A contemporary harbour side property offering both style and luxury. Individually designed rooms feature floor to ceiling windows, pops of colour coming from the soft furnishings and sink-into beds. The glamorous Panorama Bistro and Terrace offers superlative cuisine specialising in seafood.City Style - An uber chic hotel complete with trendy bar and harbour views.Sights nearby - Make a trip to the medieval Blarney Castle located just outside Cork.Local markets - Visit the vibrant covered English Market.Swimming Pool - Indoor pool
The River Lee Hotel 182 rooms from $126Cork, County Cork
Large contemporary yet welcoming hotel in the centre of Cork that works for both leisure and business travellers. Spacious rooms are tastefully decorated and many boast stunning views over the River Lee from large picture windows. Contemporary bistro, plus inhouse spa with fitness centre & 20m pool.Sights nearby - Situated right in the centre of Cork, just 10 mins walk from the Opera HouseViews - All rooms have great views either over Cork or the River LeeSpa - Award winning Urban Escape SpaRecommended by - Tablet