Planning a city break in Cork with kids? This guide will take you through exactly how to plan and make the most out of your trip. Discover the best things to do in Cork with kids, find the best places to stay and get inspiration for day trips and more!
Written by Shannon Mooney, Travel Writer
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Is Cork Good for Families?
Cork with kids is always a great time. A Cork city break is always at the top of my list when I go to Ireland with kids! It’s safe, fun, and fascinating. My son and daughter love it, mainly because there is so much to do in Cork for families.
When is the Best Time to visit Cork, Ireland?
Cork in Ireland is much less well-known than Dublin worldwide, but that makes it all the more special – all year round! Your family breaks to Cork won’t be focused on the weather, but there are still some great times to visit that will make your Ireland city break that much more perfect. Cork with kids is best in these two months:
Cork in March
The weather is mostly mild in the spring and autumn, and March benefits from experiencing the turn of the seasons!
It might still be a little chilly, but there are plenty of things to do in Cork for kids – especially over the St. Patrick’s day festival! It’s hosted in the city from the 13th to the 17th every year and is always a great party.
Cork in September
Just after the busiest time for tourists, September still has nice mild weather and fun things to do in Cork for families while also much quieter and less crowded.
If you stay until the end of the month, the Celtic Folk Festival starts on the 29th of September and runs into October, helping you and the kids learn a bit about the history and culture of Ireland!
How to Get to Cork, Ireland
Getting to Cork with kids is pretty easy! Depending on your point of origin, you can fly directly to Cork Airport or Shannon Airport near Cork, Ireland. A plane from London to Cork takes 1 hour, 25m direct. Book your flights here.
It’s also common to get the train from Dublin to Cork, which takes about 2.5 hours (or 3 hours by bus). Get your train tickets here.
If you prefer to drive, the drive from London to Cork via ferry takes about ten hours. There are also several buses and coaches from major cities elsewhere that travel on the ferry routes.
Where to Stay in Cork City with Kids
Some of the best places to stay in Cork, Ireland, include Cork city centre (the main area of tourism), the Victorian quarter (for a quaint and more quirky experience), and around the University College Cork for those looking for a more youthful atmosphere! No matter where you stay, though, your accommodation in Cork city is sure to be great. There’s something for everyone from budget spending to 5 star Cork hotels!
Budget: Jurys Inn Cork
Starting at around 120 euros a night, the Jurys Inn family room is right in the centre of things to do in Cork for kids for a great price.
They offer a buffet breakfast for a small fee and modern conveniences in the room and an international, on-site restaurant. The staff speak three languages (English, Polish, and Slovak), and cots are available on request for children up to two years old. There is no capacity for extra beds.
Mid-Range: Clayton Hotel Cork City
The stunning Clayton hotel overlooks the River Lee and is one of the top-rated family hotels in Cork on booking.com, earning a 9.1/10 for travelling with kids!
The best option is one double and one twin room for a family of four, totalling about 295 euros per night. It also has a child-friendly swimming pool open between 9 am and 6 pm and is close to many things to do in Cork for children.
There is no capacity for cots or extra beds – however, children are considered children until age 18!
Splashing Out: Castlemartyr Resort Hotel
If you’re going to splash out, this is where to do it in style.
The Clayton Hotel has a swimming pool, a spa, beautiful gardens, and free private parking. There’s also a golf course and regular carriage tours of the estate. There is no cot capacity, and while extra beds are available, the number and price depend on the rooms you have booked. The staff are known for going above and beyond to fulfil requests!
Top 10 Things to do in Cork for Kids
Now you have somewhere to stay. It’s time to find out the best things to do in Cork, Ireland. The city is bursting with family-friendly activities, including many free things to do in Cork!
1. Fota Wildlife Park
This zoo/wildlife reserve is filled with excitement and educational fun for kids. There are animals from all over the world to see and even interact with, and the grounds cover over 100 acres! Even better, it’s a non-profit charitable organisation, and they also run several programs to keep your kids as invested and enthusiastic as possible.
2. A Day in the Centre
If you’re looking for a cinema, Cork city centre has you covered! There are several multiplexes in the city centre that offer movies for kids, adults, and everyone in-between.
On a rainy day (which happens in Ireland!) I recommend catching a movie, doing some shopping, and taking yourself and the kids out to a café in Cork city centre. There are also many Cork city libraries for those looking for peace and quiet!
3. Blarney Castle & the Blarney Stone
Your Cork itinerary has to include a trip to the castle! It’s not only one of the best things to do in Cork for kids and adults alike, but it’s a central part of the city’s history.
The six hundred-year-old castle also contains the Blarney Stone, which is said to bestow magical eloquence on those who kiss it. After an exciting day of exploring the castle, there’s a small park nearby where the kids can play and get out their energy before bedtime!
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4. Cork City Tours
I’m a big fan of hop-on, hop-off bus tours, and the Cork Hopper is one of the best Cork city tours to get your fill! This particular tour stops at Blarney castle and the witches’ caves, the wildlife park, the Jameson distillery, the Cobh marina, and much more.
It’s a great way to scope out the places to visit in Cork, Ireland, that a short trip might otherwise have made complex to get to. View tour prices and availability here.
5. Regional Park Ballincollig
A little bit of nature in the city! There are many picnic areas, skate parks, trails through the woods, and riverside walks – something for everyone, making it one of the best things to do in Cork. It’s an excellent place for the kids to run about or for the whole family to appreciate its natural beauty.
6. Inchydoney Beach
This stunning beach is popular with tourists and natives year-round. The water is clean and suitable for swimming in the summer, and a lifeguard is on duty.
The sand is excellent for castles and play, and splashing or strolling at the seaside is still one of the perennial favourite things to do in Cork today. What the beach is most known for, though, is its excellent surfing conditions! Several nearby companies offer surf lessons.
7. National Kart Centre
NKC Cork is open seven days a week and is a guaranteed popular event for kids eight and over! It’s one of the top recommended family activities in Cork for families with older and more adventurous children. They also offer kids’ parties and group bookings.
8. Cork City Gaol
This once-prison is now a heritage museum containing some of Cork’s most fascinating history, dating back to the early 19th century. There are exhibitions on old crimes and criminals, punishments and even executions – the kind of thing any history-buff kid will adore!
You can even visit the Prison School where prisoners were taught during their incarceration. It’s now perhaps the most famous Cork city museum, for a good reason.
9. Toy Soldier Factory
This is just what it says on the tin! It’s the only toy soldier/miniature factory, and it allows a hands-on approach to the craft by running make-your-own workshops for kids and adults alike in its visitor’s centre. As well as painting, the family can learn to cast their own miniatures!
10. Model Railway Village
This astounding model village is a scale model complete with working trains that run around its tracks! It replicates a miniature version of the 1940s West Cork railway and shows busy market days to teach about the culture and recent history of Cork and the surrounding areas.
Cork with a Baby
Cork can be a great place to take your younger baby simply because, as a city, you know there’s always a facility nearby when you need it! Some of the fun places on offer for parents with tiny ones include:
- Parks and buggy-friendly hikes
- The Farm Grenagh
- Perks Entertainment Centre
- Chuckies Playzone
- Supernova Entertainment Centre
Things to do in Cork for Toddlers
When they’re a big bigger, there’s a lot of energy to get out! Fortunately, much of the above-mentioned stuff for babies is great for toddlers. There are some more options for the little ones, though, like:
- Leisure World Churchfields
- Buddies Play Centre
- Kissane Sheep Farm
- Leahy’s Open Farm
- Rumleys Open Farm
Cork with Teens
Teens are notorious for making it difficult to entertain them. Many of the examples on our top ten lists above are excellent for teens, especially the City Gaol and the karting experiences. Some more teen-focused activities include:
- Birds of Prey Educational Centre
- Ballyhass Lakes Adventure Centre
- Muckross Riding Stables and Pet Farm
- Crag Cave
- Star Outdoors Kenmare
Best Places to Eat in Cork for Families
Cork is known as the food capital of Ireland, and Cork city restaurants offer everything from traditional Irish foods to international delights. The fresh produce, including vegetables, fish, and poultry, is hard to beat. Three of the better family-friendly places to eat in Cork are:
The White Horse – one of the oldest pubs in Ireland, offering amazing food and great family meals. Baby bowls are given free of charge! It’s a family-owned restaurant with homemade delights and a children’s meal.
Market Lane – Their food all comes from the English Market, an incredibly famous attraction in Cork filled with some of the best products, or from other artisans. They offer healthy children’s menus as well as cater well to dietary requirements.
Son of a Bun – It’s hard to go wrong with a good burger, and this place offers some of the best ones. Everything is homemade and locally sourced and their service is legendary – to the point, they won Best Burger in Ireland in 2021.
2 Days in Cork City Break Itinerary
The last time the kids and I had two days in Ireland, Cork was our first thought. My son (8) and my daughter (11) love it there, and this time was no exception! We crammed a lot into those two days; here is our itinerary.
Day 1: 24 Hours in Cork
Morning: We spent the morning and afternoon at Blarney Castle, touring the extensive grounds and taking part in many interactive activities. My son told me he felt like a king! They didn’t kiss the stone this time, but they both decided to make a wish on it instead.
Afternoon: We got some lunch, then continued our castle adventure. It was late in the afternoon when we were done, so we went to the nearby playground so the little one could get his energy out. Even my daughter went on the swings! Later that night, we went for a stroll along the river before digging into some fantastic pub food.
Day 2: 48 Hours in Cork
Morning: We started early and headed to the Fota Wildlife Park. We spent most of the day here, wandering around and getting to know the animals. The kids always find something new! They enjoyed “making friends” with the big cats best of all.
Afternoon: After lunch, it started to rain. We weren’t upset; we rounded up our lovely holiday by seeing an excellent movie and getting a bite to eat as well as going in and out of several shops that my daughter assured me were the height of fashion! By the time we got back to the hotel for the night, we were exhausted – and thrilled.
Places to Visit Near Cork with Kids
You can spend the whole trip in Cork and be happy, but if you’re looking for day trips, there are plenty of those on offer as well! Three of the best include:
Kinsale and West Cork
Kinsale is a port town and one of the most scenic places to visit in southern Ireland. You and the kids can explore the museums, rent a yacht and go for a sail, or buy up the beautiful souvenirs and enjoy the view. Many companies offer tours, including some straight from hotels. If you’d rather travel yourself, Kinsale is 45 minutes by direct public bus and 25 minutes by car or taxi from Cork city centre.
Your Cork Ireland itinerary isn’t complete without a trip to Cobh. This massive harbour was the final stop of the Titanic before she sank in 1912, making it a top-rated tourist attraction. The seaside town is also quaint and beautiful, and you can go kayaking along the harbour to view the brightly painted buildings. There are also several museums and other attractions! You can also take part in several tours that cruise the shore of southern Ireland by boat. The trip takes 25 minutes by train, 30 by bus, and 20 by car or taxi.
Inish Beg Pirate Trail
This historical trail depicts the real journey of 16th-century pirates who sacked Baltimore. While you learn, there’s also a twist – you and the kids need to find the pirates still hiding out to this day! There’s also a fairy trail if you prefer something more mystical and several other activities.
How to Get Around Cork City
Getting around Cork is accessible by car or public transport. Cork city car rental is fairly comprehensive, and cars can be picked up right from the airport. The trains and buses operate around the city and go to most places. There’s also the option of a taxi, though, of course, this can get expensive.
If you are taking public transport, getting to the airport is easy, too; regular trains from Cork train station to Cork airport take only 20 minutes or less. Tickets cost about 20 euros.
Plan Your Trip to Cork, Ireland
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Sylvie Simpson is the founder of European Cities with Kids. For the past 6 years, she has been travelling all over Europe whenever she has the chance, both solo, for work and with her daughter. Sylvie is on a mission to help people make the most of city breaks in Europe with kids and helps over 50,000 readers per month plan and make the most of their trips in Europe with kids.