Shopping in Cork
There’s no shortage of shopping opportunities in Cork. Visitors will find everything from designer fashion brands and trend-setting music outlets to book stores and pop-up food stalls. Wander down the narrow lanes off of the main streets and the city has many quirky and fascinating emporia to explore.
Snoop around the city and there are plenty of shops to discover, but those keen to spend some money should head to Patrick Street, Cork’s lengthy shopping stretch. Antiques and musical instruments are available along MacCurtain Street and French Church Street is peppered with clothes and shoe shops. If you want big brands, wander along Opera Lane where shiny, high street homogeneity awaits.
Cork has many impressive markets but the best is The English Market between Grand Parade and St Patrick’s Street. It exudes a wonderful, lively atmosphere, selling top-quality artisan foods. Originally established under British rule, traders had to swear allegiance to the Queen, but today it’s just top-quality vendors selling anything from seafood, cheese and meat to novelty gifts and crockery. If you’re brave, try some tripe (offal from animal stomachs) and drisheen (black pudding). The eateries upstairs are an essential introduction to the spirit of Cork too with all the ingredients coming from the stallholders below.
Along MacCurtain Street at weekends you’ll find Mother Jones Flea Market. Named after a celebrated trade unionist that left Cork for America in the 1800s, the market is now a hunting ground for all things vintage. The Coal Quay Market, on Cornmarket Street, is also worth visiting, for food, clothes, shoes and musical recordings and equipment, as well as the legendary verbal wit of the stallholders (best heard on Saturdays).
There are several large shopping centres in the city including Merchants Quay on Patrick Street, which is home to a number of department stores like Debenhams and Marks and Spencer as well as fashion houses, bookstores and health and beauty shops over two floors. It also has a food court.
The huge Mahon Point Shopping Centre, found at Mahon Point, not only has a slew of stores to quell any shopping needs (from Argos to Zara; home improvements to health foods), but also has a 13 screen cinema, a farmers market and fast food joints.
Another option includes Wiltons Shopping Centre, on Sarsfield Road, which has over 75 stores to pick from. It also has a number of banks, restaurants and a Post Office as well as free car parking.
Standard shopping hours are Monday to Saturday 0900-1700/1800. Late-night shopping is on Thursday and Friday, with the bigger stores and many of the smaller ones remaining open until about 2000-2100. Many bookshops keep longer hours and some also open on Sunday 1200-1800.
Visitors after a taste of Cork can take home local food specialities like Clonakilty black pudding and Cork spiced beef. Whiskey memorabilia, including bottles of the gold stuff, also make popular presents. On a tackier tilt, there are enough shamrock fridge magnets and Guinness key rings around to sink the Titanic. Those with literary friends to impress should look out for works by famous local writers like Frank O’Connor.
Non-EU residents are entitled to claim VAT back on items purchased and taken home at the end of their visit. VAT in Ireland is 23%, but the VAT refund available is 18.07%, from which a small handling fee is deducted by the Refund Agency. Ask for a Tax Free Worldwide form in shops in order to make your claim.