Many people travel mainly for sightseeing. They want to see amazing natural landscapes, historic buildings, museums, and Instagram-worthy views of cobblestone streets and charming array of quirky shops and cafes. Others are in it for the cultural experience.

And if you’re in Ireland and you want to have a huge slice of the rich and vibrant Irish culture, Cork is one of the best places to be in.

Cork is a colorful city, both literally and figuratively. The city is jam-packed with a booming food scene, thought-provoking galleries, and bustling local pubs. It’s an excellent contender against Dublin for being the best city in Ireland.

What makes Cork the best city to visit for your Irish culture trip? Here are seven convincing reasons why Cork is the perfect city break destination.

1. Cork is one of the friendliest city in the world

Ireland is widely known for its busy, vibrant, and cosmopolitan cities with a booming pub culture and friendly and sociable people – and the chances are that Cork city is the friendliest among the rest. A 2018 Condé Nast traveler’s survey on the world’s friendliest cities shows that Cork is one of them. Cork made it to the third spot while Dublin came eight.

2. Cork is Ireland’s food capital

Are you looking for a next-level food trip? Say no more. Thanks to the abundance of high-quality local producers as well as the creative and passionate chefs, Cork earned the reputation as the country’s food capital. An appreciation of good food is evident almost everywhere you go.

There’s no better introduction to Cork’s thriving food scene than The English Market, a bustling 18th-century market that has been serving the city since 1788. Here, locals and tourists not only get access to fresh meat, fish, produce, and food products – they can also have a chat with passionate food producers who display their products in various ways. The English Market also has a wealth of contemporary restaurants, cafes, and artisan stalls selling local cheeses and chunks of handmade chocolate.

When touring the city, you won’t run out of interesting choices for your brunch, quick afternoon snack, and dinner. If you don’t feel like dining in your hotel accommodation, Cork boasts its endless supply of top-notch eateries and cafes you can visit to soak up the local flavor.

3. Cork’s coffee culture will perk up your senses 

If you’re looking for a good dose of caffeine as you plan to go sightseeing the whole day, Cork City is the perfect place to get your cup of coffee. Cork is home to some of Ireland’s best coffee roasters.

O’Conaill’s hot chocolate and coffee shop is a local gem you should check out.

4. Cork has amazing local tours 

While it’s nice to create your itinerary and tour the city on your own, sometimes it’s better to join guided tours led by excellent local guides. You’ll learn so much more about the city’s history and folklore and see the city from a local’s perspective. With guided tours, you can see heritage sites becoming a city’s treasure, where significant events took place, and not just an attractive site for your photoshoots.

Bonus: the tours will allow you to hear more of that distinct accent!

5. Does love live music? Cork is the place to be

Live music is an integral part of Irish culture. You don’t need to splurge on a concert just to listen to great music – sometimes you can come across a “session” or “jam” late into a good night at a laidback local pub. Just relax, have a chilled drink, socialize with strangers, and soak up that lively atmosphere made possible by talented musicians.

If you’re into jazz, you may check out the Cork Jazz Festival. The festival, founded in 1978, attracts thousands of music fans to head to Cork every October. Throughout its long history, renowned personalities like Ella Fitzgerald, Oscar Peterson, Mel Tormé, Robert Glasper, and Rodrigo y Gabriela have performed on the stage.

6. You can experience being a rebel for a day

Cork is also dubbed as the “rebel city” – and a trip to Cork City Gaol museum will tell you why.

The museum offers a unique insight into Cork City’s history way back the 19th and early 20th centuries. Here, you’ll experience how it feels like inside and outside of the prison walls. The exhibitions showcase lifelike figures, restored cells, and sound effects that will transport you back in the day.

You can also visit sites like the Military Museum at Collins Barracks, and the prison at Spike Island, also known as ‘Ireland’s Alcatraz.’

7. Cork is home to a lot of art galleries

A culture trip isn’t complete without art – it’s a good thing that Cork has a handful of excellent museums and galleries.

It’s the home of the popular Canova Casts, a collection of plaster casts donated by the Vatican Museum to the Cork Society of Arts in 1818. Other notable casts on display include Belvedere Torso, The Laocoon, and The Disc Thrower. The best part: admission is free.