The English Market in Cork, Ireland is a foodie heaven - a covered market filled to the brim with fresh fruits, vegetables, meat and seafood - as well as tons of teas, spices, trinkets, cheese and breads - if you want to eat it, you can find it in the English Market!
Pigs feet, impeccably lined up and displayed alongside a neatly folded curtain of tripe and trays of aged beef, juicy pork chops, and neat little sausages.
The second you walk through the somewhat unassuming English Market sign in Cork, which looks like any other arcade you'd see in any British colonial (or post-colonial) city, you're greeted with the whole of Ireland's agricultural heritage.
When planning our trip through Ireland this summer with my family, I was tasked with finding things to do while touring the country.
Visiting Cork was one of the highlights of our trip - it is the town my grandmother's family is from, and the one city in Ireland I didn't really get to tour previously when I had been to Ireland previously. As I was planning our adventures through County Cork and Cork city, one stop was a major priority - the English Market.
My family is just as food-obsessed as I am. Not just eating food (which is sort of the whole point, natch) - but we all enjoy strolling through markets and seeing what foods are on offer, especially in different cities we visit. When I am traveling, one of the first places I always like to go is to a market - I feel like you learn so much about people by just visiting their markets and trying out their food.
And with that belief, let me tell you: people in Ireland's southern counties are anything but boring as you might believe from antiquated notions of Irish cuisine.
There is an abundance of fresh, beautiful food all through the English Market - as well as genuinely friendly, chatty shop keepers. Just walking through one morning, I felt like I had met a ton of new friends! This isn't meant to be a cheesy colloquialism - despite very much looking like an American tourist with a large obnoxious camera, many shopkeepers stopped and chatted me up in a very genuinely warm and friendly way even though it was clear I wasn't taking home any of their pristine seafood and perfectly aged meats (a certain cheesemonger knew he had met a mark in me, however, and I am glad he talked me into about six cheeses more than I was planning on purchasing.)
There are, of course, those bits and baubles we Americans aren't so used to (the aforementioned pigs feet, liver, hearts, and stomach) prominently displayed - a nice reminder of Ireland's traditional stews and hearty country dishes that leave little of the animal to waste. With offal becoming once again trendy in the foodie world, it's easy to see why the English Market is still a prime destination in southern Ireland.
The English Market is a fantastic spot to sit, sip coffee, and watch people bustle throughout - you'll find a pleasant mix of busy mums and grandmothers scurrying to get the night's dinner, employees from local businesses popping in for a quick deli lunch, and throngs of food-loving tourists scanning the aisles for unique gifts and trinkets.
And the food.
Oh, the food.
Where to start?
Roughty Foodie had tons of beautiful teas, jams, preserves, and spreads - as well as delicious fresh fruit, cheeses, and drinks. I could have spent hours just at their stall!
The Real Olive Company had a gorgeous display of olives and tons of delicious antipasti fixings.
On The Pigs Back has delicious farmhouse cheeses - and fabulous prices. I am ready to move to Ireland for the cheese selection alone!
We stayed at the River Lee Hotel, so we didn't have a kitchen, which was slightly regrettable with all of these delicious fresh foods - but the location was fabulous to be able to have just a short walk to the market.
Next time in Cork, I want to rent a home and just cook my way through all of the food at the English Market! Even my kids loved checking out all the delicious foods throughout the hall. It is a fantastic way to spend an afternoon!
English Market, Cork Ireland
What to See
Walk the River Lee from the English Market down to the Fin Barre Cathedral, and back to the River Lee Hotel for a great afternoon full of beautiful buildings, past unique and colorful street art, and by interesting shops like the Time Traveler Bookshop for rare antique books.
What to Eat
Farmgate, second floor. Breakfast, coffee and lunch - farm to table style comfort foods and a great view of the market's happenings below. I loved the "no phones" signs everywhere - it was nice to dine without people chattering away.
Where to Stay
The River Lee Hotel. We loved our spacious rooms, the great location, and the upscale decor.
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