Whether it’s festive shopping, an outdoor adventure for the kids, or a spot of panto you’re after, you’ll be spoilt for choice in Cork City at Christmas. To celebrate the festive season, the city centre is transformed each year into a veritable wonderland, and what’s more - in the surrounding streets, you’ll find a host of hidden gems selling vintage clothes, local artisan foods and antique jewellery. To help you plan your perfect Christmas in Cork City, we’ve even prepared a handy illustrated map for you to download.
Just a five-minute stroll from the central River Lee Hotel, you’ll find the epicentre of the festive celebrations; Bishop Lucey Park. Every year, this cosy Grand Parade spot is given the Christmas treatment - this time around it’s been transformed into a mystical festive village called ‘Tír na Nollaig’. You’ll find its trees adorned with twinkly lights, the ground covered in a white blanket of snow (artificial until the real thing arrives!), and fun, friendly Christmas characters on hand to greet little ones. In fact, children can post their letters to Santa in the park’s special post box, while the whole family can enjoy the food fairs that take place every Friday, Saturday, and Sunday until Christmas Eve. As you sample delicious local artisan foods, you’ll be entertained by talented local musicians who’ll perform on a special stage on Grand Parade – guaranteed to get you in the Christmas spirit!
Christmas Shopping in Cork City
If you’ve eaten your fill and fancy sampling Cork’s high-street shops, St. Patrick’s Street and Opera Lane are the places to go. Here, you’ll find major stores like Topshop, Penneys, Brown Thomas, and River Island, where you’re sure to find the perfect Christmas party outfit! However, venture off into some of the city’s side streets, and you’ll find the real treasures of Cork’s shopping scene.
Doing some his ‘n’ hers Christmas clothes shopping? Be sure to stop by Amity and Salingers on French Church Street. These two stores - located in the same building - offer classic styles with a modern twist. In Amity, you’ll find beautiful vintage-style ladies’ clothes and accessories at affordable prices, while Salingers offers classic men’s clothing, recut for the modern gent!
For great gift options, we recommend visiting Cork’s famous English Market, which comes alive at Christmas time. The market’s food stalls are packed with artisan food and drink, including locally-made chocolates, wine and cheeses. Be sure to venture further though – because hidden in one of the market’s malls you’ll find some of the city’s most charming vintage stores. Miss Daisy Blue stocks a wide range of vintage and period pieces for women and men. Fur coats, leather jackets, classic scarves and beautiful accessories line the walls in this one-of-a-kind hideaway. Just across the hall is Devilish Designs by Gina, which stocks beautiful handmade clothing and accessories in a vintage style. Think retro and rockabilly - with shoes, clothing, accessories and household items all designed and made by local designer Gina.
A few doors down, you’ll find Pure Crafty. This cosy little nook stocks handmade items from designers across the county of Cork. The Pure Crafty collective have allowed local artisan craft-makers to turn their hobbies into careers, and every penny spent helps to support Cork’s bustling craft scene. Across from Pure Crafty is Peacock & Ruby, which offers curious objects of old-world glamour, as well as vintage costume jewellery.
Jewellery Shops in Cork City
For those of you with an eye for sparkle, make sure to visit Silverwood on Oliver Plunkett Street, which specialises in vintage and modern jewellery, at great prices. A few doors down, Keane’s - one of Cork’s oldest jewellers - caters to those looking to really splash out this festive season. Here you’ll find high-quality gold and silver jewellery, watches, and executive gifts, from some of the world’s top brands. Continue on up the street to Chic, and you’ll find more modern jewellery and watches for women and men alike.
Toy Shops and Gifts in Cork City
Grown-up shopping taken care of, it’s time to head to Pinnochio’s on Paul Street. This adorable shop specialises in hand-crafted toys for boys and girls, and offers something different from the usual plastic and battery-powered gifts filling kids’ stockings each year, without losing any of the fun! Expect wooden gifts, hand-sewn teddies and toy soldiers.
Across the river, just off MacCurtain Street, is the Mother Jones Flea Market - open every Friday, Saturday, and Sunday afternoon. You’ll get lost in this treasure trove of vintage clothes, retro ornaments, household goods and vinyl records. Alongside the local traders’ wares is a delicious coffee shop, as well as a massage parlour, making this market the perfect place for relaxation, shopping, or both!
If vinyl’s your thing, don’t forget to head across to Skateboards & Other Cool Stuff on Sheare Street – just five minutes’ walk from the River Lee Hotel. This cool store does exactly what it says on the tin; you’ll find retro cameras and radios, as well as an array of second-hand records at second-hand prices. The perfect stocking-filler for the music lover in your life!
Cork City Nightlife and Entertainment at Christmas
For evening entertainment, check out any of Cork’s theatres - all hosting special Christmas events this festive season. Each year, the Everyman Palace welcomes such stars as veteran actor Clive Francis for a performance of Dickens’ classic A Christmas Carol on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, while also hosting their yearly panto – Jack & The Beanstalk - throughout the festive period. Adults and children alike will love this show, which sees the cream of Cork’s acting talent team up with local school children for a typically epic performance.
If however, you’ve a night off from the kids, we recommend you check out An Spailpín Fánach’s yearly adult panto. This year’s show, Pinnochio Gets Bigger!, is certainly not for the faint of heart! Featuring performances from a talented troupe of Cork’s best comedians and improvisers, this show is sure to tear the house down – if previous jam-packed performances are anything to go by.
Finally, the Cork Opera House will also host two pantos of their own during Christmas. Aladdin runs from early December to early January, while adults can check out The Improvised Panto, with a completely new show performed each night.
David Linnane is a freelance writer based in Cork City. Originally from Kerry, he has made Cork his second home, and is always looking for new experiences.
Images: Tir Na Nollaig