LivingTravelCork's English Market: The Complete Guide

Cork's English Market: The Complete Guide

The Cork Food Market might still be known as the English Market, but it specializes in local Irish food. Along with some international flavors, the two-story covered market, officially comprised of Princes Street Market and Grand Parade Market, offers fresh produce, hot meals and gourmet ingredients, Monday through Saturday.

Here is our guide on how to visit and taste the English market in Cork.


The English Market has been part of the city center of Cork since the 1780s. At that time, Ireland was part of the British Empire and the English corporation that was in power in Cork was responsible for building the market, which was opened officially on August 1, 1788.

In 1840, when a Catholic majority was present in Cork, the new local government built another covered market on Cornmarket Street. This market was officially known as Mercado de San Pedro. However, the name “English Market” was retained as a way of distinguishing the old food hall at St. Peter’s Market, which happened to be called the “Irish Market.”

In the 18th and 19th centuries, markets were incredibly important to Cork’s economy. The rich farmland around the city and the city’s sheltered harbor meant that Cork was in the perfect place to export meat and other foods. Cork’s markets soon became known around the world for the quality of their food (especially the cork butter) and their clean, well-run buildings, like the English market.

During the early years, English market stalls sold only meat, but the market soon expanded to offer fresh fish and produce.

The Irish market is no more (Bodega Bar now takes its place), but the popularity of the historic English market has endured over the centuries. In fact, the market has survived famines and rebellions, but was badly damaged by fire in the 1980s.

First was the massive fire caused by a gas explosion on June 19, 1980. Princes Street Market was almost completely destroyed. Fortunately, the Cork Corporation decided to undertake a careful restoration of the beautiful Victorian building. The upstairs area was converted into a seating cafe, while the rest of the market remained relatively unchanged. The award-winning restoration of the English market modernized the historic brick building without erasing its more charming original features.

Another fire in 1986 destroyed 8 stalls, but the damage was minimal compared to the fire a few years earlier. Trading soon resumed and continues today.

What to see and how to visit

The English Market is the iconic place to buy food in Cork, but it is more than just a food market. The market is a reflection of the city, full of busy activity and friendly faces. It’s a great place to see when exploring the city to shop for local ingredients or just people-watch. The two-level brick market is also one of the best examples of Victorian architecture in Cork, and many visitors stop to admire the style and design.

Traders within the English market sell everything from local seafood to international spices and sauces. There are also butchers, delicatessens and bakeries located at various stalls within the market. Shoppers can find everything to create a typical Irish meal at home, gather supplies for a picnic, find food souvenirs or sit down for a light meal.

For a taste of local food, ask for a table at Farmgate Restaurant’s cafeteria. The restaurant can be found in the upper gallery and sells dishes made with ingredients purchased from the buzzes below.

The market gates are open to the public between 8 a.m. and 6 p.m. Monday through Saturday (although note that some of the vendors within the market have slightly different hours and this may vary from vendor to vendor). You can find the main entrance on Princes Street, in the heart of downtown Cork City.

Things to do nearby

Blarney Castle, with its famous Blarney Stone, is located just outside the city of Cork. It is undoubtedly one of the best castles in Ireland, as well as one of the most popular. The stone towers date back to the 15th century, and it has long been believed that hanging over the side to kiss one of the stones above the castle will give you the Irish gift of the gab.

After a few historic stops, the kids will love the chance to wander around Fota, a nearby wildlife park.

To see the absolute tip of Ireland, drive up to Mizen Head. The headland is the most south-western point in all of Ireland and, in addition to the panoramic views of the sea, you can also walk along the famous footbridge and visit the station house that played an important role in the development of the lines of transatlantic cable.

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