Said to be Ireland's most famous food market, the English Market is a key landmark in Cork's landscape, attracting locals and visitors alike. Made up of Princes Street Market and Grand Parade Market, the buildings are a sight in themselves, as examples of mid-19th century architecture. A number of refurbishments have been made over the years following damage by two separate fires, but don't worry, when it was restored the original Victorian designs were kept in mind, meaning you can still get a feel for its original charm.
Following the most major reconstruction of the Market in 1980, it began to become increasingly multicultural, and today you can find products here inspired by cultures all over the world. However, this diversity of choice doesn't come with a lot of air miles; the majority of the ingredients on offer were sourced directly from the surrounding farmland and coastline, ensuring this market is a true celebration of Cork's heritage.
We're sure your first question is how such an important feature of Irish heritage could possibly be called the English Market, right? Well, there's actually a verylogical explanation. The name was given to the market to distinguish it from nearby St. Peter's, which was known locally as the Irish Market, marking the divide between Protestant ('English') and Catholic ('Irish') corporations. Ironically, it's the English Market that has survived all these years, with its competitor now a fragment of the city's history.
Another thing that makes the Market so interesting is the way it has transformed since its origins. The market was originally opened to sell meat in 1788, with fish, fruit, and vegetable stalls being gradually added over the following year, laying the foundations of the market that is still successful today.
Fast-forwarding a couple of hundred years to the 1980s, the market started to become wonderfully multicultural, with a wave of stallholders arriving from abroad. This introduced to the Market ingredients like French cheese, fresh pasta, and octopus, representing the more diverse population arriving in the city.
Today, the market continues to celebrate multiculturalism, but keeps its roots firmly planted in its Irish heritage, ensuring that local ingredients remain the stars of the show.
There are so many foodie delights on offer at this indoor market, but some of the real highlights have to be the ingredients on offer. From fruit and veg vendors, to countless butchers and fishmongers, the freshest produce can be easily found at the English Market, along with the friendly faces behind the stalls who will be more than happy to tell you about their products.
If you're visiting Cork briefly, or are just really impatient to try some of the produce, there are also a number of deli and bakery stalls with delicious cheeses, cured meats, sandwiches, breads, and cakes ready for you to dive right in.
Alternatively, after you've browsed the market, head to the in-market cafe, Farmgate Cafe, which overlooks the bustling stalls. The main aim of the cafe is to celebrate the ingredients on sale and provide a uniquely Irish eating experience that's unmissable.
If you're already in Cork City, then your best bet is walking to the market as it's located in the centre of town.
Alternatively, Cork is easily accessible by car from Dublin, Waterford, Limerick, and Killarney, however we wouldn't recommend driving and parking in the city as it can be pretty tricky. Instead, drive to the Black Ash Park and Ride facility and take the bus to the centre of town. This service is free Monday to Saturday, or €5 per car on Sundays, with buses running every 10 to 15 minutes between 7am and 11.30pm.
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