Trying to choose between Limerick and Cork? You’re in the right place.
Both Limerick and Cork are old Irish cities that date back to the Viking age. They were both founded in the 800-900s AD, and both have a rich history with many medieval buildings, a walkable downtown, and many amazing things to see and do.
Trying to choose which one to spend time in during your trip to Ireland is no easy task. There are worthwhile things to see in both cities. However, I’m going to break it down for you – by the end of this article, I’ll bet you’ll know exactly which city you’d rather see.
Having travelled to both Limerick and Cork, I can highlight the best parts of each city and where they lack. I will tell you the major difference between them which will help you make your decision much easier.
So, let’s jump in – Limerick vs Cork for your Irish advenutre!
Interesting Facts About Limerick
Here’s some things you may not have known about Limerick that make a trip here more interesting
- is one of Ireland’s oldest cities
- is currently the third largest city in Ireland
- was founded by Vikings in 812 AD
- has some of the oldest churches and castles you’ll see in Ireland, that date back to the 1100s and 1200s.
- is the birthplace of Irish coffee
- is the hometown of the author of the memoir Angela’s Ashes, and you can do a walking tour of his museum there
- the hometown of the Cranberries, a famous rock band
- has a moto which is urbs antiqua fuit studisque asperrima belli in Irish, which translates to “an ancient city well studied in the arts of war”
Interesting Facts About Cork
And here’s a few things you may not have known about Cork which could sway your decision one way or another
- is the second largest city in Ireland
- gets its name from the Irish word corcaigh, which means “marsh”
- has the largest butter market in the world
- is said to have the second largest harbour in the world (second only to Sydney Harbour in Australia)
- has a yacht club that was formed in 1720. It’s the oldest yacht club in the world
- has many old buildings, but the oldest one is Red Abbey which dates back to the 1200s
Limerick vs Cork: Population and Size
Limerick and Cork are the second and third largest cities in Ireland. (Dublin is the largest.)
Cork’s population in 2023 was 223,657. Limerick’s 2022 population was 209,536. So, both Limerick and Cork are similar in size.
To me, Limerick ‘felt’ bigger and more industrial than Cork did. But both of them have very quaint and historic downtowns that are walkable.
Best Things to Do in Limerick Vs Cork
Here are the touristic highlights in both cities so that you can see if you’re more interested in one over the other
Overall, Cork has more things to do than Limerick does. But Limerick has older, more historic buildings and monuments. Ultimately, it depends how much time you have and what is more important to you.
If you only have 2 days to spend, then it won’t make a difference. Both Limerick and Cork have enough things to do to fill two days worth of sightseeing.
If you’re looking to spend 3-4 days in either city, then Cork might be the better choice for you because it has more activities and sights to fill that time.
Best Things to do in Limerick
–King John’s Castle, built in the 1200s
–St. Mary’s Cathedral, a 12th century church
–The Hunt Museum, an 18th century building holding ancient and modern artifacts
-People’s Park, opened in 1887, a 450-acre public park with gardens and a children’s playground
-The Milk Market, a weekly historic food market that has been running since the 1850s
-Walking tour of the historic downtown
Best Things to do in Cork
-The English Market, a food market which has been running since 1788. This is one of the oldest markets in Europe, and is perfect for foodies
–Fitzgerald Park, an 18-acre Victorian park right in the city centre. Perfect for a relaxing stroll, to relax in the gardens
–Blackrock Castle, a 16th century castle just 2 km (1.2 miles) from the Cork city centre
-Beautiful medieval churches: St. Finn Barre’s Cathedral (19th century) and St. Anne’s Church (18th century)
-Foodie experiences. You can do a 3-hour tour of Cork’s gastronomy
–Cork Butter Museum, where you can learn about Ireland’s history of butter production, and how it became the biggest exporter of butter in the world
–Cork City Gaol, a former prison that’s now a museum
Safety in Limerick vs Cork
Limerick’s crime rate is slightly higher than Cork’s but both cities are very safe.
Many places around the world have seen a rise in crime since the pandemic, and Ireland is no different.
Limerick’s crime rate is up 4% since the pandemic, and its not much better in Cork, where instances of rape and domestic violence specifically have increased in the past couple years, according to a report by the Irish Examiner.
As a tourist, the main thing to be fearful of in both Limerick and Cork is petty theft. Don’t get overly drunk in bars and be sure that you have control of your body. Using common sense, you should be safe walking at night.
As someone who traveled to Limerick and Cork with a small child, I never personally felt unsafe. Its always good to exercise caution wherever you go, as nowhere is completely crime free. But I do believe Ireland, and specifically these two cities, are overall safe places to be as a tourist.
Fun Fact: the safest of Ireland’s major cities is Galway.
Which city is more expensive?
Here’s what you need to know about what it will cost to visit Limerick or Cork, in terms of accommodation, attractions, getting around and even food.
Cost of Accommodation in Limerick vs Cork
Hotels in Limerick and Cork are around the same price. The average cost of places to stay in both cities is around $200 USD per night.
When it comes to buying a house, Cork has been listed as significantly more expensive than Limerick in an Irish Mirror news report.
Cost of Activities in Limerick vs Cork
Both Limerick and Cork have several free activities for tourists – the city parks, the food markets, and the medieval churches.
However, when it comes to paid attractions, I find that Limerick’s activities are often double the price from a similar activity in Cork.
The admission to King John Castle in Limerick for example, is €13 for an adult ticket, which is almost double the price than it is to visit Blackrock Castle in Cork, €7.
The Cork Butter Museum only costs €5 for an adult ticket, whereas Limerick’s Hunt Museum costs more than double that – €12.50.
Side note: Blarney Castle and Cork City Gaol are a bit more expensive, closer to Limerick prices, but still a few Euros cheaper than the attractions in Limerick.
So it seems like Cork is a bit cheaper than Limerick in terms of activities.
Cost of Getting Around Limerick vs Cork
The city centers in Limerick and Cork are both very walkable, so if you’re staying somewhere downtown, then you can travel on foot to most of the attractions. (Which is completely free.)
The only exception for Cork is Blarney Castle, which is 6.2 miles away. Uber is used in Ireland, but rather than being private drivers, it is licensed taxis. (Private taxis are not allowed to carry drivers in Ireland.)
Ultimately, the cost of getting around Limerick vs Cork will be roughly the same.
Which is more family-friendly?
Ireland in generally is a family-friendly place to travel to. I brought my oldest daughter to both Limerick and Cork when she was 3 (almost 4) years old.
Despite Limerick being statistically more dangerous than Cork, I never felt unsafe there. I did feel like it had more of an urban, industrial feel than Cork did, but we absolutely loved King John’s Castle, and the museum. Limerick also has a compact, walkable downtown.
We parked our car in a parking garage in the outskirts of Limerick, and walked towards the downtown, and spend the day on foot.
My daughter absolutely loved listening to buskers in both cities. We often took the time to stop and listen to live music played by artists and musicians on the street.
Ultimately, I found both cities – Limerick and Cork- to be great for families. So if you’re travelling to Ireland as a family, I wouldn’t say one city is better than the other for families.
Side note: If you’re in Ireland with kids, I would recommend Dublin to be added to your itinerary for its great downtown, and family-friendly museums, and oldest buildings in Ireland.
Day Trips from Limerick and Cork
When choosing between Limerick and Cork, you may want to think about convenience and which are cities are attractions are located nearby
Limerick and Cork are located just under 100 km (under miles) from each other, which is an hour and 34 minutes by car.
So if you want to see both cities, I think its very possible especially if you have a car. However, when deciding which city to spend more of your time in, or to use as a home base, you might want to consider what nearby things there are to do – day trips from Limerick vs Cork.
Day trips from Limerick
- Adare village (25 minutes from Limerick) known as the prettiest, and most friendlest villages in Ireland
- Bunratty Castle, 20 mintues from Limerick
- Cliffs of Moher (1 hour and 14 minutes). Fun fact: Cliffs of Moher are free after hours, and are beautiful at sunset
- The Aran Islands, which you can take a ferry to from Doolin or Galway (less than 2 hours from Limerick.) Check out this day trip to Aran Islands from Limerick here
Day trips from Cork
- Blarney Castle (20 minutes from Cork) dating back to the 1400s. Its known for its kissing legend, where climbing the stone gives you good fortune
- Kinsale, a colourful seaside village (38 minutes from Cork) famous for its seafood, which you can do a tour of if you visit there
- Ring of Kerry (in my opinion, the most beautiful place in Ireland!)
- The fishing village of Baltimore, where you can see gorgeous sites of the Irish south coastline. This tour shows you the most beautiful spots, including the historic Fastnett Rock Lighthouse
- Cliffs of Moher would be 2 hours and 40 minutes from Cork
One thing to consider about day tips is that many of the places to visit from Limerick (Cliffs of Moher, Wild Atlantic Way, Aran Islands) can still be visited from Cork. And vice versa. It would just take a little bit longer.
So while daytrips and things nearby are something to consider, it might be best to go by what there is to do right in the city centre or within 30 minutes of the city- thats ultimately what draws you to a place.
Food in Limerick and Cork
Cork has more of a foodie experience than Limerick does. In fact, Cork is known as the food capital of Ireland.
That being said, Limerick has some great, award-winning restaurants as well. They both have food markers, and both have Irish food as well as ethnic options (Italian, Middle Eastern, Thai, Indian, etc.)
Here are the best food experiences in Limerick and Cork:
|Limerick||Mejana Lebanaese Restaurant, fantastic vegetarian and meat options|
Freddy’s Restaurant – intimate dining in a brown brick interior restaurant and upscale food. Great for a date night or special occasion
The Milk Market, open on weekends, is an open-air market selling fruit and veg, meat, and dairy products
Donkey Fords (take-out only) is known for being the best take-out in Ireland
|Cork.||PILGRIMS Restaurant, known for its white-stone walls and upper scale food |
The English Market, where you should come with an empty stomach because you can find everything from pastries, seafood, speciality coffees, produce, seafood and more. Open everyday from 8am – 6pm
–Cork CulinaryTour, which includes seafood platter, cheese tastings, Irish traditional soda bread and coffee
Farmgate Cafe, country food served in a beautiful rustic building with window ceilings
Cafe Paradiso, a 30-year old vegetarian restaurant that focuses on creative, rich dishes.
Greenes Restaurant – an 18th century stone building with gorgeous indoor and outdoor seating and upscale food. This is best for a special occasion
–The Donut Tour, a 2-hour tour of Cork’s doughnuts from several historic bakeries in the city centre
So, which is better – Limerick or Cork?
So now that we’ve talked about everything related to what Limerick and Cork both have to offer, let’s talk in a nutshell about how they rank against each other.
✅ older buildings than Cork
✅safe, and family-friendly
✅ day trips to Cliffs of Moher, Ring of Kerry are possible
✅ better food scene
✅ safe, and family-friendly
✅ lots of activities and things to do
✅ activities tend to be a bit cheaper than Limerick’s activities
✅ day trips to Cliffs of Moher, Ring of Kerry, and fishing villages to Ireland’s south coast
My Personal Opinion on Limerick vs Cork
I don’t think you can go wrong with either Limerick or Cork. King John’s Castle in Limerick and Blackrock Caslte in Cork both provide that medieval experience.
Limerick is an ‘older’ city than Cork. Its buildings are older – King John’s Castle was built in the 1200s, and St. Mary’s Cathedral in the 1100s! There are no buildings as old as that in Cork.
So, if seeing old buildings is a priority for you, then Limerick might be a better choice.
By skipping Limerick, the main thing that I think you’re missing out on is the King John Castle, which was probably the coolest castles I saw in Ireland. Cork has a castle too, but its a few hundred years younger than King John’s Castle.
If you don’t mind missing the castle, then I would recommend Cork in order to see the oldest food market in Europe, and the Butter Museum (what a unique experience.) Plus, Cork also has more things to do than Limerick. So if you have more time, and you want to fill your itinerary with lots of things to do – then choose Cork.
Ultimately, I think both cities offer a lot for tourists. If you can only see one or the other, then I don’t think you’ll leave feeling like you’ve missed anything.
Limerick vs Cork FAQs
Here are the most frequently asked questions about Limerick and Cork, and choosing between them
Is Cork cheaper than Limerick?
Cork isn’t much cheaper than Limerick; both cites are similarly expensive in terms of accommodation and getting around. However, Cork’s attractions tend to cost at least a few Euros less than the attractions in Limerick. Some of the castles and museums are half the price of castles and museums in Limerick.
Is Limerick Ireland worth seeing?
Limerick Ireland is absolutely worth seeing. It has some of the oldest buildings in Ireland that date back to the 1100 and 1200s. King John’s Castle is right in the city centre, and is absolutely worth a visit. There are many independent coffee shops, restaurants, and interesting museums.
Is Cork Ireland worth seeing?
Cork, Ireland is absolutely worth a visit. It has some of the most unique museums – Cork City Gaol which used to be a prison, and a butter museum. There are also two medieval castles to visit, a walkable historic downtown with the second largest harbour in the world – Cork is beautiful and worth a visit.
Final Thoughts on Limerick or Cork
Limerick and Cork are both two of the major cities and Ireland, so its understandable why they’d both be considered for an Ireland itinerary.
In a perfect world, there’d be enough time to see both of them. But if this isn’t the case, then you should choose based on your priorities. Cork has more activities and the food scene. Limerick is an older city with older buildings.
If having a larger variety and options for things to do, then definitely choose Cork. If you’d most appreciate being able to visit older buildings, then choose Limerick.
Both cities are walkable, beautiful and allow you a glimpse into Ireland’s rich history. I hope this has made your decision easier when trying to decide between Limerick vs Cork.