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Once a monastic settlement with its roots all the way back in the 500s, Cork evolved into a Viking trading port in the 900s (which came in handy since it was built on one of the largest natural harbors in the world), and then became a fully fledged city by 1185; all that to say: Cork's been around a while, and it has the historical richness to show for it, not to mention a track record of doing things its own way. Oft hailed as both "the rebel city" and "the real capital" (for its role during the Irish Civil War as a hub of anti-treaty forces), Cork's a town that's proud of its fiercely Irish pedigree, and when you're here, that Irish-ness isn't too hard to spot.
But there's much more to Cork than its history (although there's plenty of that to see); its a city on the upswing—a vibrant city with modern cafes tucked behind historical facades, modern and international cuisine aplenty, and a gamut of bars to keep your days going well into, well, the night. While you can certainly go check out some nearby castles (including the famed Blarney Castle), you can also catch a hurling game, kick back with a beer, hole up in a chic cafe, or meander through the English Market and see where the day takes you. You could even play a round of golf—or pitch 'n putt, if your hamhanded or pressed for time.