I moved to Ireland during the pandemic but Cork wasn’t on my radar until I visited while on a road trip in 2021. As luck would have it, I fell in love with the city over strawberry pancakes at Good Day Deli, a popular brunch spot set in a beautiful garden.
Cork is the perfect spot for people looking for a strong sense of community, plenty of cultural activities, and, of course, the best food in Ireland.
It took several months to make the move, but I’m so happy that I did. I’ve been living in Cork for about 18 months and it’s been an overall wonderful experience.
Here’s what you need to know if you’d like to move to Ireland’s Rebel City.
Getting to Know Cork
Cork is the Republic of Ireland’s second largest city after the capital of Dublin, located along the southern coast. Known as the Food Capital of Ireland, Cork is home to many great restaurants, coffee shops, and pubs.
The city is lively and active, especially during the summertime when everyone flocks to enjoy the sunshine.
Ireland is one of only a few countries in the EU with English as the national language, so it’s a popular destination for people looking to learn or study in English. For this reason, and because of Ireland’s relatively relaxed immigration policies, you’ll find that Cork is home to a large community of expats, students, and immigrants.
Cork is located near many fabulous day trip destinations, from Blarney Castle to the Cliffs of Moher to Galway. In this way, Cork offers the best of both worlds: proximity to wild Irish beaches and countryside, but with the amenities of a small city. Anecdotally, the weather also feels a bit warmer in Cork throughout the year because it’s several hours south of Dublin.
Accommodations in Cork
Finding accommodation will be one of your biggest hurdles when you move to Ireland. The country is experiencing a housing crisis, with far too few rentals available to meet demand.
Luckily, Ireland is a very safe country with relatively low levels of crime. So, you can choose your housing based on preference, location, and price without too much consideration for safety.
Best Parts of the City to Live in
The best parts of the city to live in are the city center and the areas immediately south of the center. However, you’ll probably feel central enough if you live within a 20-25 minute walk of the English Market.
The north side of Cork is considered to be the most dangerous area in the city, but it is still popular with expats. The biggest risks are property crime, so you’ll want to keep your street-level windows closed and the blinds drawn if you choose this area. It’s very possible you’ll find a good deal on accommodation in the north side of the city though if you’re open to living there!
Apartment Hunting Tips
If you're moving to Cork, I recommend you start reaching out to apartments as early as possible and plan to stay in a short-term rental while you look for permanent housing. If you have the ability to be flexible about size, location, budget, etc., it can help you find a place more quickly.
Ireland is a very relational country, so it’s best to start reaching out and making connections as soon as possible. If people know that you’re looking for a room or an apartment, they might be able to recommend something that hasn’t yet gone on the market. For this reason, your first apartment will be the hardest one to find in Cork.
The best sites to check for apartments are:
The Social Scene in Cork
The main social scene in Cork takes place in the pubs, which are located throughout the city. On Friday and Saturday nights, you'll get to experience the vibrant nightlife. The city is typically buzzing with activity, especially in the city center and the Victorian Quarter. The Friary, Crane Lane, and the Franciscan Well are all popular spots that would be great for potentially meeting some new friends and finding plenty of fun things to keep you entertained.
On weekends, people tend to like to have coffee in the park, go for walks around the city, or head off into the nearby nature.
There's always something going on to keep you entertained while in Cork. In the first few weeks of living here, take yourself on a tour or 2 to really get to know your new city. Soon enough, it'll start to feel like home.
Cork has a sizable expat community, including Europeans and people from other parts of the world. People have a tendency to move to Cork for a few years because of work, school, or a relationship, then leave after a while. For this reason, the population in their 20s and 30s feels like it’s constantly in flux.
You can quickly make friends by connecting over Meetup, Bumble, and similar sites. The key to making friends in Cork is to be persistent, as it can take a few meetings to start to really bond with people.
Although it’s relatively easy to meet other expats, you’ll need to try a bit harder to make Irish friends if you don’t have any existing connections in the area.
Coffee Shops and Coworking Spaces
There are a number of digital nomads in Cork or simply workers who are fully remote. Although it’s less common to see people working in coffee shops, it is generally acceptable to set up in a cafe for a few hours.
If you’ll be staying for a few days or weeks and want to have a more comfortable setup, I’d recommend that you plan to use a coworking space. While it can be tougher to make friends if living in Cork as a remote worker, you might be able to make some good connections at a coworking space.
A few of the best cafes and coworking spaces for online workers in Cork are:
- Soma Coffee Company
- Three Fools Coffee
- Republic of Work
- Culture Co-Working
- Plus 10 Coworking The Boring but Important Bits
The Boring But Important Bits
Ireland does not currently have any sort of digital nomad visa so you will need another type of visa in order to stay in Cork for a long period. Most people will enter Ireland on a spousal, work, or study visa. If you have a spouse with EU citizenship from another country, they will likely be able to sponsor you.
Apple has its European headquarters in Cork and offers employment opportunities if you prefer working abroad. Learn more about how to get a job at Apple HQ in Cork.
Visitors from the United States are typically issued a 90-day tourist visa upon arrival, so if you plan to stay short term you should be able to do so pretty easily. In this case, you’ll probably want to rent a short-term apartment or house on Airbnb. Keep in mind though that Ireland is part of the European Union though so those 90 days are for the entire Schengen Visa area in a 180-day period.
Citizens from another EU country can move to Cork without a visa.
You’ll want to have some sort of insurance while you’re in Ireland to protect against incidentals, but standard healthcare appointments are pretty affordable. Expect to pay between 50-100€ for an appointment without insurance, more if you need to visit a hospital. Dentist appointments are typically about 125€ for a consultation and cleaning.
For medium or long-term private health insurance, I recommend Safety Wing. This insurance works in all countries outside of your home country. Irish Life Health is a good option if you prefer insurance specific to Ireland.
Quality of Life as an Expat
Overall, expats enjoy a decent quality of life in Cork. Expats usually note how safe living in Cork feels, how close it is to the rest of Europe, and the variety of cultural activities available.
Although Cork is a bit more expensive than smaller Irish cities like Limerick, the variety of things to do and the larger expat community make it more livable. You will need to be intentional about finding friends and activities in Cork, but once you start to get your footing you will probably find that you have more than enough to do. Plus, there's plenty of hidden gems in Ireland to explore.
The biggest downside you may run into is the relatively small size of the city. Although it's the second largest city in Ireland, it's still quite small. If you prefer big city life, living in Dublin, the capital city, might be preferable.
Because of Cork's size, expats tend to travel fairly extensively outside of the country. It’s easy to see why - the Cork Airport is only about 20 minutes by taxi from the city and there are direct flights to places like Edinburgh, London, Amsterdam, and Venice.
Getting Around Cork
The easiest way to get around Cork is to walk, bike, or take public transport. The center of the city is small and easily congested, so it’s less common for people living in central areas to own a car. However, if you choose to live on the outskirts of the city, have to travel for work, or enjoy spending time outdoors, you may still want a car.
Most of the nearby beaches, woodlands, or other landmarks are only accessible by car. If you don’t want to buy a car, you can rent a GoCar by the hour from several locations throughout the city.
General Cost of Living
The cost of living in Cork is somewhat high, especially when compared with the average salaries. Housing costs will be your biggest expense when living in Cork.
Expect to pay at least €1,600 for a one-bedroom apartment in a nice area and €250 per month for groceries. A dinner entree at a mid-range restaurant in Cork will cost around €18, and a pint of beer is about €6.
Salaries for professional roles like software or mechanical engineers typically start around €40,000 per year.
What I Wish I Had Known About Cork Before Moving There
Ireland is an island, and that comes with some natural challenges. Even though Europe is well connected, goods and people still need to reach the island by boat or plane, which can drive up prices and limit the availability of materials.
Further, the Irish winters are very long, cold, and dark. Although the temperatures don’t tend to drop below freezing, buildings are often poorly insulated and are therefore very expensive to heat. The result is that even indoor spaces tend to be quite cold for many months of the year.
Although Cork has its own airport, the number of flights available is relatively limited, unlike nearby Dublin or London. If you want to visit, say, Paris or Florence, you’ll probably need to take the 3.5-hour bus to Dublin or deal with a connection in a bigger city. This probably won’t bother you if you’re only staying for a few months but it can feel stifling after a while.
Ireland uses UK plugs, so if you want to bring any electronics you’ll need a plug converter (these are pretty cheap and widely available). In order to bring any appliances, you’ll need to bring an electrical converter.
The weather in Ireland often feels much colder than the temperature suggests, so be sure to pack warm clothes to stay comfortable through the winter. Prepare for winter winds with a solid rain jacket and warm boots that will protect your feet from the cold, damp weather.
Finally, the short, cloudy winter days can feel a little daunting. Consider bringing over a SAD lamp to supplement the sunlight you’ll be able to get outside in January and February. If you can, grab one in the US where you can find better features and lower prices.
Is Living in Cork for You?
For me, I love living in Cork, Ireland, and am so happy I made the move to this small but lively city. While there are so many other cities in Ireland that are great, there's something seriously special about living in Cork. If you're on the fence, plan to visit Cork and you might just fall in love like I did.
Hero photo by Jason Murphy