The city`s downtown core is bounded by channels of the River Lee, and its main thoroughfare is St. Patrick Street, a graceful avenue lined with shops and boasting some of Europe`s largest retail chains. Oliver Plunkett Street, which runs partly parallel to Patrick`s Street, bustles with smaller shops, life and color. Second-hand books, hand-made chocolates, an infinite array of surprises can be found in the alleyways and lanes around this central shopping district. Heading west is the English Market, boasting a huge array of fresh local produce, and tantalizing international delicacies. Following St. Patrick`s Street eastwards leads to the statue of Father Mathew, much respected founding father of the Irish Temperance Movement. Tucked off to the left, is the Cork Opera House. Nearby, the South Mall is a wide tree-lined street with attractive Georgian architecture and a row of banks, insurance companies, and legal offices, while the Grand Parade is a spacious thoroughfare that blends 18th-century bow-fronted houses with the remains of the old city walls.
St. Patrick`s Bridge leads over the river to the north side of the city, a hilly, terraced area where St. Patrick Street becomes St. Patrick`s Hill. Dominating the landscape is St. Anne`s Church, whose lime and sandstone clock tower can be seen from all over the city. Directly below "the bells" is the old Cork Butter Exchange, now home to the Butter Museum, and the Shandon Craft Center. Perched on a more western point of the hill, lies the Cork City Gaol; a gloomy nineteenth-century prison. On the eastern end, St. Patrick`s Bridge links the city center with the charming MacCurtain Street, a busy stretch of road offering everything from antiques to ice cream.
The Gothic grandeur of St. Finbarr`s Cathedral dominates the horizon of Cork`s "South Side". Nearby, are the ruins of the seventeenth-century Elizabeth Fort, a somber reminder of the Cromwell era, and the rambling character of Barrack St., as featured in the film Angela`s Ashes. The street also offers a number drinking and live-music venues, popular with students of the nearby University College Cork (UCC). The stately college quadrangle is itself worth a visit.