Gay Cork: Boom town goes queer

Cork is Ireland's second biggest city, with 380,000 people in its metro area. It sits near the head of Cork Harbor, an inlet of the Atlantic Ocean in southern Ireland.

Corkonians slyly refer to it as the "real capital of Ireland," a dig at the bigger and better known Dublin, a world travel destination. It's easy to see why Corkians are proud of their fast developing metropolis. Thanks in part to the employment opportunities presented by the many multi-national companies that have set up shop there, Cork's boosts a very active gay scene that easily rivals that of Dublin.

Cork's compact size means that all gay venues are within walking distance of each other--or at least an inexpensive taxi ride away. The queer scene is unpretentious. Most places operate on a a friendly ‘all welcome' premise, and don't break down into predictable crowds. While Cork has few dedicated gay bars, many places all over town value the power of the gay Euro and either have dedicated gay nights or go out of their way to be gay-friendly.

Ireland decriminalized homosexual acts in 1993. Over the last two decades, attitudes of the Irish have shifted in the proper direction. Today seeing same-sex hand-holder or kissers no longer provokes the guffaws, titters and threats it once did. That said, discretion is stronglyadvised around the hordes of drunken youngsters that take over the streets from Thursday to Saturday.

Ireland has the strictest anti-smoking laws in Europe. Be warned: The fines are hefty (up to EUR 3,000) and they are enforced.

Ireland's legal drinking age is 18. You should carry ID with you at all times. There is no need to look out for happy hours--they are illegal.

It is deemed highly offensive to tip the bartender--wait staff expects 10-15 percent.

Restaurants to check out