Waterford is the oldest city in Ireland. It was founded when the Vikings arrived in 914 AD. As you might expect for such an old city, there are plenty of medieval monuments and visitor attractions.
In the Viking Triangle there are numerous museums, galleries and properties with fabulous architectural features. The presence of such medieval monuments gives the city a special character and sense of the past.
As well as its medieval history, Waterford is also famous for its crystal production. Waterford Crystal Visitor Centre is a hugely popular visitor attraction where tourists can see the many steps of crystal production taking place.
Several modern attractions
However, Waterford isn’t just about history. There are plenty of ways to enjoy the city without ever even thinking about the past. It is on a picturesque coastline and surrounded by a selection of lively towns.
There are plenty of great pubs and restaurants and shops. Tourists who want to take part in sporting activities will be spoilt for choice as there are water activities such as kayaking, surfing, diving, sailing and kite-surfing.
On land activities in Waterford include horse riding, cycling and hiking.
The House of Waterford Crystal
Waterford is famous across the world for its crystal production. Visitors can see the crystal making process in action at the House of Waterford Crystal.
There is a visitor centre and tourists can see the crystals being made every step of the way.
The Viking Triangle
The Viking Triangle is in the Centre of Waterford and contains a host of tourist attractions including Reginald Towers and a number of museums. As one the oldest cities in Ireland, Waterford has a long and interesting history. The Viking Triangle contains ‘one thousand years of history in one thousand paces’. The Vikings first settled in the area in around 914 AD.
Within the three sides of the triangle there is plenty of great architecture from virtually every period in history since the Vikings arrived. The triangle contains several attractions such as; Bishops Palace, the Theatre Royal, City Hall, National Viking Centre, medieval galleries and a 15th century wine vault.
Reginald’s TowerReginald’s Tower is a round defence tower built in the 13th century. It is situated at one of the corners of the Viking Triangle and it contains an exhibition that documents Waterford’s long history.
It contains artefacts such as the ‘kite brooch’ which would have been worn by a wealthy Waterford citizen in the 11th century and a lead weight featuring a Viking’s face that dates back to the 10th century.
As well as a defensive sanctuary, the tower has also been used as a prison, a military store and a mint at various stages throughout its long life.
Visitors can take a guided tour of the tower.
The Waterford Medieval museum gives a fascinating insight into life in the city during the Middle Ages. There are paintings and artefacts such as weapons and clothing, as well as plenty of live entertainment.
Actors in costume perform various episodes of the city’s history as they give tours of the museum. There are also mini theatres and interactive displays.
The centrepiece of the complex is the vaulted Chorister’s Hall which has survived from Medieval times.
Bishop’s Palace is also part of the Viking Triangle. It contains artefacts from Waterford’s more recent history between 1700- 1970.
They include fascinating and culturally important items such as the last surviving Bonaparte ‘mourning cross’. The cross was one of only 12 that were made after Napoleon Bonaparte died in 1821.
Of course, Waterford is famous for producing crystal and Bishop’s Palace holds the oldest piece of crystal produced in the city dating back to 1789.
There are also several cultural artefacts from the 18th and 19th centuries such as furniture, fireplaces and paintings, including a 1735 oil painting of Waterford by Willam van der Hagen.
Part of the Palace is dedicated to an exhibition on the history of Waterford and the lives of the people. In this section visitors can learn about the First World War, the War of Independence, as well as everyday household living and Ballybricken’s pig markets.
The Palace itself was designed in 1741 by renowned Anglo-German architect Richard Castles who also designed the seat of the Irish parliament. It is a fine example of the elegant 18th century architecture for which Waterford became famous.
The Copper Coast Geopark
The Copper Coast Geopark is an area of spectacular views thanks to rugged rocks and a striking coastline that began to be formed after volcanic eruptions in the last ice age.
It used to be prominent in the metal mining industry and has been an official European Geopark since 2001.
The rocks were created by volcanoes in the last ice age and the ocean has helped to shape them over thousands of years. There are plenty of stunning views along the coastline with beaches, coves and rocky headlands.
Visitors can get ‘walking cards’ from the Geopark office and follow the ‘Copper Coast Trail’. Alternatively they can take a guided tour of the woods, the shore and the country lands. Visitors can also cycle drive or travel by horseback along the coastline.
Families will enjoy Copper Coast Mini Farm where visitors are introduced to the animals. You may like to have a picnic at The Bog of Fenor that features fen land flora and fauna.
There are two Ogham stones which are aligned to the Summer Solstice at Bunmahon’s Geological Garden. There is also a ‘time path’ which features 28 slabs that depict different stages of Earth’s evolution of life and geological history.
There are also a number of beautiful gardens in the area that are well worth a visit.
Gardens with exotic plants
There are a number of gardens in the area. Ballymoat Gardens have beautiful scenery including numerous exotic plants, a waterfall and a 40-foot pond. Littlewood Gardens have a wonderful display that features geranium, viols, pinks, old roses and sweet peas.
Tourists need an appointment to visit both Ballymoat Gardens and Littlewood Gardens.
The Dunbrody is a replica of a famous ship that was used to transport Irish emigrants to North America in the 1800s.
The replica is in the town of New Ross and contains a database of everyone who made the journey from the Irish and British isles. Visitors can take a tour of the ship.
Edmund Rice International Heritage centre
The Edmund Rice Heritage Centre is the final resting place of the blessed Edmund Rice. Rice was a missionary who founded the Catholic organisations; Presentation Brothers and the Foundation of the Christian Brothers.
The centre sits on the top of Mount Sion and has great views of Waterford. It contains a museum and a chapel.
Many tourists like to take a drive along the Comeraghs. The narrow roads take you through an area of striking scenery. The rolling hills and the animals in the fields give the place a timeless quality.
As well as taking in the views as they drive along, most people like to get out of the car and take a walk up the Comeragh Hills and the Mahon Falls. On a sunny day, having a picnic in the tranquil country air can provide a perfect antidote to the hustle and bustle of the city.
It is quite a hike through the Mahon Falls but the sight of a striking 80m waterfall that flows from the mountain tops makes it worthwhile. It is the sort of image that many tourists travel to Ireland to see.
There is a ‘magical’ road on the Comeragh Drive where an optical illusion makes cars appear to defy gravity and roll up the hill.
There are plenty of great local pubs in Waterford. In fact it is one of the best cities in Ireland for a good pub crawl. Roads such as the Mayor’s Walk contain some of the finest pubs in the city.
Going on a pub crawl is a fun way to experience the atmosphere in multiple watering holes. However, for people who prefer to take the weight off their feet and stay in one place, there are a number of places that are worth settling in for the long haul.
Fans of Irish music will love places like T&H Doolans or Dooley’s Hotel where they regularly have live folk acts on the stage. There are also a number of sports bars and of course several good old Irish local pubs.
Waterford has many great restaurants that cater for all tastes. From steakhouses to Italian cuisine, from Indian to seafood dishes and everything in between, it is likely anyone will find food they can get stuck into in Waterford.
For a sophisticated night out, you might want to see a show at the Theatre Royal or Waterford’s Forum Theatre.
The Spraoi Street Arts Festival
The Spraoi Street Arts Festival takes place during the first week of August. It attracts over 100,000 visitors every year. The Spraoi parade has become one of the finest outdoor art events in Ireland.
The Festival features a wide variety of street performers including dancers, magicians, comedians, street entertainers, acrobats, horse riders, DJs and singers.
There are plenty of musicians in town during the festival. They cater for all musical tastes so whether you are into folk, R&B, Soul, Blues, Dubstep, Ska, hip hop or jazz, there is likely to be something you will enjoy.
On the final day there is a parade in the evening. It features fantastic floats and thousands of performers in dramatic costumes. There is also live music and every year there is a surprise as the Waterford creative team are let loose on the project.
The parade is the highlight of the festival and is often watched by up to 60,000 people.
The Art Hand
The Art hand is an art school on the Copper Coast. It offers courses in several artistic areas such as drawing, painting, photography, cartoon illustration, mosaics and even stained glass.
The classes are run by professional artists and have well equipped studio space.
Everybody is welcome to attend the school; there are classes for kids and adults. As well as budding local artists there are plenty of spaces for national and international pupils.
It can be a great destination for tourists who want to flex their creative muscles.
They offer accommodation for visitors who would like an extensive stay.
As well as the classes they take, visitors will also enjoy the spectacular views of the rugged Waterford cliffs and vast the ocean. It is the perfect setting to awaken the artist in people.
Plenty more besides
There are several more tourist attractions in Co Waterford such as Dungarvan Castle, Lismore Castle, Waterford Country Museum, St Declan’s Well and Oratory, Mount Melleray Abbey, the Rally Connection, Lismore heritage centre and Garter Lane Arts Theatre.