Visit Waterford City | Things To Do in Waterford

by Vanessa Wanders Miles

Beautiful Waterford City was founded in the 9th century by the Vikings and is Ireland’s oldest city. When you visit Waterford City you can explore fascinating historical sites, visit the famous crystal factory, see stunning street art and eat at some of the best restaurants in Ireland.


Where is Waterford City

County Waterford is in the ‘sunny southeast’ of Ireland and Waterford City is the largest city in the region. I stayed 15 minutes away in Tramore, a lovely little town on the coast with a popular 5km beach within easy reach to visit Waterford City. If you’re staying in Dublin and fancy a trip to this historic city, it’s around a two-hour drive. 


History of Waterford City

Waterford, Ireland is an ancient parish founded in 914 AD by Norwegian Vikings. So, it is well over 1000 years old and dates to before the time of St Patrick, the Apostle of Ireland. Waterford gets its name from the Norse word ‘Vadrarjfordr’ that means ‘Haven from the Windswept Seas’.

The Viking who established the city was a great adventurer called Regnall, son of Ivor the Boneless. It became a port for his Long Ships, and in 918, he sailed from Waterford to conquer York, becoming the King of both cities.

In 1170 the city was captured by Anglo-Normans, and it became a Royal City, swearing allegiance to the then King of England, Henry II.

Despite being 16km from the coast, Waterford has long operated as a busy port as you can reach it from the sea via the river Suir.


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Best Things To Do in Waterford City


Visit Waterford Viking Triangle

Sightseeing in Waterford often revolves around the city’s rich and long history and the award-winning visitor attractions in the Waterford Viking Triangle do an excellent job of telling the story of this fascinating part of Ireland.


TOP TIP – Buy the Freedom of Waterford Pass

The Waterford Viking Triangle includes Reginald’s Tower, the Medieval Museum, and the Bishop’s Palace. Within easy reach, you can also find the Irish Silver Museum and the Irish Museum of Time.

So that visitors can enjoy the full experience, the expert guides from Waterford Treasures offer the Freedom of Waterford Pass. It includes a 45-minute walking tour and then full access to each museum (not including Reginald’s Tower). The pass is £15 per person and the attractions are open every day other than Christmas Day, Boxing Day, and New Year’s Day. Head to Waterford Treasures to book.


Walking tour of Waterford Viking Triangle

Take a 45-minute walking tour and experience six national monuments, the in-depth knowledge of an experienced guide, and a journey through time from 1190 to 1783, from the Vikings to the Victorians. The guide explains the history behind Christ Church Cathedral and the statues such as the commemorative sculpture that depicts the marriage of Strongbow & Aoife.

These fun and informative tours start at 12 pm, 2 pm and 4 pm from the entrance to the Bishop’s Palace and will take you past all of the top Waterford tourist attractions.


Reginald’s Tower | Waterford Viking Triangle

Reginald’s Tower was built by the invading Vikings in 914 and is Ireland’s oldest civic building. The tower was re-constructed in the 12th century by the Anglo-Normans and became an intrinsic part of the medieval defensive walls until 1700. It has been in use for over 800 years, so the walls have many stories to tell.

The tower is a great place to start your day in Waterford, as the museum has a video that succinctly explains the town’s history. 

As you explore the tower you’ll see a 19th-century prison cell, the rooms where weapons, cannons, and gunpowder were once stored, a collection of Viking treasures, and the sword of the last Chief Constable of the tower.


Medieval Museum | Waterford Viking Triangle

The Medieval Museum is a magnificent, curved building with a giant sculpture that draws the eye. Inside you’ll find two medieval rooms, the atmospheric 13th-century Choristers’ Hall, and the 15th-century Mayor’s Wine Vault.

The exhibitions within the museum invite the visitor to take a step back in time and include beautifully embroidered gold cloth vestments and the Great Charter Roll of Waterford from 1373 which shows the first depiction of the three boats that feature on the city’s coat of arms.


Museum of Silver | Waterford Viking Triangle

The Irish Museum of Time is the newest addition to the Waterford Viking Triangle and houses the earliest and best collection of Irish-made timepieces in the world. It is a love letter to an intricate craft that began in Ireland in the 1600s. The pieces of chronological art you’ll lay eyes on in this fabulous museum, from the oldest Irish-made grandfather clock to watches from around the world, are beautiful examples of engineering and technology.

If you’re travelling to Waterford City with children, they will love the section of the museum called ‘How It Works’ that has been created especially for them. One of the other highlights is the William Clement clock from 1663. It is the earliest example of the mechanism that transformed the art of watchmaking and is used in modern clocks and watches.


Bishop’s Palace | Waterford Viking Triangle

If more recent history is your thing, the Bishop’s Palace is one of the best things to do in Waterford. This exceptional museum is within a grand 18th-century Georgian home. The Palace, a masterpiece of architecture, was built in 1743 and contains the oldest piece of Waterford crystal in existence, stunning silver, and the cleverly designed 4D ‘Story of Glassmaking’.

The palace was once the home of the Anglican bishops of Waterford from 1743 to 1919. It was then a boarding school until being transformed into a museum in 1967. Visitors can learn about this elegant townhouse from a historically costumed tour guide or an audio-visual handset.


Museum of Time | Waterford Viking Triangle

The Irish Museum of Time is the newest addition to the Waterford Viking Triangle and houses the earliest and best collection of Irish-made timepieces in the world. It is a love letter to an intricate craft that began in Ireland in the 1600s. The pieces of chronological art you’ll lay eyes on in this fabulous museum, from the oldest Irish-made grandfather clock to watches from around the world, are beautiful examples of engineering and technology.

If you’re travelling to Waterford City with children, they will love the section of the museum called ‘How It Works’ that has been created especially for them. One of the other highlights is the William Clement clock from 1663. It is the earliest example of the mechanism that transformed the art of watchmaking and is used in modern clocks and watches.


 Lunch at Bishop’s Palace Café

One of the most important and enjoyable things to do in Waterford is eating! Especially after a long morning of exploring and learning, I spied the café in the centre of the museum district that looked promising for lunch. Unfortunately, thanks to its location in the Bishop’s Palace, so had everyone else, so had to pop back after the rush.

The café is welcoming, and the staff was super-friendly. In good weather, relax on the terrace that overlooks the 13th-century town wall. The brunch looked amazing, and the homemade bread made our mouths water. I plumped for a homemade soup with a flavoursome toastie, and a delicious cake made from local ingredients served with one of the best cups of coffee I had in Ireland.

The prices are impressively reasonable for a high-traffic tourist spot, with the varied and interesting menu, and the plentiful veggie options. Diners can get an extra discount if they have purchased the Freedom of Waterford Pass. It’s dog friendly too!


Visit the House of Waterford Crystal

When you visit Waterford, The House of Waterford Crystal is a must-do as the luxurious crystal the factory produces is the city’s biggest export. It’s within the walls of this historic building in the centre of the Viking Triangle that intricate, flamboyant, and sparkling pieces of crystal are crafted.

If you’re interested in the history of this art form, take a 50-minute tour of the Waterford Crystal factory with a knowledgeable guide who will explain everything from the initial design and glass production to the spectacular process of glass blowing and the delicate art of engraving.

Even If you don’t fancy the tour, a look around the stunning products on display in the shop or enjoying an indulgent afternoon tea in the café makes the House of Waterford well worth a visit. 


Look out for the Waterford murals

The city of Waterford has been the centre of street art in Ireland since 1914, thanks to the Waterford Walls Festival. Vibrant murals now adorn walls in the derelict parts of the city. This transformation has led to the regeneration of urban spaces and visits from international artists.

If you want to track down all the decorated walls, there are around 100 now; Waterford Walls have created an app that helps you to find them, allows you to get to know the artist, and brings the artwork to life with animation and virtual reality. Alternatively, you can book a guided walking tour with a passionate guide.


Take a look at the Clock Tower

In the middle of the 19th century, Waterford flourished. It had trade connections with 400 worldwide ports and was the location of the largest shipyard in Ireland. The Waterford Clock Tower was built in 1863 as part of a collection of public works projects to celebrate the city’s success.

The two-storey limestone carved clock is now a famous landmark and is the place where locals often meet. It used to have drinking fountains for people and horses, but it was soon considered unsanitary. The complex engineering involved in the clock and fountain mechanism still makes it a source of fascination for engineers.


Visit Holy Trinity Cathedral in Waterford

The Holy Trinity Cathedral is a spectacular Roman Catholic place of worship and is one of the most important places to go in Waterford for lovers of religious architecture. It was built in 1793 and is Ireland’s oldest cathedral.

The inside of the cathedral is just as beautiful as the outside, with ten crystal chandeliers that were gifted by Waterford Crystal, delicate stained-glass windows, and a renovation of the altar, floor, and sacristy all completed in 2006.

 


How to spend the evening in Waterford

After a long day sightseeing in Waterford, spending the evening relaxing and enjoying sumptuous food and drink is an excellent idea. Get started with these top picks of places to eat and drink in Waterford City;


Sink a craft beer in The Reg 

The Reg is a much-loved bar in the heart of the Viking Triangle. It sits beside Reginald’s Tower and has the 900-year-old city wall running through the middle. There’s also a floodlit replica Viking ship and lots of character features.

The Snug Bar is cosy and felt like the perfect spot to snuggle up after getting wet in the rain. They serve craft beer and host whiskey tastings, and the atmosphere is warm and welcoming. There’s also a bigger party bar and nightclub on separate floors, so there’s a vibe to suit everyone.

The food is ‘Gastro’ with fresh, local seafood as a specialty. There’s live music every night, a terrace overlooking the tower which would be gorgeous in summer, and the staff love to explain the history of their unique bar.

The Reg WebsiteTripadvisor Reviews


Step back in time at T & H Doolan’s

T & H Doolan’s Pub was founded in 1710 and has the honour of being Waterford’s oldest pub. If you enjoy traditional Irish music Doolan’s is the place to be! Many famous Irish musicians like The Pogues, Sinead O’Connor, and The Clancy Brothers have played here.

For a relaxing evening, T & H Doolan’s is the ideal pub as it has a warm atmosphere. It’s historic too, as some of the walls date back to the 14th-century city walls.


Dine in MOMO’s Restaurant

MOMO is a modern restaurant with an unusual menu that focuses on flavour rather than any one style of cooking, the ideal option if you can’t agree on what you fancy to eat. The slow-cooked meats with mouth-watering sauces looked amazing, and the beef short ribs were the best I’ve ever tasted. 

MOMO can be a venue for a romantic candle-lit evening meal or someone to take the kids on a Sunday. The ingredients are primarily locally sourced; the staff was attentive and enthusiastic about the food they were serving. It was surprisingly affordable too.

MOMOs Website | Tripadvisor Reviews


Indulge in Bodega

The team at Bodega is dedicated to showcasing local produce in stunning dishes from around the globe. It’s exciting yet unpretentious cooking and we adored the feel of the place. It’s fun, chilled and, as another diner has said, feels like a ‘culinary hug’.

Colourful yet simple décor, staff who love what they do, and food that can be tracked from farm to fork and tastes divine. The wine list is fabulous too, and they can recommend which bottle they recommend with your free-range Wexford chicken, delicious artisanal bread, or top-quality seafood.

Bodega WebsiteTripadvisor Reviews


Useful Resources To Visit Waterford City


Where to stay in Waterford City

MID-RANGE HOTEL – Dooley’s is a family-run hotel located in Waterford’s Merchants Quay offering spacious rooms and hearty Irish breakfasts. Guests can enjoy weekend live music in the Dry Dock Bar and have traditional dining options from breakfast through to dinner. Book Dooley’s Hotel | Read Reviews

4-STAR HOTEL – Hotel Granville boasts quayside views, the award-winning Bianconi Restaurant, and Thomas Francis Meagher Bar. The decor is traditional with all the facilities you would need for a comfortable city centre stay. Granville has taken sustainable steps by banning single-use use plastic, water-efficient toilets, locally sourced food and more. Book Hotel Granville | Read Reviews

B&B BY THE SEA – Beach Haven in Tramore is only 20 minutes down the road from Waterford, with the benefits of the sea air and easier on the wallet. It is owned by a lovely couple who make travellers super-welcome and offer an incredible breakfast to get you started for the day. Book Beach Haven | Read Reviews


How to reach Waterford from the UK

For a more sustainable journey than a short-haul flight, travel from the UK to Dublin or Rosslare with Irish Ferries. Travellers can take the car and unlimited luggage for an incredible Ireland road trip. Prices start at £119 each way for a car and driver. Read about my experience travelling Club Class on Ulysses from Holyhead to Dublin.

If you sail to Dublin from Holyhead, the drive is 2 hours. To go by public transport, there is a direct train from Dublin Heuston, or a direct bus from Dublin City South.

If you sail to Rosslare from Pembrokeshire, the drive is approximately 1 hour, and there is a direct bus from Rosslare Harbour.

Handy links to visit Waterford City

Here are some useful links for when you visit Waterford, find tours, and where to stay. These are companies I have used and can recommend with confidence.

Accommodation in Waterford

  • Best accommodation deals with Booking.com
  • Experience Irish hospitality, stay with locals via Homestay

Tours in Waterford

  • Book attractions and multi-day tours with Viator
  • Discover tours and things to do in Waterford on Tripadvisor

Transport for Waterford

Travel Insurance

Get 5% off your travel insurance with HeyMondo. Benefit from 24-hour medical assistance, 365 days a year with single, multi-trip, and long-stay insurance, cover for Covid-19 and non-refundable expenses. The handy app makes this a simple process! They give a little back too by contributing to ‘Doctors Without Borders’.

SafetyWing for Digital Nomads. Benefit from 24/7 assistance, comprehensive and medical cover including Covid-19. Buy insurance whilst you are travelling, with the option of global health insurance.

 


PIN FOR WHEN YOU VISIT WATERFORD CITY

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6 comments

Linda (LD Holland) 11th December 2022 - 7:48 pm

I am going to have to add Waterford City to our travel plans for Ireland. I love the idea of starting at the city model to scope out all the places we will want to visit. How fascinating to explore the Viking history. And to take an indulgent Afternoon Tea at the House of Waterford cafe. Quite a contrast to the colourful town murals.

Reply
Vanessa Wanders Miles 17th December 2022 - 11:32 pm

The contrast between the Viking history and modern Waterford walls makes this a great place for a day trip!

Reply
Josy A 12th December 2022 - 5:36 am

Fabulous post Vanessa! To be honest, the only thing I really knew about Waterford was the crystal! It’s so cool to learn more about the Viking history, and see the gorgeous historical buildings. I would love to drop in next time we go to Ireland!

Reply
Vanessa Wanders Miles 17th December 2022 - 11:32 pm

It’s famous for Waterford Crystal but the history is fascinating, being a Viking settlement that grew to become the first city in Ireland. This was a fact I didn’t know before visiting Waterford.

Reply
Anja 18th December 2022 - 4:28 pm

Wonderful post! I never had a clue there are so many murals. The crystal is very much a pull for me, and I wuld love to visit.

Reply
Vanessa Wanders Miles 19th December 2022 - 12:03 am

I was fascinated by the vibrant street art around Waterford. It has to be said, there is real art in the Waterford Crystal!

Reply

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