The Best Things to do in Waterford: Ireland’s Oldest City

Waterford, Ireland
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With over 1000 years of history, Waterford is known to be the oldest city in Ireland. Part of what makes this Irish city so fascinating is it’s Viking past. Waterford was actually founded by Vikings in the 9thcentury and then later invaded by the Anglo-Normans. Waterford’s exciting and turbulent history makes it a fascinating place to visit for those interested in history. However, Waterford isn’t just for history lovers. With some fun attractions, beautiful nature, and, of course, some great pubs, Waterford is a must visit in Ireland.

Ready to explore? Then this guide is for you. Here are the best things to do in Waterford and some tips on where to eat, drink, and stay.

Things to do in Waterford

 

Medieval Museum

 

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The Medieval Museum in Waterford is Ireland’s only medieval museum. It’s relatively small, but there are plenty of treasures to be found inside including the cloth of gold vestments which is the only medieval vestments to survive in northern Europe, the great parchment book of Waterford, and the sword of Edward IV. You can visit the museum on your own, but I recommend timing your visit to coincide with the free tour (it only lasts about 45 minutes). If you only visit one museum in this city, make it this one because it truly is one of the top things to do in Waterford.

House of Waterford Crystal

 

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If you know anything about crystal you’ve no doubt heard the name Waterford Crystal. Sadly, most of Wateford Crystal is actually produced outside of Ireland today, however you can still pop into the House of Waterford Crystal to get an insider’s look at how it’s made and the process behind the products. Guided tours are available (purchase your tickets online here for a discounted price) or you can just go to see the showroom which holds the largest collection of Waterford Crystal in the world. It’s all for sale, but no promises on it being affordable! If you love all things sparkly, then a visit here is a must for those looking for the best things to do in Waterford.

Reginald’s Tower

 

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Built at the beginning of the 13thcentury, Reginald’s Tower was originally part of a Viking fort. Originally it served as a defense tower but has also been used for military storage, as a royal keep, and today is a museum. Also, if you look close enough, you can see a cannonball dating from Cromwell’s siege in 1650.

Bishop’s Palace

 

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Bishop’s Palace 🏰

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Another interesting Museum in the Viking triangle, the Bishop’s Palace is the third of the ‘Waterford Treasures’. This palace was built in 1743 and is open to visitors who are interested in seeing some of the best antiques and heirlooms from 18thcentury Ireland. Included in this impressive collection is the oldest piece of Waterford glass which dates to the 1780s. Another random find: a lock of Napoleon’s hair.

King of the Vikings

 

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King of the Vikings is one of Waterford’s newest attractions. It’s a virtual reality experience that takes you back in time to when Vikings arrived and lived in Ireland. Guests are led by guides dressed as Vikings to a model of a traditional Viking home where you can sit, put on your headset, and immerse yourself in the fascinating history of Ireland’s Viking past. Since this is one of the most popular experiences in Waterford and tickets are limited, I recommend going early in the day and buying a ticket for whatever available time you like to ensure you don’t miss it. No matter your age, the King of the Vikings is one of the most fun things to do in Waterford.

Waterford Greenway

 

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The Waterford Greenway is an old railway line that has been converted into an off-road cycling and walking trail. The trail stretches 46km from Waterford to Dungarvan and passes over three viaducts. It’s a great way to get outdoors and enjoy some of the area’s natural scenery. For those who are outdoor enthusiasts, spending a bit of time exploring this trail is absolutely one of the top things to do in Waterford.

Waterford Castle Resort and Golf Course

 

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Waterford Castle is one of the best Castle hotels in Ireland and a visit here will make you truly feel like you stepped into the pages of your favourite fairytale storybooks. It is a hotel (and totally worth staying at if you budget allows) but visitors can also come by for a luxurious afternoon tea or for a round of golf. If you are looking to add a little bit of luxury to your trip, a visit to this Castle is definitely one of the best things to do in Waterford.

Mount Congreve Gardens

 

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Just 15 minutes outside of Waterford city is Mount Congreve Gardens. The estate was built in 1760 and while beautiful, the main highlight is the gardens which are known to be one of the great gardens in the world. There are 30 hectares of woodland and gardens featuring plants and flowers from around the world. The best time to visit is in the spring, when the flowers are in bloom.

Comeragh Mountains and Coumshingaun Lough

 

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 The Comeragh mountains are a gorgeous mountain range with plenty of walking trails and beautiful things to see. The highlight here is probably Coumshingaun Lough, a glacial lake that  is nicknamed the jewel of the Comeraghs. There is a 7.5 walking trail around the lake that takes roughly 4 hours to cover. You can swim in the lake, but it’s pretty cold so be smart about it. Also, remember you are in Ireland so dress in layers and pack rain gear because it will probably get wet. If visit to this area is one of the best day trips from Waterford, especially for those who love hiking and nature.

Dunmore East

 

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If you’re looking to spend a day by the ocean then head to Dunmore East; an adorable fishing village just twenty five minutes outside of Waterford city. Grab lunch in one of the pubs, take a peek in the little shops and galleries. If it’s a warm day, you can even spend some time at one of the nearby beaches.

Where to Stay: Hotels in Waterford

Faithlegg Hotel, Waterford

Waterford may be small, but to get the best experience here I definitely recommend that you spend a couple of days. Wondering where to stay? Waterford has a good selection of mid-range hotels, luxury properties, and even a couple of hostels perfect for backpackers. Here are my top picks for hotels in Waterford.

Midrange: Grannagh Castle House or The Fitzwilliam Hotel

Luxury: Waterford Castle or Faithlegg Hotel

Hostel: Portree Hostel

Waterford Pubs and Restaurants

 

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Unsurprisingly, Waterford has its fair share of great pubs perfect for grabbing a meal, a pint, or just enjoying a night out. A couple top favourites include:

Katty Barry’s

A fun, family run pub in the Viking Triangle. This pub is named after an old heroine and is a great place to come for a pint. Be sure to stop in if you are around on a Monday night as that’s when Katty Barry’s has their live music sessions.

The Munster Bar

The Munster Bar is one of Waterford’s oldest establishments. It’s also a great place to come during lunchtime if you are looking for some fresh seafood.

The Gingerman

A Waterford favourite. This Irish pub is a good pick if you are after a good meal or a fun evening. It’s especially lively on Saturday nights.

The Reg

Also located in the Viking Triangle, the Reg is a bit of a mix. Part restaurant, part gastro bar, part craft beer bar, and part dining room. In the summer, head to the terrace to enjoy a pint (they offer 30 types of craft beer) or a meal. Or, if you are visiting during the winter months, cozy up inside with one of their 80 types of whisky.

Whether you are interested in Viking Ireland or just looking for somewhere new to explore, there are plenty of great things to do in Waterford to keep you busy and entertained for a couple of days.

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