Waterford Ireland’s Oldest City

Waterford

Updated On: May 07, 2024 by   Ciaran ConnollyCiaran Connolly

Are you planning a visit to Ireland soon? Are you wondering where the best place is to visit? Well, you can’t miss out on taking a trip to Ireland’s Oldest City, Waterford, located in the southeast part of Ireland in the province of Munster.

Waterford is deeply rooted in history, dating back to the 9th century. But the city has more to offer than just its fascinating history. It has a fantastic culture, beautiful scenery, and the feel of a modern city with echoes of the past.

The place is charming and welcoming and offers visitors some unmissable attractions and things to do. Keep reading to find out all about this great city and what you can expect on a visit there.

Waterford Ireland
Waterford Ireland

History of Waterford, Ireland

People are unsure of when the city was founded, but it is believed that Vikings first arrived in the area over 8,000 years ago. The Vikings’ legacy remains in the city, and Waterford is known as one of Ireland’s essential centres in Viking History.

In the 12th century, Anglo-Norman invaders took control of the city, making it one of the most important Old English entries in Medieval Ireland. After this, Waterford and Dublin were declared royal cities.

The city is located at the head of Waterford Harbour, and it created its own motto, “Urbs Intacta Manet Waterfordia,” which translates as “Waterford remains the untaken city,” after it refused to be recognised with the attachments to the English throne.

The city also underwent two sieges, one in 1649 and one in 1650, during the ‘Cromwellian Conquest of Ireland’. Waterford was able to fight through the first one, but they had no option but to surrender during the second siege to Henry Ireton.

Waterford has endured sieges, famine, invasions, economic lows, and highs and has come out the other side. It is recognised as an important city in Ireland.

Notable Features of Waterford

Waterford is home to the oldest civic building in Ireland, Reginald Tower. This is also the oldest landmark to keep its original Viking name. Today, it still attracts a lot of interest and visitors. It is also in excellent condition after being inhabited until 1954 when it became a museum.

The main river which flows through this old city, ‘River Suir’, has played an essential role in Waterford’s maritime history.  The city is also home to one of the major ports in Ireland, which has been providing a service for over 1000 years. Shipbuilding became a significant industry in Waterford during the 19th century. During the 1850s, the Neptune Shipyard in Waterford created and operated the world’s largest fleet of iron streamers.

Another thing that people may not know about the city is that it was the starting point of one of the biggest European Airlines, Ryanair. Ryanair flew its first 14-seater flight from Waterford to Gatwick Airport.

Waterford at Night
Waterford at Night

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Crystal City

One of the main things Waterford has been known for is creating beautiful crystals and glasses at the Waterford Crystal Factory. Waterford began its crystal production 200 years ago when George and William Penrose opened their business. They had around 50 to 70 employees led by John Hill.  Hill was an experienced glass manufacturer and knew all the secrets of mixing glass materials. He helped the Penrose’s success in making crystals with a purity of colour, a uniqueness that others weren’t doing then.

Ships would come and go from the Waterford Port, which contained many crystals being shipped around the world. Some of these places include Spain, New York and the West Indies.

Although their company closed down in 1851 due to a lack of capital and high taxation in the country at the time, it wasn’t until 100 years later that the business made a comeback. Their relatives opened a small factory in the city, just a short distance from their original factory.

Today, the factory is still thriving and has the same dedication as it did all those centuries ago.  ‘Waterford Crystal’ is known as a leading premium crystal brand worldwide.

There is now a tourist centre here for anyone wishing to learn more about the Waterford Crystals. At the tourist centre, you can check out the amazing display of some of the world’s finest crystals. This is one of those unique attractions of Waterford that you shouldn’t pass up. It is a Waterford Treasure, after all.

Waterford Crystal
Waterford Crystal

Attractions in Waterford

Waterford Museum of Treasures

One of the top attractions when visiting Waterford, Ireland, is checking out this award-winning museum. Located in the Viking Triangle, you’ll find three amazing museums to explore. Within these museums, you’ll learn all about the incredible history of Waterford from its beginnings and the history surrounding the Vikings.

The first museum is the Viking Museum, located in the iconic Reginald’s Tower. It is the oldest building in civic use in Ireland. At this museum, you’ll discover amazing artefacts and exhibitions about the Vikings’ time in Ireland.

Then, there is the Medieval Museum, which includes two medieval chambers and a 15th-century Mayor’s wine vault. Also found here is a rare piece of history: the only surviving piece of clothing worn by Henry VIII. It is the only purpose-built Medieval museum in Ireland.

The third museum, Bishops Palace Museum, houses artefacts from the 17th century to the present day. Its exhibits help tell visitors about the city’s fascinating history from the 1700s to the 1970s.

If you’re into history, you’ll enjoy exploring these three unique museums in the heart of Waterford.

You won’t be short of exploring unique architecture in Waterford, and Bishops Palace is an excellent example of Anglo-German architecture. You can also view it from the inside, which offers more impressive 18th-century architecture.

Lismore Castle

With all the history that surrounds Waterford, you must take the opportunity to visit the enchanting sights of Lismore Castle. The castle is located over the River Blackwater, which adds to its iconic surroundings.

Lismore Castle has seen many notable figures visit throughout its history, including J. F. Kennedy, Sir Walter Raleigh, and Cecil Beaton. The list of royal faces, sporting stars, and more is just as long as the castle’s impressive history.

Although the castle isn’t open to the general public, you can book it for private parties and functions, and it offers amazing rooms to stay in.

Lismore Castle Waterford
Lismore Castle Waterford

Lismore Castle Gardens

One of Ireland’s hidden gems is Lismore Castle’s historic gardens, located within the castle’s walls. The two different gardens include seven acres of ancient yew trees, gorgeous meadows, fruit and vegetable beds, and beautiful horticulture. The gardens also offer great views of the castle and unspoilt countryside.

The castle gardens were first created in the 19th century for the 6th Duke of Devonshire, Sir Joseph Paxton. Many of the walled gardens from then are still visible today. From 1999 onwards, many different pieces of contemporary sculptures have been added to the gardens.

Getting a ticket for the garden also allows you free entry into the Lismore Castle Arts, an art gallery where you can view the work of national and international artists.

The castle is also located in one of the oldest towns in Waterford, which has a rich heritage and stunning natural surroundings.

The Viking Triangle

The Heart of Waterford lies in their cultural and heritage area known as ‘The Viking Triangle’. It is a great place full of narrow streets, public spaces, and many cultural and heritage attractions that you can enjoy.

Epic Tour

One of the fun things to do is the tour of the Viking Triangle, a theatrical comedy journey. This tour involves costumes, props, dancing, singing, and plenty of fun. Liam Meagher, a Waterford writer, wrote the brilliant tour. It’s a great tour that the whole family can enjoy.

Through the interactive tour, you’ll learn all about the captivating history of Waterford and the ‘Viking Triangle’. The stories are brought to life through the re-enactment of actors. It’s one of those unmissable things to do while in Waterford.

Kings of the Viking

This is the world’s first virtual reality Viking 3D adventure, bringing you closer to the Viking warlords who founded Ireland’s oldest city. The virtual reality experience is located in a replica of a Viking house that helps to add to the medieval feel. This offers you a bit of history and fun at the same time. Helping you understand what life was like in Waterford all those centuries ago.

The Viking Triangle, Waterford
The Viking Triangle, Waterford

If you are visiting Waterford to explore some art galleries, make sure to visit Greyfriars Gallery. This gallery hosts amazing exhibitions of artwork from the Waterford Municipal Art Collection.

Over 300 pieces of artwork, some created by great Irish painters, are on display. There are the works of Jack. B. Yeats, Paul Henry, and Evie Hone, just to name a few. The gallery also hosts different events surrounding music, poetry, and literature throughout the year.

The Greyfriars Gallery is a real treat for art lovers. It offers a lovely atmosphere, audiovisual facilities, and impressive contemporary art.

Spraoi festival

While there is lots of history to explore in Waterford, there is also fun to discover, one being the Spraoi Festival held here every August. The festival is named after the Irish word for fun, where you can enjoy live music and entertainment—lots of different street performers and a great atmosphere that’s not to be missed.

It has a carnival feel, with exciting bands worldwide and giant floats taking to the streets.

The idea for the festival originated in 1993 as a way to bring fun and some craziness to the city. Initially, it was just a one-day event, but due to its success, it was decided to make it an annual event in the city. It has now become one of the leading street art events in Ireland, attracting people from all over to the city of Waterford.

Beautiful Beaches

One thing to love about Waterford is its many beautiful beaches, which offer the perfect seaside experience. One that you have to check out is the Copper Coast Geopark, which offers stunning views of the southern coast of Ireland. From 2015 onwards, the Copper Coast is known as a UNESCO Global Geopark.

The area was named after Ireland’s historic metal mining industry. It is known for its beautiful panoramic seascapes, cliffs and coves. The drive from Dungarvan to Tramore, known as the Copper Coast Road, has been suggested as one of the most gorgeous scenic drives.

If you’ve got time, we believe the best way to explore Ireland is by driving along its impressive routes and seeing all the beautiful landscapes. No other way can do Ireland justice; no images or video will ever live up to the reality of the beauty you’ll discover.

Copper Coast, Waterford Ireland
Copper Coast, Waterford Ireland

There are many great sites on the Copper Coast that you can check out, including the Knockmahon and Stage Cove. The cliffs are similar to the Giant’s Causeway attraction in Northern Ireland. The coastal cliffs and the bay at Stage Cove are not to be missed, and you can take a trip to Knockmahon Beach for some lovely views and fresh air.

Other sites worth visiting are Ballydwan Bay, Stradbally Cove, Busmahon Head and Tankardstown.

Best Places to Eat in Waterford

No matter where you go, the food scene is always essential, and I can promise Waterford won’t let you down. There are many great restaurants in Waterford that you must try while visiting the city.

Momo Restaurant

At the top of our list is this award-winning Waterford Restaurant, which offers a variety of tasty international dishes made with the best local produce. Momo restaurant is definitely unconventional when it comes to its menu, but that’s what makes it so great—so many options and delicious flavours. The restaurant also offers a relaxing and casual atmosphere where staff take good care of their guests.

Bodega

Next, we have another non-conventional Irish restaurant, which again champions the best of locally sourced Irish produce. The restaurant serves a selection of different international meets and seafood. Much of the seafood comes from the local areas of Dunmore East and Kilmore Quay. The place is fun and unique both through its food and atmosphere. It’s a place where you can enjoy great food and have a bit of craic.

The Granny Café

If you’re looking for a more chilled and casual setting, this place is a must-visit in Waterford. Here, you can enjoy a great Irish breakfast and delicious pastry options. Also, check out their great range of teas and coffees from all over the world. It’s the perfect place to stop of while exploring the many attractions in Waterford.

Emiliano’s

Another famous and much-loved restaurant in Waterford is Emiliano’s. Here, you can enjoy unique traditional Italian dishes, such as pasta, risotto, and pizzas. The food is created with passion and love and will leave you feeling full (in the best possible way). As this is a trendy restaurant, you are advised to book in advance to avoid disappointment.

The Olive Tree

A new restaurant in the area that’s starting to gain an excellent reputation for creating authentic and tasty tapas. You must try this place with its Spanish flavours and food and the combination of local cooking traditions that make it irresistible. The restaurant prides itself on providing the best customer experience to their guests. It is also the only tapas restaurant in Waterford. So if you want to try something different, this is the place.

Unmissable Time in Waterford 

Waterford in Ireland is a city that will not let you down. Whether visiting for a day or a few days, you’ll fall in love with this old city, from its fascinating history that you can explore to the many unique attractions that make Waterford stand out from the rest. The people are welcoming, and you’ll most likely be planning a second trip as it offers so much.

We would love to hear about your experiences and stories if you have already been to Waterford. Please let us know in the comments below!

Other worthy reads about places in Ireland:

Dublin City: The World’s Natural Wonders in One City| Everyone’s Favourite Seaside Resort: Bundoran, Donegal| Take a Look at the Astounding Scenery of County Kerry|The Enticing Nature of Northern Ireland in County of Carlow|The Beauty of County Limerick| Mesmerising Beauty of County Sligo|

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