Top-Rated Attractions & Things to Do in Waterford
Waterford has recently been voted the best city in Ireland to live in, and as a resident of this historic city, I can certainly agree. Waterford is located in the southeast of Ireland, we call it the Sunny South East, and is full of history. Over the years Waterford has become synonymous with quality Crystal Glass and Waterford Crystal is known around the world. Some of its other historic claims to fame include that it was once the capital of Ireland, Both the Normans and Vikings had influence in the city, the Vikings founded the city in 914, it is Ireland’s oldest city and Waterford is the only city in Ireland where the Catholic and Protestant Cathedrals are designed by the same architect. The city is within reach of many beaches and also mountains, all only about 30 minutes drive from the city center. This post will discuss some of the key / Top-Rated attractions and things to do in Waterford.
Some of the highlights include exploring the Waterford Treasures museums in the Viking Triangle, seeing how Waterford Crystal is made, exploring the city walls, taking a trip to the coastal towns, visiting and exploring the Waterford Greenway, and also perhaps exploring the local gardens of which there are many.
The House of Waterford Crystal
You can actually watch the famous Waterford Crystal start off as a red gooey blob of molten glass and then finish as a beautifully cut and sparkling piece of Waterford Crystal. The House of Waterford Crystal is located on the Mall and it shows you a behind-the-scenes view of the creation process. Waterford Crystal was located on the Cork road but after a troubled few years in the early 2000s, the brand has rebounded and found new success in its current location. Here, you will find the manufacturing facility which can include a guided tour and the visitor center which is now one of the key tourist attractions in Waterford. You can also purchase a finished piece of Waterford Crystal before you leave.
Address: House of Waterford Crystal, 28 The Mall, Waterford, Ireland
Official site: https://www.waterfordvisitorcentre.com
The John Robert’s Cathedrals
Waterford is the only city in Ireland where the protestant and catholic cathedrals are designed by the same architect. The catholic cathedral is called the Cathedral of the Most Holy Trinity Within and is located on Barronstrand Street near the clock tower. The protestant cathedral is located near the Viking Triangle and you can’t miss it as it has a very tall spire. Both cathedrals are normally free to enter (unless there are special events or concerts taking place) but both are worth seeing for different reasons. The catholic cathedral has a wonderful pipe organ and stained glass windows and the protestant cathedral also has a very impressive pipe organ and many historical features inside.
Mount Congreve Gardens
There are many great houses and gardens in Ireland’s Ancient East and one of these is the beautifully landscaped gardens at Mount Congreve, Waterford. These amazing gardens stretch across 75 acres of woodland and landscaped gardens including a beautiful four-acre walled garden. The house and gardens were owned by Mr. Ambrose Congreve, and after his death, the gardens were left to the state so that the public could enjoy the splendour of these amazing gardens. Mount Congreve backs onto the Waterford Greenway which is a walk/cycle way that stretches all the way to Dungarvan. Mr. Ambrose Congreve’s achievements were acknowledged by Queen Elizabeth, who awarded him a CBE, and by Trinity College Dublin, which granted him an honorary doctorate. These gardens are a real joy to explore and are a must-see on your visit to Waterford. In the past month (October 2022) a brand new area called The Stables Café has opened. The Stables Café is set in a beautiful setting for enjoying a coffee, breakfast, or light lunch. In these stunning surroundings, you can enjoy the local produce combined with the fruits, vegetables, and herbs from the Mount Congreve gardens. I know of many people who have stopped going to their usual city center coffee stop and are now coming here. Either way, Mount Congreve should be on your list when visiting Waterford.
Official site: https://mountcongreve.com/
The Lafcadio Hearn Japanese Gardens
It may be strange to find Japanese Gardens in Waterford but there is a historical reason why these gardens are here. They are dedicated to Victorian writer and Japanese translator and journalist Patrick Lafcadio Hearn who grew up and stayed in Tramore in his early life.
These Japanese gardens pay homage to the fame he attained in Japan through his incomparable literary descriptions of the people, customs, and culture of that country. Here, you can follow Lafcadio Hearn’s life journey, first through the Victorian Garden, then to the American and Greek gardens, until you eventually arrive in the Japanese gardens. Lafcadio Hearn is still known today in modern Japan.
Official site: https://www.lafcadiohearngardens.com/
The Lismore Heritage Centre & Castle Gardens
Lismore Heritage Centre was opened in 1992 with the aim to document and exhibit the history of Lismore and its surroundings. Lismore is most famous for the magnificent Lismore Castle which was built in 1185 and the castle itself can be visited separately through the Lismore Castle Experience.
The castle has beautiful gardens both within the castle walls and comprise 7 acres and boast spectacular views of Lismore Castle, the River Blackwater, and the surrounding countryside.
Official site: https://www.discoverlismore.com/
Waterford Treasures Medieval Museum
The Waterford Treasures Medieval Museum is Ireland’s only purpose-built medieval museum and the only building on the island to incorporate two medieval chambers, the 13th-century Choristers’ Hall and the 15th-century Mayor’s Wine Vault. Waterford Treasures is located near Christ Church Cathedral (the previously mentioned protestant cathedral. Some of the stunning historical artifacts which are exhibited here at Waterford Treasures include a fantastic array of ancient vestments, period artworks, The oldest wine vault in Ireland, a Relic of the True Cross, Pilgrim badges, the earliest gold ring brooch in Europe, The Great Charter Roll of Waterford, the Sword of Edward IV, King Henry VIII’s Cap of Maintenance and much more.
Official site: www.waterfordtreasures.com/medieval-museum
Sitting on the corner of the mall and the quay is the formidable Reginald’s Tower. The tower has been used for many different purposes over the centuries, originally part of the medieval urban defense system, Reginald’s Tower is the oldest civic building in Ireland and it is the only urban monument in Ireland to retain a Norse or Viking name.
Construction began in 1253 on the site of the original Viking fort named after Ragnall who founded the City in 914, and the walls are about 3 meters thick. At one point someone fired a cannonball at the tower and it did no damage, but is still stuck in the wall to this day.
This building in the past was used as a prison, a mint, and a military store and is now a museum, namely the Viking Museum, and part of Waterford Treasures.
Here you can take a journey through time and discover historical and archaeological artifacts showing Waterford’s Viking heritage, many reproductions of items from this time, Viking warrior’s weapons, the exquisite 12th-century Waterford Kite Brooch, even pieces from ‘hnefatafl’, a Viking board game similar to chess, a model of what Waterford looked like hundreds of years ago and a replica Viking longship which sits next to Reginald’s tower.
Official site: www.waterfordtreasures.com/reginalds-tower
Experience the Suir Valley Railway
The Waterford Suir Valley Railway which is located close to the village of Kilmeaden is a very popular tourist attraction in Waterford and is an ideal activity if you are travelling with children (even though it is enjoyable at any age due to the scenery along the river). The Waterford Suir Valley Railway is a community heritage project which brought back to life locomotive activity along 10 kilometers of the abandoned Waterford Dungarvan line but now on narrow gauge lines.
The current train on this line in its past life worked in industrial capacities across the UK and at one time even moved excavated debris during the construction of the UK-France Channel Tunnel.
The hopes for this line are that the railway will eventually extend all the way into Waterford City and will also end up operating with a steam engine. Works are already underway to extend the platform into Waterford for the Greenway.
Address: Train Station, Kilmeadan, Kilmeaden, Co. Waterford, Ireland
Official site: www.wsvrailway.ie
Dunmore east is about 25 minute’s drive from Waterford and is the quintessential fishing village. Dunmore East is certainly one of Waterford’s hidden gems – certainly a lot less crowded than Tramore but still remains a very popular place for tourists, especially during the summer months.
While there enjoy a stroll around the park, before walking down to the working harbor if you fancy a swim there are 2 bathing areas available. There are also many restaurants in the area including the Haven Hotel, the Strand, and also a variety of smaller shops and takeaways – you have to stop at East-Pier fish for freshly cooked fish and chips. There is also an adventure center in Dunmore East if you like water sports and this is ideal for all ages.
Address: Dunmore East, Co. Waterford, Ireland
Tramore is located 10km away from Waterford city and will take you about 20 minutes to drive. Tramore is a holiday location for many and one of the main places for the people of Waterford to head to during the summer. Tramore has everything you will need for an enjoyable holiday stay or visit. There are a variety of Hotels, Guest Houses, B&Bs, and self-catering options and there are leisure activities such as Splashworld, which is the largest indoor aqua adventure playground in the South East, as well as surfing, fishing, hiking, horse riding, golf, mini-golf and large Amusement Park which is ideal to amuse all ages. In relation to Surfing, Tramore has a number of surf and sup schools available and the surfing activity takes place all year. Along the section of the beach where the surfing takes place, there are many cafes and restaurants such as Moes, Mollys, and The Sandcastle Café. There is also a very good park area, unofficially called Lark Park, where birds like skylarks, egrets, and curlews can be observed from the park and the nearby bird hide. The beach is very long and there is a looped walk (just watch the tides) down the beach, around the headland (The Sandhills), and back along the back strand. This walk should take you about 2 hours. Tramore also has Guillamene and Newtown Coves (well signposted in Tramore) and these are ideal for strong swimmers who want to do some sea swimming. Carparking is available but unfortunately, the toilets can end up being locked in the Winter months (which makes no sense to me). But Tramore is a wonderful place and I normally take the drive from Waterford to Tramore for a walk at least once a week.
10 More Things to Do in Waterford
- The Irish Silver Museum
This museum explores the story of Ireland told through the medium of silver.
- The Irish Museum of Time
If you like timepieces or horology then you will love the Irish Museum of Time. The museum features the oldest Irish-made grandfather clocks, table clocks, and watches in the world.
- The Bishops Palace
A wonderful museum set in a beautiful building along the Mall.
- The Comeragh Mountains
Located about 45 minutes away from Waterford. Take the N25 towards Dungarvan and follow directions to Comeragh Drive.
- The Waterford Greenway
A 45 km route ideal for walkers and cyclists with stunning views of the countryside. My only dislike of this attraction is the many ‘sports cyclists’ who are in the Tour-de-France lycra who decided to use this as a raceway. (I almost got flattened one day by a cyclist who must have been trying to do a personal best along the route). But early morning you can enjoy the views and the fresh air and it is certainly worth a visit. Carparking is available in many of the areas along the route.
- The Spraoi Festival
A city-wide event which takes place in the August Bank Holiday Weekend with music, street performers, and outdoor art installations. A must-see.
- Waterford Nature Park
The former location of the Waterford City Refuse landfill has been transformed into a wonderful area with looped walks, trees, and great views of the city.
- The People’s Park
The People’s Park is located not far from the Mall and is the largest public park in Waterford City. This 16-acre park was laid out around 1860 when the marshy land around the John River was drained. The park contains a Victorian-era bandstand, a skateboarding park, a children’s playground, and a separate baby playground. The old caretaker’s house has been converted into the Park Lodge café (well worth stopping off for a coffee)
- The Viking Sword
Located behind the Munster Bar just off the quays – you will be amazed by the size.
- Jack Burtchaell Waterford Walking Tours
If you want to get to know a city, then you have to walk it. The Jack Burtchaell Waterford Walking Tours are very good and Jack will bring you on a 1-hour walk that covers over 1,000 years of history, and includes four National Monuments, two Cathedrals, and historical figures who dominated the city’s history.
I hope you enjoyed this article on the Top-Rated Attractions & Things to Do in Waterford. If you have any questions or comments please leave them below.