Waterford is Ireland's oldest city and offers an abundance of culture, history and natural beauty.
It was founded by the Vikings in 914AD, which is not surprising considering the amount of castles, towers and ancient dwellings that dot the landscape.
For those in the hospitality industry, the Waterford Harvest Festival offers some of Ireland's finest culinary culture, where visitors can savor local delicacies and artisanal products.
The Top 10
With all these factors in mind, Hospitality Ireland decided to examine the top ten visitor attractions in Waterford, based on Fáilte Ireland's Visitor Attractions Survey 2019, which was carried out by SRI in the third quarter of 2020.
The year 2019 was chosen as a good indicator because it was pre-covid and so the sample was more in line with tourists behaviour in normal circumstances, rather than during an exceptional event like the coronavirous pandemic.
1. The House Of Waterford Crystal
The House Of Waterford Crystal is number one on the list with 209,600 visitors as of 2019.
Visitors can see how master craftsmen adorn the intricate detail onto the crystal as they transform robust blocks of crystal into elegant shapes and figures with their sculpting wheels.
The House Of Waterford Crystal offers the largest collection of Waterford in the world, the 12,000 square feet retail store gives visitors the opportunity to choose a piece of crystal to take home.
The retail store represents the entire catalogue of luxury crystal, including an exhibition of golf and world sports trophies.
2. Medieveal Museum (Waterford Treasures Museum)
The Medieval Museum is located on the Viking Triangle, Waterford City’s cultural and historic quarter, and this opening completes the trilogy of museums that include Reginald’s Tower and the Bishop’s Palace, and is the last in the complex of museums that trace the history and archaeology of Waterford from its foundations by Viking pirates in 914 up to the present day.
The Medieval Museum is unique in that it is the first purpose-built medieval museum in Ireland and is the first modern building to incorporate a medieval building.
The great sweep of Dundry stone that creates the dramatic facade was sourced at the stone quarry near Bristol, the same quarry that 800 years ago was used to build the atmospheric thirteenth-century Chorister’s Hall that sits beneath the museum.
3. Mount Congreve Gardens
The Mount Congreve House and Gardens recently underwent a €7 million redevelopment with a brand new visitor centre and The Stables Café having being purpose-built for the new experience.
Visitors can now arrive through the main front doors of the house into the foyer to enjoy an immersive audio-visual exhibition of the garden and family history.
The location has 70 acres of woodland gardens and four acres of walled gardens within a 140-acre estate located 10 minutes outside of Waterford city.
4. Reginald's Tower
Reginald's tower has never fallen into ruin and has been in continuous use for over 800 years.
It was originally the site of a wooden Viking fort, the stone tower we see today actually owes its existence to the Anglo-Normans who made it the strongest point of the medieval defensive walls.
Later it was utilised as a mint under King John, before serving various functions under many English monarchs.
On two floors are housed one branch of the Waterford Museum of Treasures, concentrating on the town’s thrilling Viking heritage.
5. Lismore Heritage Centre
The Lismore Heritage Centre allows visitors to get a full tour of the town.
The 360° experience is the only way to catch a glimpse inside this castle.
Visitors can hear the story of the Book of Lismore and the Bishop’s Crozier that were hidden in the walls of the castle for almost two centuries.
Lismore Castle was built by King John in 1185 to guard the river and was lived in by Sir Walter Raleigh.
6. Waterford And Suir Valley Railway
Waterford Suir Valley Railway Company CLG was established to preserve and promote Waterford’s railway heritage.
The railway follows the 10km of the abandoned Waterford – Dungarvan railway line, from the station at Kilmeadan, Co Waterford to Bilberry in Waterford City running beside the Waterford Greenway.
Travelling at 15km per hour, travellers can view Suir Valley from a partially opened carriage as they take in the panoramic views of the river and rolling farmland of Waterford and across the river to County Kilkenny.
The track runs mostly along the picturesque banks of the River Suir and beside Waterford Greenway. Travellers can also get a glimpse of the Mount Congreve Gardens.
7. Lafcadio Hearn Japanese Gardens
The idea for Lafcadio Hearn Japanese Gardens gardens first arose in 2012 when Professor Bon Koizumi, the great grandson of Lafcadio Hearn, with his wife, Shoko, visited Tramore to retrace the steps of his famous ancestor who had spent his childhood summers in the seaside town.
The journey begins in a Victorian Garden which commemorate Hearn’s childhood summers in Tramore. Later there is an American Garden and a Greek Garden, followed by a series of Japanese inspired landscapes.
Having passed beneath a Fujidana, visitors reach a traditional Japanese Tea House and Tea Garden, followed by a Stream Garden which leads to ponds and a waterfall and an extensive woodland area.
The main elements of design, in particular the use of rocks and water and the plant selection, are influenced by the tradition of a Japanese Strolling Garden.
The 2.5 acre gardens are set on a hillside overlooking Tramore Bay.
8. Lismore Castle Gardens
Lismore Gardens collectively covers 10 acres and are the oldest cultivated gardens in Ireland.
The gardens are set within the outer defensive walls and are divided into three distinct parts, the Reilig Garden, the Upper Garden, and the Lower Garden.
Some of the walls around this garden date back to the 13th century. The Reilig leads to the Upper garden which was first constructed by Richard Boyle, the 1st Earl of Cork in about 1605.
Most of the walls and terraces remain the same although the plantings have changed to suit the tastes of those living within the Castle. This garden is a mix of ornamental borders and productive areas, with vegetables, herbs, fruit and flowers grown for the kitchen and house.
9. King Of Vikings VR Adventure (Waterford Treasure Museums)
King Of Vikings VR Adventure includes a handcrafted replica viking house built in Waterford's Viking Triangle in the ruins of a 13th century Franciscan Friary.
The adventure blends cutting-edge technology with ancient viking house building techniques.
The King Of The Vikings Virtual Reality Experience is the first of its king in the World.
10. Bishop's Palace (Waterford Treasures Museum)
The Bishop’s Palace in Cathedral Square was conserved in 2010/11 and opened as a museum in June 2011, displaying the treasures of Georgian and Victorian Waterford.
The ground and first floors are furnished as an 18th-century townhouse would be, with some of the finest displays in Ireland of 18th-century glass, silver, furniture and paintings.
The oldest piece of Waterford Glass in the world, the Penrose decanter, is a highlight.