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If the name Waterford sounds familiar to you, it may be because this is where Waterford Crystal originated. The beautiful handmade crystal is headquartered here, and certain pieces are still made right in the city. Waterford is more than just crystal creations, though. It is one of the oldest cities in Ireland situated right on the south bank of the River Suir.
Home to a number of museums, historic buildings, and modern restaurants and shops, there is plenty to see and do during a port of call from an Ireland cruise. When you cruise Waterford, you’ll have the chance to explore the city and learn what makes the southeast region of Ireland so alluring.
Learn more about the world-renowned crystal during your port of call with a visit to the House of Waterford Crystal. Discover the history of the cut glass and see the process used to create new pieces during a guided tour of the facility. Learn about current day operations, see some impressive glass blowing, and visit the onsite shop for your own piece of Waterford crystal.
For those who love both the grandeur of royalty and the impressiveness of historic architecture, a visit to Curraghmore House and Gardens is a must. Located about 35 minutes from the city center of Waterford, Curraghmore House and Gardens covers over 2,500 acres of wilderness, including beautifully manicured formal gardens. It’s also home to the stone-arched King John’s Bridge, the oldest bridge in Ireland built in 1205. The house located on the property belonged to the 8th Marquis of Waterford who was of Normandy descent.
The Rock of Cashel, the most-visited heritage site in Ireland, is located just over an hour’s drive from Waterford. Though not a rock but a castle, the mesmerizing structure dates back to the 12th century, and its remains are both formidable and lovely to amble around. The location of the Rock of Cashel once served as the seat of the High Kings of Munster. St. Patrick is also said to have spent time in this area in the 5th century as it’s believed to be where he converted King Aengus of Munster to Christianity.
If you want more Waterford Crystal history, head to Bishop’s Palace, featuring 18th-century architecture designed by Richard Castles. The palace houses the world’s oldest surviving piece of Waterford Crystal, a cut-glass decanter created in the 1780s. Its museum focuses on life from the mid-1700s to the 1970s. While touring the exhibits, you’ll see interesting period paintings and furniture.
If you want to escape the city and experience a traditional Irish town, visit Lismore, located about 45 miles from Waterford next to the River Blackwater. Top sights to see in Lismore include Lismore Castle, which towers over the river and its scenic gardens; the Heritage Centre for information about the town’s history and culture; St. Carthage’s Cathedral, which has a history dating back to the 12th century; and the Towers Woodland Trail, which winds alongside a historic stone gate and bridge. The downtown area of Lismore is also charming to walk around with many restaurants and shops to pop into.
This round tower with massively thick walls is located at the end of Waterford’s Parade Quay. Reginald’s Tower is considered to be the oldest civic urban structure in Ireland and is believed to have been used as a defense against the Vikings. Over the centuries, Reginald’s Tower has served as a prison and military store among other things. Today, Reginald’s Tower houses the City Museum, which showcases archaeological artifacts and exhibits about Waterford’s Viking heritage.
The Viking Triangle is home to some of Waterford’s top attractions, like the Bishop’s Palace, Reginald’s Tower, and the House of Waterford Crystal. It’s also where you’ll find the Medieval Museum, the Theatre Royal, and a full-sized replica of a Viking longboat. Adding to the Viking ambiance of the neighborhood is the King of the Vikings, which is dubbed the “first Viking virtual reality adventure in the world”. Don a VR headset and be transported back in time as your guide takes you around the premises on this unique 30-minute experience.
You’ll learn much more about the medieval times of Ireland and beyond when visiting this museum in Waterford, which is solely focused on the medieval era. You’ll see two medieval chambers, one of which is from 1270 and was the residence for the dean of Waterford Cathedral. The other chamber is the 15th century mayor’s wine vault. The museum also features a variety of vestments and other artifacts from the era.
The oldest cathedral of the Roman Catholic Church in Ireland was built in the 1790s. Featuring a neoclassical style, the cathedral has ten chandeliers hanging inside that were donated by Waterford Crystal. While much of the original structure is intact, it was renovated in 1977 so that the altar was situated in a manner that allowed for mass to be given facing the congregation, which previously wasn’t possible.
Waterford is all about fresh produce and the slow food movement. Many of the eateries in the city feature local ingredients and changing menus depending on what’s in season. Look for menus that feature local seafood or food sourced from nearby farms and ranches. When you’re looking for a fun place to have a drink, find an establishment with live Irish music for a particularly memorable time.
Waterford is often thought to be the oldest city in Ireland, originally founded by the Vikings in the 10th century. Its name is derived from Norse etymology; Waterford is pulled from the word Veðrafjǫrðr, which translates to “windy fjord”. In the 12th century, Waterford was conquered by Anglo-Norman invaders who turned it into an important city during Ireland’s medieval years. Though Waterford has gone through sieges, famine, and economic strife over the centuries, today it is one of the most prominent cities in Ireland’s southeast region.
When you cruise Waterford, you’ll dock offshore and be transferred to land via smaller tender boats. You’ll be dropped off in the Dunmore East port, from which it’s a short walk to the small harbor town of Dunmore or a 30-minute drive to Waterford. Taxis are often waiting at the dock, but shore excursions are the easiest way to explore the city and surrounding region for Waterford cruise passengers. You won’t find many facilities at this port, though there is sometimes a tourist information representative waiting on the pier for cruise passengers to speak with.
Taxis are usually waiting at the pier on days that cruise ships are in port, but there are a limited number, so plan a backup method to get into the city or to an attraction if there are no taxis waiting. Official taxis are white or black with green and are metered, though you can negotiate a price before you get in, particularly if hiring a taxi driver to take you around for the whole day. Taking a local shuttle service is also an option for getting between the pier and Waterford. Timetables are usually released a few days in advance. Local buses are also available to get between Dunmore East and Waterford. The bus stop is located about 300 meters from the tender pier.
Whether you’re looking for boutiques or popular high street brand names while you cruise Waterford, you’ll be able to find it. The Shopping District located in the Merchant’s Quarter of Waterford has a variety of shops. Georges Court Shopping Centre has about two dozen stores, many of which are focused on the latest trends. For a department store experience, head to City Square Shopping Center, where you’ll find two major Irish department stores and about 40 other shops. If you love colorful glass, you won’t want to miss the opportunity to shop for Waterford Crystal right where it was originally created.
The currency used in Waterford is the euro. Tipping customs are similar to the rest of Ireland, which is generally 10% of the total bill when dining out at restaurants or using a taxi service.