If you're planning a trip around Ireland, resist the temptation to hurry down to Cork. If you bypass Ireland's “sunny southeast” you'll do yourself a disservice, especially if you miss the Viking Triangle in Waterford City. You can easily get the highlights of Waterford in a day or two.
Less than a 2 hour drive from Dublin, Waterford is so much more than a place that makes crystal. Founded by the Vikings in 850 AD, it’s Ireland's oldest city and the highlights are all in a snug little downtown area.
They call it the Viking Triangle, “a thousand years of history in a thousand paces!,” and they aren't kidding. Within just a few steps of each other are three key visitor attractions that showcase its Viking, Medieval and Georgian history. The best way to experience them is on a walking tour.
Waterford City Viking Triangle walking tour
Do as we say, though, not as we did. We arrived at Waterford just in time for lunch at the Bishop’s Palace, and basically did the itinerary backwards.
Please don’t make that mistake. For only €10 you can start your visit with an enjoyable character-led walking tour of the Triangle. Actors in period dress will tell you about the city as they guide you along from Viking times to today. Far better to hear a story than to hear a boring guide drone on and on, don't you think?
Tip: If you want to see all three museums, budget €17.00 per person, though I heard there may be a combo ticket for less. Ask at the Bishop’s Palace.
Waterford's story starts at the 12th century Reginald's Tower, where the marriage of Aoife and Strongbow took place. It’s in good enough condition that there’s a museum inside. We got there too late to visit but our guide told us that the exhibits cover Waterford’s Viking beginnings up to the Norman invasion. There are three floors in the tower with lovely Viking artifacts, including a set of 9th century Viking warrior armor.
Tip: Be prepared for winding staircases to get from floor to floor. Unlike the other two museums, the tower is not wheelchair accessible.
A two-minute walk for the Tower, behind the Bishop’s Palace, is Ireland's only Medieval Museum. Recently opened, it really explains a lot of the history of Ireland, why the battles continued between England and Ireland, and more about the divide between the Catholics and the Protestants.
This is a stunning modern building that incorporates previous construction they found on the site, including a 13th century Choristers' Hall and a 15th century wine vault.
Tip: Don’t-miss highlights in the museum include the 4-meter-long Great Charter Roll dated to 1373 and the 15th-century cloth of gold vestments, the only set to survive in Northern Europe.
The Bishop's Palace was designed and built in 1741 by the famous Richard Castle on the site of the medieval palace. Up until the early 20th century the Church of Ireland's bishops of Waterford and Lismore called it home. It’s now a museum with rooms restored in 17th and 18th century style.
This is another place where costumed actors tell the history of Waterford. They will escort you through the period rooms and tell all about the rare 18th century Irish furniture, glass silver and paintings around you.
Trivia lovers: The museum has the largest collection of historic Waterford Glass in the world on display and the oldest landscape view of an Irish city (William Van der Hagens view of Waterford 1736).
Tip: There’s a reasonably priced restaurant here. Enjoy a local specialty and ask for a Waterford blaa in lieu of normal bread.
Waterford Crystal showroom
All these attractions are a 3-minute walk from the world-famous House of Waterford Crystal. You can take a guided tour of the factory for €12.00 or visit its showroom for free. We didn't have time for the tour, but we did manage to squeeze in 10 minutes of crystal viewing at the showroom just as it was closing for the day. I'm not a fan of glass baubles but I did find a beautiful chandelier that I wouldn't mind owning, for a mere €10,000. (Pocket change, right?)
Thomas Francis Meagher, the famous son of Ireland, was born in this building. The Tricolour, Ireland's flag, was flown here for the first time. It was recently named Georgina Campbell Hotel of the Year, a highly coveted award. If you’d like to hear more about its history, see one of the rooms or read about its award-winning restaurant, we have a post about our stay at the Granville Hotel with more photos.
Plan your trip
For a guide to the city, Visit Waterford is your most comprehensive resource.
Find more pictures of the Viking Triangle in our Waterford photo gallery.
Google Maps offers an aerial view of Waterford Viking Triangle. Zoom, scroll around and explore!
Buy Waterford Crystal factory tour tickets online HERE. Note that private tours are also available.
We spent 3 nights in Southeast Ireland as guests of Ireland's national tourist bureau. Waterford was our third stop, after Kilkenny and Wexford.
See more of Southwest Ireland with theses related articles:
- Why You Need to See Waterford's Historic Granville Hotel
- Waterford, Ireland 1 Day Itinerary
- Try the Waterford Blaa – An Irish Specialty
- 9 Things to Do in County Wexford
- Visit Dunbrody House, Kevin Dunston’s Wexford Hotel
- 10 Things to Do in Kilkenny, Ireland in One Day
- Lyrath Estate: Luxury in Kilkenny
Amazon offers a number of excellent guides.