Reputed to be Ireland’s oldest city – with a Christian parish that predates even St Patrick – Waterford is certainly richly decked in Viking tales, architecture, finery and folklore.
Even its name, from the Norse meaning “ram fjord”, holds fast to the city’ pedigree. Make sure to grab a delicious blaa from the Granary Café to fuel your exploration.
Within the Medieval Museum – one of a trio of Museums called Waterford Treasures – you’ll find the exquisitely embroidered Cloth of Gold Vestments. Harking back to a rancorous dispute between Waterford and rival port New Ross in 1372 is the Great Charter Roll, created to prove Waterford’s supremacy to the King. Mere metres away is one of the city’s most imposing sights – Reginald’s Tower remains the oldest urban civic structure in Ireland, and is where you will find the intricate Waterford Kite Brooch, one of the finest surviving examples of Viking jewellery. Soaring above the waterfront, the building has been in continuous use for over 800 years.
Founded in 914 AD by Vikings from Norway, Waterford City is over 1100 years old making it Ireland’s oldest City. In 914,the great Viking adventurer and pirate, Regnall, a grandson of Ivor the Boneless, established a base here and built a Longphort or ships haven, which would in time become a modern city. In 918, Regnall took a fleet of ships and left Waterford sailing for York and he became the first Norse ruler of Ruler of that City and held the title ‘King of Waterford and York’. The name Waterford is derived from its Viking name Vadrarjfordr which has two possible meanings; ‘haven from the windswept sea’ or ‘fjord’ of the rams’. The City was captured by the Anglo Normans in 1170 and the Vikings were expelled bringing a dramatic change. Within a few years of being captured, Waterford was escalated to the status of Royal City which owed allegiance to the Anglo Norman King of England, Henry II.
Today, Waterford is a vibrant and picturesque city that has managed to carefully maintain its important heritage, while also having a lively and modern shopping area, filled with cafes, award winning restaurants and an excellent mix of traditional, local and contemporary pubs. The city is also home to two theatres, the Theatre Royal and Garter Lane Arts Centre, as well as several art galleries, craft studios and boutique shops. In 2015, Waterford City was awarded a ‘Purple Flag’ – similar to the Blue Flag for beaches – the Purple Flag is granted to urban areas which reach excellence in their evening and night time economies. Waterford City is the first urban location in the South East to achieve the Purple Flag standard.
Places to Visit
Lonely Planet recommends a visit to Waterford City, saying ‘Waterford is Ireland’s oldest city and celebrated its 1100th anniversary in 2014. A busy port, it lies on the tidal reach of the River Suir, 16km from the coast. Some parts of the city still feel almost medieval, with narrow alleyways leading off larger streets; an ongoing revitalisation campaign is polishing up one block after another. New and existing museums tell the story of Ireland’s Middle Ages better than any other city in the country’.
Waterford is the capital city of the South East region and is within easy reach of Kilkenny, New Ross, Wexford, Tipperary and Cork.