Ask most visitors to name Ireland’s first established city, and most will answer “Dublin” without blinking an eye. And though Dublin is an old city – founded in 988 – it is 74 years younger than Ireland’s oldest city.
Located in the south-eastern part of the country, the majority of people touring Ireland bypass the city, or stop only long enough to gaze at her most famous export.
Happy 1100th Birthday to Ireland’s Oldest City – Waterford!
The heart of that seaport lies in what is now known as the “Viking Triangle,” a walkable area in the northeast corner of the city. Within this small area you can explore 1100 years of Waterford’s amazing history within three fabulous museums.
Collectively known as “Waterford Treasures:” Reginald’s Tower, the Medieval Museum, and the Bishop’s Palace bring to life Waterford’s past, era by era.
Reginald’s Tower, the oldest civic structure in Waterford, was built in the early 13th century. Strategically located for defense, the tower has been used as a prison, a mint, and a military store. Today Reginald’s Tower holds treasures of the Viking era. You’ll see 9th century Viking lead weights, gold brooches from the late 11th century, and coins minted here.
Just down the Mall in the heart of the Viking Triangle is the Medieval Museum. The museum itself is new and state of the art, but what it sits atop dates from about 1096 to 1650. Entry to the museum is through an original tower door which leads you to the 12th century undercrofts and Chorister’s Hall. From here you rise through Waterford’s turbulent history. The Great Charter Roll from 1372 is displayed in a 4 meter glass case, still vibrantly depicting five Kings of England.
Nearby is a hat, the only piece of clothing anywhere in the world worn by Henry VIII.
Continuing from the Medieval Museum, walk across the courtyard to the Bishop’s Palace. Recent history of Waterford, from 1700 until about 1970, is showcased in this museum. Here you get to peer into the life of ‘uppercrust’ Georgian Ireland; the decorating, elaborate dining, and privileges of wealth are all on display. The uppermost floor of the mansion shares the most recent history. Hurling medals compete with toys from the past century and army artifacts.
Of course you’ll want to visit the House of Waterford Crystal while you’re in town. Conveniently, the visitors centre sits directly across the street from the Medieval Museum. If you have time, plan to take a factory tour to see the process used to create such amazing crystal. Then visit the retail store with a new view on Waterford’s most famous export.