The mighty Bishop’s Palace in Waterford is one of the city’s more popular attractions.
Packed within its elegant rooms is a fine collection of local treasures, paintings and the oldest surviving piece of Waterford Crystal in the world.
In the guide below, you’ll find info on everything from where to park to what to see inside. Dive on in!
Some quick need-to-knows before visiting The Bishop’s Palace in Waterford
Although a visit to Bishop’s Palace in Waterford is fairly straightforward, there are a few need-to-knows that’ll make your visit that bit more enjoyable.
Located within Waterford’s historic Viking Triangle near the Quay, the Bishop’s Palace is on The Mall (a street not a shopping centre) in the heart of the city. It is opposite the Waterford Visitor Centre and right next to the Cathedral.
The nearest car park is 3 minutes walk away at Bolton Street Car Park or at City Square Shopping Centre.
3. Admission and opening hours
The Bishop’s Palace Museum is open daily except Christmas and New Year’s Day. Opening times are:
- Monday to Friday 9.15 to 5pm
- Saturday 10am to 5pm
- Sunday/Bank Holidays 11am to 5pm
The last admission is 4.20pm. Adult admission is €10 and children under 12 visit free. Admission includes a guided tour (note: prices and times may change).
4. The tour
The Palladian Bishop’s Palace is one of the finest architectural gems in the city. It was fully restored in 2010 and opened shortly afterwards as a museum of Waterford treasures, furniture, crystal and paintings, mainly from the Georgian and Victorian eras. The best way to enjoy your visit is by taking the 45-minute tour. More on this below.
The Bishop’s Palace Experience
Start your visit to the Bishop’s Palace by admiring the impressive building. Commissioned by Bishop Charles Este in 1743, it was designed by Richard Cassel who also built Leinster House and completed by local builder “Honest” John Roberts.
It was the grand residence for the Anglican Bishops until 1919 when it became a boarding school and then offices. Today it has been restored to its former grandeur, housing one of the finest displays of 18th century glass, silver, furniture and paintings in Ireland. Highlights include the Waterford Penrose decanter – the oldest surviving piece of Waterford glass.
Inside this historic palace, you can take a 45-minute guided tour to learn more about the building and its fine contents. Admire the elegant room settings filled with 18th century antiques, Irish furniture, artworks and Waterford crystal.
There’s also a display focusing on nationalist leader Thomas Francis Meagher and a new 4D “Masterpieces on Glass” Experience.
What you’ll find inside The Bishop’s Palace
One of the reasons that people tend to flock to the likes of Bishop’s Palace and the nearby Medieval Museum is due to the sheer number of things there is to see inside.
From the oldest surviving piece of Waterford Crystal in the world and Meagher of the Sword to the Drangon Mirrors and much more, there’s plenty to see here.
1. Oldest surviving piece of Waterford Crystal
Dating back to 1789, the Penrose decanter is the oldest surviving piece of Waterford crystal. Note the wide pouring lip and three-ring neck decoration that were common features on all Penrose decanters at that time. The base is marked with the words “Penrose Waterford” moulded into the glass. It’s a fine example of the craftsmanship on which the Waterford reputation was founded.
2. Van der Hagen’s ‘View of Waterford’
Admire the landscape painting of Waterford commissioned by the Waterford Corporation from local artist William van der Hagen in 1736. It cost the princely sum of £20! The scene shows the River Suir, Reginald’s Tower, stretches of the city wall and several bell towers, later demolished. Note the buildings constructed by Dutch settlers and the many ships bringing international trade to this thriving port city.
3. The Dragon Mirrors
Admire the elaborate swirls of the Irish rococo giltwood mirrors and the matching marble-top console table. They were all made in 1753 by master craftsman Thomas Johnson, one of the finest designers and carvers of his time. Mirrors were an expensive items and were much sought-after as they reflected the candlelight, brightening otherwise dark rooms.
4. Meagher of the Sword
This sword was the ceremonial weapon of Waterford local, Thomas Francis Meagher. A fervent Irish nationalist, he flew the Irish tricolour for the first time in 1848 at a meeting in Dublin. Charged with sedition, he escaped to the USA and became Brigadier-General of the US Army, leading the Irish Brigade. Made in Massachusetts, this ornate staff sword has decorated panels with an eagle and the letters US etched onto the blade.
5. Hucklebuck Shoes
These Hucklebuck shoes were a sensation when worn by the Royal Showband from Waterford. They recorded the song Hucklebuck in 1960 and played the song as they led the St Patrick’s Day Parade in New York in 1963. This was the first time they played wearing these shoes which became knows as “Hucklebuck shoes”!
6. Dead Man’s Penny
Not a coin, but a bronze memorial plaque, this “Dead Man’s Penny” was presented to the family of John Condon. He was the youngest recorded person to die at the second Battle of Ypres in May 1915. He was originally from Wheelbarrow Lane in Waterford.
7. Napoleon Mourning Cross
Made from black jet stone, this mourning cross was one of 12 identical crosses. They were commissioned by Napoleon’s mother on the death of the Emperor in 1821. It is now the only one still in existence. It belonged to the Emperor’s niece, Laetitia, wife of Thomas Wyse, a member of an influential local family.
Things to do near Bishop’s Palace
One of the beauties of Bishop’s Palace is that it’s a short walk away from many of the best places to visit in Waterford.
Below, you’ll find a handful of things to see and do a stone’s throw from Bishop’s Palace (plus places to eat and where to grab a post-adventure pint!).
1. Reginald’s Tower
From Viking Swords to gaming pieces, Reginald’s Tower is a historic museum crammed with interesting exhibits. The 16m tall medieval round tower is the oldest civic building in the city and the only monument in Ireland to retain a Viking name. It has served as a jail, a royal castle, mint and air raid shelter and is now a Viking museum and local landmark.
2. Medieval Museum
The Medieval Museum is a top Waterford attraction and occupies Ireland’s only purpose-built medieval museum building. The museum includes two preserved underground vaults – the 800-year-old Choristers’ Hall and the Mayor’s Wine Vault. Exhibits include the Great Charter Roll of Waterford, ceremonial weapons and sumptuous cloth-of-gold vestments.
3. Waterford Crystal
Visit the Waterford Crystal Factory and enjoy an educational tour of the crystal-making industry that brought fame and prosperity to this port city. Guided tours of the factory and showroom last about 50 minutes. Go behind the scenes to see the mould-making, glass-blowing, sculpting, cutting and engraving processes. Finish in the museum, which houses the largest collection of Waterford Crystal in the world.
4. A bite to eat in the city
FAQs about visiting Bishop’s Palace in Waterford
We’ve had a lot of questions over the years asking about everything from whether Bishop’s Palace is worth visiting to what to see nearby.
In the section below, we’ve popped in the most FAQs that we’ve received. If you have a question that we haven’t tackled, ask away in the comments section below.
Is Bishop’s Palace in Waterford worth visiting?
Yes! There’s plenty to see and do at Bishop’s Palace in Waterford and it’ll appeal to those, in particular, with an interest in history and architecture.
What is there to see at Bishop’s Palace?
Those that visit will see everything from the Dragon Mirrors and the oldest surviving piece of Waterford Crystal in the world to Meagher of the Sword and much more.
How much is it into Bishop’s Palace in Waterford?
Adult admission is €10 and children under 12 visit free (note: prices may change).
Gillian Birch is a travel writer and published author. She has travelled the world and uses her personal journals and memories to write about her many travel experiences, particularly those that involved adventures in Ireland.