There’s no end to the number of things to do in Waterford.
If you’re after an active break, you can spend a weekend cycling the Waterford Greenway and conquering the Coumshingaun Lake Walk.
If you’re after a city break, you can explore Ireland’s oldest on a visit here. Arrive in December and you can also have a nosey around the Waterford Christmas market.
There are also loads of lovely coastal villages, scenic drives and cosy old-school pubs. Scroll on down to discover a load of brilliant things to do in Waterford in 2020.
Table of Contents
The best things to do in Waterford
1. Spend a weekend hiking, exploring, learning and, if you fancy, drinking
Waterford’s the perfect spot for a weekend away. You’ve the best of both world’s to explore – an ancient city with a clatter of historical sites and a magnificent, unspoiled coastline.
In our Waterford Weekend guide, you’ll find a full itinerary that’s packed with things to do and places to see. It also includes recommendations on where to eat, sleep and drink.
2. Cycle the Waterford Greenway
Although it’s been about 20 years (good God that’s depressing) since I cycled a bike in Ireland, the Waterford Greenway is something that’s been on my to-do list for a long time now.
The Waterford Greenway is an off-road cycling and walking trail that’ll take you along an old railway line, across 11 bridges, 3 viaducts and through a 400m long tunnel.
Running from Waterford City to Dungarvan, the Greenway covers 46km and boasts spectacular views throughout.
Greenway guide: Fancy giving this a go? You’ll find everything from where to stop, where to eat, where to rent bikes and where to find a toilet along the way in our Greenway guide.
3. Whittle away an evening in Geoff’s Bar
It’s been 5 years since I was last in Geoff’s Pub in Waterford City. It was a cold, wet November evening and we’d spent an hour traipsing around shops looking for a present for my friend’s uncle.
We were making our way down towards our hotel when the Heavens opened up and we ended up legging it into the first pub we came to.
5 years have passed and I still remember that evening in Geoff’s well. As we walked through the door a couple was vacating a seat near the window, so we plonked ourselves there for several hours, nursing pints, chatting away, and watching the world go by.
A lovely pub.
4. Spend the night somewhere quirky
If you fancy staying somewhere a little bit different, give glamping a lash. There are several different places to go glamping in Waterford.
You’ll find Nire Valley Glamping (check prices and see more here) in the heart of the Comeragh mountains, a stone’s throw from many popular Waterford attractions.
Related read: Check out our guide to 27 of the most unique and unusual places to go glamping in Ireland in 2020.
5. Nab one of the best views in Ireland on the Coumshingaun Lake Walk (one of my favourite things to do in Waterford!)
The mighty Coumshingaun Lough Loop Walk tops the list of my favourite things to do in Waterford. This. Ramble. Is. Incredible.
On a clear day, the view that you’ll be treated to when you climb closer to the top is out of this world.
There are a couple of different walks that you can do here, with the full walk taking between 4 to 6 hours, depending on pace.
Related read: Check out our guide to the best things to do in Ireland. It’s packed with brilliant places to visit and things to do!
6. Spend a day exploring Ireland’s oldest city
Waterford City is the oldest city on the island of Ireland, boasting a whopping 1,000+ years of rich history.
The city was founded by the Vikings in 914 A.D and many sections of its ancient walls remain in-tact to this day.
If you’re fond of a bit of history and you’re wondering what to do in Waterford that’ll immerse you in the city’s colourful past, you’ll find heaps of ideas later in this guide.
7. Head for a saunter along Bunmahon Beach
Waterford is home to its fair share of beaches. One of the best, in my opinion, is the beautiful Bunmahon Beach.
This is a gorgeous spot that stretches for around 5km and it’s backed by sand dunes with tall, craggy cliffs at each end.
Get out. Stretch the legs. And gulp down that fresh ocean air. There’s also a nice viewing point where you can admire the beach from above.
If you whack ‘Bunmahon Beach Viewing Point’ into Google Maps it’ll take you straight there.
8. Spend a night in the gorgeous little village of Dunmore East
Dunmore East is one of those villages in Ireland, similar to Doolin, that people tend to visit, fall in love with, and return to time and time again.
This is a buzzy little fishing village that’s situated on the west side of Waterford Harbour. Visitors can expect an unspoiled coastline (there’s a lovely cliff walk), coves and beaches.
The village is packed with fine restaurants, pubs, and friendly locals. If you fancy a bite to eat, nip into the Spinnaker Bar & Restaurant. If you fancy a pint with a view, drop into the Strand Inn.
9. Listen to the water crash up at Mahon Falls
Mahon Falls is one of those places that you’ll just want to plonk yourself down in front of for a while.
The waterfall stands at around 80m and can be found nestled in the Comeragh Mountains, not far from the village of Lemybrien.
You can drop your car in the car park here and take a 20-minute walk up along a gravel path to admire the view. See our guide to the Mahon Falls walk for more info.
10. Discover Waterford’s Viking Past at Reginald’s Tower
As was the case with many parts of Ireland that they invaded, the Vikings left their mark on Waterford.
Reginald’s Tower is actually named in honour of a Viking called Ragnall, who ruled the area during the 10th century. The tower now houses an exhibition on Viking Waterford that’s well worth a visit.
The tower is Waterford’s landmark monument and, interestingly enough, it’s Ireland’s oldest civic building, having been in continuous use for over 800 years.
11. Spend a day spinning along the Copper Coast
A day spent spinning along the Copper Coast is arguably one of the best things to do in Waterford.
If you’ve never heard of it, the Copper Coast is a stretch of coastline that sits between the towns of Tramore and Dungarvan, and it’s widely regarded as one of the most scenic drives in Ireland.
It boasts a spectacular, ever-changing landscape with seemingly endless rolling hills and steep cliffs.
The Copper Coast was rightly declared as a European Geopark in 2001 and a UNESCO Global Geopark later in 2004.
12. Plan your visit around Spraoi, Waterford’s International Street Arts Festival
If you’re wondering what to do in Waterford during a trip this summer, then plan your visit around the Spraoi Festival.
The festival takes place over the August Bank Holiday weekend and is serious craic altogether.
Expect a hugely entertaining festival with live music, street performers, and fireworks. The best part? It’s completely free!
According to their event page, the 2020 festival is still going ahead and will take place from. Sunday, August 2nd to Wednesday, August 5th.
13. Kick-start your day with a coffee by the sea at Moe’s
We (usually) start ever county guide on this website with a coffee and/or brekkie recommendation…
Better late than never! I’m going to recommend that you nip into Moe’s in Tramore for a coffee by the sea. If you arrive on a fine morning, sip it from one of the wooden benches outside.
14. Then head for a stroll along nearby Tramore Beach
We’re off to the seaside village of Tramore, next! Now, the name Tramore means ‘Big Strand’, and there’s no mystery where it came from.
Tramore is home to a magnificent 5km golden, sandy beach that’s perfect for a stroll or, for those of you that aren’t afraid of the cold, watersports.
Grab a coffee from Moe’s or one of the other cafes in the village and warm your hands while you watch some hardy souls hop about in the sea.
15. Or give surfing a lash
If you fancy trying your hand at a bit of surfing, you’re in luck – there a few places in Ireland’s Ancient East as well suited to a bit of wave-taming (is that even a thing?!) than Tramore Beach.
There are several different surf schools in Tramore that offer lessons for novice surfers and first-timers, so don’t worry if you’ve never tried surfing before.
Surfing’s also a fine way to clear away a weary head if you’re on the back of a long night out in Tramore village!
16. Head for a ramble around Dunhill Castle
Dunhill Castle is one of the many stops that you’ll come to if you drive the Copper Coast. The castle here was built during the early 1200s by a crowd called the la Poer family.
The La Poers became infamous in the 14th century after they launched several attacks on Waterford City.
In 1345, the family destroyed the area surrounding the city but were counter-attacked, captured, and subsequently hanged. Drop by the castle and have a little ramble around.
17. Have a nosey at the Clock Tower in Waterford City
Any time that I visit Waterford City I tend to park in the little car park right next to the big aul clock tower I Waterford City.
I know very little about architecture (it took me four goes to even spell the word, as it happens) but this structure really is impressive.
This is what’s known as a ‘Gothic Revival clock tower’ and it was erected way back in 1863. You’ll find it on Meagher’s Quay, right next to a car park.
18. Try some Blaa at Barron’s Bakery
If you’re looking at the photo above and thinking, ‘Eh, that’s just bread, pal!’, then bear with me.
Waterford Blaa dates wayyyyy back to the late 17th Century and in 2013 was given Protected Geographical Indication status.
It arrived in the city with a group of Huguenots (French Protestants) at a time when Waterford was a powerful trading city for goods like wheat, butter, and flour.
In 1702, a Huguenot bakery opened in Waterford. It’s believed that the bread rolls that we now know as Blaa were made from leftover pieces of dough which couldn’t be used for baking loaves.
Traveller Tip: Fancy tasting some Blaa for yourself? Drop into Barron’s Bakery in the town of Cappoquin. They’ve been baking here since 1887.
19. Spend the night somewhere a little bit different
If you’ve cash to splash (and I mean a lot of cash…) and you fancy spending the night somewhere unique, the newly opened Cliff Beach House should be right up your street.
This place is finely plonked on a cliff overlooking the beautiful Ardmore Bay. It sleeps 16 and comes equipped with everything from a gym and a sauna to a hot tub and more.
Now, you don’t have to break the bank to stay somewhere unique in Ireland. In our where to stay section, you’ll find heaps of unique (and pocket-friendly) accommodation.
20. Soak up coastal views on the Ardmore Cliff Walk
The Ardmore Cliff Walk is another of my favourite things to do in Waterford. This is a 4km walk that treats walkers to stunning seascapes and, unsurprisingly enough, gorgeous cliff views.
The walk can be completed over the course of an hour (depending on pace) and it’s also waymarked, with yellow and brown arrows to help you find your way.
Those that give this a bash can expect breathtaking views, wildlife, and battle sites.
21. Follow up your walk by the cliffs with a post-walk pint with a view
You’ll be familiar with this place if you read our guide to the best places to stay in Ireland if you fancy an out-of-this-world view.
The view above is the one that you’ll be treated to as you kick-back in the Cliff House Hotel in Ardmore with a pint or a bite to eat. Pretty damn special to say the least.
22. Take a tour of Waterford Crystal (one of the many Waterford attractions that tourists love)
If you’re wondering what to do in Waterford City when it’s raining, then add this to your list. The now-iconic Waterford Crystal Tour is a tourist favourite and it offers an insight into skills that have taken two hundred years to perfect
Those that choose to take the factory tour can observe craftsmen meticulously transforming glowing balls of molten crystal into elegant shapes.
Take the tour and drop by the crystal store after if you fancy taking a chunk of Waterford home with you.
23. Brave the icy water and head for a swim on Goats Island
This next place is a bit of a hidden gem that should appeal to those of you looking for things to do in Waterford that are slightly off the beaten track.
You’ll find a lovely little sheltered cove known as Goats Island (I’d love to know where the name came from!) 5km west of Ardmore.
Hardy locals swim here all year round. If you’re feeling brave, lash on your swimming togs and head for a swim.
24. Go sea-kayaking along the Copper Coast
If you’re wondering what to do in Waterford with a group of friends, this should tickle your fancy! The lads at Pure Adventure offer kayaking tours along the Copper Coast.
Over the course of the tour, you’ll see marine wildlife like seals and dolphins (if you’re lucky), sea stacks, arches, caves, tunnels, blowholes and caverns.
I’ve just watched the video above from one of their trips and, I’ll be honest, I’d sh*t myself going through one of those dark caves. Definitely one of the most unique things to do in Waterford.
25. Grab a feed (and a pint, if you fancy!) in the Spinnaker Bar & Restaurant in Dunmore East
I love this spot. A group of us spent a weekend in Waterford a few years back. We polished off a Saturday in the mountains with a night in the Spinnaker Bar & Restaurant in Dunmore East.
The food here is top-notch. As is the Guinness. The interior of the Spinnaker gives the whole place an old-world feel, thanks to old stone walls, wooden floors, stained glass, and some of the original woodwork and furnishings.
A fine spot for a feed and a few post-adventure pints!
26. Plan your visit around Winterval (the Waterford Christmas market)
Feeling festive? Every November, Winterval Waterford returns, bringing with it a shed-load of Christmassy buzz.
Ove the course of 5 or 6 weeks, this Christmas market lights up the city and attracts hundreds of thousands of visitors.
You could easily combine a trip to the markets with an adventure around the county, pairing up some of the activities above.
27. The Comeragh Drive (one of the best drives in the land)
OK, I’m going to be using dodgy Google Map photos to give you a taste of what you’ll experience on the Comeragh Drive, as I can’t find any online that I can use.
This is one of those drives that rarely makes the pages of shiny travel guides or ads. Which is a shame, as the Comeragh Mountains are a beautiful part of Ireland that you can soak up by car, foot, or bike.
The last time I did this drive was when we were visiting Mahon Falls. When you leave Mahon Falls, point your nose in the direction of Dungarvan and the road that winds through the mountains will do the rest.
28. Head for a ramble around the gardens at Lismore Castle
Set within the castle walls, the gardens at Lismore stretch across 7 lush acres and offer spectacular views of the castle and the surrounding countryside.
The gardens here are divided into two distinct halves. The Upper Garden is a fine example of the 17th-century walled garden that was first constructed here by the First Earl of Cork, in around 1605.
The Lower Garden, which was created in the 19th century, is more informal and is filled with shrubs, trees, and lawns. If you’re after a walk with some cracking castle views, then get yourself here.
Note: As Lismore Castle is one of a handful of Irish castles that are within private ownership, there is no public access.
29. Head for a nosey around Ardmore Round Tower
The first mention of the round tower in Ardmore was in 1642 and it was believed to have been occupied by 40 men during a battle with British soldiers.
Now, even if you’ve no real interest in history, a visit up to the tower is well worth doing, as you’ll be treated to a fine view out over the bay thanks to its elevated position.
You could easily pair up a visit here with the Ardmore Cliff Walk that we mentioned earlier in the guide.
30. Take a walking tour of the city with a local
Jack Burtchaell’s Walking Tour of Waterford City is a one-hour award-winning walking tour that’ll take you on a journey through Ireland’s oldest city.
Although the tour is only an hour-long, it covers over 1,000 years of history and is delivered in a witty manner that’ll leave you itching for more.
The tour includes 2 cathedrals, 4 national monuments, and a gallery of many a rogue and rascal.
Traveller tip: Make sure to book this tour in advance. Visit Jack’s website for more info.
31. Clear the head with a walk on Kilmurrin Beach
On my last visit to the Copper Coast, one of my favourite stop-off points was Kilmurrin Beach.
I’d driven from Dublin and after spending far too much time in the car, I decided to kick off the shoes and socks and head for a stroll along the sand.
The tiny beach was deserted, the sun was shining, and the water was FREEZIN’.
If weather permits, plonk yourself down on the sand and enjoy the view of the horseshoe-shaped cove and the rugged cliffs that rise up beautifully on either side.
32. Visit the Magic (yes, magic!) Road
You’ll find Waterford’s Magic Road in the Comeragh Mountains as you make your way to Mahon Falls.
I’m not going to even try and put into words what happens when you park on this road. Hit play on the video above and see for yourself.
Definitely one of the most unique places to visit in Waterford. Now, keep in mind that if you plan on trying this, you need to do so safely.
33. Fuel up with a feed from the Reg
You’ll find the Reg in the centre of Waterford’s Viking Triangle, right next to Reginald’s Tower.
It’s been a while since I was last here, but I remember the food being top class. Judging by the reviews online, it’s only gotten better since I was there in 2017.
Traveller Tip: If you arrive here on a fine day, try and nab a table on the outdoor terrace.
34. And then step back in time at the Medieval Museum
Stop 34 takes us to the Medieval Museum. Here, visitors can soak up the story of what life was like in the Historic Waterford City thousands of years ago.
The city was excavated between 1986 and 1992 and many of the unique discoveries made during this time are housed here.
The Medieval Museum exists to tell the story of life in Waterford city during the Medieval era and is home to several preserved medieval structures.
Spend some time wandering around the museum, and head off on the guided tour if you fancy.
35. Visit Bishops Palace (and see a chunk of Napoleon’s hair…)
Yes, there’s a lock of Napoleon Bonaparte’s hair inside the Bishop’s Palace. It was brought to Ireland by Napoleon’s niece who married a man from Waterford.
Very random altogether. The palace itself was built in 1743 and is well worth a visit.
It houses paintings of Waterford that date back 300+ years, carved Dragon Mirrors, the best of 18th-century Irish furniture, the oldest piece of Waterford glass from the 1780s, and more.
36. Kick-back with a coffee and a good book at Waterford Book Centre (one of the best things to do in Waterford City when it’s raining)
I’ve spent 2+ hours at the Waterford Book Centre the last times that I visited. On the last visit, there was a book that I was looking to grab (a Jack Reacher one, if you’re interested!).
When I was passing on my way back to where I’d left my car I copped it in the window. When I rambled in through the doors the layout of the place took me by surprise for a moment.
It’s a shame that so few independent bookstores like this exist. Grab a book and then plonk yourself down on a seat in the little cafe for a few hours.
A grand aul fact: The Book Centre has been in business since way back in 1971. That’s pretty damn impressive!
FAQs about what to do in Waterford
Since first publishing a guide on the various different things to do in Waterford a few years ago, we’ve had a rake of emails and DMs asking about different bits and pieces.
Below, you’ll find some of the most FAQs that we’ve received about what do do in Waterford City and the wider county.
What are the best things to do in Waterford?
- Spend a day exploring the Copper Coast
- Nab one of the best views in Ireland on the Coumshingaun Lake Walk
- Spend a night in the gorgeous little village of Dunmore East
- Cycle the glorious Waterford Greenway
- Soak up coastal views on the Ardmore Cliff Walk
- Head for a ramble around Dunhill Castle
- Grab a coffee and head for a stroll along Tramore Beach
- Discover Waterford’s Viking Past at Reginald’s Tower
- Take a tour of Waterford Crystal (a tourist favourite)
What are the most unique places to visit in Waterford?
- Mahon Falls
- The Copper Coast
- The Comeragh Mountains
- The city itself (there’s endless history!)
What are the best things to do in Waterford City?
- Fuel up with a feed from the Reg
- Take a walking tour of the city with a local
- Discover Waterford’s Viking Past at Reginald’s Tower
- Take a tour of Waterford Crystal (a tourist favourite)
- Step back in time at the Medieval Museum
- Visit Bishops Palace (and see a chunk of Napoleon’s hair…)
- Kick-back with a coffee and a good book at Waterford Book Centre Plan your visit around Winterval
What places to visit in Waterford have we missed?
I’ve no doubt that there are plenty more worthwhile things to do in Waterford that we’ve (unintentionally) missed.
The guides on this site rarely sit still. They grow based on feedback and recommendations from readers and locals that visit and comment.
Have something to recommend? Let me know in the comments section below!