Historic Wexford Town has a gorgeous coastal setting, oodles of history, great architecture and a beaut of a food and drink offering.
Founded by the Vikings around 800 AD, Wexford Town is a lively base to tackle many of Wexford’s top attractions from.
Below, you’ll discover everything from things to do in Wexford Town to where to eat, sleep and drink. Dive on in!
Some quick need-to-knows before visiting Wexford Town
Although a visit to Wexford Town is fairly straightforward, there are a few need-to-knows that’ll make your visit that bit more enjoyable.
The coastal town of Wexford is the seat of County Wexford in southeast Ireland. It’s a 20-minute drive from Rosslare, a 30-minute drive from both Kilmore Quay and Enniscorthy and a 40-minute drive from Gorey.
2. A town founded by Vikings
Like Waterford, Wexford Town was founded by the Vikings around 800AD. The name Wexford is a derivation of the Viking name “Veisafjǫrðr” which means “inlet of the mudflats”. The Vikings ruled the town for about 300 years as an independent city-state. In 1169, a settlement was reached with King of Leinster, Dermot MacMurrough, after a bitter siege.
3. A great base to explore Wexford from
Although there’s plenty of things to do in Wexford Town, there’s endless things to see and do nearby. This makes Wexford Town a lovely base to explore from (see what’s nearby below).
About Wexford Town
Wexford Town harmoniously blends its authentic Irish history with a surprising diversity of cultural attractions including a world-class opera. The narrow streets date back to Viking and medieval times, when it was ruled by the Kings of Leinster.
Until the 19th century, the town even had its own distinctive dialect, Yola. The presence of the Knights Templar is recorded in the chapel yard of St John’s Cemetery.
Wexford has a rebellious history, raiding the ships of English Parliamentarians which resulted in harsh reprisals under Cromwell in 1649. The town was later the loyalist centre of the 1798 Rebellion against British rule which again led to many executions.
The town’s noteworthy architecture includes the 19th century Church of the Assumption, the Gothic Church of the Immaculate Conception and the 12th century ruins of Selskar Abbey.
Every October since 1951, the town hosts the Wexford Opera Festival at the National Opera House. It attracts many international visitors and performers to the top-class performances.
Things to do in Wexford Town (and nearby)
So, as there’s so much to it, we have a dedicated guide on things to do in Wexford Town.
However, I’ll give you a quick insight into our favourites below, from walks and historical sites to food and more.
1. Westgate Heritage Tower
The Westgate Tower was one of seven medieval gateways and is the only one remaining. The narrow guarded entrance was part of the defensive town walls that were constructed by the Normans in 1169.
The tower constructed above the gate was a Norman Tower house, circa 1300. Originally this entrance was known as Selskar Gate and provided access to Selskar Abbey. Right next to the tower is the Westgate Heritage Centre which provides an interesting history of the town.
2. Selskar Abbey
Selskar Abbey had a complex that was both inside and outside the city walls. It had its own entrance (see above) which allowed the clergy to smuggle goods into the abbey and avoid paying tolls. Parts of this 12th century medieval abbey still remain.
There is evidence of older Viking foundations (800AD) possibly of a temple to the Norse God Odin. At the time the land overlooked the River Slaney but land past Redmond Square has since been reclaimed.
3. Irish National Heritage Park
The Irish National Heritage Park is a must for anyone with an interest in Irish history. It represents 9000 years of history, covering the Vikings, early Christianity and the Age of Invasions.
Set on 40 acres with estuary views, the park has a Visitor Centre, woodland trails and guided tours around replica buildings including a castle, Viking house, crannog and a ring fort.
Immerse yourself in the sights, sounds and activities such as foraging for food, falconry and ancient skills including leather carving and blacksmithing.
4. National Opera House
The award-winning National Opera House in Wexford is a stunning multi-purpose building that is home to the Wexford Festival Opera. It was built in 2008 on the site of the former Theatre Royal. The main 771-seat O-Reilly Theatre has horseshoe-shaped balconies in the state-of-the-art auditorium.
Lined with walnut panelling, it offers excellent acoustics and sight-lines from all levels. Other spaces within this landmark building include a smaller theatre and rooms for conferences, meetings and events.
Wexford Town hotels
As there’s plenty to choose from, we’ve a guide to the best hotels in Wexford Town. I’ll show you some of our favourites below:
1. Clayton Whites Hotel
Stay in the heart of Wexford Town at the luxury Clayton Whites Hotel. Park your car and walk to all the local sights, bars and restaurants. This classic hotel has an indoor pool and spa with a fully equipped gym and healthy juice bar. Spacious air-conditioned rooms are furnished to a high standard with attractive decor.
2. Talbot Hotel Wexford
The Talbot Hotel Wexford sits on the Quay in Wexford offering four star accommodation, refurbished pool and leisure centre amenities. Treat yourself to a spacious seaview room or river suite for the ultimate getaway. The Oysterlane Restaurant offers a mouthwatering menu courtesy of Head Chef Nigel Corbett while drinks and snacks can be enjoyed in the casual Gallery and Ballast Bar.
3. Jim McGee’s
Jim McGee’s is the ideal Wexford haunt with a traditional bar and three star accommodation. Twenty comfortable ensuite rooms are a short stroll from town amenities and include tea and coffee facilities. Return in the evening to the open fire, snug and entertainment in the authentic bars lined with local photos and memorabilia.
Restaurants in Wexford Town
There’s some incredible restaurants in Wexford Town, with everything from fine dining and BBQ to steakhouses and more. Here are our favourites:
1. Cistín Eile
Approved by the Good Food Ireland Guide, Cistin Eile proudly serves Irish food made with quality local artisan produce. Chef Owner Warren Gillen insists on the best ingredients which ensure the tastiest dishes which are artfully presented. The ambience and decor is informal cafe style, but the food is top notch.
2. La Côte Seafood Restaurant
If you fancy seafood during your coastal stay in Wexford, La Côte is the place to dine. Owner Paul is no stranger to Michelin-star establishments while his partner Edwina is also a trained chef. Their passion for good food translates into delicious cuisine using locally sourced meat, seafood and home-grown vegetables.
3. Simon Lambert & Sons
Another Wexford gem, Simon Lambert and Sons is an award-winning gastropub and former Co. Wexford Pub of the Year. The onsite brewery provides the superb Yellowbelly beer to accompany the breakfast, lunch and dinner menus. This family-operated pub hosts several festivals including the Mussel and Stout Festival in October.
Pubs in Wexford Town
If you’ve nipped into our guide to the best pubs in Wexford Town, you’ll know that there’s plenty to choose from. Here are two of our favourites:
1. The Sky & The Ground
Situated on South Main Street, the Sky and The Ground is one of the best bars in Wexford County! You’ll find reasonably priced food, a well-stocked bar, bags of character and live music entertainment by local bands. As well as the bar there’s a huge heated beer garden out the back.
2. Mary’s Bar
Another authentic pub nestled on John’s Gate Street, Mary’s Bar is a real old school bar that hasn’t changed in decades. The result is a friendly local with a great atmosphere that makes it feel like home. There’s no TV, just a great pint, local banter, live music on Saturday and plenty to look at on the walls.
FAQs about Wexford Town
We’ve had a lot of questions over the years asking about everything from ‘What is there to do?’ to ‘Where’s best for a pint?’.
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 Wexford Town worth visiting?
Yes. There’s excellent restaurants here, heaps of history, lively bars and it’s a great base to explore the county from?
What are the best pubs, hotels and restaurants in Wexford Town?
Pub wise, the Sky and The Ground is hard to beat. For food, Cistin Eile is a belter and for hotels, Clayton Whites is guaranteed to please.
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.