in may, I embarked on a two week road trip around certain parts of Ireland. starting in dublin, my itinerary took me to kilkenny, waterford, castlemartyer, and finally cork. the road trip also included day trips to the cliffs of moher, the ring of kerry, the copper coast, and the villages west of cork.
during the next several weeks I'm going to break down each destination, talking about the city, the hotels, the things-to-do, the food, and our itinerary. I'll give you an honest look at how safe I felt, how clean the city and the hotel was, insights on getting around, what was worth seeing and what to skip, and what I would do differently knowing what I now know.
I'll also be breaking down what it's like to drive in Ireland, particularly as someone coming from America, as well as advice on day trips while you're in Ireland.
the city at a glance
population - according to a 2016 census, the population of waterford was 53,504.
history - the history of waterford was pretty interesting. waterford started as a viking town before being overtaken by catholics, and they were the major stop the harbor for shipments of wine coming in and out of the country (yes, ireland was big into wine before beer!).
safety - according to various reports the county of waterford has the highest crime rates in terms of rapes and other sexual offenses, however many locals will tell you on various message boards that the crime isn't any better or worse than any other city their size. personally, i felt safe. again, use your common sense. stay in well lit areas, watch your belongings, and be aware, just as you'd be in any city you go to. i didn't find anything out of the ordinary about waterford and felt perfectly safe.
cleanliness - oh waterford...this is where I get honest with you guys - it didn't seem that clean. compared to both dublin and kilkenny who had clean streets and sidewalks, waterford had litter, chewed gum, spit, and dog poop throughout their sidewalks. i wouldn't say it was so bad that it was like walking through a minefield, but i found myself looking down often to avoid discarded food and other unpleasantries.
vibe - the truth is that i just didn't vibe with waterford. the people were fantastic and kind, and the food was great, but the city itself was just very...'meh' to me. i can't really put my finger on any one thing in particular, but unlike dublin and kilkenny where i found myself constantly being awed by the history, stories, and overall look and feel of the city, waterford seemed to be a cluster of shopping and pub storefronts, minus a really small area where they have reginald's tower and the medieval museum. but those few things, well they took up only a couple of hours of our time. if i had it to do over again i would only have stayed one night; it was like we kind of ran out of things to do besides sit in a pub and drink.
walking around - if you stay around the river and touristy areas you'll find the walking to be flat and easy, however if you decide to wander off the beaten path, be prepared for some san francisco type hills. in the name of dylan's love of craft beer we went in search of the waterford brewing company, only to find it didn't exist. We walked about 2 miles out of our way up steep hills, and i'll chalk it up to exercise, but just be warned that if you go off the regular path you will find yourself climbing hills.
location - the fitzwilton is located in an good part of town, close to everything. like kilkenny, most of your 'touristy area' is in a small one mile radius. walking to any location is flat and easy.
parking - oh man, the parking at the fitzwilton...well to start there is a parking garage at the hotel (and it's just the ground floor), and much like our hotel in dublin, it's first come, first serve. but there are less spaces. and they're tinier. which is really saying something because compared to the parking spaces in america, the average space is much smaller. oh, and don't forget the massive concrete poles in the parking garage! structurally important, but the space is U-shaped, so an absolute pain in the ass when trying to park your car.
we entered the parking garage and our 4-door skoda suddenly felt like a ford f250. after a few failed attempts to park, we switched seats and i was able to s-l-o-w-l-y maneuver the car between a concrete pole and the car in the space next to us without hitting anything, and making sure the neighbor car could get out.
the parking is free though, and when we checked in the lady at the front desk was shocked we had found a space to park in there, so we considered ourselves very lucky that we found a spot and didn't have to hunt for street parking. what's that saying - beggars can't be choosers?
breakfast - breakfast at the fitzwilton was in line with the rest of the hotels we stayed at. for 13 euro per person you had the hot 'traditional irish breakfast' at the buffet (eggs, sausage links, bacon, black and white pudding, potatoes, grilled tomatoes, sauteed mushrooms), then there was an assortment of fruits, cereals, toasts, etc.
cleanliness - the fitzwilton categorizes itself as a 'modern' hotel, and I can get on board with that description. it was clean, and the window opened in our room so we could get a nice breeze inside. fun fact: air conditioning is really an american thing, so you won't typically find a thermostat you can control in your hotel rooms in europe, unless you're staying at a really nice resort or 5 star hotel.
cost - after taxes and fees, our average nightly rate at the fitzwilton was $81.94
medieval museum - the medieval museum is considered one of "waterford's treasures" and recounts the detailed (and quite interesting!) history of the city. i do have to warn you though - waterford began as a viking community but the medieval museum offers very little in terms of that history. so if you're thinking "oh cool i can't wait to go learn all about these vikings!" then adjust your expectations. it's still a good tour, but it does focus more on the rivalry with other towns and this history with the king of england.
we did the self guided audio tour and would recommend that if you're looking for a bit of history but don't want to go with a group.
reginald's tower - looking for that viking history? then reginald's tower is the place to go for that, not the medieval museum. built in the 900s by the viking's the tower was the main point for a wall that is now called the viking triangle.
house of waterford crystal - the majority of waterford crystal is actually not even made in waterford, though the business did start there. we didn't do the tour, but did walk through the shop and admire all of the beautiful crystal that was available, and i even bought myself a beautiful necklace - something that i could easily fit in my bag since we only brought carry-ons.
momo - alright friends, let me tell you what - momo had one of the best meals i've ever had in my life. top 5. spending a night in waterford is worth it just to go eat at momo. everything is locally sourced and cooked fresh, and you can just tell that the quality of ingredients that are used are fantastic.
let me start with the service - fantastic. the owner is this super nice woman and between her and the woman working they were just so kind, warm and inviting.
now, the food - to die for. i had their slow cooked beef ribs and talk about fall off the bone, perfectly cooked, and fresh! the entire meal was: slow cooked beef ribs butternut squash puree, sage confit vegetables, port wine jus and mashed potatoes. every bit was perfect.
dylan had the chargrilled lemon & garlic chicken with picatta sauce, roast baby potatoes and salad. it was really good too, but i don't know if anything could have beat those slow cooked beef ribs.
the fitzwilton hotel > revolution > the fitzwilton = 1.3 miles (2.1km), 26 minutes of walking
the fitzwilton hotel > tower gift shop > house of waterford crystal > reginald's tower > medieval museum > city square shopping center > the reg > the fitzwilton hotel > henry downes > momo > tully's > the fitzwilton hotel = 3 miles (4.8km), 1:01 of walking
my final recommendation on waterford is that if you go, go for just one day/evening. you can easily see all you'd like to see (and eat at momo!), then i would move on down to the coast where you'll find some wonderful seaside towns, which i'll be covering in another blog post.
pin this travel guide so you know what to see, what to eat, and what you can skip if you're heading to waterford. if you missed my '3 days in dublin' or 'kilkenny travel guide' posts be sure to check them out, and stay tuned for part of our trip as we move to the country in castlemartyer (plus I'll be breaking down what it's like to drive in Ireland and the best day trips you can take!).