In the heart of Waterford City in Southeast Ireland, you’ll find The House of Waterford Crystal.  Renowned for their lead crystal stemware, exquisite chandeliers, and commemorative pieces, Waterford Crystal was born here in 1783, in Ireland’s oldest city. Centuries later, its rich crystal-making history and tradition is alive and well, and it’s on display for everyone to see at the Prestige Factory and retail showroom in Waterford City.  The House of Waterford Crystal is a destination in itself for anyone who appreciates this beautiful crystal.

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I heart Waterford Crystal
I love Waterford Crystal.  I enjoy looking at my own collection of stemware sparkling in my china cabinet just as much as I enjoy pulling it out on special occasions to dress up my dinner table.  And, yes, I do believe my wine tastes better when I drink it out of Waterford Crystal stemware (cue my husband’s eye roll).

Regardless that each glass might cost $75, and my pattern, Crosshaven, is no longer in regular production, I’m not afraid to use my Waterford Crystal. That’s because the House of Waterford promises to never discontinue a stemware pattern. So, if I ever need to replace one of my glasses, I just put in a custom order, and the Prestige Factory in Waterford City will make my replacement piece by hand.  It might take 6 to 12 months to get it, but the wait is worth it.

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A visit to The House of Waterford Crystal is a great addition to any itinerary while in Southeast Ireland, especially for someone who loves and collects this crystal.  There is no need to buy tickets in advance, but you can do so online, here.  Plan to spend about 2 hours for your visit, which includes a tour of the Prestige Factory and some time for shopping in the retail showroom.  There’s also a café onsite where you can pick up a snack or park a loved one who has no interest in crystal but got dragged to the House of Waterford Crystal, nonetheless.

The Prestige Factory Tour

From blowing to cutting, you’ll get a chance to see The House of Waterford Crystal’s most skilled craftsmen at work.  This is a tour of their Prestige Factory, which means, although you’ll find the craftsmen making some everyday pieces you’d find in homes like wine glasses and bud vases, the primary focus is on world sporting trophies, presentation pieces, and other commissioned creations.  During my visit, I had the opportunity to hold one of the People’s Choice Awards that was being made for the upcoming awards show and view some other custom pieces like the 9/11 Waterford Crystal Sculpture; all were priceless beauties.

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Before you get on the factory floor for an up close view of the centuries old manufacturing process, you’ll first learn about the history of Waterford Crystal, from its beginnings as the Waterford Glass House in 1783 to its current status as a world-renowned crystal maker simply known as Waterford.  Next up, the tour will take you through the process for making Waterford Crystal, a process that has not changed over time.  The tour moves you along the factory floor to see each step of the process, which includes:  mould making, blowing, quality inspection, finishing, cutting, sculpting and engraving.

During my visit, as a special guest of the House of Waterford, I was given a rare opportunity to take part in lining and cutting my own piece of stemware.  It was the highlight of my entire year of travel to be able to work side-by-side and be instructed by Waterford Crystal’s best craftsmen.  I could not ask for a better souvenir of my visit than a Lismore martini glass, cut by my own hand.  It’s another priceless piece that came out of the Prestige Factory in Waterford!

Shopping for Waterford Crystal

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Whether you take the factory tour or not, you can enter the sparkling retail showroom at The House of Waterford Crystal.  The retail showroom has the world’s largest display of Waterford Crystal and has the complete range of all their products on display. There’s something for everyone, from a $44,000 floor mirror that you’ll immediately want to take home, to a $40 bud vase that you’ll actually end up taking home.

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Although many of the items for sale in the retail showroom can be found at your local retailer back home or online, it’s worth taking some time to shop here.  If you don’t have the budget for a $2,000 vase, take a look at the kiosks set up in the center of the store.  You’ll find more reasonable gift items all priced under $100 including small bud vases, picture frames, and ash trays. There’s also a nice offering of reasonably priced Christmas ornaments that make a great keepsake from your visit to The House of Waterford Crystal.

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Also, keep your eye out for a current promotion. For example, during my visit, they were running a special on the Waterford Illuminology Candles.  With four scents to choose from, if you bought one, you’d get the second one at half price.  With the tax refund, each candle came out to about $37 (compared to its retail price of $75.00).  With a bargain like that, I purchased four.  What a great gift for family and friends back home. Needless to say, four heavy crystal vases filled with wax is not a tourist-friendly purchase.  There was no way I’d be able to carry them around Ireland for the rest of my vacation.  I was happy to learn that Waterford Crystal ships internationally for a reasonable flat fee regardless of how much you buy.

Another purchase worth considering during your visit is something from the Aoife Collection.  Although most of the crystal patterned collection pieces are made elsewhere like Slovenia, Hungary, Germany, and the Czech Republic, they do produce one collection in Waterford, Ireland: The Aoife Collection.   So, if you really want stemware or a vase from Waterford Crystal that was actually made in Waterford, be sure to pick up something from the Aoife Collection during your visit.  You cannot find this collection for sale anywhere else but at the retail showroom in Waterford.  I couldn’t resist the lure and purchased a small bud vase.

If you need assistance with anything, be sure to ask one of the many friendly sales associates that wander the showroom floor.  During my visit, Fiona was great in assisting me with my selections.   Being a bit indecisive when faced with so many sparkly choices, she helped me choose the perfect vase and made sure I was happy with my selections; she had the patience of a saint.

A Quick Bite at the Crystal Cafe 

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If you work up an appetite, be sure to check out the onsite café, the Crystal Café.  They serve a variety of quality sandwiches, salads and desserts. It’s also a great place to park someone who doesn’t like to shop while you take your time in the retail showroom.

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Getting There from Dublin

A visit to Waterford makes a great day trip when you happen to be in and around Southern Ireland. If you are coming from Dublin, as I was for my visit, you have three options besides driving:  independent travel via train or bus, or you join a tour.

Option 1 – The Bus:
There are two bus companies that provide service between Dublin and Waterford, Dublin Coach and Bus Éireann.  The journey takes anywhere from 2 hours, 15 minutes to 2 ½ hours, depending on the bus company you travel with.  The price, about 20€ round trip, is the same for both companies.  For the most part, the scheduling is somewhat similar with the buses departing about every two hours, but each company offers a slightly different departure and return schedule.  The company you choose will depend on the schedule that suits your itinerary best and whether seats are still available for your date and time.  It’s important to remember that some popular bus routes in Ireland sell out, so if you have a day and time in mind, it’s always best to reserve your seat in advance.

One benefit that I’ve noticed of taking the Dublin Coach over Bus Éireann is the location of the bus stop in Waterford. The stop for Dublin Coach is at Merchant’s Quay, which is in the city center and a short walk (10 minutes) to The House of Waterford Crystal.  The Bus Éireann depot is across the river right by the train station, which is at least a 20 minute walk (and there’s not a whole lot to see walking across the bridge and along the river).  However, you shouldn’t have a problem finding a taxi at the Bus Éireann depot to shuttle you across the river into the city center and back.

Option 2 – The Train:
The travel time between Dublin and Waterford on the train, with no transfers, is about 2 hours, 5 minutes.  Expect to pay close to 35€ round trip.  It’s easy to look up the timetable and reserve a seat on the train using the Irish Rail website.  Traveling by train makes for a comfortable journey, but if you have budget constraints, I don’t see any big benefit in taking the train for an extra 15€ because you aren’t really saving any significant travel time.

Option 3 – The Tour:
Taking an organized tour is a great way to visit The House of Waterford Crystal if you are not one for planning and figuring out transportation schedules. Simply arrive at the rendezvous spot in Dublin, and you’ll be in the hands of your trusted guide for the rest of the day.  I used Irish Rail Tours to get from Dublin to Waterford via train for my visit.  The tour included a stop in charming Kilkenny, a town I’ve wanted to see, and one that is quite close to Waterford; it made sense to work in a visit.  The guide was very friendly and provided a lot of information along the journey.  The tour will cost 109€, which includes the roundtrip train ticket, a Kilkenny City Tour via the Road Train, round trip taxi to the House of Waterford Crystal from the train station, and admission to the House of Waterford Crystal.

Disclaimer:  I was a guest of the House of Waterford Crystal during my visit.  As always, opinions and recommendations are 100% my own.

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