#106 Touring the NEW Waterford Crystal Factory
The city of Waterford has a new sparkling gem to celebrate its crystal-making history. The new factory and visitor centre, called The House of Waterford, has just opened on the Mall in Waterford city, and the facility is pumping new life into Waterford’s tourism identity. In the past, the old crystal-making giant was located on the road leading out of town making city centre an afterthought for visitors. The new, smaller centre pairs with the Waterford Treasures Museum to bookend the heart of Waterford City and establish the place as a true visitor destination.
Improvements are already underway on buildings surrounding the new complex, and as the city prepares for next summer’s Tall Ships Races, Waterford will likely begin unveiling its new look — a pedestrian-friendly hub of activity. Quite an achievement for a city that always seemed to struggle balancing its commerce, cultural, tourism, civic and business offerings.
Improved Visitor Experience at the Crystal Factory
The showroom and factory tours are top-notch… it’s hard to believe the building was a wreck only six months ago! The factory is significantly smaller than the old facility, and the tour feels much less like a cattle call. In fact, the new tour keeps a relaxed pace and offers plenty of time for photos and questions. Best of all, there are very few barriers between the visitors and the workers… in the middle of our tour, the glass cutter even took a moment to chat with a particularly interested member of our group.
Getting to the New Waterford Crystal Factory
Driving routes to the factory are well sign-posted (just look for the trademark Waterford seahorse). Driving in city centre can be a bit challenging but manageable. There is a large car park behind the factory, but it may fill up at peak times, so visitors could look to the southeast end of the quay for additional parking. It is unlikely that visitors will find free parking in city centre; the main lot charges €1.80 per hour for cars. I would allot 1-1/2 to 2 hours for the tour and showroom.
The bus depot is located on the quay and should take less than a 20-minutes on foot. Walking from the train station will likely add less than ten minutes. Taxis are available from both.
Crystal Production and Purchases
It’s wonderful to know crystal is again being produced in Waterford. However, the factory just opened last month and production levels are quite low. As a result, most pieces of crystal are being produced in Waterford’s other factories throughout the world. That said, the showroom provides one of the most enjoyable venues for browsing Waterford Crystal products, so bring your credit card.
On the topic of credit cards, it looks as though the credit card machines at the factory, visitor centre and cafe default to offering dynamic currency exchange. That means your card will automatically be charged in your home currency – the amount you see on the slip, in say US dollars, is exactly what will appear on your credit card statement. The service will cost you fee of 3-5% of your purchase (already added to the total on your slip), which will only add a few pennies to a tour ticket, but could add up for those buying crystal.
The centre also features a cafe that specializes in desserts, wraps and offers a variety of beverages. The rhubarb tart and black forest gateaux were quite tasty
The Pride of Waterford
One thing that stood out from my visit to Waterford was the pride of place. The people working at the House of Waterford repeatedly displayed a sense of honor in how their crystal heritage was raised from the brink of extinction, and it came back in great form. I was especially pleased that I was wished an Irish greeting from one of the staff as I left the building… Waterford pride, Irish pride, it’s well deserved!
Hours and Rates
Retail Showroom: Mon – Sat, 9am to 6pm; Sun, 10:30am to 6pm
Factory Tours: Mon – Sat, 9am to 4pm; Sun, 10:30am to 4pm
Admission: Adults €10.50; Students/Seniors €8; Family (2 adults + 3 children) €28.50
Limited information is available on their website at the moment www.waterfordvisitorcentre.com.
Note: Liam and I accepted a complimentary pass to tour the factory.