Wexford began as a Viking town in the 10th century, when the "deep pool" in or around today's Crescent Quay provided a safe berthing place for longboats. The town of Veisafjörðr ("Bay of the Mud Flats") was thus established. Following the Norman conquest in the late 12th century, a walled town was established. Over the ensuing centuries, Wexford became a successful port. However, during the 20th century, the silting up of Wexford Harbour made it almost unnavigable, restricting it nowadays to pleasure craft and a small fleet of fishing boats.
Over the years, Wexford has remained at the forefront of Irish history. Due to its position, it has been constantly targeted by invaders - the Vikings, the Normans and, most tragically, Oliver Cromwell, whose armies entered Wexford town in 1649, killing over half of its inhabitants. Wexford was also an important site for the failed rebellion of 1798, and in its aftermath, the heads of many rebellion leaders were displayed on Wexford Bridge. This important event has been immortalised in songs such as "the Boys of Wexford" and "Boolavogue" which most Wexford people learn in primary school.
Following an economically depressed period in the mid-Twentieth century, Wexford has now recovered and is a vibrant, forward-looking town. Its people are fiercely proud of where they come from, and the town exudes a certain joie de vivre that can be hard to find elsewhere in Ireland. Perhaps due to its maritime past, recurring waves of invaders or its anuual, world-famous opera Festival, Wexford is also one of the most cosmopolitan towns in Ireland. it is also one of the cleanest, having been declared "litter free" by a recent inspection from Irish Businesses Against Litter (IBAL).
Stena line operates a service to Fishguard daily and takes three and half hours, (Departs from Rosslare 0900 & 21.00 and from Fishguard 14.30 and 02.45)
Irish Ferries operates a service to Pembroke and takes four hours. (Departs from Rosslare 08.45 & 20.45 and from Pembroke 14.45 & 02.45)
Irish ferries also goes to Cherbourg, France from February to September three times a week. (Departs Rosslare Sun, Wed, Fri 16.00 and arrives 11.30 the next day) (Departs Cherbourg Tues, Thurs, Sat 18.00 and arrives 11.30 the next day)
There is also a service from Rosslare to Roscoff from end of April to end of Sept. (Dep Rosslare 17.00 and arr 11.00 the next day & Dep Roscoff 18.30 and arr 11.00 the next day)
An around town bus service is operated by Shuttlebus - look for the yellow and blue busstop signs. the same company also operates services to Kilmore Quay and Castlebridge.
Within the town, most attractions are of an ecclesiastical nature. St. Iberius Church, on North Main Street, is a must see for its romanesque influenced architecture. Also worth a look are the twin churches at Rowe Street and Bride Street. Built in 1858, and designed by a student of Pugin, both are fantastic examples of 19th century neo gothic church architecture. However, as Bride Street has undergone major alterations, Rowe Street is the more impressive. The ruins of Selskar Abbey, and the adjoining Westgate tower are also of interest. the former was where Henry II of England reputedly did penance for the murder of Thomas Beckett, archbishop of Canterbury. The latter is the only surviving gate in Wexford's town wall, dating back to the 12th century and the Norman invasion of Ireland. Other portions of the wall may be seen at Abbey Street and Mallin Street.
Almost a sight in themselves are Wexford's narrow winding Viking streets. Follow the Main Street from Selskar onwards and discover the atmospheric buzz of the town. Many lanes linking the quayfront and the Main Street still exist - most notably Keyser's Lane, which was the main thoroughfare linking the quays to the town in Viking times.
Wexford provides an array of opportunities just to wander around. The revamped quayfront provides pleasant strolls along the River Slaney. The Main Street and its adjacent alleyways are simply begging to be explored. Boat trips around Wexford Harbour, and Seal Watching Tours out to Raven Point are provided by Harbour Thrills on the quayside, providing a mix of adrenaline and nature! Alternatively, hire a boat at Ferrycarrig and explore the river yourself. For golfing enthusiasts, Wexford Golf Course is located just minutes from the town centre at Mulgannon. Other nearby courses can be found at Garrylough, Rathaspeck, Rosslare, Blackwater and St. Helen's bay. Horse Racing is catered for at Bettyville racecourse, 2km outside town. Roughly ten meetings a year are held.
The newly built Tourist Office on the Quayfront is open year-round, and provides reams of information on various activities such as walking tours, hill walking, local festivals, cultural events, horseriding, accommodation choices and eating out.
Wexford Festival Opera  has been drawing committed music fans from far and wide for over half a century: up-and-coming directors and designers joining forces with the freshest, most dynamic musical talent in the world to create brand-new productions; choral and orchestral concerts, lunchtime recitals, talks, stand-up shows, an extensive fringe programme, a setting of genuine charm.
Since 2009, the festival takes place in the Wexford Opera House, its newly revamped home. Replacing the quaint Theatre Royal, but sensitive to its surroundings, this has become one of Ireland's foremost cultural venues, with a year-round series of events taking place.
Wexford Arts Centre situated in historic 18th Century Cornmarket house is certainly worth a visit. Hosting a vibrant arts programme since 1974. You can visit contemporary art exhibitions for free entry. Enjoy local fresh fare and good coffee/tea in D'lush cafe nominated for Good Food Guide award. Eclectic mix of music, theatre, dance and workshops as well for all ages.
Wexford's Main Street is a wonderful place to browse local produce. Its atmospheric twists and turns, combined with an ever-present buzz and much pedestrianisation, provide an unique shopping experience. Wexford is renowned for its strawberries, and a punnet is a must-have during those warm summer afternoons! Wexford Creamery cheese is also extremely good - try their vintage cheddar. Handmade jewellery can be bought at Wexford Silver (North Main Street). Westgate Design (North Main Street) provides an array of authentic souvenirs and crafts in its cavernous store. Slightly further afield, Ballyelland pottery (situated in Castlebridge) produces superb, unique pieces.
Wexford has a well established culinary tradition, with most of the town's restaurants having been included in Top 100 lists at one time or another.
Attracting acclaim in Irish national papers is Nonna Rosa restaurant, an intimate Italian trattoria with an authentic Neapolitan feel. The South Main Street restaurant is run by an Italian couple with years of experience. The eatery is unique in Wexford as the owners allow customers to bring their own wine, for a nominal corkage charge. The hours and menu are available at their website.
Very good are The Yard (George Street) and Forde's (Crescent Quay), both of which fall into the Modern Irish/European category. Le Tire bouchon (South Main Street, above the Sky and the Ground pub) offers an Irish take on French cuisine. For Oriental cuisine, Vine restaurant on North Main Street is superb. Watch the chefs prepare your meal through the open kitchen while you enjoy the excellent service and energetic atmosphere. Spice (Monck Street above The Crown Bar) has excellent Indian cuisine, though bear in mind that it caters to the slightly less robust Irish taste, so you may need to request extra chilli! Robertino's pizzas are also very good.
For daytime eaters, a huge array of opportunities is available. Westgate Design (North Main Street) is cheap and tasty, and usually very busy. La Cuisine (North Main Street) is also cheap and delicious but it can be difficult to find a table! Try their white coffees! Chocolate (Common Quay Street) offers an extensive lunch menu, with a sizeable terrace. The Centenary Stores also does a very good lunch.
Stable Diet Cafe and patisserie serves the best award winning breads cakes and pastries in Ireland and does a great lunch too-right down at the south end of main street.
For Italian food lovers, La Dolce Vita (Trimmer's Lane) is top notch, and was once deemed the best Italian restaurant in Ireland by a prominent food critic, as is the Potato Market (Crescent Quay). Taste restaurant ( 053 914 3988 ), ,overlooked by the historical ruins of Selskar Abbey, provides excellent traditional Irish and European fare. Try Proper Irish Food in Cistin Eile (Butlers Pudding, Cabbage, Apple & Mustard) prepared with flair and care by award winning chef Warren Gillen, in relaxed setting. Last but not least, the chips in the Premier (South Main Street) are renowned amongst locals! Try a rissole, a Wexford speciality.
For self caterers, the best delis are La Cuisine and Greenacres. Many supermarkets also supply cheap deli options.
Wexford plays host to roughly 50 pubs, so plenty of variety is available! Some favourites include the Thomas Moore Tavern in Cornmarket (a real "old man's pub"), The Crown Bar on Monck Street, Mackens in the Bullring has music at weekends and Finnegans and South 51 on South Main Street, the latter two catering to a more slick, upmarket crowd. Also the Sky and the Ground located in South Main Street is a great old-style pub with traditional Irish music three nights a week and modern rock music on Saturdays. Another great little place is Mary's Bar up near the Arts Centre.
Wexford also has three major nightclubs: The Centenary Stores, Colony and Exile. "The Stores" is the most popular, and is open late every night except Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday. Mixed crowd, decent bar staff, a good smoking area and all the usual tunes, though it can get slightly crowded on Saturday nights.
Exile is a much "younger" spot, more for the dancers than the drinkers. It is energetic, airy and the music is good. It also plays host to many international djs and bands. Renaissance is the most laid back as it is the quietest of the three. Music generally quite good and fairly mixed crowd. Other bars such as Chocolate, South 51 and Dakota also have late licenses at various times. The Loch & Quay on Monck street is a super spot.
The county of Wexford offers a vast array of sightseeing and activity opportunities for the tourist, further adding to Wexford's suitability as a base from which to explore.
Firstly, one cannot mention Wexford without mentioning beaches. The "Sunny South East" offers Blue Flag beaches at Courtown, Duncannon, Curracloe (Ireland's longest at 27 kilometres) and Rosslare, the latter two being a mere 15 minute drive from Wexford town. Other nearby beaches include Carne beach and St. Helen's Bay south of Wexford town, and Booley Bay and Doller Bay south of Duncannon in the southwest of the county.
Elsewhere in County Wexford, there are many places of interest to visit.
The Dunbrody famine ship in New Ross offer visitors an opportunity to see what life was like on one of the "coffin ships" which left Ireland during the 19th century famine.
The Hook Head lighthouse is the oldest functional lighthouse in Europe, and possibly the world. It offers an interesting visitor's centre and a lovely café! Also, the surrounding area of Hook Head and Slade village provide wild and beautiful scenery.
Just outside New Ross, the John F Kennedy Park and Arboretum provides for a pleasant day out for the family - there is a café, mini train for the kids, a vast selection of rare plants and trees, and beautiful views of the surrounding area.
Just off the Wexford - Kilmore Quay road, the stately home of Johnstown Castle is now home to the Irish Agricultural Museum as well as a finely laid out park, including artificial lakes.
In Enniscorthy, (north of Wexford town on the River Slaney). the National 1798 Centre gives visitors an in-depth look at the failed rebellion of 1798, using interesting and colourful displays.
Just 3km from Wexford town, on the main Dublin - Wexford road, lies the Irish National Heritage Park. This sprawling complex shows the history of Ireland stretching back thousands of years through life size displays of living quarters and places of worship. Try to come on a sunny day as it is all outside! the Fulacht Fia restaurant in the centre is very good for lunch.
Wexford Town Internet Cafe, 26 Henrietta Street, Wexford Town. Tel: 053 91 52901 Fax: 053 91 52891 [email protected] www.WexfordTown.ie