Waterford city has won the Irish Times Best Place to Live in Ireland contest 2021. It was the unanimous choice of the judging panel for the competition, which is supported by Randox Health.
The city beat stiff competition from four other shortlisted locations: Clonakilty, Co Cork; Galway city; Glaslough, Co Monaghan; and Killarney, Co Kerry.
The contest began in June. Over the summer 2,400 people nominated 470 places across all 32 counties for the title of Best Place to Live in Ireland 2021. These were then considered by a panel of judges selected for their expertise and knowledge of Ireland.
The judging panel were Zainab Boladale, presenter of RTÉ’s Nationwide; Rosita Boland, Irish Times journalist; Dr Illona Duffy, GP and public-health commentator; and Simon Wall, Mayo county architect. Irish Times journalist Conor Goodman chaired the group.
They judged the hundreds of cities, towns, villages and suburbs on criteria including affordability; natural amenities; buildings; community initiatives and spirit; presence of clubs, societies and activities; good local services; diversity; a welcome for outsiders; transport links; employment opportunities; digital links for distance working; and safety and security.
What did the judges say about Waterford city?
Among the things that impressed the group in Waterford was its liveable, walkable city centre, which the city’s leaders have reimagined in recent years. “There are so many wonderful period buildings in its centre, complemented by thoughtfully designed new museums that have brought a new civic energy,” said Rosita Boland.
“The Viking Triangle is outstanding … a pedestrian-friendly public realm, with walkable, liveable and happy communities, ” said Simon Wall.
“Waterford has been quietly doing its own thing over the past few years. It’s a place with a vibrant, youthful scene,” said Zainab Boladale.
In the midst of a housing crisis, affordable accommodation was a key consideration. Waterford has an average house price of around €200,000 and a stock of competitively priced homes for sale. Housing here is accessible – or relatively so – to people on a variety of incomes.
The city’s pandemic response was another plus – for most of 2020 it had the lowest infection rate on a county-by-county basis. Best Place judge Dr Illona Duffy said: “Waterford mounted a great battle against Covid, protecting and developing services in the regional hospital, not to mention its community power. It achieved was both low Covid rates and a high vaccine uptake.”
The judges also praised the city’s egalitarian atmosphere. “Waterford is an unassuming city, with a sense of its own independence. What it has achieved over the past two decades is simply outstanding,” said Simon Wall.
This is the second Irish Times Best Place to Live in Ireland contest. The first was held in 2012, when Westport, Co Mayo, won the title.
See Saturday's Irish Times for a full report on the many reasons Waterford city was chosen as the Best Place to live in Ireland 2021. All stages of the competition are documented here.