It is near the southeastern corner of the island of Ireland, close to Rosslare Europort. The town is linked to Dublin by the M11/N11 National Primary Route, and the national rail network. It has a population of 19,913 (20,072 with environs) according to the 2011 census.
Wexford lies on the south side of Wexford Harbour, the estuary of the River Slaney. According to a local legend, the town got its Irish name, Loch Garman, from a young man named Garman Garbh who was drowned on the mudflats at the mouth of the River Slaney by flood waters released by an enchantress. The resulting loch or lough was thus named, Loch Garman. The town was founded by the Vikings in about 800 AD. They named it Veisafjǫrðr, inlet of the mud flats and the name has changed only slightly into its present form. For about three hundred years it was a Viking town, a city state, largely independent and owing only token dues to the Irish kings of Leinster.
However, in May 1169 Wexford was besieged by Dermot MacMurrough, King of Leinster and his Norman ally, Robert Fitz-Stephen. The Norse inhabitants resisted fiercely, until the Bishop of Ferns persuaded them to accept a settlement with Dermot. Wexford was an Old English settlement in the Middle Ages. An old dialect of English, known as Yola, was spoken uniquely in Wexford up until the 19th century.
County Wexford produced strong support for Confederate Ireland during the 1640s. A fleet of Confederate privateers was based in Wexford town, consisting of sailors from Flanders and Spain as well as local men. Their vessels raided English Parliamentarian shipping, giving some of the proceeds to the Confederate government in Kilkenny. As a result, the town was sacked by the English Parliamentarians during the Cromwellian conquest of Ireland in 1649. Many of its inhabitants were killed and much of the town was burned.
Wexford's success as a seaport declined in the 20th century because of the constantly changing sands of Wexford Harbour. By 1968 it had become unprofitable to keep dredging a channel from the harbour mouth to the quays in order to accommodate the larger ships of the era, so the port closed. The port had been extremely important to the local economy, with coal being a major import and agricultural machinery and grain being exported. The port is now used exclusively by mussel dredgers and pleasure craft. The woodenworks which fronted the quays and which were synonymous with Wexford were removed in the 1990s as part of an ambitious plan to claim the quay as an amenity for the town as well as retaining it as a commercially viable waterfront. Despite the bankruptcy of the contractor, the project was a success.
In the early 20th century, a new port was built, about south, at Rosslare Harbour, now known as Rosslare Europort. This is a deepwater harbour unaffected by tides and currents. All major shipping now uses this port and Wexford Port is used only by fishing boats and leisure vessels.