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Wales is a land of breathtaking beauty, from its rugged coastline to its rolling hills and mountains. Despite being small in size, there are plenty of activities to keep visitors entertained, from coasteering for adrenaline seekers to some of the best beaches in the UK for those that simply want to relax.
Even as a local, I’ve still not experienced every single attraction that Wales has to offer, but I made it my mission to travel the country and in this guide, I’m going to share some of my favourite activities.
So without further ado, here’s a round-up of my top recommended things to do in Wales.
1. Visit Snowdonia
Snowdonia is a National Park in North Wales, and it’s home to some of the most beautiful scenery in the country. There are mountains, valleys, rivers, and lakes, all surrounded by stunning rugged landscapes. It’s a popular destination for hikers and climbers, but there’s plenty to do for those who prefer a more relaxed pace as well.
Some of the highlights of Snowdonia include Snowdon, which is the tallest mountain in Wales; Llyn Ogwen, a lake that offers stunning views of the surrounding mountains; and Betws-y-Coed, a charming village nestled in the heart of the park.
2. Walk Along the Coastal Path
Did you know there’s a walking path that goes around the entire coast of Wales? At 870 miles (1,400km) long it could take you up to 7 weeks to walk the entire route1 (source: Wales Coast Path), however, there’s nothing stopping you from choosing a small part of the path to walk during your visit to Wales.
There’s stunning scenery around every corner with a glorious view across the sea along the way. Two of our personal favourite parts of the route include the St David’s Head route in South Wales or the stretch from Aberdaron to Porth Meudwy on the Llyn Peninsular.
Keep in mind that this path is for walking only, you cannot cycle the coastal path. However, if you’re travelling with a four-legged friend, most parts are suitable for dogs too. But keep an eye out for livestock and other wildlife in some areas.
3. Cross Pontcysyllte Aqueduct on a Canal Boat
The Llangollen Canal is a waterway in North Wales that’s popular with boaters and walkers alike. The canal is
You can take a trip along the canal in either a motorised boat or a horse-drawn boat for a more authentic feel (those one doesn’t include the aqueduct). If you wish, you can hire a canal boat for the day and take to the helm yourself, find out more here.
4. Visit Cardiff, the Capital City of Wales
Wales’ capital city, Cardiff, is an absolute must for anyone visiting South Wales. During the day, there are plenty of things to do in Cardiff such as visiting Cardiff Castle, exploring St Fagans National Museum of History or wandering around the victorian shopping arcades full of quaint tea rooms and independent shops.
In the evening, Cardiff has all sorts of activities from escape rooms to nightclubs. Most of the nightlife is centred around St Mary’s Street where there is every kind of bar you could ask for, from cocktail bars to dive bars.
Whilst in Cardiff, you have to visit Cardiff Bay where you can see the Senedd (home of the Welsh government), take a boat tour, or Dr Who fans can check out the Dr Who Experience which contains many costumes and sets used in the show.
5. Visit the Italian Village of Portmeirion in North Wales
You might not believe me when I say that there’s an Italian village right here in North Wales, but I’m not lying. The picturesque village of Portmeirion was designed and built by Sir Clough Williams-Ellis in the early 20th century in the style of an Italian village3 (source: Wikipedia).
Based on the fishing village of Portofino on the Italian Riviera, Portmeirion has all the charm that you’d expect from Italian architecture but set against the stunning backdrop of Welsh mountains
Visitors can explore the village, stay in the hotel, or enjoy a meal in one of the restaurants. There are also a number of shops selling local arts and crafts and they hold an annual music festival there too.
6. Check Out Some Amazing Welsh Castles
It wouldn’t be a list of things to do in Wales if it didn’t include Welsh castles. Wales is the castle capital of the world with more castles per square mile than any other European country4 (source: National Geographic).
There are too many to mention here but some that stand out above the others are:
- Caerphilly Castle – The second largest castle in the UK which is known for its leaning tower that boasts more lean than the Tower of Pisa6 (source: Wales Online).
- Conwy Castle – An impressive castle that sits on a rocky ridge. The enormous stricture took 15,000 men and £15,000 to build, a very expensive sum for the 13th century.
- Chepstow Castle – The oldest stone castle in Britain, built just after the Battle of Hastings7 (source: BBC).
See our full guide to the best castles in Wales for more incredible places to visit.
7. Visit the Brecon Beacons
The Brecon Beacons is a National Park in Wales that is made up of some stunning scenery. There are mountains, valleys, and an entire area known as waterfall country due to it’s high concentration of waterfalls (see no. 14 for more on this).
Visitors can enjoy walking, cycling, horse riding, and other activities in the park. There are also a number of visitor centres where you can learn more about the history and ecology of the Brecon Beacons. See my full guide on the best things to do in the Brecon Beacons for more ideas.
Unlike most national parks, it’s easy to get around the Brecon Beacons by public transport which has earnt the park many environmental awards8 (source: Brecon Beacons National Park). You can also hire an eco-friendly canal boat.
8. Experience the Nightlife of Wind Street in Swansea
If you’re looking for the best nightlife in Wales, then I recommend skipping Cardiff and heading straight for rival city Swansea. The city has been awarded a purple flag which recognises its vibrant and safe nighttime economy10 (source: Swansea City Centre Management).
Most people will head straight for Wind Street which is a mecca of bars, restaurants and pubs. There’s something for everyone from live music venues to hidden speakeasy bars (check out Flickering Light if you can find it).
As well as a great scene after dark, Swansea is full of things to do in the day such as taking in the views from Mumbles Pier, exploring the Gower Peninsula or visiting Swansea Castle.
9. Spend Some Time on the Llŷn Peninsula
Visit the Llŷn Peninsula in North Wales for some stunning scenery and a slower pace of life. This area is a designated Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and is popular with walkers and cyclists as there are plenty of routes to explore.
There are also a number of beaches where you can enjoy some time in the sun (Abersoch and Pwllheli are firm favourites) or try your hand at watersports. If you’re feeling adventurous, you can even go coasteering which involves climbing, swimming, and jumping into the sea from cliffs.
For those interested in history, the ruins of Criccieth Castle sit on a hill overlooking two beaches and Cardigan bay. There are also plenty of places to eat and drink on the peninsular, with a number of pubs and restaurants serving locally sourced produce. A standout place to eat is Ty Coch Inn, a pub on the beach which was voted the third best beach bar in the world11 (source: BBC).
10. Zip Down the Fastest Zipline in the World
Adventure lovers need to check out Velocity 2 at Zip World in North Wales which claims to be the fastest in the world at more than 100mph and the longest in Europe stretching 1.5km through the stunning landscapes of Snowdonia12 (source: Guinness World Records).
If that’s still not enough to satisfy your thirst for adventure, the nearby canyoning adventure might be what you need. Expect rock slides, abseiling, canyoning, and more zip-lining, only this time through water.
11. Ride the Ffestiniog Railway
The Ffestiniog Railway is a heritage railway in Wales which offers visitors the chance to take a step back in time and experience what rail travel was like in the Victorian era. The railway is considered the oldest independent railway in the world13 (source: Visit Wales).
You can ride along in a steam train and watch out of the window as you pass through forests, alongside lakes and waterfalls, and around steep bends that cling to the mountainside.
12. Eat Welsh Cakes To Your Hearts Content
If you visit Wales and don’t try a Welsh cake then you’ve done something wrong. Welsh cakes are like a biscuit, a scone, and a pancake all rolled into one.
They are a Welsh culinary tradition that can be found in cafes, supermarkets, and bakeries across the country. Modern-day takes on the Welsh Cake can include both sweet and savoury flavours, plus gluten-free, vegan and free from alternatives.
Of course, you can always try your hand at baking them yourself with our traditional welsh cake recipe.
13. Chill Out At One Of Wales’ Stunning Beaches
But if you need our recommendations, you can’t go wrong with Castle Beach in Tenby which was The Sunday Times’ Beach of the Year in 201915 (source: The Times) or Freshwater West in Pembrokeshire which also featured in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows as the location of Dobby’s death.
South Wales is also a renowned surfing spot if you enjoy catching some waves. Manorbier beach in Pembrokeshire as well as Llantwit Major and Porthcawl in Glamorgan are hot spots with surfers due to their perfect conditions16 (source: Visit Wales).
14. See Four Waterfalls in One Walk
Earlier on I mentioned waterfall country in the Brecon Beacons, an area known for its high concentration of waterfalls. One route here deserves a mention of its own, that’s the four waterfalls walk.
As the name suggests, this short walk comprises four epic waterfalls in a circular route that’s perfect for a day out. It’s a well-trodden path that’s suitable for families and dogs too.
15. Chill Out on Anglesey
Anglesey is an island off the North Wales coast and is connected to the mainland by two bridges.
There are sandy beaches, like the long stretch of Rhosneigr beach which is perfect for surfing, as well as heritage sites like Beaumaris Castle which is infamously known as ‘the greatest castle never built’ due to construction of the super-size castle coming to a halt in the early 14th century18 (source: CADW).
The Isle of Anglesey coastal path provides stunning views of the Irish Sea plus South Stack Lighthouse is the most instagrammable place in the whole country and you can now take a tour around it too. This is just a taste of what the island has to offer, see my full guide for a full list of the incredible things to do in Anglesey.
16. Visit Pembrokeshire Coast National Park
Pembrokeshire Coast National Park is the smaller of Wales’ three national park but still manages to pack in plenty of things to do, from hiking and biking trails to beaches and coastal walks.
As well as getting out into nature, you can visit St Davids, the smallest city in the UK which has a beautiful cathedral. Water-lovers can visit the blue lagoon and bird-lovers can take a boat trip to Ramsey Island, an RSPB special interest area where you can spot chough, guillemot, falcons, and ravens, among other birds.
If you’re visiting with your family, you can spend the day at Oakwood, Wales’ biggest theme park with over 40 different rides.
17. Visit The Market Towns of Mid-Wales
Mid-Wales is home to some charming market towns. Top of the list is Crickhowell which was named ‘Best High-Street in Wales’19 (source: Great British High Street) thanks to its selection of independent shops and restaurants, as well as a lively arts scene.
Literary lovers can enjoy Hay-on-Wye, a small town on the Welsh border famous for its many bookshops and those looking for a coastal destination should visit the seaside town of Aberystwyth which is home to castle ruins, a pier, and a seafront promenade.
Whilst you’re in Mid-Wales, check out some of the red kite feeding stations where you can see the magnificent birds that were close to extinction in the UK before significant.
18. Dolphin Spotting in Cardigan Bay
Cardigan Bay is home to the largest population of dolphins in the UK with more than 250 bottlenose dolphins calling it home throughout the year, although you are more likely to see them during the summer months20 (source: BBC).
Boat tours full of keen dolphin-spotters leave from many coastal towns including New Quay, Aberporth, and Cardigan. There are also a number of seal colonies along the coast where you can get up close to these fascinating creatures.
19. Stop By At a Welsh Festival
There are loads of festivals in Wales throughout the year celebrating everything from music and food to art and culture. If you’re planning a visit, try to coincide with one of these to ensure you have an awesome trip
Some of the best festivals in Wales include:
- Hay Festival – A famous ten-day celebration of literature and the arts which takes place in Hay-on-Wye each year.
- Green Man Festival – An annual music festival which takes place in the Brecon Beacons showcasing independent artists to more than 25,000 visitors.
- Brecon Jazz Festival – A jazz festival which takes place in pubs, halls, and other venues across the town of Brecon each year.
- Llangollen International Musical Eisteddfod – A celebration of cultural music and dance which takes place in the town of Llangollen. Performers from across the world take part in over 20 competitions including singing, dancing, and playing instruments.
Kieren is the founder and editor-in-chief of Wales Guidebook. Originally from rural Mid-Wales, he has lived all over the country from Cardiff to Wrexham. A true Welshman, Kieren created this site to share his passion for Wales and help others discover this beautiful country.