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South Wales is a beautiful region in the United Kingdom that offers a wide variety of activities and attractions for visitors. From its stunning coastline to its vibrant cities, there is something for everyone in South Wales. Here are some of the best things to do in South Wales:
1. Visit Cardiff, the Capital of Wales
Cardiff is the capital city of Wales and is one of the best places to visit in South Wales. The city is home to a variety of attractions, including the Cardiff Castle, the National Museum of Wales, and the Millennium Stadium.
One of the highlights is Cardiff Bay, where you can take a boat trip around the bay or visit a variety of restaurants and bars. Whilst in the area, sci-fi fans will also love the Dr Who Experience which has many of the props used in the popular show which has been filmed mostly in Wales.
See our full guide to find out about all the top things to do in Cardiff.
2. Explore Waterfall Country in the Brecon Beacons
The Brecon Beacons National Park lies across the border of south and mid-wales with many quaint little villages, stunning hikes, and outdoor activities.
One of the best areas is part of the national park known as Waterfall Country due to having a high concentration of waterfalls in one area.
Some of the most popular waterfalls in Waterfall Country include Henrhyd Falls, which is known for featuring as the Batcave entrance in The Dark Knight Rises, and the four waterfalls that make up the four falls trail. This is a circular family-friendly walking route that’s popular with locals and tourists.
For those looking for a more adventurous experience, canyoning is also available in Waterfall Country and involves making your way down rivers and through gorges using a variety of techniques including abseiling, swimming, and jumping.
3. Visit an Old Coal Mine at the Big Pit National Coal Museum
The Big Pit National Coal Museum is a must-visit for anyone interested in the history of mining in Wales. The museum is located in a former coal mine and offers visitors the opportunity to take a tour of the underground tunnels which are located 300m below the surface1 (source: National Museum of Wales).
The museum also has a number of interactive exhibits which tell the story of the Welsh mining industry, from its humble beginnings to its decline in the late 20th century. Plus, the museum is entirely free of charge so you have no reason to miss it.
4. Spend Some Time in Tenby
Tenby is a seaside town in South Wales that’s known for its pastel-coloured houses and incredible beaches. In fact, the beach which sits within the walls of the harbour was found to be one of the most photogenic in the world according to a study of Instagram hashtags2 (source: ITV).
Right on its doorstep, Tenby provides access to some of the most beautiful parts of the Wales Coastal Path and is a great spot to catch a boat to explore the offshore islands.
You can also visit Carew Castle where you’ll find the ruins of a Norman castle and one of only two tidal mills in the UK that have been restored so you can appreciate their history.
5. Explore Swansea and The Gower Peninsula
Swansea is Wales’s second city, also located along the south coast. There are more than enough things to do in Swansea. By day, the city is home to great markets and museums (the National Waterfront Museum is a must!). But it’s the evening when Swansea really comes alive. Nightlife centres around Wind Street where you’ll find every type of bar from cocktail bars to speakeasies.
There are also several great day trips to choose from when staying in Swansea. Top of our list is the Gower Peninsula, an area of outstanding natural beauty in Wales that is home to a number of walking routes, clifftop views, and beaches, including the popular Rhossili Beach, which was voted as one of the best beaches in the world by TripAdvisor3 (source: BBC).
6. Visit the Ruins of Tintern Abbey
Tintern Abbey is a ruined monastery in South-east Wales near the border with England. It was founded by Walter de Clare, Lord of Chepstow in 1131 and was once a bustling community of monks but it has now laid in ruins for almost 500 years4 (source: Wikipedia).
As well as wandering the ruins, it’s worth visiting the on-site museum which houses many artefacts that were found during the excavations of the abbey. Here, you’ll be able to learn about the history of the abbey and the Cistercian order of monks who called it home.
The abbey is located in the Wye Valley which is an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty so be sure to spend some time exploring the surrounding countryside during your visit. There are plenty of hiking trails to explore and you might even spot some of the local wildlife!
7. Catch Some Sun (and Maybe Some Waves) On South Wales’ Beaches
If catching a tan is high on your agenda, you’ll want to consider Pembrokeshire or The Gower which have some beautiful sandy beaches.
Here are some to consider:
- Freshwater West – One of Pembrokeshire’s top beach destinations, Freshwater West has breathtaking views across the sand dunes. It’s also where Dobby’s death was filmed in Harry Potter and you can see a tribute grave to the house-elf still there today.
- Rhossili Bay Beach – Situated on the Gower Peninsula, Rhossilli Bay has 3 miles of sandy coastline which makes a perfect day out with the family, it’s also dog-friendly too.
- Rest Bay – Surfers will want to check out Rest Bay beach in Porthcawl. The waves here provide consistent, well-formed peaks. But don’t take our word for it, Welsh surfing champion Gwen Spurlock also agrees6 (source VisitWales).
Check out our full guide to the best beaches in South Wales for more recommendations.
8. Visit Caerphilly and the Surrounding Areas
If you love castles, cheese, and the great outdoors, then Caerphilly is an essential place to visit in South Wales.
Just 11km (7 miles) north of Cardiff, the Welsh town is renowned for its castle which is the second largest in the UK, after Windsor Castle. The walls, towers and gatehouses of Caerphilly Castle cover more than 120,000m2.
No visit to Caerphilly is complete without tasting some of their cheese which is a light crumbly cheese made with local cows’ milk.
This town loves cheese so much that each year they host The Big Cheese Festival. The highlight of the festival is The Great Cheese Race where participants race each other while carrying Caerphilly cheese.
From Caerphilly, you can take a day trip to Parc Penallta where you’ll find the iconic 200m long sculpture of Sultan the Pit Pony carved into the Earth.
9. Have a Lush Time Visiting Barry Island
Any fan of the hit BBC TV show Gavin and Stacey will be familiar with Barry Island where the show is set.
You can take a guided tour of the area to see all of the filming locations or you can use this handy guide to check them out yourself, not forgetting Trinity Street of course.
For those not so interested in the show, Barry Island also has a beach, several museums, and a tourist railway which allows you to travel on a heritage train and learn about the history of railways in Barry and beyond.
10. Walk the Coastlines in Pembrokeshire
In South-west Wales, you’ll find Pembrokeshire Coast National Park, the smallest of Wales’ three national parks but with the most diverse scenery. The park has been designated for its coastal landscape which features rugged cliffs and beautiful nature reserves7 (source: Pembrokeshire Coast National Park).
You can also take a boat to visit some of the offshore islands which can be seen from the mainland on a clear day. Skomer Island is one of the best destinations where you can spot nesting seabirds including Puffins and the Manx shearwater.
Aside from the nature, Pembrokeshire Coast National Park is also home to some important monuments and listed buildings, two of which are Carew Castle, where you’ll find one of the few restored tidal mills in Britain, and Castell Henllys which includes a reconstructed Iron Age hill fort8 (source: Pembrokeshire Coast National Park).
11. Get Your Adrenaline Going at Oakwood Theme Park
With over 35 rides, Oakwood theme park is perfect for a day out with the family. Some of the most popular rides include the Megafobia rollercoaster, the Speed thrill ride and the Vertigo tower drop. If you’re feeling brave, you can even try out the haunted house attraction!
12. Check Out Some Castles
Some of our favourites to check out include:
- Chepstow Castle – Sitting on the cliffs above the Wye river, Chepstow Castle is the oldest surviving stone fortification in Britain11 (source: Wikipedia).
- Castell Coch – Although Cardiff Castle in the city centre is worth a visit, it’s also great to explore the nearby Castell Coch which has unique towers poking out from the forest just like a fairy tale.
- Pembroke Castle – This medieval castle in Pembroke holds an important part in history as the birthplace of Henry VII, the first monarch in the house of Tudor.
But you can see our full guide to the best castles in South Wales for more.
13. Visit the Smallest City in the United Kingdom
South Wales is home to the UK’s smallest city by population, St David’s, which is home to just 1,800 residents.
Why is such a small place worthy of being a city? Well, it’s all to do with the cathedral which is built on top of the site where St David, the patron saint of Wales, founded a monastery in the 6th century.
Aside from the cathedral, you’ll also find the ruins of the Bishop’s Palace, Oriel y Parc gallery which hosts impressive collections from the National Museum of Wales, and you can take a boat to some of the offshore islands for nature spotting.
14. Go Underground at the National Showcaves Centre for Wales
The National Showcaves Centre for Wales is located at the southern end of the Brecon Beacons National Park and is home to some of the most impressive caves in the UK.
Some of the most popular caves at the centre are Dan-yr-Ogof, which is known for its stunning stalactites and stalagmites, and the Cathedral Cave, where you’ll find a 40ft high waterfall13 (source: Brecon Beacons National Park).
The centre offers tours of the caves which last around an hour and a half, and you’ll get to see some incredible rock formations as well as learn about the history of the area. There’s also a dinosaur park, a museum, and a kid’s play area.
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.