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Cardiff is so much more than just the Welsh capital. It is a beautiful city with lovely and hospitable people. It also has many incredible places and side attractions making it one of the best things to do in South Wales.
If you visit Cardiff for a short or extended stay, there are many things to do to make your time there enjoyable. Here are the best things to do in Cardiff.
1. Watch a Live Game at The Principality Stadium
The Principality Stadium in Cardiff came into existence in 1999 and immediately became the centre of Welsh Rugby. The magnificent stadium, formerly the Millenium Stadium, can take 74,500 cheering fans, creating an incredible atmosphere during live games.
If you visit Cardiff and are lucky enough to be around for a match day, it is absolutely advisable to get a ticket, wear your favourite team’s jersey, and head to the Principality Stadium to watch the game live. You will see how the city transforms into an entirely different one on such occasions and catch the excitement on people’s faces. Besides match days, you can also tour the stadium and understand just what it means to Welsh people.
2. Relive History at the National Museum
The National Museum Cardiff is next to the Welsh capital’s grand City Hall. It is a museum and art gallery where you can find some of the United Kingdom’s most exquisite artefacts. The free-to-visit museum and gallery also have everything to know about Wales from the years gone by to the present day.
You will find things related to botany, zoology, and geology in the museum. Thus, you can learn about the history of the country, its wildlife, structures, and people. Meanwhile, the gallery has extraordinary collections from far and wide, including temporary and permanent decorations that will leave visitors in awe.
3. Visit St Fagans National Museum of History
If you are an art enthusiast and want more artsy experiences after visiting the National Museum Cardiff, another incredible thing to tick off your to-do list is to spend your day at St Fagans.
St Fagans is home to an open-air museum that showcases Welsh history, culture, lifestyle, and architecture. The museum is the recipient of several awards, and it is easy to see why that is the case once you set foot on it.
The museum has more than 50 historic buildings within it. These include a medieval church, a Victorian school, and a Workmen’s Institute. Animal lovers can see and interact with the animals on the museum’s farm. If you are curious, you can learn so much by watching the workers in the smithy, cog-making workshops, and the corn and woollen mills.
4. Spot Art While Walking the Streets
Cardiff is not a boring city. There is always something that catches one’s fancy, even if they are just taking a walk. One of the City’s features is its love for the arts. Proof of this is seen in the incredible amount of unique street art you find.
You can find these beautiful street artworks everywhere in Cardiff, from the city centre to Canton, Butetown, Roath, Whitchurch, Gabalfa, Cathays, etc. So, it depends on how many you can spot and the one you think is your favourite.
Some of this unique street art include the Empty Walls Project and the constantly created murals that show Wales’ cultural diversity, environment, history, endangered species, and much more.
5. Watch a Live Show at the Millenium Centre
Cardiff is home to the Millenium Centre, regarded as one of the world’s top-performing art centres. It is one place to visit at night, especially for Welsh arts and culture lovers.
You can catch live classical music and opera, modern dance, and ballet shows at the Millenium Centre. However, if you cannot watch a live show or performance, there is still room for exploration and other activities.
For example, you can explore the centre’s grounds, participate in events, workshops, and lectures, or even have a feel of the cafes and shopping centres within the magnificent five-acre edifice.
6. Have Fun at the Beach
Having a beach day is one of the most fun things to do in Cardiff. The city has many lovely beaches where one can relax, sunbathe, have fun, meet new people, and enjoy the beautiful scenery.
If you want a beach with people, amusement arcades, cafes, and beach huts, the iconic Barry Island is the right choice (pictured above). However, if you prefer a more quiet experience, Penarth and Jackson’s Bay will serve just fine.
7. Shop and Take Beautiful Pictures at Cardiff’s Victorian Arcades
Cardiff is regarded as the “city of arcades”1 (source: City of Arcades). This tag did not come about without cause because the city is home to seven beautiful historical arcades with unusual and exquisite interiors.
The Cardiff Victorian arcades are well-preserved and dissect the city centre, allowing visitors and residents to have enjoyable experiences while shopping indoors. Some of the items you can buy in the arcades include clothes, jewellery, household items, etc.
The must-see arcades you should visit include the Castle, Morgan, Wyndham, High Street, and Royal Arcade, which is the city’s oldest arcade2 (source: City of Arcades). You can see all the magnificent arcades if there is enough time to do so. You would love the shopping experience and take many memorable pictures. I can highly advise stopping at Barkers Tea Room in the high street arcade for a fantastic afternoon tea as shown above.
8. Go On Boat Trips
Cardiff locals and even visitors participate in one enjoyable and popular activity, boat tours. Boat tours run from Bute Park to Cardiff Bay. Going on boat trips is an excellent way of exploring the city’s coastlines.
You can begin your tour at Cardiff Bay or Cardiff City Center in Bute Park. The boat cruise is a way to move between two parts of the city. However, you can spend an hour’s journey and get off where you started if you wish. That way, you will explore the lovely views while the boat cruises through the waters.
9. Tour Cardiff Castle
Cardiff Castle is one of the oldest and most visited tourist sites in Wales. The historic castle has sections that date back to the tenth century. The State Apartments within the castle are among its most notable features and add to its attractiveness3 (source: Cardiff Castle).
The rooms in the State Apartments have fascinating displays and contain information about those who once lived and worked in it. It also holds information about important events in the castle’s history.
Other fascinating features that will thrill you during your tour of the castle include the clock tower, the elegant Banqueting Hall, the picturesque chapel, etc.
10. Experience the Cardiff International White Water
Located on Watkiss Way, Cardiff, the Cardiff International White Water is where water sports lovers and those enthusiastic about it will enjoy visiting. The beautiful venue includes multiple programs and experiences for professional and amateur water sports lovers and adventurers.
The Cardiff International White Water was constructed for the 2012 Olympics4 (source: CIWW). The unique facility includes an artificial water environment with an adjustable 250-meter course. The beautiful structure is perfect for a family rafting trip, kayaking, or canoe riding. Other fun sports to participate in include bodyboarding, canyoning, and surfing.
11. Get a Feel of Nature at Bute Park
Provided the weather is friendly, there is no other place a lover of nature would want to be in than Bute Park. The beautiful park stands next to the National Museum and is open to the public.
Thus, you can go in and stroll aimlessly, wondering as you view the beautiful vegetation around. You will also have a chance to explore the park’s hidden wonders like the Animal Wall and the 21 sculptures5 (source: Bute Park).
Many locals and students visit Bute Park daily, especially during the weekends. Hence, it is a great place to get a feel of Cardiff’s local life. There are cycle paths, walk paths, gardens, playing fields, cafes, and benches within the park. Thus, you can walk, ride, sit and relax, or interact with people.
12. Visit Roath Park
Cardiff has many beautiful parks, and Roath Park is one of the city’s favourites. The park has been in existence since 1894 and still maintains a unique Victorian feel.
Thanks to its beautiful scenery, Roath Park is a place you will spend so much time exploring. One of the park’s highlights is the Nant Fawr stream. During the park’s construction, the stream was dammed to form a beautiful lake that spans 30 acres.
To circumvent the lake, one needs to walk about one-and-a-half miles. However, there are many benches and potential picnic spots where you can stop over. Other highlights in the park include fishing and rowing, a conservation area, and an enchanting wild garden.
13. Hunt Down Ghosts
Yes, this is a thing! Cardiff has many creepy, haunted, and free spots like old buildings and abandoned burial sites. So if you are the curious type and believe in ghost stories, this might just be your chance to hunt down real ghosts.
Don’t worry; you won’t be alone. People are going on ghost tours in Cardiff Castles, rumoured to have ghost-haunted tunnels. However, if the ghost stories bore you and you desire to summon your own spirits, a visit to the abandoned psychiatric hospital in Whitchurch and St. Athan’s Boys village, an abandoned holiday camp for boys, may just do the trick.
14. Go Shopping at Cardiff Market
If you desire to know more about Welsh culture and see a good part of it unfold before your eyes, Cardiff Market is one place to go. The market is in the middle of the city and a few minutes away from Cardiff Castle.
You won’t be going to the market for just some sighting. There are tonnes of things you can buy from the shops there. For example, there are independent shops and cafes displaying local products for sale.
The Victorian market was established in 1891 and featured many fantastic one-of-a-kind stalls. Also, you find the best Welsh cakes in Cardiff Market, so don’t forget to give yourself a nice treat.
In addition to all of these, Cardiff Market, thanks to its location and the numerous shopping activities and the hustle and bustle that goes on there, is the city’s heartbeat. Where else would you want to be, and what else would you want to do than come to shop here?
15. Go Hiking
One thing Wales is known for is its high peaks and hills. Cardiff is a city surrounded by mountains that make for amazing views and picture-worthy moments.
Thus, if you are a pro at hiking or are just learning how to do it, don’t leave Cardiff without exploring its beautiful mountains and hills. You will indeed find a befitting mountain nearby that suits your adventurous needs.
Two mountains close to Cardiff are Garth Hill and Caerphilly Mountain. These mountains are ideal for those who want to go for an enjoyable Sunday afternoon walk. However, tougher individuals can dare to climb Pen y Fan (pictured above), which is sure to test you throughout. However, the experience is rewarding and leaves lasting memories.
16. Tour The Welsh Centre of Democracy
Cardiff Bay is the home of many beautiful and structural edifices. It is also the home of modern Welsh politics because it is the site of the Senedd building.
Opened on 1st March 2006, which also marks St. David’s Day (St. David is the Patron Saint of Wales), the Senedd building is where Welsh politicians meet to deliberate on issues bedevilling the country. However, besides signifying Wales’ democracy, the Senedd is an architectural delight.
It features a breathtaking wood ceiling that shades multiple steps ahead. The building was constructed with sustainability as a theme and proved that architecture could be pleasing to the eye and safe for the environment.
You can tour the Senedd with a guide, though booking must be made ahead of time as many people throng the beautiful site daily.
17. Satisfy Your Music Cravings at Spillers Records
Cardiff is home to Spillers Records, which has been operational since 1894 and claims to be the oldest of its kind worldwide. If you are a music fan, this place is one to visit.
It is a shrine of some sort for everything rock ‘n’ roll. There is vinyl in every corner of the shop and fascinating merchandise on the walls that you just want to get your hands on.
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.