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As someone who genuinely loves the Welsh capital and spent many years living there in my early twenties, I’m well placed to give you the low-down on the best things to do in Cardiff.
In this specific guide, I’m going to focus on Cardiff’s nightlife and share a range of evening activities from my favourite bars and restaurants to slightly more obscure activities such as axe throwing and ghost tours.
1. Take a Bar Crawl Down St Mary’s Street
Let’s start with the obvious night-time activity; a bar crawl. The best place for anyone visiting the city to immerse themselves in the evening antics of Cardiff is St Mary’s Street, the hub of nightlife in the city. There are bars, clubs and restaurants to suit any vibe, some of my favourites include:
- Kongs has live music, craft beer and vintage arcade games, including a photo booth. It has a grungier feel but it is a must on any bar crawl in the area.
- The Alchemist which is just next door and has a whole different feel, with its bewitching cocktails, classy décor and amazing food it is a more upscale option.
- Turtle Bay has a relaxed feel and a large selection of cocktails to choose from as well as beer and wine options. If you fancy starting your night out early they also offer a bottomless brunch.
- Coyote Ugly is a destination like no other in the city. Calling itself the number one-party destination in Cardiff gives it big shoes to fill but it does not disappoint. Here the staff dance on the bar and so can you, do you think you are brave enough to give it a go?
- The Cocktail Club is a three-floor cocktail bar where each floor has a different theme and separate bar. They have energetic bartenders, pumping music and to top it all off they have one of the best happy hours in the capital, it runs until 8pm every day and the whole menu is included.
- Lab 22 is an award-winning cocktail bar that strives to push the boundaries of mixology. Once crowned the best cocktail bar in the UK1 (source: Wales Online).
2. Dine in the Castle Grounds
The Castle Café isn’t exactly where you would think to go for a drink but it could be a good place to start your night or spend a relaxing evening. It is located inside the castle walls so not only do you get refreshments; but you also get an amazing view of the historical monument.
3. Discover Ghostly Tales From the City
Staying with Cardiff Castle, you can also do a ghost tour which explores the bloody history of the castle and see the places where stories of ghostly phenomenon are abound. Are you brave enough to give this a try?
There is also a self-guided tour of Llandaff Cathedral if you want to go somewhere other than the castle.
4. Catch a Show at One of Cardiff’s Top Venues
Cardiff has many places you can see a performance, so whether you want to laugh, cry, or even dance the night away, there’s something for everyone. The best place to start is with one of these venues:
- St David’s Hall – This is probably the most well-known venue in Cardiff (well apart from the stadium) and they regularly host comedians, pantomimes and much, much more. It’s a family-friendly venue which changes its schedule regularly and has something for everyone. St David’s Hall was rated in the top 10 of best-sounding concert halls2 (source: Royal Welsh College of Drama and Music). (check listings here)
- The New Theatre – Is another wonderful theatre in Cardiff hosting big names and tribute bands. They also have a rotating roster of shows so you shouldn’t be hard to find something you would enjoy. (check listings here)
- The Motorpoint Arena – Regularly hosts big named singers and comedians, and so much more as one of the bigger venues in the city it is a great place to see stars perform. (check listings here)
- Tramshed – A relatively new addition to the city Tramshed is a music and arts venue that is in a grade two listed building that puts on events such as raves and food festivals.
- The Principality Stadium – Formally the Millennium Stadium has it all, from sport to music it is the premier location in the city and always has something on.
5. Experience an Open Air Event at Bute Park
Just outside the castle grounds, there is the gorgeous sprawling area, Bute Park that hosts a vast number of things to do whether you want to take a slow walk to learn about the history of the park, look at the hidden sculptures or just have a cup of tea in the cafe.
There are many events hosted throughout the year from open-air cinema, recently showing “Mamma Mia!, Westside Story and Pulp Fiction”. There are charity walks and even Christmas events.
6. Enjoy Live Music at the Flute & Tankard
There are several live music venues worth checking out in Cardiff. A stand-out has to be Flute and Tankard, a small and intimate space that’s featured multiple times in CAMRA’s Cardiff pub of the year competition.
Upstairs, they hold regular live music events which are usually jazz but you may find other genres from time to time. You can watch one of their events on YouTube here or visit the events section of their website to find out about upcoming gigs.
7. Play Bingo Like Never Before at Bingo Lingo
Located in DEPOT Bingo Lingo provides way more than your average bingo game, THIS IS BINGO WITH CLUB VIBES. There is music, fog machines, lasers, pyrotechnics, dress-up, dancing … basically everything you wouldn’t expect from bingo.
It’s high energy and breathes a new lease of life into what has become not a very trendy game.
8. Embrace Your Inner Sherlock Holmes at Cardiff Escape Rooms
Escape Rooms Cardiff offers six immersive game rooms from zombies and mummies to space there is something for everyone.
If you’re not familiar with an escape room, you and your team are locked in a room and have to solve puzzles to find out how to escape before time runs out.
This is suitable for 2-6 people and they even open until midnight so you can try to escape well into the night.
9. Drink Craft Beer at Zerodegrees Microbrewery
Located opposite the Principality Stadium in a Grade II listed building, Zerodegrees microbrewery is one of my favourite places to grab a craft beer and something to eat in the city.
It has the industrial feel of a brewery the beer is top-notch. Every month there is a new brew and core beers on tap. If you want to actually see the brewing in action, you would need to bok one of their brewery tours which are £25 per person.
The food here is super delicious, I can highly recommend their pizzas and calzone from my own experience but they also have pasta and salads too.
10. Play Board Games at Chance and Counters
Set up by three friends, Chance and Counters is a stone’s throw from the castle in a Victorian Building, it has a tricky to miss entrance so finding it makes you feel like you’re part of an elite club when you find it!
This wonderful board game hub hosts over 500 games to choose from, six draught beer and cider lines, including two dedicated lines from the fantastic Tiny Rebel, that serves wings, loaded fries and burgers.
Whether you’re looking for something to do in Cardiff on a rainy day, or somewhere to spend your evening, there’s a good chance this place will keep you occupied for many hours.
11. Tour Cardiff Bay
Cardiff Bay is a waterfront area in the city that is easily accessed via boat, bus or train. It boasts lots of restaurants and bars as well as history.
My suggestion would be to get the train to Cardiff Bay station and walk the less than 5-minute walk to the waterfront. This route will take you past landmarks such as:
- The Wales Millennium Centre is an arts centre which as well as being good for catching a show is a beautiful landmark to look at in awe as its colourful lights illuminate the building at night.
- The Pierhead building, being one of Cardiff’s most familiar landmarks will be lit up for you to admire in all its red bricked glory.
- The Boardwalk often has hosts open air events, normally in front of the Millennium Centre and the Pierhead building such as a temporary beach in the summer, food festivals and fairground rides, including a Ferris wheel.
- The Senedd is one of the more modern buildings on the bay which houses the debating chamber and committee rooms of the Welsh Parliament. You may think a government building may not be a lot to look at but it is an architectural beauty that cleverly utilises Welsh slate, glass and steel.
- The Norwegian Church – Once you reach the water you will see across the bay a small, almost out of place, white building. This is a former 19th century church which is now a café and gallery and regularly hosts live events.
- The Dock – After admiring the view the dock is always a good place to head for a drink in the evening. It is a pub that boasts high ceilings and pleasing décor with balconies you can sit on and take in your surroundings and look over the bay.
See my full guide to the top things to do in Cardiff Bay for more inspiration.
12. Throw Axes Like A Viking At Lumberjack Axe Throwing
Fancy doing something different? Throwing Axes might sound like a bizarre activity but in this safe environment it is a good way to release anger and make memories. With the help of the fully trained staff, participants of all ages and abilities can get a piece of the action at Lumberjack Axe Throwing in Cardiff.
13. Embrace Your Inner Child at NQ64 Arcade Game Bar
NQ64 is an arcade game bar on St Mary’s Street offering cocktails, craft beer, and classic video gaming.
Yes, from Pacman to Time Crisis, this bar has all your favourite arcade games as well as some Nintendos for a bit of Mario Kart and James Bond Golden Eye, it brings out my inner child just to think about.
14. Laugh Your Socks Off at The Glee Club
My final recommended activity for your evening in Cardiff is to head over to Cardiff Glee Club where you can enjoy stand-up comedy from up-and-coming comedians. The likes of Jo Brand, Michael McIntyre, Sarah Millican, and John Bishop have all graced the stages of Cardiff’s top comedy club so you never know which future star you might be sitting in front of.
The venue is located down in Cardiff Bay with performances taking place Thursday to Sunday most weeks. The prices vary depending upon the day but are usually between £10-20 per person. Check out their website for all upcoming events and booking information.
As well as standard tickets, you can also book a ticket with a meal and drinks included for the full experience.
15. Get Behind the Bar With a Cocktail Masterclass
Most of us are pretty good at drinking cocktails, but how are you at making them? Well you can find out for yourself by booking onto one of cocktail masterclasses in Cardiff and grabbing a shaker for yourself.
There are several places you take a masterclass including Dirty Martini, The Botanist, and the Slug and Lettuce. I recommend checking this full guide to find out about all the options and the differences between the different packages.
16. Overlook the City at One of Cardiff’s Rooftop Bars
Cardiff might not be known for its city skyline, but that hasn’t stopped a range of rooftop bars from popping up across the capital. These are particularly great during the summer months when you can enjoy your favourite evening beverage whilst still enjoying those longer evenings.
There are several rooftop bars in Cardiff so I recommend checking out this guide for the full list. But, here are some of my favourite picks:
- The Botanist – If the excellent range of cocktails at The Botanist wasn’t enough, you can enjoy them from the comfort of their fairy-lit rooftop terrace.
- The Admiral – Located within the 5-star hotel Voco St David’s, The Admrial is a bar and restaurant with a terrace that looks out across Cardiff Bay and Penarth Marina. It’s worth visiting for a drink but you can also stay here and enjoy the beautiful views throughout your visit.
17. Enjoy Oktoberfest Year-Round at Heidi’s Bar
Imagine an après-ski bar crossed with Oktoberfest that you can visit year-round. Well, that’s exactly what you can expect from Heidi’s Bier Bar on Mill Lane.
A visit to Heidi’s is likely to include extremely large beers, dancing on tables, and staff dressed the part so you’ll feel just like you’re in the middle of Bavaria.
18. Aim for a Hole-in-One at Treetop Adventure Golf
If you want to get a little competitive, Treetop Adventure Golf is the crazy mini-golf course you need. It’s suitable for all the family or makes a great trip with friends. Plus, there’s an onsite bar and restaurant too.
There are two courses to choose from, the Ancient Explorer course that’s like stepping back into an ancient cloud village the Tropical Trail with a jungle theme. Both courses are 18-holes. It is possible to do both courses but it can get a little exhausting so I recommend just choosing one at a time.
Closing times vary throughout the week any time between 7pm and 11pm so check their website for details.
Is Cardiff Safe At Night?
Yes, Cardiff is a safe place to have a night out because every venue has bouncers on the doors and the large crowds at night mean there is always someone nearby if anything were ever to go wrong. Cardiff also has the Purple Flag Accreditation, which is third-party verification of safety3 (source: ATCM).
It is also one of the most welcoming cities for big groups making it a favourite for hen and stag do’s, as well as big celebrations.
Does Cardiff Have Good Nightlife?
Yes, Cardiff has a really high-spirited, energetic feel to it in the evening, helped by the fact that the Welsh are some of the nicest and friendliest people you could ever meet.
The city has something for everyone from classy bars like the Libertine Cocktail Bar which claims to have the most Instagrammable toilets in Wales, to POP world, a club that plays all the cheesy tunes of the past. There is so much to do outside of pubs and clubs at night as well like taking part in trivia night at the Cardiff Barfly.
It’s a city like no other where there is an abundance of nightlife and endless things to do.
What Is The Best Area Of Cardiff To Go Out?
St Mary’s Street in the city centre is the most popular choice for people going out in Cardiff because it has lots of unique experiences, bars, clubs, restaurants and a plethora of fast-food venues for those late-night food cravings. It is very high energy so if that’s what you’re looking for this area is a must!
For a more chilled evening, Cardiff Bay is a popular choice with a calmer and more sophisticated atmosphere. It still has many restaurants, bars and pubs but without some of the rowdiness that you might get in the city centre. You also get the benefit of the pretty views of the lights reflecting in the water of the bay.
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.