Disclaimer: As an affiliate I may earn a commission on any qualifying purchase at no extra cost to you – read more.

Cardiff Bay, formerly called Tiger Bay, is a beautiful place with a rich history. Previously a redlight district many decades ago, Cardiff Bay has transformed into a modern, thriving, and trending part of the Welsh capital, Cardiff

Cardiff Bay is home to beautiful places and people. Here are the best things to do and places to visit in Cardiff Bay. 

1. Learn About Welsh Democracy at the Senedd

The Senedd (shown above) and connected buildings are home to the elected Welsh Government which makes the laws that govern Wales as part of it’s devolution settlement. The Senedd is a completely open building that anyone can enter.

Inside, you can explore the public galleries, view a timeline of Wales devolution history, check out the latest exhibition, and enjoy a coffee in the Oriel on the second floor.

Although there are no guided tours available (unless you have a large group), to make the most of your visit, I’d recommend taking one of the self-guided audio tours which will teach you about everything from democracy in Wales to all the sustainable features of the building. You can find the audio tours here.


2. Take a Boat Around the Bay

One of the most fun things to do in Cardiff Bay is exploring the Welsh capital’s coastline. Boat riding is the best way to explore Cardiff’s coastline, and Cardiff Bay is the best place to do so because all the boat trips begin from here. 

There are various boat types at the bay. These include water taxis, which take passengers on leisure trips into the town, and the thrilling rib rides that take passengers into River Severn for higher-speed tours.

Shown above is me and a few friends taking to the water ourselves, of course, we weren’t allowed to drive the boat but it made a nice photo. This is definitely one of my top activities in Cardiff, bring some beers onboard or take a trip at sunset to make it extra special.


3. Eat, Drink, and Relax in Mermaid Quay

Cardiff Bay is always bubbly, no matter the time of day. One of the must-see places in the big city is Mermaid Quay. 

Mermaid Quay is home to many restaurants, bars, and cafes so I can recommend it as a great spot to head out for a drink, an evening meal, or just to have fun and relax in the bubbling hotspot Mermaid Quay.

They have all the typical chain restaurants that you’d expect, but also a few smaller brands that I’d like to highlight including Hubbox which is a cornish restaurant chain who are slowly on their way to world dominance, they make some of the most delicious burgers I’ve ever laid eyes upon (meat and plant-based).

Also, Signor Valentino which is a great independent Italian restaurant with superb view across the Bay and superb food to match.


4. Visit Ianto’s Shrine

Roger Utting/Shutterstock

Cardiff Bay was previously home to The Doctor Who Experience, a site that showcased the best costumes and aliens from the popular BBC sci-fi television series “Doctor Who.” However, the experience closed its doors on 9th September 2017, after its five-year lease ran out. 

Fans of the program can still see and enjoy hints of the show all over the bay. Die-hard fans will enjoy visiting Ianto’s shrine, which honours Ianto James, a popular character in the spinoff, Torchwood. The shrine is near to the filming location for the entrance to the Torchwood Hub which the show centred around.

Ianto’s Shrine houses messages, poems, pictures, and many more tributaries from fans worldwide to their beloved character. It is a place to behold, and one can make new friends who share the same passion for Ianto. 


5. Catch a Free Show at the Millenium Centre’s Glanfa Stage

The Wales Millenium Center is home to the best shows in the country and has hosted several famous plays, including Wicked, Le Mis, Footloose, and Cats. 

Besides these famed shows, the Millenium Centre also hosts Welsh companies like the Hijinx Theatre, National Dance Company of Wales, and the BBC National Orchestra. 

Visitors in Cardiff Bay can make their experience much more enjoyable by stopping over for a free show on the centre’s Glanfa Stage. It will be one to remember for a lifetime. 


6. Have a Laugh at the Glee Club

Glee Club

Glee Club is the perfect venue for laughs in Cardiff Bay. It is home to many tours and big-name comedians, who come there to test new material, as well as those earlier in their journey. The venue has hosted the likes of Peter Kay, Michael Mcintyre, Katherine Ryan, Jo Brand, and Josh Widdecombe, all of whom have gone on to have successful careers in the industry.

So get yourself down to Gleen Club and you might catch the next big comedian before they make it. Plus, it doesn’t cost much to enjoy a good time at just £10.50 per ticket (or £6.50 for students).


7. Explore the Science World at Techniquest

Techniquest

Science enthusiasts of any age should not miss out on a chance to visit Techniquest when they are in Cardiff Bay. The science centre houses over 100 interactive exhibits. These exhibits are overtly appealing and are related to space, chemistry, the environment, world issues, and biomedical science. 


8. Explore Thrilling White Waters

Besides Techniquest, visitors can thrill themselves even further by exploring the Cardiff International White Water, which is home to an Olympic standard water rafting facility. One of the facility’s features is surges of controlled water, making it perfect for kayaking, rafting, paddle-boarding, the indoor wave, and hot-dogging. 

The Cardiff International White Water also features a high ropes course over the white waters. It’s one place that leaves one amazed and filled with loads of memories. 


9. Take the Kids to the Barrage

The Cardiff Bay Barrage, which was opened in 1999, was once one of Europe’s most significant civil engineering projects. Its initial purpose was to reduce the mudflats, which were not pleasing to the eye and were seen as an impediment to the Bay’s growth and development. 

Thus, Barrage, which runs from Penarth to the Bay’s mouth, has been central to Cardiff Bay’s redevelopment since its opening. Besides the beautiful view the area affords visitors, one can also enjoy a breezy stroll around it. 

The Barrage features a flat tarmac pathway ideal for bikes or pushchairs. Kids can also have an enjoyable time at the Barrage as there is a great playground. The playground features pretend shipwrecks buried in the sand. Kids will also fill their curiosity with the multiple locks present in the Barrage. 


10. Walk or Bike the Cardiff Bay 10km Trail

One of the recommended ways of exploring the beautiful views of Cardiff Bay and enjoying the Welsh capital’s fresh air is by taking the bay’s 10km trail. 

Although the trail is accessible at any point, starting and finishing in Mermaid Quay is much more advisable. In addition, there are helpful signs on the pathway that point people in the right direction. 

Although one can walk the trail if they have the time to do so, it is faster and easier to go along it using a bike. OVO bikes are available for hire in Cardiff Bay. After hiring and finishing the trail, one can drop the bike off at any other stand. 

The benefits of walking or biking the Cardiff Bay 10km Trail include:

  • It takes one to most of the below places to explore in Cardiff
  • It is an ideal way to see most of the city
  • It is good for exercising the body

11. Learn about Cardiff Bay’s Nature at the Wetlands Reserve

Joe Dunckley/Shutterstock

The Cardiff Bay Wetland Reserve is just a short walk from Mermaid Quay. The Reserve doesn’t cover a large area but offers visitors a great view, thanks to the platform overlooking the water. Besides the incredible views, visitors can also learn about nature in Cardiff Bay because the Reserve is a biodiversity hot-spot. 

Thus Cardiff Bay Wetlands Reserve represents a great place to explore in Cardiff. It takes one away from the city’s hustle and bustle and is a lovely place to take the kids. Besides running around, they can learn many fascinating things about life and nature.  


12. Take a Self-Guided Audio Tour of the Bay

Although there are no official guided tours in the Bay area, you can download the Voicemap app and access some self-guided audio tours around Cardiff for a very reasonable price.

One tour that’s particularly good is the ‘What a difference a Bay makes‘ tour from local tour guide Stephen Griffin who is a blue badge tour guide (the best in Wales).

The tour is lead by a GPS map on your phone and you’ll visit the best sights in Cardiff Bay including the Coal Exchange (where the first £1million deal was made), the Senedd, and the waterfront 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.