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Newport in South Wales has been a port since the Middle Ages. When its port became the focal point of coal exports from the eastern South Wales Valleys in the nineteenth century, it flourished. Newport was only awarded city status in 20021 (source: South Wales Argus) and is now the third largest of the seven cities in Wales.
Having lived close to the city all my life, I’ve witnessed the city grow and develop. Today, you can find a vast array of things to see and do here, as well as places to shop, eat and play in this relatively new city!
For more places to visit nearby, see our full article on the best things to do in South Wales.
1. Get Transported Back in Time at Tredegar House and Gardens
Tredegar House was home to the Morgan family who were known for extravagance. They were influential in Newport, claiming lineage from the Welsh princes and playing a significant role in social, political, and economic affairs in the Newport area.
Inside the house, explore the families’ furnished rooms from the seventeenth century, including the Gilt Room where they danced and entertained guests, and the parlour where you can take turns playing games, creating shadow puppet stories, or dressing up as one of the Morgan’s.
Tredegar House’s parkland comprises more than 90 acres and is a surviving piece of a once great estate. There are activities for all the family including play areas, mini-golf, and beautiful country walks.
The parks are a haven for wildlife and dogs will love a visit here although they are not permitted inside the house. Entrance to the park and gardens is free but payment is required for parking and entry to the house.
2. Spot Local Birds at the RSPB Newport Wetlands
Newport Wetlands National Nature Reserve is located between the Severn Estuary and the River Usk where you’ll find habitats such as wetlands, reedbeds, and estuaries.
Birds to spot include the Bearded tit, Dunlin, Little Egret, Little Grebe, and Shoveler. Other animals such as weasels, stoats and grass snakes may be seen as well as insects like butterflies, moths, and rare bees.
On the reserve’s border, there is one dedicated dog walking track marked by pawprint signs. A map can be obtained from the visitor centre, which also has tethering rings and a dog drinking bowl.
Other facilities include a visitor centre, toilets (including accessible toilets), café, picnic area, binocular hire, a shop and guided walks are available to book. Parking is not free unless you are a RPPB member, but entry is free.
3. Enjoy a Performance at the Riverfront Theatre and Arts Centre
In Newport City Centre alongside the River Usk, you can see professional live performances, film screenings, and attend classes and workshops, such as art and craft, music, and movement workshops. It boasts two theatrical spaces, a visual art gallery, a dance studio, a recording studio, workshop rooms, a licenced cafe, and a conference room.
4. Discover Local History at Newport Museum and Art Gallery
Newport Museum and Art Gallery is a small museum depicting the narrative of Newport from prehistoric times to the twentieth century and possess over 7,300 works of art. The art collections illustrate the changing agricultural and industrial environment of South Wales.
Entry to the museum and art gallery is free but booking is required. Dogs are not permitted.
5. Tour the Award-Winning Spirit of Wales Distillery
The Spirit of Wales distillery in Newport produces a range of award-winning Welsh gins, vodkas, and rums. On a visit to the distillery, you can see for yourself exactly how they are made and meet the team behind them
Of course, no visit to a distillery is complete without a tasting. After the 1-hour tour, you can visit their speakeasy-style bar and put your tastebuds to work with 3 free samples included in the basic package.
If you fancy trying your hand at making some top-quality spirits yourself, then sign up for their spirit-making experience where you’ll spend 3 hours concocting your very own rum or gin to take home. Find out more about their different packages here.
6. Witness 14th Century Architecture at Acton Burnell Castle
Newport’s Acton Burnell Castle is the last remnants of a large fortification on the water’s edge. Though it has been fully absorbed by the modern city, you may still get a feel of the scale of Newport Castle by looking across the River Usk from the bridge.
The fortress’s centre tower, with its water dock, can be seen from here, flanked by two more towers that mark the fortress’s north and south ends. The curtain wall of the castle was once ringed by a huge moat that was filled with water during high tide was a crucial benefit of its riverside location. It was built in the 14th century to replace a previous motte-and-bailey castle on Stow Hill near the cathedral2 (source: CADW).
The castle is in Newport city centre but can only be viewed from outside. It is free and dogs are permitted on leads. There is no designated car park but many car parks nearby.
7. See the Remains of Caerwent, a Former Roman Market Town
The remains of Caerwent, known to the Romans as Venta Silurum, can be found in a peaceful location in off-the-beaten-path rural border area.
Founded around AD 75–80 as a hamlet for the Silures, a local tribe who became Romanized after Britain was conquered, left behind the remains of a bustling town, equipped with public baths laid out in a traditional Roman grid3 (source: CADW).
Walls were as high as 17ft or 5m and excavated homes, a marketplace, and a Romano-British temple are among the impressive relics. The site can be accessed free of charge and dogs are permitted.
8. Escape to Nature at Cwmcarn Forest
Just outside of Newport, about 20 minutes away by car, is Cwmcarn Forest. The forest has grown over a former mine, transforming it from an industrial area into a hotspot for nature and panoramic views.
I personally enjoy taking advantage of the mountain biking and walking routes from the visitor centre (there’s even a cycle repair shop). However, the most popular way to experience the forest is along the Cwmcarn Forest Drive, a 7 mile road that meanders through the forest with viewpoints, picnic areas, and children’s play areas.
Without stopping, the drive would take around 30 minutes, however, you can easily turn this into a full day activity for the family. Check out the forest drive leaflet for more information.
9. Make Your Way Across the River Usk Using the Newport Transporter Bridge
Newport Transporter Bridge is a grade I listed structure and is one of just a few transporter bridges now in use around the world and one of only two active transporter bridges in the UK4 (source: Wikipedia).
But Eve, what on Earth is a transporter bridge I hear you ask. Well, it allows you to cross a river like a ferry, but it’s suspended from a railway track high up in the air. They were mostly built in Edwardian times instead of a bridge when there was still a need for large ships to pass underneath. This animation explains it much better than I can.
The bridge is regarded as an ‘iconic emblem’ of Newport, notably as a reminder of the city’s industrial past. For a fee, tourists can climb the towers, walk across the upper deck, or travel across in their vehicle.
10. Discover Ancient Artefacts at the National Roman Legion Museum
Wales was the Roman Empire’s farthest outpost so they built a stronghold at Caerleon in 75AD which would protect the region for 200 years. Find out what life was like here by visiting the Roman Legion Museum.
Examine the oldest piece of writing ever discovered in Wales, as well as one of the greatest jewel collections ever discovered elsewhere in the Roman Empire. See the bones of a 2nd or early 3rd century man discovered buried with a little glass scented ointment bottle and a shale cup in the Bathstone Coffin’s.
There are lots of real Roman pottery and other utensils on display in the museum, including an iron cooking pan with a folding handle to fit inside a soldier’s pack. Finish your visit with the sights, sounds, and scents of their Roman Garden.
Entry is free and no booking is required at present. No dogs permitted except guide dogs.
11. Visit the Food Court at Newport Market
Newport Market’s multi-million-pound regeneration scheme has created a classy space to enjoy a diverse food and shopping experience. The market is home to more than 100 permanent independent traders and many pop-up shops that can be found throughout the year.
My favourite part of the market is the food court which has a range of elegant street-food offerings from around the world, from Malaysian to Italian cuisine. A few favourites include Meat & Greek with their Authentic Greek Cypriot Souvlaki (that’s the skewers in the above image to you and me) and Dirty Gnocchi which serves up deep-fried Gnocchi – don’t Gnocchi it until you’ve tried it!
The market is located near the train station in Newport City centre.
12. Burn Serious Calories at Jump Trampoline Park
After a visit to the food court, you’ll want to burn off some calories which is exactly where our next recommended Newport activity comes in – Jump Trampoline Park.
Here you can bounce away that fat whilst having fun on over 50 trampolines as well as having a go at a ninja warrior course, interactive dodge ball, or on at the last man standing wipe out machine or jump tower.
Prices vary dependant on the age of the participant and no dogs are permitted.
Is Newport Worth Visiting?
Yes, Newport is a small city and often overshadowed by nearby Cardiff, but it has a lot to offer and is worth a visit if you enjoy history or the outdoors.
Is There a Beach in Newport?
No, Newport does not have a beach. The nearest one is Splott beach in Cardiff, but this is small and muddy. For a better beach, travel a little further to Barry Island beach.
What is Newport Famous For?
Newport is famous for the last large-scale armed uprising against authority in mainland Britain in 18395 (source: Wikipedia). Newport is also famous for being the largest Welsh coal exporter until Cardiff took over in the mid-1800’s.
Eve Louise Davies is a Welsh writer and children's book author. During her previous career as a primary school teacher, she discovered her passion for history. Eve loves to visit local places of historical interest and share her experiences.