Top 10 Places To Visit In Cardiff
1. Chester Castle
Cardiff Castle, built atop a nearly 2,000-year-old Roman fortification, is one of Wales’ most visited tourist attractions. It’s also one of the country’s most romantic—and best-preserved—historic castles, with some of the oldest sections dating back to the 10th century.
The State Apartments are one of the most notable features that make it such an appealing place to visit. Each room is jam-packed with fascinating displays and useful information about the people who once lived and worked here, as well as significant events in the castle’s history. Other notable features include the picturesque chapel, the clock tower, and the elegant Banqueting Hall, which is known for its rich artwork.
2. The City’s Victorian Arcades
Following a visit to its magnificent castle, make your way to Cardiff’s well-preserved and still bustling Victorian shopping arcades. These fascinating, old-covered pedestrian thoroughfares that cut through the city center were built to allow residents and visitors to enjoy shopping indoors without having to worry about the weather or the poor condition of roads and sidewalks.
The Royal Arcade, which opened in 1858, is a good place to begin your exploration of the more than 2,600 feet of arcades. Many of the original shopfronts still exist today, though the wares sold have evolved over the decades—nowadays, you’ll be faced with an endless selection of Welsh crafts and woolen goods. If your Cardiff vacation itinerary allows, visit one or two more arcades. Favorites include the High Street Arcade, which opened in 1886 and is well-known for its clothing shopping, and the Castle Arcade, which opened a year later and connects the downtown area to the castle and is worth visiting for its art galleries, boutiques, and eateries. Cardiff Market is another notable shopping destination that has been serving fresh produce from local growers since the 1890s.
3. Cardiff Bay
Cardiff Bay is so large that it could easily take the better part of a day to explore properly – it occupies approximately 2,700 acres of waterfront land – but it is well worth the investment of time and energy. The Cardiff Bay redevelopment, one of the largest in Europe, covers almost the entire former dockyards and is home to a plethora of fun things to do, especially if you’re traveling with children.
Visits to attractions such as Techniquest, an interactive, kid-friendly science center, are highlights for families. Parents can also entertain their children with educational displays in the facility’s first-rate planetarium, in addition to plenty of hands-on fun and learning experiences. The old warehouses and wharves are now home to everything from luxury homes and hotels to some of Cardiff’s best dining experiences. In addition to its theatres, the Wales Millennium Centre performance arts facility (see below for more on this top Cardiff attraction), numerous art studios and galleries, and excellent shopping can all be found here.
4. Wales Millennium Centre
Those interested in arts and culture should try to catch a show at the ultramodern Wales Millennium Centre. This sprawling five-acre venue has been dubbed one of the world’s top-performing arts centers, with performances ranging from classical music and opera to ballet and modern dance, as well as literary events and musical shows. This is the place to go if you’re looking for things to do at night in Cardiff.
5. National Museum Cardiff
Those interested in learning more about Wales’ rich history should pay a visit to the National Museum Cardiff. This large and fascinating museum, housed in the city’s architecturally pleasing Civic Center building, features numerous displays depicting the country’s history all the way back to the time of dinosaurs. Among its archaeology collections, the many fascinating displays of Bronze Age weaponry stand out.
The large art gallery will appeal to art enthusiasts. Among its extensive collection of important paintings are works by Impressionists such as Monet and Picasso.
Even if you are unable to attend a show or performance, be sure to visit to explore the grounds and other fun things to do in Cardiff Bay.
6. Rugby at Principality Stadium
If you enjoy sports, try to catch a game at the nearby Principality Stadium at Cardiff Arms Park. If that’s not possible – the Welsh take their rugby seriously, so matches often sell out (especially international matches) – take a tour of this cutting-edge facility.
Behind-the-scenes peeks into the national rugby team’s change rooms and tunnels leading to the pitch, as well as VIP and press facilities, are highlights of an informative organized tour. When not hosting rugby matches, the venue is frequently used by major music artists who are in Cardiff on tour.
7. Roath Park
One of the most popular outdoor activities in Cardiff is to put on your walking shoes or runners and walk through one of the city’s many beautiful parks. Roath Park, a favorite among residents and visitors alike, was established in 1894 as one of the city’s first public parks and has retained its distinct Victorian feel to this day.
It’s also a big place, so plan on spending a few hours exploring this 130-acre scenic green space. The lovely Nant Fawr stream, which was dammed during the park’s construction to form a lovely 30-acre lake, is one of the park’s highlights. If you enjoy gardens, visit the park’s botanic garden, which is well-known for its collection of shrubs, trees, and flower displays. There’s even a kid-friendly adventure playground. Tennis, basketball, and lawn bowls are among the sports available.
8. Llandaff Cathedral
The attractive Llandaff Cathedral, perhaps the best-known of Cardiff’s many pretty churches – and certainly one worth visiting – was built in the 1300s on the ruins of the original structure built some 200 years earlier. It’s a joy to explore, rewarding the adventurous traveler with a pleasant look at a landmark that has drawn worshippers from all over the country since the cathedral’s founding by Bishop Urban.
The exterior highlights include the impressive 15th-century tower, while a self-guided or arranged tour of the interior will expose you to features such as an exquisite and fully-restored 18th-century Italian Temple, notable for its rare religious sculptures and artifacts.
9. St. Fagan’s National Museum of History
If the National Museum of Wales didn’t satisfy your thirst for knowledge, head west of the city center to St. Fagans National Museum of History. This fascinating open-air attraction is a living museum, with costumed characters demonstrating traditional skills and crafts that shaped the country.
Highlights include the opportunity to explore a variety of original and reproduction buildings, such as quaint farmhouses and cottages, well-kept gardens, and workshops and mills where old machinery can be demonstrated. If possible, visit in the spring, summer, and at Christmas, as each season is marked by a number of special events and festivals.
10. Caerphilly Castle
Although equally as beautiful as its counterpart in Cardiff, Caerphilly Castle – a short 15-minute drive north of the city – is a much newer structure. It was built in 1628 and has been the largest castle in the country ever since. It was part of the English network of castles built to maintain control over the coveted Welsh countryside. Given its size and the scale of its defenses and battlements, it’s a lot of fun to explore, and seeing it all can easily take the better part of a day. None of the castle’s many notable features impresses as much as the two massive drawbridges, which, when down, present an imposing portrait of the castle’s intimidating purpose—to keep the enemy out. An exploration of the interior provides a close-up look at a variety of displays of old weaponry and armor—much of it used in battle—as well as interesting displays relating to everyday life for those who ruled and those they ruled over.