What to see and do in Cardiff, Wales

Cardiff, Wales

One year and a half ago we published our basic guide to living in Cardiff. Now we will delve into the city’s main attractions, such as monuments, museums and major events: it’s a tourist guide for knowing more about what you can see in the city and what this fantastic corner of Wales has to offer.

1. Points of interest

Coch Castle, in Cardiff

  1. Castell Coch. It is a castle located in Tongwynlais. Its origins date back to the thirteenth century, when it was founded by Ifor Bach. However, the actual construction, in neo-Gothic style, was carried out in the nineteenth century, with the collaboration of architect William Burgess. The castle has round towers, arrow slits, a portcullis and a drawbridge. It is open to visitors all year round and admission is £ 4.
  2. Llandaff Cathedral. It is one of the most prestigious cathedrals in Wales. It has a gothic architectural style, was built in the thirteenth century and has a lot of history behind it. Inside the cathedral is the Christ by the famous American sculptor Jacob Epstein. The sculpture is suspended above the main nave. The building is also the source of many ghost stories, to the point where there is a “Ghost tour” so you can visit those places that are said to be haunted.
  3. St John the Baptist Church. The building is from the twelfth century. However, it has been restored throughout its history. The most striking of the church is the forty-metre tower, which is visible from any part the city.
  4. Norwegian Church. It is a lovely white wooden church built in 1868, the first of its kind built outside Norway. It was restored with the help of the children of writer Roald Dahl, who was baptized here. Later, it was transformed into a cafe and an exhibition center.
  5. Pierhead Building. This is an emblematic work in the region’s recent history. The building is located in the old port of Cardiff Bay, and previously was a place where coal was sent from. Its facade is decorated with statues of dragons and heraldic symbols. Today, the building houses the National Assembly of Justice for Wales and a small museum with historical artifacts and modern art exhibitions.
  6. St Fagans Castle. This mansion is situated just outside Cardiff (west), and was built in 1580. Later, it was restored and reformed to be a Welsh mansion with a late Victorian style. It has stunning gardens populated by mulberry trees and ponds full of carp. In the surrounding area, there is an extensive collection of Welsh historic buildings, such as a corral from the nineteenth century, a tannery and Victorian schoolroom. All of them have been taken to the place stone by stone from different corners of Wales.
  7. Cardiff Castle: This is probably the city’s main tourist attraction. The castle dates from the eleventh century and was built over an ancient Roman castle. The building has towers, interpretation center, exhibition halls and several rooms. Today, the castle is a mixture of various architectural styles, and its most prominent feature is the Norman tower, from which you can enjoy stunning views of the city.
  8. Millennium Stadium. It was opened in 1999 and can accommodate 74,500 people. It is located in the centre of Cardiff. This is the stadium where the national team plays rugby, Wales’s main sport. It also hosts concerts and some other events.
  9. Cardiff Bay. One of Cardiff’s main attractions, it’s just 10 minutes from downtown. Here you can find shops, bars, restaurants, boat tours, hotels and many activities. It is a leisure complex which aims to make sure visitors have fun and feel comfortable. If you are in the area, you can visit the Cardiff Bay Visitor Center, also called the Tube. It is a futuristic giant telescope, designed by William Alsop, through which you can see an amazing view of the bay. It is also a centre for meetings, conferences and tourist information.
  10. Welsh National Opera. Located in the Walles Millennium Centre, the building houses some of the most important cultural institutions in the area.

2. Museums

A museum in Cardiff

  1. St Fagans National History Museum. It is located in the same area as St. Fagans Castle and tells the history of the people of Wales: how they lived, how they worked and how they spent their free time. The museum has galleries and craft workshops with samples of traditional costumes from Wales.
  2. National Museum Cardiff. The building is located in Cathays Park and its collections are divided into three main sections: natural history, featuring the natural environment and ecosystems of Wales; archeology, which gives an overview of daily life from prehistoric times to the Norman period; and painting, which exhibits works by Welsh painters and paintings of great Impressionists like Monet, Manet and Renoir.
  3. Doctor Who Experience. It isn’t a museum, but it is a fun facility built in the Cardiff Bay Harbour by BBC studios. The theme of the attraction is the British science fiction series Doctor Who, and it offers a unique journey of more than 50 years of adventures in space-time; perfect for fans of the series and for those who want to have a good time.
  4. Techniquest. Located in Stuart Street, it is the largest museum of science and technology in the UK. The building is constructed of glass and steel and has a large interactive exhibition for teaching scientific principles through playful experiments.

3. Weekend planning

Cardiff Bay

This tourist brochure will help you discover more about the city. To organize your own route, you can take a look at this map of downtown. We suggest you organize your weekend in the following way:

  • Saturday: Walk all morning past some of the main tourist points of the city that we noted above. You can take a break and eat in one of the amazing parks, and then go out to the in the evening.
  • Sunday: You can use the morning to do an outdoor activity and go to some of the museums that we mentioned earlier in the afternoon. At night you can take an evening walk around the bay and dine at one of its restaurants.

4. Transport

  • By plane: The city of Cardiff has an airport that is a destination for major airlines. If there is no connection to your city, you can always catch a flight to Bristol, and from there take a bus or a train to Cardiff.
  • By car: The most important motorway is the M4, which connects the city with London, Reading, Swindon, Bath, Bristol and Swansea.
  • By train or bus: The station connects the city with the most important parts of the UK.
  • Once in Cardiff, you can move around by bus or, as the city isn’t very big, you can rent a bike.

You can download the tourist map of Cardiff in PDF from this link.

5. Festivals

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  1. Independent Film Festival. It is held in late April and is the perfect showcase for independent filmmakers.
  2. International Festival of Musical Theatre. It is usually held in October / November in several of the city’s halls.
  3. Pride Parade (Mardi Gras). It takes place in September and is the largest festival of its kind in the country.
  4. Carnival Cardiff. It’s in early August, and is the largest carnival in Wales. During it, the streets of Cardiff are filled with colour, music and entertainment.
  5. X Music Festival. It is held in early June in Bute Park and hosts about 100 electronic music, grime and garage concerts.
  6. Cardiff International Food and Drink Festival. It takes place in early July. You can taste many traditional dishes from Wales, as well as national and international dishes, there.
  7. St David’s Day. It is celebrated on March 1. David is considered to be the patron saint of Wales, and during the day many locals create events specifically to celebrate it. Many people walk the streets of the city in traditional Welsh costumes.
  8. Winter Wonderland. It is a fair at the end of December which is situated in the town hall square. There’s an ice skating rink and every day there is a huge Christmas market with lots of stands. Typically, the program includes concerts, children’s shows, competitions and tasting the main traditional dishes.

You can find more information about events and festivals held throughout the year in Cardiff here.

6. Best time to visit Cardiff

The best time of year to visit is between May and October, months when the weather is relatively nice and you can do outdoor activities and walk through the beautiful nature in Wales. You can also attend many of the festivals and events that take place during the spring and summer.

We’ll leave you with a promotional video of Cardiff, to encourage you to visit the city:

Have you already gone to the city? Tell us what you thought about what you saw in a comment!

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