11 must-do things to do in Cardiff

Visiter Cardiff

Visiting Cardiff: what are the best things to do and see in the capital of Wales?

Cardiff became the official capital of Wales in 1955. Situated on the wide Severn estuary and crossed by the small rivers Taff and Rhymney, the city has long been an important port. And its role as the country’s cultural and economic center makes it an excellent base from which to explore South Wales. Cardiff offers a wide range of leisure opportunities, numerous well-attended festivals and a variety of sporting facilities, including renowned golf courses. Its arcades and well-preserved Victorian streets are pleasant to explore, and home to excellent stores and restaurants. If you’re heading off to visit Cardiff, here are the must-see things to do:

1. Cardiff Castle

Château de Cardiff, Pays de Galles

Wikimedia – Nigel Mykura

Located in the center of the city, Cardiff Castle stands on a site once occupied by a Roman fort, parts of which (the walls, some 4th-century bastions and the north gate) have been preserved and partially restored. The château is actually a group of three fortresses. A new castle (the Norman castle) was built in 1090, and several richly decorated buildings were added later (the whole complex was rebuilt at great expense between 1865 and 1920). Be sure to climb the main tower (The Norman Keep) for a view of the city, explore the castle’s basements, take a guided tour of the Castle House and its beautiful apartments and banqueting hall, the Clock Tower Tours. An audio guide is included with admission to the castle, which costs £12.

2. Cardiff National Museum

Musée National de Cardiff

Wikimedia – Lewis Clarke

Located in Cardiff’s spectacular Civic Centre (or Cathays Park), the National Museum of Cardiff houses the country’s archaeology, geology, art and natural history collections. The Evolution of Wales exhibition takes visitors on a 4.5-million-year journey, including the many dinosaurs that once roamed the land. Fossil exhibits and Bronze Age weapons are also noteworthy. Another highlight of your visit will be the museum’s superb art gallery, which includes fine collections of paintings, sculptures and ceramics spanning five centuries. Particularly noteworthy is its collection of Impressionist art, where you can admire the work of Picasso, Rodin and Monet. Admission is free.

Cardiff’s National Museum is located right next to the City Hall (on the left in the photo).

3. Cardiff Bay

Baie de Cardiff

geograph.org.uk – Karen Blyth

Widely regarded as one of Britain’s greatest success stories, the superb redevelopment of Cardiff Bay stretches over almost 1100 hectares in the former docklands district and is home to high-end housing, offices, hotels, restaurants, theaters, sports fields and numerous parks. It’s here that you’ll find the Pierhead, a red-brick building constructed in 1897 that now houses documents relating to the history of Wales. Don’t forget Mermaid Quay, with its trendy restaurants, cafés and boutiques.

This is also where you’ll find the Senedd, the architecturally pleasing new building (2006) of the National Assembly for Wales, as well as the magnificent Norwegian Church, now an arts center and concert hall in a former church often visited by Roald Dahl, one of Wales’s most famous writers. In fact, the nearby Roald Dahl Plass hosts numerous concerts in summer. Cardiff Bay is also where you’ll find Techniquest, a science and discovery entertainment center with a planetarium and theater.

4. St Fagans National History Museum

Musée National d'Histoire St Fagans, Cardiff

Wikimedia – Rudi Winter

Set in beautiful parkland 6 km west of Cardiff, this superb open-air museum is one of Wales’ most popular attractions, and boasts a stunning collection of buildings including cottages, farms, workshops (such as a tannery, see photo) and mills. Also on display are beautiful traditional gardens, with period costumes, tools and machinery. All this brings back to life all the living conditions of the past. Special events take place here during the May Fair, Mid-Summer Festival, Harvest Festival and Christmas Festival.

5. Doctor Who Experience

Doctor Who Experience, Cardiff

Credit – grouptravelorganiser.com

One of Cardiff Bay’s newest attractions (and rapidly becoming one of its most popular) is the Doctor Who Experience. Dedicated to the 50-year-old BBC TV series (1963), this fun, interactive exhibition begins with a short film, followed by an invitation to join the Doctor in his TARDIS: his famous time machine « bigger on the inside than on the outside ». The adventure includes his sworn enemy, the Daleks. You can also wander around two floors brimming with paraphernalia from the series, including costumes and accessories.

Afterwards, don’t hesitate to pay a visit to the nearby World of Boats museum, with its unique collection of boats and ships from all over the world.

6. Millennium Stadium

Millenium Stadium Cardiff

Wikimedia – Querido

The Millennium Stadium at Arms Park is one of the country’s most advanced sporting facilities, and a particular favorite of rugby fans. As well as the national team’s soccer and rugby matches, the stadium also hosts concerts, boxing matches, motorcycle races… You can visit the stadium and feel like a Welsh international as kick-off approaches. The Millenium Stadium is unique in that its roof is fully retractable.

7. Llandaff Cathedral

Cathédrale de Llandaff à Cardiff

Wikimedia – Ham

Llandaff Cathedral, founded in the early 12th century on the site of an earlier church, is one of the finest examples of religious architecture in Wales. The main part of the cathedral dates from the 13th century, while the north-west tower was rebuilt in the 15th century. Much of the cathedral later fell into a state of disrepair, but an « Italian Temple » was built within its walls in 1734. Although severely damaged during the last war, it has since been restored and contains many superb features, including a statue of Christ in glory by Jacob Epstein above the nave.

8. Wales Millennium Centre

Wales Millennium Centre, Cardiff

Flickr – gordonplant

Widely regarded as one of the finest performing arts centers in the world, the Wales Millennium Centre has become one of Cardiff’s most important cultural venues and a must-see attraction. Covering an area of almost two hectares, it regularly hosts some of Europe’s most varied and lively shows (opera, ballet, dance, musical productions, comedy and concerts…). Located close to Cardiff Bay, you can visit with a guide or simply admire the impressive structure.

9. Castell Coch

Castell Coch, Cardiff

Wikimedia – HannahHopton

Located in the village of Tongwynlais, 10 kilometers north of Cardiff, Castell Coch, also known as « Red Castle », is an enchanting Gothic castle with several rounded towers. It was built in the second half of the 19th century by the famous architect William Burges, who was also responsible for Salisbury Cathedral and Cardiff Castle. The interior is richly decorated, and there’s never a dull moment. The castle was occupied by the Marchioness of Bute until her death in 1950. The backdrop to the castle is the Fforest Fawr, a beautiful forest renowned for its spring hyacinths.

10. Caerphilly Castle

Château de Caerphilly, Cardiff

geograph.org.uk – David Dixon

Located just 12 km north of Cardiff (5 km east of Castell Coch), Caerphilly Castle was built in 1628 to consolidate England’s hold on the region. The largest castle in Wales, it boasts the most elaborate defense system of any British castle combined. Extended several times, it has two impressive drawbridges, huge ramparts, circular towers and moats. There are also 4 life-size replicas of medieval artillery. The museum inside details its involvement in the wars between the Welsh and English. One of its other distinctive features is the Leaning Tower.

11. Cardiff’s nightlife

Nightlife Cardiff, Vie nocturne Cardiff, où sortir à Cardiff

Credit – awesomecardiff.co.uk

Cardiff’s pubs and clubs can be found on St Mary Street, which is closed to traffic on Friday and Saturday evenings. Mill Lane, otherwise known as the « Coffee Quarter », offers a good choice of eateries and cocktail bars. The Castle Quarter is home to trendy bars and clubs, while gay establishments can be found in Charles Street and on the southern outskirts of the city center. On Wednesday evenings, students head out into the city for lively nights at various Cardiff venues.

How do I get to Cardiff?

The Welsh capital is served by several airlines, but you’ll need to plan a flight with a stopover from most French cities. Compare the best flights on Skyscanner. If you prefer to arrive by train, check timetables and prices from London. During the day, trains leave for Cardiff every 30 minutes from London (Paddington). In the evening, it’s every hour, and if you book in advance, you can get a return ticket for less than €20!

Where to sleep in Cardiff?

Cardiff may be the capital of Wales, but that doesn’t mean the city is gigantic. Depending on the length of your stay here, there are neighborhoods to choose from. To help you, you can read our article on where to stay in Cardiff. To find a cheap hotel in Cardiff, search on this Cardiff hotel comparator.

Map of hotels and accommodation – Cardiff,gb