10 Things to See and Do in Cardiff

By: Tammy Landry

Cardiff, the largest and capital city of Wales, is the chief commercial center of the country. It is the most popular tourist destination in Wales and in 2011, Cardiff was ranked sixth in the world as an alternative tourist destination by National Geographic. It was named a city in 1905 and declared the capital of Wales in 1955. There are several sporting venues in Cardiff and the city was awarded the European City of Sport in 2009 because of its role in hosting major international sporting events and was awarded it again in 2014. Cardiff is divided into several communities with several of them having their own community council while the rest fall under the jurisdiction of Cardiff City Council. There are many popular destinations in Cardiff as well as other hidden treasures you’ll want to check out while there.

10. Cardiff Bay


Created by the Cardiff Barrage, Cardiff Bay is located in south Cardiff and is one of the most successful regeneration projects in the United Kingdom. It is supplied by two rivers forming a 500-acre (2.0 km 2) freshwater lake. It used to be tidal with access to the sea being limited to a couple of hours each side of high water, but now three locks offer 24 hour access. The mudflats at the mouths of the River Taff and River Ely were inundated with loss of habitat for wading birds, but The Barrage provided several new habitats for freshwater species with the wetlands to the south of Hamadryad Park. There are some interesting and beautiful buildings located in the area, like St. David’s Hotel, The Pierhead Building, The Senedd, Wales Millennium Centre, Norwegian Church, Craft in the Bay, Techniquest, Roald Dahl Plass, Mermaid Quay and The Tube visitor’s centre. The water-based attractions include Cardiff Bay Wetland Reserve, Cardiff Waterbus, Cardiff Bay Barrage, Lightship 2000, Queen Alexandra Dock, Cardiff International Pool, Cardiff International White Water, Cardiff Sailing Centre, Cardiff Yacht Club and Cardiff City Rowing Club. There is lots to see and do here while enjoying the pristine waters all around you.

Cardiff Bay

9. St. Fagans National History Museum

St. Fagans National History Museum, named after the village it is located in, is an open-air museum in Cardiff recalling the historical lifestyle, culture, and architecture of Welsh people. It is part of the National Museum of Wales. It consists of more than 40 buildings from a variety of locations in Wales and sits on the grounds of St. Fagans Castle, an Elizabethan manor house. The buildings include a nonconformist chapel, a village schoolhouse, a Toll road toll booth, a cockpit and a tannery. Some of the items on display there include traditional crafts with a working blacksmith forge, a pottery, a weaver, miller, clog maker, two working water mills, one flour mill and one wool mill. There is also a small working farm on the site which focuses on preservation of Welsh native breeds of livestock. You can even purchase produce from the bakery and flour mill there. What a great way to step back in time and experience how people lived and worked many years ago.

8. Castell Coch

Castell Coch (Welsh for Red Castle), is a Gothic Revival castle built in the 19th century above the village of Tongwynlais in South Wales. The original castle was left in ruins and in 1848, John Crichton-Stuart, the 3rd Marquess of Bute, inherited the castle. He hired a contractor to rebuild the castle “as a country residence for occasional occupation in the summer” using the ancient remains as a basis for the design. The castle was rarely used and in 1950, his grandson placed it into the care of the state. It is now controlled by Cadw, the Welsh heritage agency. The castle occupies a woodland area on the slopes above the village of Tongwynlais and the River Taff. The historian Charles Kightly, referred to the castle’s architecture as “the crowning glory of the Gothic Revival”. The outside of the building consists of three circular towers – the Keep, the Kitchen Tower and the Well Tower. Inside, you’ll find a magnificent banquet hall, an octagonal drawing room occupying two floors, the Lord’s and Lady’s Bedrooms and many other rooms you’ll want to explore. It is a work of art.

Castell Coch

7. Doctor Who Experience

The Doctor Who Experience is an attraction housed close to BBC Studios in a special facility offering a unique and sometimes frightening journey into the fifty years of adventure in space and time with this popular Sci-fi show. There are two distinct “experiences” offered – The Interactive Experience and The Exhibition Hall. During specific times of the year, admission can also include a Walking Tour or The TARDIS Tour. With the Interactive Experience, visitors get to go on a real live adventure with the doctor. The adventure begins at the Gallifrey Museum to the heart of TARDIS and will have to save the universe from the threat at hand. Once you survive that adventure, you can journey straight through to The Exhibition Hall. While you recover from your adventure, you can see and experience the world’s most extensive collection of props and artifacts from Doctor Who. You will get to see costumes that were used back in 1963 up to present day. Whether or not you are a fan of the show, it offers a fun and interesting adventure.

6. Boulders Indoor Climbing Centre

Boulders Indoor Climbing Centre is located just outside of Cardiff city center on M4. The facility can accommodate people of all ages who would like to climb, starting at under seven to adult. Whether you are an accomplished climber or a newbie, Boulders has something to offer. Private climbing lessons are offered to newcomers giving them an intensive 80 minute lesson until they are ready to have a go at it. If you have young children and would rather not have them climb a rock wall, the center has an area called Soft Play in Pebbles. The area allows younger children (usually under seven years old) the chance to climb in a safe area with plenty of cargo nets and large holes big enough for them to crawl through. They also host birthday parties in the Soft Play area where children can play for 90 minutes and then enjoy a nice meal in the party room. Overall, it’s a fantastic family fun center offering great physical exercise in a safe environment.

5. Cardiff International White Water

Cardiff International White Water is an Olympic-standard white water rafting center at Cardiff International Sports Village in Cardiff Bay. Opened in March of 2010, the center is the first on-demand white water center in the U.K. It offers on-demand whitewater rafting, canoeing and a flat-water pond for warm-up and training purposes. They also offer off-site surfing and gorge walking. Designed for international and Olympic use, the International Canoe Federation’s World Cup of 2012 was held there. The course consisted of 23 gates for the final race arranged with seven upstream, six downstream with eddies, a set of three flush gates forming a zig-zag and 13 through 15 gates having all of their poles arranged in a straight line evenly spaced for the racers to slalom through. The 250-meter hairpin shaped course, holds about 10 cubic meters of water per second when used for recreational use, but can hold up to 16 cubic meters per second when used for international competition. If you would like a little adventure but have never had the chance to whitewater raft before, this place is where you want to go, their lessons can prepare you for the fun.

4. Chapter Arts Centre

Opened in 1971, Chapter Arts Centre, often referred to as Chapter, is a multi-art form arts center located in Cardiff which hosts films, plays, performances art and live music. It also includes a free art gallery, cafe and bars with over 60 workplaces for a variety of purposes including training courses. The films shown here include mainstream Hollywood productions as well as an array of foreign and independent films on a regular basis. The center consists of gallery spaces, two film theaters, two theaters, two bars, a cafe, shops, and several spaces for hire and ongoing art production, resident artists and more. The variety of films and art offered at the center is incredible. You can visit here several times a year and never tire of it because is has such eclectic offerings. You can see films like Carry On Screaming!, Rosewater, Timbuktu, Far From The Madding Crowd and more. The art exhibits include Richard Woods: Inclosure Acts, and Bad Bricks currently. Performances like The Ted Bundy Project and Miramar can be attended now as well. Be sure to check out what is currently going on at the center when you plan your travels. It offers something for every taste.

3. Llandaff Cathedral

An Anglican Cathedral in Cardiff, the Llandaff Cathedral is the seat of the Bishop of Llandaff, who is the head of the Church in Wales Diocese of Llandaff. The building, built in the 12th century was dedicated to Saint Peter, Saint Paul, and three Welsh saints: Dubricius, Teilo, and Oudoceus. The Cathedral also serves as a parish church with the Dean being the Vicar of the Parish of Llandaff. The church is located close to the bank of the River Taff and much of the area is now a conservation area. Despite being surrounded by the city of Cardiff, the area is very tranquil and unspoiled. The building is breathtakingly beautiful inside and out with its magnificent architecture. The stained glass windows are a vision and the general atmosphere is tranquil. You can spend a lot of time just taking in the beautiful decor and relaxing atmosphere. Lose yourself in the peace all around you.

2. Wales Millennium Centre

Wales Millennium Centre is an arts center located in Cardiff covering a total area of 4.7 acres (1.9 ha) and has hosted performances of opera, ballet, dance, comedy and musicals. The center consists of one large theater and two smaller halls with shops, bars and restaurants. It is home to the national orchestra and opera, dance, theater, and literature companies totaling eight art organizations in residence, as well as the Cardiff Bay Visitor Centre. The Donald Gordon Theatre, which is the main theater, seats 1,897, while the BBC Hoddinott Hall can accommodate 350 and the Weston Studio Theatre seats 250. You can take a guided backstage tour, eat and drink at “ffresh”, Bar One, Crema Coffee Shop, Hufen ice cream parlour and the theater bars. If you’d like to take in a free show, you can go to the Glanfa Stage. They have full listings at “What’s On” of upcoming events, free talks and other activities. The free art exhibitions are incredible to see and you can visit the gift shop for a souvenir before leaving. Milipwt’s Den is a free and fun place for your children to explore as well. A great place for the entire family.

1. Cardiff Castle

Touted as one of the leading heritage attractions in Wales, Cardiff Castle is located in the parklands at the heart of the city and is considered a site of international significance with its 2000 year history. Roman Fort established around the end of the 50s AD and The Norman Keep are located at Cardiff. The Norman Keep was built reusing the same site of the Roman Fort. The Bute family was responsible for turning Cardiff into the world’s greatest coal exporting port. You can take a house tour of the castle through the exquisitely decorated rooms such as the Winter Smoking Room, The Nursery, Lord Bute’s Bedroom and The Roof Top Garden. Visiting the Castle Apartments is an opportunity to see the rich fairy tale apartments decorated with ornate murals, gilding and elaborate wood carvings, stained glass and marble created by art-architect, William Burges for the 3rd Marquess of Bute. Also found within the castle walls are tunnels which were used as air-raid shelters during the Second World War. You’ll want to visit the Firing Line: Cardiff Castle Museum of the Welsh Soldier commemorating 300 years of history including the Battle of Waterloo 1815. It offers an incredible story of the history of Cardiff.

Cardiff Castle