Things to Do in Wales
Surrounded by leafy Bute Park, Cardiff Castle (Castell Caerdydd) boasts a history spanning two millennia. The hodgepodge castle is a jumble of different architectural styles, from the Norman-era keep to the faux-Gothic apartments. It is the former home of the prominent Bute family, who helped transform Cardiff into an influential industrial port.
In many ways the ideal of a medieval castle, the imposing Conwy Castle (Castell Conwy) was built for Edward I in 1289, during his conquest of Wales. Featuring crenelated towers and soaring defensive walls, it stands on the River Conwy, near the rugged splendor of Snowdonia National Park. Today, Conwy Castle holds UNESCO World Heritage Site status.
In Cardiff’s civic center, at the National Museum and Art Gallery, travelers can wander through 15 galleries dedicated to European art dating back 500 years while also learning about Welsh history and culture. Opened in 1927, the National Museum and Art Gallery is home to several Monet, Daumier, and Van Gogh masterpieces, as well as many notable Welsh artworks and historical artefacts.
Sprawling along the Irish Sea coast and centered on Mount Snowdon, Wales’ highest mountain, Snowdonia National Park is a rugged wonderland of rugged hills, medieval castles, and glistening lakelands. With ample opportunities for hiking and outdoor activities, it’s one of the most visited attractions in Wales.
With a mixture of English and French architectural styles, Cardiff City Hall is one of the most recognizable buildings in the city. Set in landscaped grounds, it’s open to the public and often used for wedding receptions and civic events.
Designed by Rod Sheard for the 1999 Rugby World Cup Final, the former-Millennium, now-Principality Stadium in Cardiff is one of the UK’s premium sporting arenas and live music venues. From its picturesque waterside position in the heart of Cardiff’s city center, the Millennium Stadium—which has also hosted the Rolling Stones—is now home to both the Welsh National Rugby and Football teams.
For the quintessential British seaside experience, head to Barry Island(Ynys y Barri) in South Wales. Here you’ll find a sandy beach, traditional fairground rides, arcade games, and cafés serving paper-wrapped fish and chips. There’s plenty for both kids and adults at Barry Island, a popular destination for British vacationers for decades.
Built in the 13th century, Caerphilly Castle (Castell Caerffili) is a lasting reminder of medieval times in modern-day Wales. Located on the edge of Brecon Beacons National Park, overlooking the town of Caerphilly, it draws history buffs and curious visitors from the world over who come to step back in time to understand life in the Middle Ages.
Originally built as a place of worship, the Norwegian Church Arts Centre is now a local art gallery and café, which regularly hosts live music sets from its advantageous spot on the water at Cardiff Bay. Travelers can also enjoy panoramic views of the Bay from the outdoor terrace of this strikingly white Arts Centre, a building quite unlike any other in Cardiff.
Science is made fun and accessible at Techniquest in Cardiff, one of the UK’s best science and discovery centers. Get hands-on with interactive puzzles, more than one hundred exhibits, a science theater, and Planetarium that will captivate children and adults alike, in the scenic surrounds of Cardiff’s recently-redeveloped Cardiff Bay area.
More Things to Do in Wales
Tintern Abbey—immortalized in the title of a Wordsworth poem—was the first building of its kind in Wales, originally founded in the 12th century by Cistercian monks, before being rebuilt in a gothic style a century later. Nowadays, it’s a Grade I-listed and impressively-preserved (albeit roofless) medieval attraction on the banks of the River Wye, within easy day trip distance of Cardiff.
Overlooking the Menai Strait with its imposing polygonal towers, Caernarfon Castle (Carnarvon Castle) has been dominating the landscape in this corner of North Wales for nearly 800 years. Built for King Edward I on the site of a Roman fortress and Norman fort, the site is a popular tourist attraction for visitors interested in learning more about the history of Great Britain.
Originally built for a Welsh prince in the 13th century, Powis Castle is now one of Britain’s finest stately homes. Behind the red sandstone façade, which is surrounded by spectacular Baroque gardens and a deer park, visitors can explore elaborately decorated 17th century dining halls and state rooms, before admiring the collection of Indian artefacts in the Clive Museum.
Originally built in the 11th century, the Grade I listed Pembroke Castle is one of the oldest Norman castles in Wales and the birthplace of King Henry VII. Strategically situated on the rocky banks of the Pembroke River, visitors can enjoy views from the 80ft high Great Keep, gaze into the dungeons below, and explore the underground Wogan’s Cavern.
Manorbier Castle has stood as a symbol of Welsh heritage for almost a millennium, but it’s often overlooked in favor of the country’s more famous fortresses. Today, the birthplace of medieval scholar Gerald of Wales offers historical immersion and coastal sightseeing, boasting views of the Bristol Channel and beyond.
Llandaff is a centuries-old town that lies within the city limits of Cardiff. It’s famous for its cathedral—one of the UK’s oldest Christian sites—under which early Roman burial sites have been discovered. It is said that ghosts and spirits, such as the White Lady, haunt Llandaff and roam the local woods. Beware!
Built by King Edward I in the 13th century, the now-crumbling Rhuddlan Castle is centered on an impressive diamond-shaped stronghold and was one of the first concentric castles constructed in Wales. Now, visitors can explore the foundations of the great hall, chapel, and kitchens, before climbing the castle walls for views over the surroundings.
Enjoy breathtaking views of Snowdonia before descending into below-ground caves, lakes, and hand-carved tunnels on the UK’s steepest cable railway at the Victorian-era Llechwedd Slate Caverns. This family-friendly museum and activity center in the heart of Snowdonia National Park offers visitors an immersive introduction to Welsh mining history via interactive experiences, demonstrations, and more.