If culture, spirit and survival make your heart sing, you'll love Cardiff. Welcome to the capital of Wales and the youngest capital city in Europe. As a local, let me share with you the best and the most fun things to do in Cardiff.
Fun Things To Do in Cardiff
Finding Secret Things to do in Cardiff
Let me let you in on a few secrets and tell you about some of my favourite things to do in Cardiff. But first, let's quickly run through the classics, before we move on to the inside info. And they are...
- Cardiff Castle - crumbling walls, Obama visited, stately rooms, war bunkers and Sir Anthony Hopkins trained here.
- The National Museum of Wales - Monet and dinosaurs. In brief.
- Cardiff Bay - renovated dockyards now full of art, cafes and outdoor spaces
- The Arcades - characterful Victorian shopping lanes with a quirky mix of boutiques and boho vibes.
- The Millennium Stadium (now officially Principality Stadium.) It lives right by the train station and offers great tours, as well as hosting concerts and, oh yes. Major rugby internationals.
1. Cycle from castle to castle
Cardiff is a cyclist's paradise, with pathways running through forested riverbanks, past rugby fields and into the stone reaches of castles themselves. Pick up a cycle map and head out from Bute Park all the way along to Castell Coch.
2. Taste the flavours of Wales (new and old)
Chalk up a taste of the Welsh classics like cawl (a meat and vegetable broth,) cockles, laverbread (seaweed) and lamb and then look for something more unusual.
And for standard British staples? I can't fault The Empire and the Albany Fish Bar, both found on Albany Road. Park House is the splash out restaurant near the city centre and the best sushi lives at Tenkaichi on City Road.
For a see-it-to-believe-it experience, head to Chip Alley late on a Friday or Saturday night and ask for chips with curry sauce. A gourmet experience this is not but it is definitely part of the "real" Cardiff. You have been warned.
3. Get Crafty in Cardiff
One of the best things about Cardiff is the overall creative vibe. Fancy having a go at making ceramics? Sewing? Knitting? Singing? There's a club for you. Interested in design? Plenty of handmade events and boutiques.
My favourties: Made in Roath in Roath, Home by Kirsty in the Arcades and Oriel Makers off Wellfield Road. Plus, there's the Larger Craft in the Bay down by the waterfront. LOADS of fun things to do in Cardiff.
4. Find Arty Things to Do in Cardiff
Wales is keen on its rugby and keener on its arts. Sir Anthony Hopkins trained in Cardiff (in the castle, no less) and Christian Bale, Charlotte Church, Richard Burton, Tom Jones and even Shirley Bassey hail from this neck of the woods.
On a smaller scale, try Chapter and The Gate or photography exhibitions, cinema screenings and live performances. Author Roald Dahl of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory was baptised at the Norwegian Church, which now lives on as an Arts Centre and Cafe. Catch the big guns at the Armadillo, Millennium Stadium, Cardiff Arena, New Theatre and the Sherman. Watch surprisingly good student productions at the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama.
5. Unusually Green Things to Do in Cardiff
The Brecon Beacons and Gower Peninsula dazzle as nearby outdoor playgrounds but even within the city, you'll find green spaces aplenty. Watch the daffodils flutter across Roath Park in spring and share rosebud scents in summer. Take a boat onto the lake, feed the swans by the Clocktower or terrapins in Cardiff's answer to the Eden Project. Just, ahem, be warned that it's somewhat smaller than the one down in Cornwall...
6. Unusually Scenic Things to Do in Cardiff
With the caveat, that you have to search for your beauty in Cardiff (it is a rugby rather than fashion nation, after all) I still find stillness in my heart when I gaze at these views.
The pier in Penarth as the sun sets over the water and birds swoop down from the cliffs.
The purple-grey slates near the Armadillo during the rain and the glistening words that proclaim "In These Stones, Horizons Sing." (Technically, it's the Wales Millennium Centre but the word Armadillo is far more memorable.)
7. Unusually Festive and Fun Things to Do in Cardiff
Just as Ireland has St Patrick's Day, so Wales has St David's Day (although, did you know that St Patrick himself was Welsh?! It came as a shock discovery to me!)
Each year, school children dress up in traditional costume and the rest of us brandish the emblems of daffodils and leeks. Eistedfodds (cultural festivals) appear across the country with plenty of music, poetry and dance. Male voice choirs have become as much a cliche as lederhosen and sausages, onions and berets, but for me, they make one of the most hauntingly beautiful sounds in the world.
More Fun Things to do in Cardiff!
When I first wrote this article on unusual and fun things to do in Cardiff, I stopped too soon! Here are some more great ideas!
8. Stock up your pantry!
Head to Penylan Pantry near leafy Waterloo Gardens to stock up on local Welsh produce in a pretty, gentrified setting.
Buy a hamper full of sustainable, local and tasty produce for a picnic in the nearby park and gardens or pull up a chair and settle in for a strong coffee.
Note - not great for toddlers as it's a small space with plenty on the shelves!
9. Take to the High Ropes
It's another place with an iffy name, but St Fagans National Museum of History is a great place for a day out of all ages. Set in expansive grounds, it functions as an open air museum with reconstructed Welsh farmhouses and terraces from different points in time, including a post office and sweet shop. And yes, it does still sell sweets.
They also have a high ropes course suitable for older children.
That's it! Or at least for now. If you're coming to Cardiff this weekend then I do hope that the weather behaves and that you have a great time.
If you're not, isn't it about high time you paid the Welsh capital a visit?
Day Trips from Cardiff
- Hike the Brecon Beacons - a simple 40 minute drive away.
- Head to Barry Island for clifftop walks, a sandy beach and an amusement park. It's also right by Cardiff International Airport.
- Do you know what a yat is? Symonds Yat is home to the peregrine falcon, as well as a butterfly house.
Weekend Trips from Cardiff
As much as I do love Cardiff, don't let that be the only place you see in Wales. Try out...
- Glamping on the overlooked yet stunning west coast near Newcastle Emlyn.
- Driving up through the Brecon Beacons to sleep in a treehouse in Redwood Valley
- This three day itinerary through northeast Wales. Sandy beaches, UNESCO World Heritage Aqueducts and the bible that saved the Welsh language.
- Explore the many things to do in Pembrokeshire, the most famous part of this small country.
- Find Things to do Near Fishguard, the Hollywood Cove in West Wales.