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The National Museum in Cardiff is one of the finest museums in Wales
Photograph: National Museum CardiffThe National Museum in Cardiff is one of the finest museums in Wales

The 12 best museums to visit in Cardiff

Castles, churches, galleries and sporting meccas – the best museums in Cardiff are filled with fascinating stories

Written by
Rosemary Waugh
John Bills

Cardiff may be a relatively young capital in international terms (it became the capital of Wales in 1955). Still, this fascinating city has more than established itself as the best place for checking out art and culture in the country. The best museums in Cardiff are among the best in the UK, covering everything from the history of Wales to Roald Dahl and the future of technology. A wide range, you’ll agree, but Wales has no boundaries. 

No trip to Cardiff is complete without exploring the city’s museums. Load up on culture before heading to the many restaurants and bars of the city to discuss everything at length, or maybe to pig out and line up the ales. You do you, Boo. 

Best museums in Cardiff

National Museum Cardiff
Photograph: National Museum Cardiff

1. National Museum Cardiff

What is it? Only the finest museum in the entire city

Why go? The National Museum in Cardiff is equal parts explorative adventure and artistic showcase, with exhibitions showcasing everything from botany to zoology, found rooms away from one of the best collections of modern art in Europe. The museum tells the story of Wales from the Big Bang to the Red Wall, covering a huge amount of ground with character and style. The museum is also free to enter, but do leave a donation if you can.


Cardiff Story Museum
© Lee Garland Photography

2. Cardiff Story Museum

What is it? Exactly what it says on the tin. The story of Cardiff, from the beginning to the now

Why go? Cardiff can be a difficult city to get a handle on, and understanding its present and future is nigh on impossible without first engaging with its long and storied past. It hasn’t always been the multicultural sports-mad city of chaos and charm that it is today, but it has always been fascinating in its own way. The Cardiff Story Museum is what the name suggests, namely the story of this city throughout the centuries.


Norwegian Church Arts Centre

3. Norwegian Church Arts Centre

What is it? A respectful nod to Cardiff Bay’s Scandinavian links with a bit of Roald Dahl history to boot. 

Why go? Re-opened in 1992, the Norwegian Church Arts Centre may well be the cutest church in the city, but there is more to this than brick and mortar. This spot has sacred importance to the legions of Scandinavian sailors who bravely ventured here over the centuries, and it now houses a small gallery and a darling cafe. Roald Dahl was baptised here (Dahl was the son of Norwegians and spoke Norwegian as his first language), and special events take place on his birthday. September 13, if you were wondering.


Cardiff Castle

4. Cardiff Castle

What is it? The jewel in Cardiff’s crown, the city’s most popular tourist attraction and a mighty opulent home to boot

Why go? Let’s face it; if you’re in Cardiff, you’re going to give Cardiff Castle a look. Smack bang in the centre of town, the castle is somewhat unavoidable, although those who decide to give it a miss are only cheating themselves. The rooms of this sumptuous mansion (built for the then-richest man in the world) are as luxurious as they are varied, covering a wide range of architectural and interior design styles with no expense spared. A tour of the castle is one of the best in the country, put bluntly.

St Fagans National Museum of History
Photograph: St Fagan's National Museum of History

5. St Fagans National Museum of History

What is it? An open-air museum that is one of the most popular heritage attractions in the country

Why go? Sat in the sumptuous gardens of St Fagan’s Castle, this open-air love letter to all things Wales covers a vast area and fills it with aplomb, with over 40 buildings showcasing different eras of this nation’s long and storied history. This is the place to explore that story through historic galleries, interactive exhibitions and traditional arts and crafts. Entry is free, and the museum is 11 miles to the west of the city.

6. Whitewall Galleries

What is it? A contemporary fine art gallery hiding in the St David’s Centre

Why go? Whitewall Galleries are found all over the United Kingdom, from Leeds to London, but the one in Cardiff’s St David’s Centre remains the only one in Wales. All the more reason to visit, as the gallery houses a cavalcade of contemporary fine art that will either inspire you to pick up a brush or to pull out the credit card. If neither is an option, admiring the colour and technique on show almost goes without saying.


© Picasa

7. Techniquest

What is it? Cardiff Bay’s premier science and discovery centre

Why go? With a picturesque location on Cardiff Bay, Techniquest is worth a visit for the setting alone. The fact that it offers two floors of creativity, innovation and discovery is a bonus. Techniquest is a science centre that is every bit as exciting for kids as it is engaging and enlightening for adults. The selection of souvenirs is pretty delightful as well.

What is it? A community-centric celebration of Cardiff artists of all shapes and sizes

Why go? The name stands for ‘makers, artists and designers’, if you were wondering. Cardiff Made is where Cardiff artists go to shine brightest, with a Roath location that allows for three exhibitions alongside the shop and workshop area. There is a community focus to Made that deserves applause, but the art on show more often than not speaks for itself, covering a wide range of visual styles without compromising on quality.


Firing Line: Cardiff Castle Museum of the Welsh Soldier
© Betina Skovbro

9. Firing Line: Cardiff Castle Museum of the Welsh Soldier

What is it? A standalone museum on the grounds of the castle that focuses on the history of Welsh soldiers

Why go? The clue is in the name. Firing Line is a one-off museum that displays exhibits from the 1st The Queen’s Dragoon Guards and the Royal Welsh, two regiments of the British Army that have seen plenty of action over the years. A pair of Victoria Crosses are arguably the museum’s highlight, but this one is as much about atmosphere and aura as the artefacts on show.


Principality Stadium
Photograph: John Bills

10. Principality Stadium

What is it? A must-do tour through the golden history of Welsh rugby

Why go? While not necessarily a museum in the traditional sense, there are few exhibitions and tours that take you right to the heart and soul of Welsh culture like a tour of the Principality Stadium. Rugby is integral to the Welsh experience no matter the results on the pitch, and these guided tours are the perfect way to interact with that history and take some pretty memorable photographs along the way.

Nantgarw China Works

11. Nantgarw China Works

What is it? Fully functioning china works with an onsite museum, tearooms and shop selling seriously pretty porcelain. 

Why go? Make time for a brief trip outside Cardiff to go potty over some pottery. Or rather, porcelain - we’re dealing with the posh stuff here, not your chipped cereal bowl. Learn about how perfect plates and delicate dishes are (and were) made at the only remaining nineteenth-century porcelain works in Britain. Free entry.

Martin Tinney Gallery

12. Martin Tinney Gallery

What is it? The premier private commercial art gallery in Wales

Why go? The Martin Tinney Gallery has been at the forefront of commercial art in Wales since its establishment in 1992, and a move to a specially renovated townhouse in 2002 saw it rocket to new heights. The gallery primarily focuses its exhibitions on the most important living Welsh artists with a keen eye on the next generation of stars, making it a tremendous spot to find the pulse of Welsh art in the twenty-first century. Solo exhibitions change every month.

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