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The 20 best things to do in Cardiff

From sipping pints to etching your name into the history books, these are the best things to do in Cardiff right now

Written by
Danielle Goldstein
John Bills
Adam England

Cardiff is a lively city, especially on big sporting days when it can feel as though the entire Welsh nation descends on the capital to cheer on the team in red. Luckily for visitors, the Welsh are a tremendously friendly bunch, and thanks to the apt title 'City of Castles' and Cardiff's charming streets and gorgeous beaches, the place is great for a roam.

Our pick of the best things to do in Cardiff covers every category, be it innovative restaurants or positively thrilling museums. There's an abundance of culture to sink your teeth into, and a plethora of great spots to shop 'til you drop. If you’re looking to squeeze all of this into a day then check out our handy guide to the perfect day in the capital, and then set about exploring the best of the rest that Wales has to offer. You’re in for a serious treat, butty.

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This guide was recently updated by ex-Cardiff resident Adam England. At Time Out, all our travel guides are written by local writers who know their cities inside out. For more about how we curate, see our editorial guidelines

Top things to do in Cardiff

1. Embrace modern democracy at the Senedd

What is it? The home of modern Welsh politics

Why go? Opened on St David’s Day in 2006, the Cardiff Bay-located Senedd building is where the politicians of Wales converge to debate the issues of the day. The building is an architectural curiosity, with an eye-catching wood ceiling providing shade for the many steps in front. The Senedd was built with sustainability in mind, proving once more that architecture can straddle the divide between environmentally friendly and aesthetically pleasing. There are exhibitions and tours available, but the latter must be booked ahead of time.


2. Wander the grounds of Cardiff Castle

What is it? A city-centre fortress that has dominated life in Cardiff since the eleventh century

Why go? Few are the visitors who come to Cardiff and don’t immediately head to Cardiff Castle. Built by Norman invaders on top of a third-century Roman fort, the castle sits in the very centre of the city and is more than capable of filling an entire day’s worth of exploration. A 50 minute guided tour explains the many curiosities of the castle’s interior, much of which was created for one of the world’s richest men, while the grounds are tailor-made for idle wandering and wistfulness. 

Don’t miss: The famous Norman Keep is the castle’s centrepiece, home to a replica trebuchet and centuries of history.


3. Study the masters at the National Museum

What is it? A free-to-visit gallery and museum covering all things Welsh, from the Big Bang to the modern-day

Why go? Found next to Cardiff’s grand City Hall, the National Museum Cardiff is a museum and art gallery that boasts some of the most exquisite artefacts in the UK. The museum part focuses largely on botany, zoology and geology, while the gallery has one of the finest collections in Europe, boasting more than 500 paintings. They also have a rolling programme of awesome exhibitions, so check what's on before you visit. The museum is free to enter, although donations are always welcome.

4. Embrace innovation at Techniquest

What is it? A fantastic science and discovery centre on Cardiff Bay

Why go? What could be better than the combination of curious science and a gorgeous setting? That is the tip of the iceberg at Techniquest, a science centre that is all sorts of engaging for visitors of all shapes, sizes and ages. The innovation stretches across two floors, with plenty of fun for all the family. Why not pay a visit to the 360 degree Planetarium, or the auditorium's live science shows?


5. Cycle around Cardiff Bay

What is it? Touted as Europe’s largest waterfront development, the bay is full of shops, restaurants, bars and attractions.

Why go? You lose track of time at Cardiff Bay, with something new revealed around every corner. The centre of the development is home to a variety of restaurants that provide shelter to Ianto’s Shrine (a shrine to a fictional character that died more than a decade ago, just in case you were wondering), while the Cardiff Bay Trail is a 4.5-mile cycle route that will keep visitors fit as the landmarks pass by. Many of Cardiff’s best attractions are found in and around the bay, from the Senedd to the Millennium Centre via Roald Dahl’s Enormous Crocodile and more.

6. Dive into the many faces of Butetown

What is it? One of Britain’s first multicultural communities

Why go? Undoubtedly one of Cardiff’s most fascinating areas, the history of Butetown is every bit as fascinating as it is defiant. Established in the nineteenth century, the district, better known as Tiger Bay, separated the city centre from the bay and was the birthplace of Welsh singing icon Shirley Bassey. Butetown is very much a living neighbourhood with major challenges and poverty issues, but it is also as close to the ‘Real Cardiff’ as you’re going to get.



7. Live the boyhood dream at the Principality Stadium

What is it? Formerly the Millennium Stadium, this 74,500-seater stadium is where Welsh sporting dreams come true.

Why go? The Principality Stadium has been the epicentre of Welsh rugby since it was built in 1999 and is an absolute must-visit for anyone even vaguely interested in anything sport or, indeed, Wales-related. Cardiff transforms into a different city on match days, with the streets tingling with palpable excitement. Tours of the stadium are a great way to further understand the national relationship with sport and success.

8. Enjoy a waterfront day out at Mermaid Quay

What is it? In the heart of Cardiff Bay, you can shop and dine to your heart’s content at Mermaid Quay.

Why go? While the centre of Cardiff certainly isn’t short of shops and eateries, there’s something about Mermaid Quay, in Cardiff Bay, that feels extra special. Grab something to eat at Demiro’s or The Clubhouse, treat yourself at Zia Boutique, or head to The Glee Club for some excellent stand-up. Or, even get the Aquabus waterbus from the Quay to Cardiff Castle! It’s the ideal place to spend a relaxed afternoon off or even begin your night. It’ll take you about half an hour to walk there from the city centre, or you can get a quick train from Cardiff Centre. 


9. Sing loud and proud from the terraces

What is it? Despite the assumptions, football is right up there with rugby on the list of national obsessions.

Why go? The days of being battered in Georgia are long gone. A golden generation of talent has breathed new life into Welsh football, and the national side has become a point of pride for the Welsh. Home games are played at the Cardiff City Stadium in order to maintain a ferocious atmosphere that has become one of the most impressive on the planet. Bale's retired, and Ramsey's not far behind, but a new generation of talent is bubbling under the surface.

10. Knock back the espressos at Uncommon Ground

What is it? A speciality coffee shop focused on quality instead of complication.

Why go? Cardiff has plenty of fantastic coffee spots, but Uncommon Ground’s combination of location and quality is a guaranteed winner. Tucked in the Royal Arcade, this independent family-owned establishment attracts caffeine experts and amateurs alike, serving up delish brews with a focus on sustainability. The café sells beans to take away, but there are few things better than sitting for a spot of people-watching with a cup of the good stuff.


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