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The 17 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
Paula Akpan
John Bills

Cardiff is a lively city. That is especially true on big sporting days when it can feel as though the entire Welsh nation comes out in force to cheer on the team in red. Luckily for visitors to the capital, the Welsh nation happens to be tremendously friendly, and Cardiff is a great microcosm of this. It is also a gorgeous city. That never hurts.

Our pick of the best things to do in Cardiff covers every category, be it innovative restaurants or positively thrilling museums in Wales. 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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Best things to do in Cardiff

Embrace modern democracy at the Senedd

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. Guided tours of the Senedd are available but must be booked ahead of time.


Wander the grounds of Cardiff Castle
© Get Your Guide

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. An hour-long 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.

Study the masters at the National Museum
Photograph: WikiMedia Commons/Ham II

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 on the continent, with permanent and temporary exhibitions that are the envy of all. The museum is free to enter, although donations are always welcome.

Embrace innovation at Techniquest

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.

Cycle around Cardiff Bay
Photograph: DeymosHR / Shutterstock

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.


Live the boyhood dream at the Principality Stadium
Photograph: John Bills

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.

Sing loud and proud from the terraces

8. 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, Ramsey and co might not have long left, but a new generation of talent is bubbling under the surface.


9. 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.


Learn all about the famous Scott of the Antarctic
Photograph: John Bills

10. Learn all about the famous Scott of the Antarctic

What is it? A monument and exhibition on the Cardiff Bay Trail telling the story of Captain Scott’s tragic adventure

Why go? Somewhat hidden underneath the winding route of the Cardiff Bay Trail, Scott of the Antarctic is an exhibition that pays tribute to the intrepid courage of Captain Scott and his men, who famously left Cardiff in 1910 in search of the South Pole and immortality. The story of the adventure is told through the words of the brave men who ventured in search of history, with plenty of photographs adding a striking visual element to it all.

Join the craft beer revolution in the heart of town
Photograph: Facebook/Tiny Rebel

11. Join the craft beer revolution in the heart of town

What is it? The artisanal beer tsunami has given new life to the bars of the city centre.

Why go? Cardiff is a famous party town (especially on rugby and football days), but the city’s willingness to experiment and evolve has made it one of the most electrifying craft-beer cities in the UK. Tiny Rebel is the centre’s showstopper, a titan of the scene that remains at the forefront of innovation in hops. Brew Monster is another excellent spot with a great view of Cardiff Castle’s main gate, while The Cambrian Tap offers a vast range of beers and ales from all over the place.


12. Catch a show at St David’s Hall

What is it? Wales’s largest performing arts venue always has something fascinating going on.

Why go? The schedule of St David’s Hall is just about as consistent and diverse as it gets. The Welsh are music-mad, so it stands to reason that the national concert hall should be a gorgeous home of melody, harmony and all the rest. Many shows sell out, so keep an eye on the website for anything you might want to sink your teeth into.

Take a stroll in Bute Park
Photograph: Shutterstock

13. Take a stroll in Bute Park

What is it? 130 acres of landscaped gardens in the heart of the city

Why go? When the weather is good, there’s no better place in Cardiff to be. Landscaped by the iconic Capability Brown, Bute Park is a seemingly endless treasure trove of verdant tranquillity, once the grounds of Cardiff Castle but now very much open to the public for aimless strolling, excitable gatherings and all the other things that make grand city-centre parks so delightful. The park is filled with hidden wonders, from the 21 sculptures to the much-snapped Animal Wall. Simply pick a trail and mooch.

Explore the open-air museum at St Fagan's Castle
Photograph: St Fagan's National Museum of History

14. Explore the open-air museum at St Fagan's Castle

What is it? One of the finest open-air museums in the UK, no less.

Why go? St Fagan’s Castle is another on the long list of impressive Welsh fortresses, but the open-air museum in the gorgeous gardens takes the biscuit. This is a love letter to all things Wales, a collection of carefully reconstructed buildings showcasing life in different eras from the beginning of Wales to the present day. St Fagan’s Castle is 11 miles west of the city centre and is worth the trip.

Fill your bag at the world’s oldest record shop
Flickr: Walt Jabsco

15. Fill your bag at the world’s oldest record shop

What is it? Spillers Records lays claim to being the oldest record shop on the planet.

Why go? Now in the city-centre Morgan Arcade, Spillers Records has been selling vinyl to the masses since 1894. The shop claims to be the oldest of its kind in the world, but it is a must for music fans, no matter how accurate that may be. This is a shrine to all things rock ‘n’ roll, from the vinyl that permeates every nook to the merchandise clamouring for space on the walls.

16. Splurge on Sunday lunch at Heaney’s

What is it? Tommy Heaney’s restaurant is one of the best in the city.

Why go? Tommy Heaney may as well be synonymous with ‘exquisite cuisine’ at this point, and his eponymous restaurant in Pontcanna often finds itself atop lists of the best restaurants in the city. Heaney’s Sunday lunches are a thing of hushed wonder and well worth every penny, while the evening tasting menu allows visitors to sample a little bit of everything the Northern Irish chef offers.


Enjoy the tranquillity of Llandaff Cathedral
Photograph: Billy Stock / Shutterstock

17. Enjoy the tranquillity of Llandaff Cathedral

What is it? One of the oldest Christian sites in Britain and Cardiff’s most impactful church

Why go? Found just a pleasant 20-minute walk outside the centre of the city, Llandaff Cathedral offers a great way to escape the chaos of central Cardiff while exploring the long and storied history of a very important holy place. People have been coming to this spot to worship since the sixth century, making it one of the oldest Christian sites in all of Britain. Nothing remains of the original church, but the twelfth century rebuild more than holds its own in the spiritual stakes.


More of the best of Cardiff

  • Museums

The Welsh capital is a top destination to visit in the UK. Along with endless excuses for shopping, plus a host of activities and things to do, the city is home to a collection of museums tastier than a freshly baked Welsh cake. 


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