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Lighthouse in North Wales
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The 16 best things to do in Wales

This nation is the great overlooked jewel of the UK, and these are the best things to do in Wales now. Strap in!

Angela Hui
Written by
Angela Hui
&
John Bills
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What is the first thing that jumps to mind when you think of Wales? An impossible question to answer, in truth, as this small yet perfectly formed piece of Celtic land packs so much into its compact borders. This is a land of sweeping nature, towering history, exquisite food and more literature than you can shake your fist at, if shaking your fist at literature is the sort of thing you do. Wales is the perfect get-away-from-it-all type of destination that simultaneously allows you to embrace a whole new world, providing relaxation and exhilaration in equal measure (and often at the same time). That might sound like a contradiction, but that’s just the sort of place Wales is. We’re a proud lot here, and for good reason. These are the best things to do in Wales right now.

Done something on this list and loved it? Share it with the hashtag #TimeOutDoList and tag @TimeOutEverywhere. Find out more about how Time Out selects the very best things to do all over the world.

Best things to do in Wales

Climb to the top of Wales
Photograph: Shutterstock

1. Climb to the top of Wales

Where is it? Yr Wyddfa, Snowdonia National Park

What is it? The highest mountain in Wales and the busiest in the UK

Why go? Climbing Yr Wyddfa (Mount Snowdon in English) takes anywhere between five and seven hours depending on the route taken, but the 1,085-metre peak offers the most magnificent views in all of Wales. Heading this way in winter is a no-no but the mountain gets plenty busy through spring, summer and autumn, with more than half a million hikers dragging themselves up to the top every year. Those worried about fitness issues can take the quaint train – an hour-long ride to the top that offers plenty of gorgeous views along the way.

Walk the length of the country
Photograph: WikiMedia Commons/Alan Hughes

2. Walk the length of the country

Where is it? Offa’s Dyke and the Wales Coastal Path

What is it? One is a ninth-century border turned into a walking route, while the latter is a path that covers the entirety of the Welsh coast

Why go? Wales is unique in that it is the only country in the world that has an official walking path covering the entirety of its borders. Well, that should be two paths, but the point stands that this is a land that offers an accessible yet difficult walking challenge. The Wales Coastal Path is a footpath stretching 870 miles from Chester to Chepstow, while the Offa’s Dyke Path roughly covers the inland stretch between those two spots. Walking the whole thing might be a little excessive, but there are plenty of stretches that can be enjoyed over a day or two. There’s no better way to experience the natural beauty of Wales.

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Go on a sporting pilgrimage in the capital
Photograph: John Bills

3. Go on a sporting pilgrimage in the capital

Where is it? Cardiff

What is it? There are few things more exciting than Cardiff on match day

Why go? It’s quintessential Welsh tourist experience? There may be more important things when it comes to history and tradition, but it doesn’t get much more thrilling than visiting the capital on a major rugby or football occasion. Cardiff is at its best when the dragons are doing battle at the Principality Stadium, and the pubs and bars of the city evolve into an entirely different beast. Win, lose or draw, Cardiff on match day is an incredible experience.

Learn to pronounce the longest town name in the UK
Photograph: Courtesy CC/Flickr/Neil Turner

4. Learn to pronounce the longest town name in the UK

Where is it?Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch, Anglesey.

What is it? A small village with a famously tongue-twisting name

Why go? Originally called Llanfair Pwllgwyngll, the name of this village in Anglesey was extended in the nineteenth century in the hope of luring tourists to its town. In that regard, it has been a major success. There isn’t much to do here beyond sitting in a couple of pubs or wandering the aisles of the station shop, but taking a photograph of the famous train station sign is one of the great tourist rites of passage when visiting Wales.

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Visit the smallest house in Great Britain
Photograph: John Bills

5. Visit the smallest house in Great Britain

Where is it? Conwy, Gwynedd

What is it? A bright red miniature house that was once home to an extremely tall fisherman

Why go? Conwy is one of the most beautiful towns in Wales, famous for its castle and its defiant commitment to independent businesses. In amongst it all stands a vibrant red house that lays claim to being the smallest in Great Britain. A woman in traditional Welsh clothing waits outside the house to provide information for visitors, and tours of the tiny house cost just £1. The red colour of the house means that, ironically enough, you can’t miss it.

Where is it? The Brecon Beacons.

What is it? A breathtaking mountain range with the highest peak in South Wales.

Why go? Stretching from near Llandeilo in the west all the way to the English border in the east, Brecon Beacons National Park covers more than 500 square miles of natural beauty. Head for the hills towards the mighty Pen Y Fan, at 886 metres above sea level; it’s the highest peak in South Wales. If party vibes are more your thing, then Green Man music festival will make your heart sing.

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Go puffin spotting
Photograph: WikiMedia Commons/OscarVO55

7. Go puffin spotting

Where is it? Puffin Island, Anglesey

What is it? As the name suggests, an island dominated by puffins

Why go? Known as Ynys Seiriol in Welsh, Puffin Island is an uninhabited chunk of land off the eastern tip of Anglesey that is home to a huge variety of fauna, most famously the cute little birds that give it its name. The masses of puffins aren’t the only birds worth spotting, however, as the island is also home to one of the largest great cormorant colonies in the British Isles as well as guillemots, razorbills and others. A variety of tours of the island are available but don’t forget the camera and the binoculars.

Where is it? Caernarfon, Gwynedd

What is it? Arguably the most aesthetically impressive of the many castles of Wales

Why go? Wales has a curious relationship with its castles. Some are proud to hold them up as beautiful examples of medieval architecture that represent a major pull for tourists, while others see the so-called Ring of Iron as a painful reminder of King Edward I’s conquest of Wales in the twelfth century. Of all the castles, Caernarfon’s is possibly the most arresting, a Unesco World Heritage site that was said to be designed on the famous walls of Constantinople (today’s Istanbul). Caernarfon is a charming town with plenty of attractions but few come close to matching the might of its eponymous castle.

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Where is it? Hay-on-Wye, Monmouthshire

What is it? A small market town in West Wales that is known for its love of all things literature

Why go? There are few things more comforting than the dusty atmosphere of an old bookshop, and the small town of Hay-on-Wye is famous for the things. Known colloquially as the ‘town of books’, Hay has more than two dozen bookshops dotted around its streets, selling everything from new releases to the classics of yore. When it comes to literary tourism in the UK, Hay-on-Wye is a real bucket-list spot.

Where is it? Gower Peninsula, Swansea

What is it? A three-mile stretch of golden sand and coastline that runs as far as the eye can see, pun possibly intended

Why go? Rhossili Bay is a constant contender when judging the best beach in Wales, as well as perpetually featuring in the top ten UK-wide. Besides its award-winning beauty, nearby pubs like The King’s Head and Worm’s Head offer some of the best pub grub around – with a side of beautiful beer-garden views. The best thing? It’s all dog-friendly so your furry friends can join in the sandy fun too.

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Go back in time in the old capital
Photograph: Wozzie / Shutterstock.com

11. Go back in time in the old capital

Where is it? Machynlleth, Powys

What is it? The old capital of Wales, now home to one of the UK’s best comedy festivals

Why go? Many people new to Wales are surprised to discover that Cardiff has only been the Welsh capital since 1955. The long and storied history of the Welsh nation has many other cultural and political centres, one of which is now a sleepy mid-Wales town that wakes up through laughter in the summer. Machynlleth was the seat of Owain Glyndŵr’s Welsh Parliament in 1404 and is thus considered the ancient capital of Wales, while its annual comedy festival is a hotbed of rising stars and established names.

12. Ride the rails in the Welsh highlands

Where is it? West Highland Railway, Gwynedd

What is it? A narrow-gauge railway running from Caernarfon to Porthmadog via a host of fascinating and fabulous sights

Why go? This award-winning heritage railway is a charming way to explore the many isolated marvels of this stretch of the country. The vibrant port town of Porthmadog is a delightful starting point, while adorable Beddgelert is another to add to the list of beautiful Welsh villages with compelling stories to tell.

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Explore a village like no other
jax10289 / Shutterstock

13. Explore a village like no other

Where is it? Portmeirion, Gwynedd

What is it? A tourist village designed and built in the style of rural Italy

Why go? There’s nowhere quite like Portmeirion. Designed and constructed by Sir Clough Williams-Ellis between 1925 and 1975, this small village is as cute as it gets, with gorgeous architecture and movie-set style waiting around every corner. Williams-Ellis made it clear that his desire was to bring the atmosphere of the Mediterranean to North Wales and most will agree that he succeeded. The village is best visited by car, although Minffordd railway station is just over a mile away.

Jump on the bandwagon with Reynolds and McElhenney
Photograph: WikiMedia/David Powell

14. Jump on the bandwagon with Reynolds and McElhenney

Where is it? Wrexham, Clwyd

What is it? The long-suffering supporters of one of Britain’s oldest football clubs have cause for optimism thanks to its new celebrity owners

Why go? The footballing world is a bizarre one, but few recent stories have caused as much head-scratching as this. In early 2021, Hollywood actors Rob McElhenney and Ryan Reynolds became owners of Wrexham AFC, breathing new optimism into the town. Wrexham was once the largest town in Wales and an industrial powerhouse but can the football team’s new proprietors bring optimism back into the area? This will either go very well or very badly. The spotlight is back on Wrexham, to say the least.

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Where is it? Brecon Beacons/Swansea

What is it? A show-stopping series of caves to explore… and life-sized dinosaur park

Why go? Go deeper underground and explore a 17km cave system that’ll rock your world. You’ll notice a few familiar reptilian faces poking through the foliage and rock formations along the way, as there are more than 200 life-sized dinosaur models living here too. There isn’t a reality that exists where dinosaurs aren’t super-awesome, making Dan-yr-Ogof a must-visit in the southern half of Wales. 

Where is it? Big Pit National Coal Museum, Blaenavon

What is it? A former colliery and underground coal-mine labyrinth

Why go? Don your hard hat and venture down into the dark coal mines at the Big Pit Coal Museum. It’s a deep dive into Wales’ rich industrial past. Your ex-miner guide will teach you what life was like for the working classes during the area’s mining heyday. They’ll give you the lowdown on the story of coal extraction and how the valleys played a vital role in exporting the stuff around the world.

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