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The breathtaking scenery of the Brecon Beacons, Wales
Photograph: ShutterstockThe breathtaking scenery of the Brecon Beacons, Wales

The 11 best places to visit in Wales

What are the best places to visit in Wales? From Anglesey to the Gower, this is the country at its shimmering finest

Written by
John Bills
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The cream of the crop, the best of the best, the ultimate bucket list. Putting together such a list is far from easy but it also happens to be a joyful task. What’s not to love about a pint-sized country that holds beautiful nature, curious history, innovative culture and all the rest within its borders? Wales is special in every possible way, and these 11 destinations represent the nation at its most glittering. Wales itself is the best place to visit, and these are the best places to visit in Wales

Best places to visit in Wales

Cardiff
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1. Cardiff

Cardiff has only been the capital of Wales since 1955, but the largest city in the country was hugely influential long before official recognition came its way. One of the greatest sporting cities in the UK, it is also a hotbed of culinary innovation and cultural excitement, with a raucous nightlife and gorgeous parks to boot. The Cardiff Bay area is one of Europe’s finest water developments, while the range of architectural styles across the city is almost tailor-made for celebrating across social media.

Abergavenny
John Bills

2. Abergavenny

The foodie capital of Wales? Abergavenny might well wear that crown. The borders town plays host to a tremendous food festival every autumn while serving delicious dishes all year round, accentuating a stunningly quaint town centre full of cafés, bars, pubs and restaurants. The town’s castle and museum is unique among the nation’s roster, with a story of treason and violence that contradicts its current peaceful atmosphere.

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Llŷn Peninsula
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3. Llŷn Peninsula

Wales is at its best when the air is still, and it doesn’t come more tranquil than the Llŷn Peninsula. The most isolated paradise in Wales still marches to the beat of its own serene drum, an area of outstanding natural beauty that has the paperwork to back that up. This is just about as unspoilt as Wales gets, with cliff-top walks and island views all over. The Llŷn Peninsula is all forts, extinct volcanoes and the rest. Want Wales all to yourself? Head here.

Snowdonia National Park
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4. Snowdonia National Park

Climbing to the top of a country is a real bucket-list achievement. Snowdonia National Park is one of the most popular areas in Wales and rightly so, with the mighty Snowdon peak (1,085m into the air) standing tall above rivers, lakes and mountains as far as the eye can see. Scaling the peak and heading back down takes anywhere between five and seven hours, although the scenic Snowdon Mountain Railway will get you to the top in just over an hour.

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Conwy
Photograph: John Bills

5. Conwy

It is difficult to argue against Conwy, perhaps the country’s prettiest town. The double-whammy of the toll bridge and the town’s famous castle cause jaws to drop right out of the gate, while the abundance of cafés, restaurants, pubs and shops in the idyllic centre are among the region’s best. Conwy is also home to the smallest house in the UK: a bright red cutie that manages to be tiny and impossible to miss all at the same time.

Pembrokeshire
David Curtis / Alamy Stock Photo

6. Pembrokeshire

Of course, Pembrokeshire is a collection of places, but this spread of gorgeous coastal villages and unbeatable walks deserves all the attention it gets. The beaches of this western county win awards on a regular basis while its fishing villages may just be enough for the first-time visitor to consider the merits of such a life. Dale is a serene little settlement surrounded by history, while the walks along the coast are simultaneously challenging and invigorating. Pembrokeshire is one of the best destinations in the UK, let alone Wales.

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Gower Peninsula
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7. Gower Peninsula

Way back in 1956, the Gower Peninsula became the first region of the UK to be designated as an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. That alone makes it a must-visit corner of this gorgeous country, but the Gower has plenty of brains to back up its award-winning beauty. Swansea is a centre for culture and literary innovation, while the adventurous should seek out Paviland cave (between Port Eynon and Rhossili, for the record) to discover the final resting place of the Red Lady of Paviland. Still, it all comes back to nature, and it doesn’t get much better than this.

Anglesey
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8. Anglesey

Head up here for the longest train station name in the world, more adventure than you can shake your fist at and a conveyer belt of natural beauty that is as good as anything found in the south. Anglesey is a little bit different and that’s how it should be, something that is as apparent in Menai Bridge as it is in Cemaes Bay. Beaumaris Castle may well be the highlight, although night paddleboarding, rib-riding and the rest of the adrenaline-centric activities come close.

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Porthmadog
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9. Porthmadog

Fan of aesthetically pleasing ports that happen to be major hubs for narrow gauge railways? Sure, that’s a fairly niche collection of interests, but Porthmadog is one of those places that is built for adoration. Porthmadog’s maritime history is its major pull but the town also serves as a tremendous base for exploring the region, whether that means Snowdonia National Park or fairytale-like Portmeirion.

Brecon Beacons
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10. Brecon Beacons

South Wales’s highest mountain is the centrepiece of the Brecon Beacons, a gorgeous expanse of nature that serves as another great example of this nation’s natural beauty. Some of the walks in and around the Brecon Beacons are incredible, while the many lakes and cirques showcase the variety that makes this part of the world so very special. Keep your eyes open for dinosaurs, obviously.

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Aberystwyth
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11. Aberystwyth

Famous for its heady student population and annual murmurations (of starlings that is, not the students), Aberystwyth is arguably the most popular spot on the west coast. Known as the cultural capital of Wales, the town manages to be instantly recognisable as ‘Aber’ from north to south, which is impressive when you consider the abundance of towns with that classic Welsh suffix. Aberystwyth Castle is another to add to the list, while the students ensure this is one of the best nights out in Wales.

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