Ask someone about Cardiff, and you’ll likely hear “Good nightlife in Cardiff” accompanied by a knowing nod. However, surely the Welsh capital has more claims to fame than just its drinking culture, you may wonder.
Luckily it does, although I’m not knocking its drinking culture either! You’ll find Cardiff Castle, the surrounding Caerphilly Mountains, and plenty of indoor activities like the Cardiff International Pool for a rainy day. So, make sure to allow time to enjoy the range of things to do in Cardiff.
I’ve compiled a list of ten things for your Cardiff itinerary. Some are family-friendly, some full of romance, and some alcohol and adventure-fuelled for a holiday with your mates. Enjoy.
Visiting Cardiff without visiting Cardiff Castle is sacrilegious at best. Cardiff Castle is one of the most respected Medieval heritage sites across Wales.
At over 2000 years old, the castle has seen Romans, Normans, Brits, and Welsh rule. And, by visiting, you can explore relics left behind by occupiers and ancient Welsh civilisations. From Roman remains to wartime shelters, Cardiff Castle offers a diverse history of centuries of conflict.
While a little pricey, the castle is a fantastic rainy day option and a great historical attraction to tick off in Cardiff. If you only visit one attraction, Cardiff Castle is a strong contender.
I’ve compiled a table with the castle’s 2022 rates below:
Go shopping at Cardiff Market
You needn’t feel guilty about spending time shopping in Cardiff, especially in the Victorian multi-storey Cardiff Market!
Built-in 1891, the market is a cultural and historical attraction in itself. Prepare yourself for a baptism of merchant fire – holding your breath passing the fishmongers and bargaining hard for a piece of shiny, vintage jewellery.
If you need somewhere to escape the rain, be assured that Cardiff Market will keep you dry. It is entirely undercover and a great place to stop by for an hour’s shopping and perhaps a sit down at an independent eatery.
Tour the Principality Stadium
Sports lovers, listen up. The Principality Stadium is somewhat of a jack of all trades. The home of Welsh rugby union? Check. Cardiff’s football team? Check. Plus, the Principality Stadium hosts most music concerts.
If you’re lucky, you’ll time a visit to Cardiff with a football or rugby match. It’s also worth checking Ticketmaster and the Principality website for any upcoming artists performing. Ed Sheeran is playing in May 2022 and Tom Jones (the beloved Welsh singer) in June 2022.
Otherwise, opt for a Principality Stadium Tour. You’ll get to peek inside the dressing rooms, Press Conference Suite, and walk the tunnel to the (imaginary) sound of crowds cheering your name. You only need to allow two hours for the experience, so it slots nicely into even the most packed itineraries. Plus, it is relatively budget-friendly. I’ve included a table of 2022 rates below:
Eat out at Cardiff Bay
Cardiff Bay is a 200-hectare freshwater lake – perfect for water sports and boat trips. But, while you are welcome to indulge in water activities beforehand, I’d recommend making a beeline for the Bay’s restaurants.
Keep it mainstream and reliable with Nandos, sample Japanese cuisine on the quay at Yakitori 1, or opt for waterfront Italian at Zizzi. Apart from the waterfront views, the best part about dining in Cardiff Bay is its diverse selection of cuisine and prices. Whether you are a corporate super couple or a gaggle of university students, you’ll find a place to dine in style.
Caerphilly Mountain is no Mount Snowdon; I’ll give you that. But the summit still lies a respectable 271 metres above sea level! Plus, you’ll get a 360-degree view over Caerphilly and Cardiff from the top, a unique vantage point over the capital city.
The hike to the summit only takes ten minutes and is an accessible, gentle path that suits most walkers. For families with young children or older relatives, Caerphilly Mountain is a perfect balance of effort and reward. While, for adventurous travellers or couples, it can be tackled at sunrise or sunset.
While you can catch the train from Cardiff to Caerphilly, you will have a thirty-minute walk to Caerphilly Mountain’s base. I’d recommend the twenty-minute drive if you want a short walk.
Spend a day at Barry Island Pleasure Park
Forget Gavin and Stacey; Barry Island has a Pleasure Park that rivals even Blackpool Pleasure Beach.
Barry Island Pleasure Park opened in 1897 and has 17 different rides to try – including classics like dodgems and more exhilarating rides like the log flumes. Entering the park is free, and instead, you have to purchase tokens to jump on your rides of choice.
You’ll also find lots of street food, ice cream, pop-up candy stalls, and piping hot donuts. UK Pleasure Parks are popular with good reason! Plus, Barry Island Pleasure Park is only half an hour from Cardiff by train or twenty-five minutes by car.
I’ve compiled a table of token prices for your reference, but overall, a day at Barry Island Pleasure Park shouldn’t break the bank. Most rides cost around four tokens per person, so you might even have money left over for a Gavin and Stacey Tour around Barry after.
Have a beach day
Speaking of Barry, you might want to stick around for a beach day. Barry Island is Cardiff’s closest beach town and definitely where to head when the sun comes out.
Barry Island Beach is by far a favourite and conveniently situated directly in front of the Pleasure Park. However, Jackson’s Bay is just around the headland, so if Barry Island Beach is jam-packed, you can always try your luck next door. Plenty of cafes and pubs dotted along the beachfront so that you won’t be short of refreshments and toilet facilities.
Cardiff International Pool
Looking for fun and a warmer alternative to swimming in the sea? Head to Cardiff International Pool.
Gym lovers will be happy to know there is a fully-equipped fitness studio, so there’s no need to slack on your workout routine. Families of energetic older children will love the different slides, with a Lazy River, Flumes, and Space-Bowl to unleash all that energy on. There is also a young children’s shallow area with water fountains and, of course, a 50m swimming pool for competitive swimmers to practice.
For couples thinking this could all be a little bit too hectic, I suggest booking into the Health Suite. Here, you can enjoy access to a sauna, steam rooms, and spa bath. The Cardiff International Pool makes for a great spa date!
Wow, you may be thinking. And, you’re right, Cardiff International Pool ticks a diverse number of boxes – partly why, it’s one of my most recommended things to do in Cardiff. Prices vary per age and activity, but I’ve included a list of popular options below:
Try your skills at Cardiff Ski and Snowboard Centre
You might associate skiing and snowboarding with the distant North or French and Swiss Alps. But, the Cardiff Ski and Snowboard Centre breaks all stereotypes. You can ski any time of the year on the outdoor dry slope!
Whether you just want an exciting outdoor adventure, brush up on past skills, or try something new, visiting the centre is one of the best things to do in Cardiff.
To use the dry slope independently, you need to complete one lesson beforehand, so check out the skiing and snowboarding lessons online. Once you get a lesson under your belt, concession visitors can access the slopes for £12 for a whole day, with standard adult passes priced at £15.
I know skiing is something I’m desperate to master. It seems hard to learn without paying for expensive skiing holidays and booking massive chunks of time off work. So I highly recommend Cardiff Ski and Snowboard Centre is a budget-friendly entry-level option!
St Lythans Burial Chamber
Picture Stonehenge, then shrink it. It may sound underwhelming, but I’d agree in this case that good things come in small packages.
The Neolithic tomb stands unassumingly in a farmer’s field, often surrounded by cows. You are pointed in the right direction by the odd helpful brown tourist sign; the site has a wonderful sense of being off-the-beaten-track. Forget scrambling to snap a photo without others in the frame – you’ll likely have St Lythans to yourself.
St Lythans Burial Chamber is only half an hour’s drive from Cardiff centre and a 10-minute walk from the town of Dyffryn. It is a good attraction to combine with a day out exploring the National Trust Dyffryn Gardens and the Tinkinswood Burial Chamber, both within walking distance.
To visit St Lythans Burial Chamber is completely free but you will need a car as the route is near impossible via public transport. Try to coincide a visit with good weather too, as an open field provides zero shelter from rain and wind.
Have I missed out on your favourite things to do in Cardiff? Feel free to drop extra suggestions in the comments below.