With so many things to do in Cardiff, you may be wondering where to start. After spending 3 years in Cardiff for university, I’ve put together 24 must-do things in the wonderful Welsh capital. Just keep reading to put together your ultimate checklist of things to do in Cardiff.
The Must Things to Do in Cardiff
There are a few things you must do in Cardiff and are things I’d recommend above everything else. Firstly, Cardiff Castle should be first on your list – the castle walls also hold a mansion built by the Butes (the family that owned the castle before the city did). The second thing you must do in Cardiff is explore the parks, each has its own unique characteristics but they are all as pretty as each other.
Top Things to do in Cardiff
- Cardiff Castle
- St Mary Street Bars
- Bute Park
- Roath Park
- Cardiff University Main Building
- Cathays Park
- National Musuem
- St David’s Centre
- Chippy Alley
- Live Lounge
- The Arcades
- Taff Trail
- The Welsh Senedd
- Cardiff Bay
- Cardiff Market
- Pierhead Building
- Millenium Centre
- Principality Stadium
- Animal Wall
- Llandaff Cathedral
- Motorpoint Arena
- World’s Oldest Record Shop
- Coffee Crawl
- Norweign Church
As I said, one of the things you have to do in Cardiff is to visit Cardiff Castle. The castle has over 2,000 years of history behind it and you can spend hours exploring its grounds. At one point, the Castle belonged to the Bute family – in fact, the 3rd Marquess of Bute was reportedly the richest man in the world during the 1860s!
I’m not particularly a fan of heights but for views over Cardiff, the castle is the best place. Find your way up to the upper part of the castle and enjoy stunning scenes over Bute Park, and over the beautiful city.
St Mary Street Bars
A short walk from Cardiff Castle, you’ll find St Mary Street. A particular favourite thing to do in Cardiff of mine is spending time in the bars that are scattered up and down this street. In fact, for my 22nd birthday, we did a cocktail crawl down St Mary Street.
Whatever your taste in drinks, or your price range, you’ll find the perfect bar on St Mary Street. Some of my personal favourites include:
- Kongs – Kongs is a really cool bar that is located down a flight of stairs on St Mary St, sign posted by a black and white gorilla artwork above the door. You’ll find your way down into an industrial style bar filled with retro games and table tennis tables. I’ve taken my dad here before and he also loved it, so whatever your age this is a place you’ll enjoy.
- The Alchemist – The Alchemist joined the lineup of bars in Cardiff in the last few years and it’s a very welcome addition! This is a chain cocktail bar with a difference – every drink is unique and made in a science-inspired way. From bubbling tea cups to ice cream flavoured cocktails, this is not a bar to be missed!
- Slug and Lettuce – For an affordable option, go to Slug and Lettuce. The cocktails are often 2 for 1 and they have a brilliant collection of classic drinks!
Whichever bar you choose, if you love a cocktail this is a thing you definitely want to do in Cardiff.
Bute Park is possibly the largest park in Cardiff. In fact, it’s 130 acres, running from the Castle all the way up to the big Tesco near Talybont halls of residence. The park is full of beautiful trees, plants, and paths. With the river flowing through the centre. The park is a wonderful thing to do in Cardiff if you’re looking for somewhere nice to relax. During the spring and summer you’ll often see students using the park as a peaceful place to revise for exams. In the centre of the park you’ll also find The Secret Garden Cafe, which is a relatively new addition, as well as some ping-pong tables.
Another beautiful green space in Cardiff is Roath Park. Located further out of the main city centre, Roath Park features a stunning lake with a path around the circumference. There is also a lovely cafe that overlooks the lake for a coffee and a slice of cake. Located here is also The Botanic Garden which is a large greenhouse containing lots of greenery as well as water that is home to some animals and fish.
Cardiff University Main Building
A very biased recommendation of things to do in Cardiff is give Cardiff University’s main building a visit. A large part of the university is located in beautiful listed buildings all centred around Alexandra Gardens. Made from stunning white stone, Main Building is a Grade II listed building and is well worth a visit to appreciate how gorgeous it is. The front of the building is on Museum Avenue and this is definitely the side you should go and see. The back of the building is located off Park Place, opposite Cardiff University’s Students’ Union and this is where most students access the site.
Fun fact: You may recognise the Main Building from TV shows such as Benedict Cumberbatch’s Sherlock!
Cathays Park refers to the area where the main building and other older Cardiff University buildings are. This is often a quiet area of the city, with beautiful buildings, and a lovely park in the centre. Why not grab a coffee and enjoy the peace in Alexandra Gardens!
The National Museum
One of my favourite things to do in Cardiff is visit The National Museum. As the capital city of Wales, it’s no surprise that the national museum is located in the centre of Cardiff. The museum is just down the road from the Main Building and has many wonderful exhibits. Entry to the museum is free, except for special exhibitions. There is something for everyone at this museum – with a large collection of art, containing works from Monet and Pablo Picasso, as well as a natural history section with dinosaur exhibits.
The museum will always hold a special place in my heart as it’s where we held our English Literature Balls. The staff are always incredibly pleasant to work with, so if you’re in need of an impressive venue (for a ball, a wedding, or just a fancy party), I’d definitely recommend the museum.
Shop at The St David’s Centre
You can’t visit a capital city and not spend some time shopping. A thing to do in Cardiff on a rainy day is to visit The St David’s Centre. This impressive shopping centre is huge and has all the stores you could possibly need! Whether you’re after some new makeup in Boots or Kiko, or new clothes in Zara or H&M, you could spend hours inside this modern centre!
Eat in Chippy Alley
A local name for Caroline Street, Chippy Alley is the place to be at the end of a night out. This short street in the centre of town is home to a host of fast food shops – hence the name. I’ve tried a few of these places and would recommend ordering some cheesy chips from one at the end of a night dancing away!
Dance in Live Lounge
As a capital city, Cardiff is home to a vast array of nightclubs. However, there is one that is a favourite of pretty much everyone I’ve encountered in Cardiff and that is Live Lounge. Live Lounge is a small club that, you guessed it, displays live music. Although, it’s mainly popular for its cheesy playlist that goes on into the night. Spend an evening here and you can expect to hear Mr Brightside more than once!
Explore the Arcades
A lovely feature of this wonderful city is its arcades. If you’re looking for a relaxing thing to do in Cardiff, you should explore the arcades. Cardiff is home to six Victorian arcades, each home to a range of cafes, restaurants, and shops:
- Castle Arcade
- Duke Street Arcade
- High Street Arcade
- Royal Arcade
- Wyndham Arcade
- Morgan Arcade
Some of my favourite shops & cafes located in the arcades include:
- Wally’s Delicatessen & Liquor Cellar – ideal for foodie and drink based gifts!
- The Plan – this was one of the first cafes I ever went to in Cardiff and it’s still a fave!
- Uncommon Ground – another great cafe!
Walk The Taff Trail
The Taff trail follows the river all the way from Cardiff Bay up 55 miles to The Brecon Beacons. If you like to walk or cycle this is the perfect thing to do in Cardiff on a nice sunny day! The river is beautiful, and whilst I definitely haven’t walked the whole way up it – the parts I have walked have been stunning!
Visit The Welsh Senedd
The Welsh Senedd is the Welsh Parliament, a democratic body that represents the interests of Wales and the Welsh people. The Senedd is located in Cardiff Bay and is open to the public to enter. You can even watch Parliament in action from the Public Gallery. This modern building is beautiful in and of itself, and if you’re interested in politics is a brilliant thing to do whilst you’re in Cardiff.
Explore Cardiff Market
For lovers of food, you must visit Cardiff Market. Located in the centre of town, this indoor market is open Monday – Saturday and is home to wonderful food and shops. If this is your first time to Wales, you must visit one of the Welsh cake stands and try this national delicacy (they’re extremely yummy and best eaten fresh)! For those who want a keepsake from their visit to Cardiff, visit one of the shops selling Welsh memorabilia – I have a Welsh dragon toy (who I named Brynn) from the market that I bought in second year.
Visit Cardiff Bay
Another thing to do in Cardiff is visit the Bay. Cardiff Bay is the largest waterfront development in Europe and is home to many cafes, restaurants, and bars. Alongside these, it is also home to The Welsh Senedd, a marina, The Millenium Centre, and many other attractions. The Bay is easily accessible from a short train ride from Cardiff Central, or for those who fancy stretching their legs you can walk from the centre of town.
BBC Wales is also located in The Bay, along with The Doctor Who Experience – in fact you may recognise The Bay from spin-off Torchwood.
Visit The Pierhead Building
The Pierhead Building, located in The Bay, is a grade I listed building. This striking building is one of Cardiff’s most memorable landmarks. The building belongs to The Senedd, and the clocktower sometimes goes by the name ‘baby big ben.’ So visiting Big Ben is something you can tick off both your things to do in London list, and your things to do in Cardiff list!
The Pierhead Building was originally home to The Bute Dock Company, which became the Cardiff Railway Company. The Pierhead was reopened in 2010 as an education centre for the Assembly of Wales.
Watch a Play at The Millenium Centre
The Millenium Centre is also located in The Bay. The Wales Millenium Centre is a home for the arts in Wales. Welcoming over 1.6 million visitors a year, this is a thing to do in Cardiff you can’t miss. From theatre, to music, to drag, there’s a whole host of interesting activities to get involved in here!
Watch Rugby at Principality Stadium
Principality Stadium, located in the centre of town, is the home of Welsh rugby (and that’s a big deal). If you’re a fan of rugby this is a must do thing in Cardiff. The stadium also hosts live music (I saw Ed Sheeran here during my first year at Cardiff Uni), as well as Welsh Varsity. Welsh Varsity is an annual competition held between Cardiff and Swansea Unis, ending in a rugby match between the two schools. If you’re a student of either uni, this is a must do thing whilst studying!
Find the Animal Wall
The Animal Wall is located to the West of the Castle, once being in the front of it, and is the closest you’ll get to a zoo in the city. The Animal Wall features 15 animal sculptures and was crafted in the 1880/90s and 1930s. Two artists contributed to the wall: Thomas Nicholls and Alexander Carrick. The 15 animals on the wall are:
- A hyena
- A wolf
- A seal
- A bear
- A lioness
- 2 lions
- A lynx
- A pelican
- An anteater
- A leopard
- A beaver
- A vulture
I think going and seeing if you can spot each of the animals would be a wonderful thing to do with kids in Cardiff!
Llandaff Cathedral is located out of Cardiff city centre. This beautiful church was built in the 12th century, with damage being done in both the English Civil War and the Second World War. To get to the Cathedral, you can follow the river from the city centre and cross the road by Cardiff Met uni – it’s then up a path.
Watch a Show at The Motorpoint Arena
One of my favourite things to do in Cardiff is see live music at The Motorpoint Arena. The arena opened in 1993 and has a 5,000 person capacity. The arena hosts music, comedy, and even sport in its walls. Whilst at uni I saw Niall Horan, James Arthur, The 1975, and The Script in this iconic Cardiff venue. A short walk from bars and restaurants, it’s the perfect location to see your favourite acts.
World’s Oldest Record Store
Continuing the theme of music, Cardiff is home to the World’s Oldest Record Store – Spillers Records. Established in 1894, Spillers is located in the Morgan arcade. The record store sells records and CDs and regularly hosts live music events. For music lovers, this is a music history thing to do in Cardiff that you’ll adore!
Enjoy Cafes on a Coffee Crawl
One thing we did in Cardiff every year for freshers was a coffee crawl. As a committee member of a university society, this was a lovely way to show new students around the city. If you fancy doing this yourself, here’s the route we planned:
- Hoffi Coffi
- Little Man
- Big Moose
- Barkers Tea Room
Although it’s not on this particular route, I have to give a shout-out to both Stag Coffee and Blanche Bakery. I’d consider both cafes and they’re located in Cathays. Well worth a visit if you’re in this part of town!
Visit The Norweign Church and Cafe
The Norweign Church is one of the most distinctive buildings in The Bay and was originally a church for Norweign sailors. Today it is an arts centre and cafe. With beautiful views over Cardiff Bay, this little white chapel is well worth a visit.
How to Decide Which Things to do in Cardiff
This list of things to do in Cardiff is quite extensive and has something I hope everyone will enjoy. Now it’s up to you to decide where you want to visit first. If you’re only in Cardiff for a day, I’d recommend focusing on the city centre, however if you have more time you should visit the bay for sure! If you’re lucky enough to stay during a warm summer period, you can even take a short train journey to Barry Island.
About Katie May
I’m a digital marketer who enjoys blogging in my free time. As a relatively recent graduate from Cardiff University, you’ll find content on English Literature, Philosophy, books, beauty, and more! For those who like to travel, make sure you also check out my guide of the best things to do in LA too! I hope you enjoy reading my blog, and I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments!