Best things to do in Cardiff: your local experiences bucket list
Cardiff is a relatively young capital city, but it is packed with heritage, culture and things to see and do. It’s also a diverse city, having a central area full of shops, restaurants and entertainment, a waterfront that has been transformed from a coal dock into a modern bayside hangout and vibrant green parks that stretch for miles.
I’ve been living in Cardiff for most of my life and have spent the majority of my adulthood writing about Wales for national publications. Whether you’re looking for things to do with kids in Cardiff, interesting walks, the best museums or even where to find TV filming locations in the city, you arrived in the right place. Here are my tips for must see and do activities in Cardiff, so you can experience the best of the city’s local life.
1. Discover Cardiff activities with the kids in a fun and relaxed way
Although Cardiff is an easy city to get around on foot, there’s something relaxing about sitting back and letting someone else drive you around the main sights. With City Sightseeing’s hop-on-hop-off Cardiff 24-hour pass, you can ride an open top bus that connects many of Cardiff’s landmarks in one loop. Or you can use the bus to create your own itinerary by getting off to explore a stop then rejoining later in the day.
You pass museums, the castle and its surrounding walls, the waterfront of Cardiff Bay and plenty more pit-stops. The journey is accompanied by live commentary in English and an audio guide available in seven languages, so you pick up interesting information as you tour.
2. Get ready for some exercise and discover the best walks in Cardiff
If you prefer to get active and go for an interesting walk, take a private three-hour tour of Wales’ capital city, led by a Cardiffian who knows the ins and outs of the area. It starts with a visit to National Museum Cardiff, home to one of Europe’s biggest collections of Impressionist art, large scale exhibitions on botany and zoology and artworks from the past 500 years.
On route to Cardiff Bay, walk through the Victorian and Edwardian covered arcades filled with boutiques and independent eateries. Pass the oldest record store in the world, get some hidden-gem dining recommendations from your guide, then learn all about how Cardiff has transformed since being the largest coal exporting dock in the world.
3. For culture fans: Explore all corners of Cardiff's finest museums
Take an expert-led private tour around some of Wales’ best museums, all while getting to know its capital city. You start at Cardiff Castle, the centre of the city’s conquests over the last 2000 years. Even though the exterior is impressive, with its fairytale towers and climbable keep that offers views across the hills in neighbouring counties, the opulent interior is a neo-Gothic Victorian masterpiece with colourful murals, gilding and animals carved into the furniture.
The guide walks you through the Victorian and Edwardian arcades to National Museum Cardiff. It has one of the largest collections of Impressionist art in Europe, natural history collections including botany and geology, art through the ages and touring shows. Afterwards, you visit St. Fagans National Museum of History – a museum that tells the story of Welsh life. The collection consists of notable buildings from around Wales that are literally taken apart and rebuilt brick-by-brick, set in stunning countryside grounds. The tour ends with an exploration of Cardiff Bay.
4. Lights, camera, action: Unleash your sci-fi side
Since 2005, Cardiff has been the home of one of the biggest sci-fi series in BBC history: Doctor Who. On the Doctor Who Filming Locations Walking Tour, a fellow Whovian guides you around the filming locations of over 30 scenes. These include the location of the church where bride- to-be Donna Noble is kidnapped by the Doctor, the place where Danny Pink died and the workplace of Rose Tyler that went up in flames.
As you walk, the clued-up guide tells you insider information about how things were filmed and what techniques the crew used to transform the city into terrestrial sets and intergalactic landscapes.
5. Have sweet dreams with a sophisticated and unique hotel experience
For a stay to remember in the city, check into the voco St David’s Hotel. A genuine landmark in Cardiff Bay, every room in the five-star luxury hotel has a private balcony and floor-to-ceiling windows providing waterfront views. The restaurant, The Admiral, fuses international cuisine with local produce to carefully bring out the best of what’s in season. Ask the bar staff for a cocktail using Welsh spirits and you won’t be disappointed.
Boost your relaxation levels with a session in the on-site Marine Spa. Dip into the warm pool with overhead fountains, swimming lanes and a shallow shelved water bed. There are also a hot tub, sauna, gym and relaxation room, not to mention a menu of private spa treatments to further help you unwind.