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What are the best things to do in Cardiff?
Wondering how to spend your time in the Welsh capital? Cardiff Castle is one of the most loved tourist attractions in Wales, combining past and present by hosting live comedy, music and theatrical performances today. Whether you enjoy a historical tour or an evening of amusement, visiting the castle is unmissable when you're in Cardiff. The city's top university means many diverse arts venues and nightlife spots to make nights out memorable. Did we mention the city's charming shopping arcades? Home to independent shops, cafés and tearooms, these small covered shopping centres are always exciting for visitors. Rugged Welsh surroundings are the cherry on top, offering plenty of options for walks, rides and great days out within easy reach of the city. Driving to Cardiff makes exploring the countryside easy. Many hotels in our Accor Live Limitless collection offer free on-site parking, so getting there by car couldn't be easier.
A brief history of Cardiff
Cardiff is set in the historic county of Glamorgan. The city we know today started life as the site of a Roman fort, built at the mouth of the River Taff. Cardiff Castle was the base of Glamorgan lords, governing Wales on behalf of the English monarchy for centuries. The small town grew around its castle. Cardiff would benefit from its position next to the Bristol Channel throughout its development, acting as a centre for imports and trading. When Edward VI ascended to the throne, he created a new title, Lord of Cardiff and Keeper of Cardiff Castle, which was granted to the Herbert family from South Wales. The position passed to the Bute family in 1776, who renovated the castle and started the development of the surrounding land. Cardiff's expansion into a city came from significant coal and iron ore mines in the 18th century. The population increased rapidly, and by the time the railways arrived, Cardiff was the largest coal exporting port globally. The city remains the biggest in Wales, named the capital in 1955. It's also the country's administrative, shopping and cultural heart – a perfect choice for a weekend break in the UK!
Cardiff Castle is one of the leading heritage attractions in Wales. If it's your first time visiting, exploring the landmark and the surrounding Castle Quarter is a must! Explore 2,000 years of history in the modern city. There are many things to see and do when you visit the castle. Climb the Norman keep, discover the castle apartments and stroll along the battlement walks. You can also visit the Firing Line Military Museum and peek inside wartime shelters during your self-guided tour. The castle has stood solid through the Roman, Norman and Victorian periods, which means there's plenty for all ages to learn and enjoy. Unlike many historic castles in the UK, Cardiff Castle has also evolved and remains in use today. However, things are a little different than during the Roman occupation! Modern visitors can enjoy unique open-air performances inside the ancient walls. From comedy and theatre to world-class musical concerts, the unique venue offers something for everyone.
Museums and galleries
As well as historical attractions, Cardiff is home to many impressive museums and galleries. Visitors can explore Welsh history and culture through the centuries or see world-class national and international art, classical, modern and contemporary. The National Museum and St. Fagans National Museum of History are among the best museums and galleries in the city, consistently ranking in the top things to do in Cardiff.
National Museum Cardiff
The National Museum Cardiff is one of the city's leading cultural institutions. It's free to visit, making this museum and art gallery an excellent day out for anyone spending time in Cardiff. The museum is home to Wales' national art and natural history collections. It also hosts ever-changing national and international touring exhibitions, so you never know what'll be on when you visit. Explore the evolution of Wales from prehistoric times to the present day. From the Big Bang to dinosaurs, captivating exhibits appeal to all ages. The galleries also represent modern exploration and elements of life as we know it, including many exciting objects to capture the imagination. The museum's art collection is also among the finest in Europe, including paintings, drawings, sculptures and ceramics from Wales, Britain and worldwide. Whether you're visiting with children, history and culture enthusiasts or lovers of aesthetic delights, the National Museum Cardiff is a must-stop on the city's tourist trail.
St. Fagans National Museum of History
St. Fagans is a unique open-air museum telling the story of Welsh lifestyle and culture throughout history. Because the museum's set in park surroundings, it's also a perfect place to get away from the bustle of the city centre and enjoy some beautiful Welsh landscape. St. Fagans is the most popular heritage attraction in Wales, and it's easy to see why. The magnificent 16th-century manor house sets the scene for learning about the everyday lives of past generations in Wales – it's an exciting and memorable day out for all ages.
Shopping in Cardiff
When it comes to shopping, Cardiff has something for everyone. The city boasts sleek indoor shopping centres, high streets, unique independents and charming local markets – retail therapy is always nearby. Cardiff is also locally known as the City of Arcades. It's home to seven Victorian and Edwardian shopping arcades, elegant centres with glass ceilings and one or two levels of unique independent shops.
St David's Dewi Sant
St David's Dewi Sant is the city's shimmering shopping centre, home to over 150 shops, restaurants and cafés – it's a perfect destination for a full day's shopping in Cardiff.
City of Arcades
Another favourite shopping centre in the city centre, Queen's Arcade boasts a variety of high street names and independent stores you won't find anywhere else! More historic arcades to discover include Castle, Duke Street, Royal and Morgan arcades. Each is home to a unique array of independent shops and cafés – a shopping experience unlike any other.
Where to eat and drink in Cardiff
Foodies visiting Cardiff won't be disappointed. The city is home to many excellent restaurants, from street food favourites to world-class restaurants, perfect for marking special occasions. The best restaurants in Cardiff include Heaney's, a casual yet refined restaurant perfect for celebrating special occasions. It was opened by Great British Menu finalist Tommy Heaney in 2018, serving a seasonal menu that changes every day. The Potted Pig is a laid-back spot inside an old bank, perfect for families or leisurely lunches. Pasture is a steak house next to Cardiff Castle. At the same time, Nook is a tiny neighbourhood restaurant serving sensational small plates and natural wine. More of the best food in Cardiff comes from:
- Purple Poppadom
- The Heathcock
- Chapel 1877
- Park House Restaurant and Wine Bar
It should come as no surprise that Cardiff is also home to many excellent traditional pubs and more modern microbreweries and cocktail bars. Here are a few of the best:
- The Heathcock
- Rum and Fizz
- Zerodegrees Microbrewery
- Brewhouse Kitchen
- The Lansdowne
- Queens Vaults
- The Cricketers