This is an initial list of Cardiff Tourist Stuff. Assume most places here, except the really remote ones, have cafés, and even some of the remote ones have pubs close by. It’s also biased towards the West of Cardiff because that’s where I live. Look on Google maps for interesting green spaces and interesting (hopefully free) things to do.
Do check opening times, things are currently higgledy-piggledy because of the plague. If you want to do many of these, it’s worth getting Cadw or National Trust membership, depending on where you want to go.
Bear in mind you can always do a Google search and get the information I’ve left out, like the official sites for these attractions.
If you only see one thing in Cardiff, let it be Cardiff castle. The original Norman keep is impressive in itself and it’s well worth climbing up to take in the view over the city. Cardiff uses the castle periodically to host other concerts or Welsh language events. It’s well worth a trip to see.
Obviously, the castle got taken over by a rich mining family who took it upon themselves to build apartments. These are well worth a guided tour, through bedrooms, offices, sitting areas and at the end, the library which, like many places in Cardiff, has starred in Dr Who. There are also leftover WWII bomb shelters set in the walls that are well worth a look.
The castle and Bute park were given to the City after WWII to avoid death duties and are well worth a look. Again, events take place here from theatre to horticultural events to street food. At the top end are sports fields.
Owned, built and extended by another mining family, this house, this little gem in the Fairwater/Llandaff borders is well worth a visit. You can look in the house into the kitchen and various drawing rooms. You can pay to go upstairs to see a history exhibition. The gardens are lovely and they have a nice allotment at the side.
St. Fagans, owned by the Earl of Plymouth after whom Plymouth Great Woods is named, is the bane of any Welsh schoolchild’s life. Set in 100 acres, it encompasses Welsh life from Iron age roundhouses to more recent prefabs with a visitor centre and museum rooms packed with Welsh history.
The house/castle itself is worth a viewing and the Italian gardens are pretty. This place is worth a day of anyone’s time. Beautiful gardens, interesting reconstructed buildings and a decent pub in the village.
The main museum in Cardiff is well worth a look, filled with fossils and art and so much more.
Llandaff Cathedral in the heart of Llandaff village heading down to the Taff is impressive. It’s been there since 500AD or so, fell into disrepair and was rebuilt into the form we see today. If you can get it on a Cadw open day get the guided tour and have your mind blown. Like much CofE it has military connections. There are cafés in the village. And pubs. One of which is very good.
It also has a Rosetti. With it comes a story.
The seat of Welsh democracy, important for making decisions that don’t matter when the real stuff happens in Westminster. Still, it’s how a modern parliament should look.
Norwegian Church Arts Centre
Another historic little building built for sailors back in the day when Cardiff was a throbbing port. It usually has arts and crafts displays and a café obviously.
Another Bute building, this was once the beating heart of the docks. Currently home to some historic exhibitions and the occasional conference.
Cardiff Bay Wetlands Reserve
A little patch of land tucked away in the docks, supposedly home to rare birds and even most recently a seal. I’ve never seen more than pigeons, ducks and swans. Oh, well.
Cefn Onn Park
To the north of Cardiff in Lisvane, straddling the M4 and reassuringly close to Ty Mawr a good pub, this is a lovely garden heading towards Caerphilly founded by Ernest Prosser, Director of the adjacent Rhymney Valley Railway.
It’s lovely when the rhododendrons are out. Also good for collecting golf balls apparently.
There’s not a lot to say about this. It’s a reservoir and probably good for walking the dog. I’ve heard mutterings about building a visitor centre and having boating of some sort on it, but we’ll see.
Grangemoor Park, Cardiff
Despite this being practically on my doorstep, I’ve never been. The river Ely here used to be a lot twiddlier but there was a landfill and now it’s an IKEA and a trading estate.
FForest Farm/Radyr Hydro Scheme/Melingriffith Water Pump
Supposedly this is one of the more radioactive areas of Cardiff (there were metalworks here back in the day), this is one of my favourite places in Cardiff, on the Taff. Park your car in Radyr railway station for free, go under the railway and over the Taff then turn left and walk up to the weir.
There are birdwatching hides here and the old canal water pump.
Opened in 1894, it’s well worth a circumnavigation. You can even go boating on it if you’re brave. There’s a café there and some more locally if you fancy a stretch.
Set on top of a hill in unromantic Ely, bordered by the A4232 with a commanding view of the City lies an Iron Age hill fort that was in use until Roman times and beyond. Having had Time Team do geophys and had several archaeological digs, it’s recently acquired a visitor’s centre. The story of the church ruins is a sad one.
Castell Coch/Fforest Fawr Car Park
Another Bute property, this time North of the M4 and close to Taff’s Well railway station. There might be a café, but Tongwynlais has one or more pubs and maybe some cafés. Further up the hill is a car park with a nice walk and a sculpture trail.
And the sculpture trail…
Chapter Arts Centre
Previously a secondary school, it became an arts centre showing films, live performances and so on. There’s a decent café with a well-stocked bar. I’ve been to various meetups there. Canton is a throbbing little village.
An oasis at the back of Canton opened to the public in 1891 with ponds, birds and set on two levels. Nice. Take a coffee and peruse.
Penarth Pier Pavilion
Penarth is lush. It has a pier, a pavilion with a café and a theatre/cinema. The estuary front is nice for a stroll with shops and cafés.
Not Quite Cardiff
Another one of South Wales’ great castles, this is well worth a visit. Pay Cadw and go inside and wander around. Caerphilly has a rail station.
Cowbridge Physic Garden, The Butts, Cowbridge CF71 7BD
Cowbridge is a cute little town just a short bus hop or a drive from Cardiff. This picture is of the physic garden, but there are lots more things to see. Cowbridge has a ruined castle and a Waitrose. What more do you need?
Cosmeston Country Park
Cosmeston is a former quarry now turned into lakes and a wildlife refuge. It has a visitor centre with a café (obviously) and is good for a wander.
Though dating back to the seventh century it was bought by the wealthy John Cory in 1891 whose son collaborated in making the gardens. The house itself is well worth a look. Again, easy access by bus or car, it’s halfway to Cowbridge.
National Trust – Lanlay
Out in Peterson-super-Ely, there’s very little to say about this except it’s nice to walk there and there are a couple of decent pubs in the village. There are even occasional buses.
In the vicinity of Hensol or the A48, you can park up and take a nice walk to this fishing lake. Take a thermos and some chocolate.
Situated towards Newport, this was the home of the Morgan family since the 17C. Lovely rooms, amazing gardens. This one is another National Trust property.
This one is definitely a drive although there might be a weekly bus. Actually hourly to either Llantwit or Bridgend. It’s nice to see the lighthouse buildings, the sheep and maybe clamber down the cliffs to the estuary.
There is potentially more to come!