City Life is the City of Cardiff's premier lifestyle magazine.

Visiting Cardiff For The First Time? 10 Things To Do In Wales’ Capital City

If you’re planning a trip to Cardiff and wondering what to do and where to go, here are some suggestions.
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This brilliant Welsh city is packed with history, culture, and plenty to see and do. Yes, Cardiff punches well above its weight if you’re a visitor, making it an exciting destination for any traveller. To help you get started, here are ten things you should consider doing on your first visit.

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Cardiff is a shoppers paradise

1. Cardiff Castle
Not many cities have a castle at their heart and Cardiff’s castle is one of Wales’ leading heritage attractions and is widely regarded as a site of international significance. It prides itself on its 2,000 years of history from the Roman occupation right through to modern times. It’s beautiful and enthralling and you’d be mad not to visit.

It also has a little sister north of Cardiff called Castell Coch. The red castle. Also worthy of a visit. Cardiff Castle is owned and managed by Cardiff City Council while Castell Coch is managed by Cadw.

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2. Pop down to Cardiff Bay
Just ten minutes from the city centre, Bae Caerdydd (Cardiff Bay) is the place to be in summer. Admire the stunning architecture (Wales Millennium Centre) and take a walk across the barrage. You can loop right around if you wish visiting Penarth Marina. It takes about an hour and is relatively flat. Mermaid Quay has plenty of cafes, bars and restaurants and there are also plenty of shops to have a browse in.

3. St David’s and St David’s 2
If you’re a chain store fan, then these two retail emporiums will give you your fix. And they are great places to shelter from the Welsh rain as they are completely undercover with plenty of reasonably priced on-site parking. Yes, it rains in Wales. They both have some excellent eateries so you shouldn’t starve on your travels. St David’s 2 is also home to John Lewis.

4. Watch a rugby match and maybe have a flutter?
If you’re in town for the rugby, you’ll know exactly what the atmosphere is like.  Seriously, the Welsh love their rugby). Cardiff hosts many sporting events through the year, and you may fancy a little wager on the outcomes. If popping into a bookie isn’t an option, you can always play online on your smartphone.

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5. Visit Cardiff Market
It’s iconic and it’s brilliant. All housed under one great glass roof this super lively market is jam-packed with local indie businesses. The famous Kelly’s Records is here so if vinyl and CDs are your thing, you’ll love it. Check out the Facebook page.

City Life Cardiff Wahaca Mexi-Go Takeaway 3
6. Sample the local Welsh cuisine
There are some great restaurants in Cardiff. All the favourite national chains are here: Wahaca, Honest Burger and Cote are among some of our favourites, but Cardiff has some excellent home-grown indie restaurants too. You find a world of flavours just outside the city centre in Canton, Grangetown, Pontcanna and Roath. Check out the City Life Cardiff website for recent reviews. You can also ask the locals – they’re very helpful. We’ve all got our favourites and are happy to recommend.

Riath Park Lighthouse Copyright City LIfe Catdiff
7. Row, row, row a boat at Roath Park
In the summer, you can take to the water at Roath Park. You can hire a boat and take a leisurely row around the lake. The gardens are gorgeous with plenty of beautiful flowers on display. You can enjoy an ice cream and relax watching the local bird life. Swans, ducks, coots and geese are regular visitors.

If boating is your thing, you can also take a trip around Cardiff Bay.

8. Visit the South Wales Valleys
Cardiff is gateway to the Valleys. They’re about half an hour north and there are several radiating out in all directions. Cardiff was built on coal from the South Wales Valleys and the locals are keen to remind visitors of the fact. The valleys are rather beautiful in spring and summer.

One of our favourites is the Cynon Valley. At its head is Aberdare – home of the Aberdare Road Races (motorcycling), the Welsh equivalent of the Isle of Man TT. You’ve probably also heard of the Rhondda valleys. There’s a huge choral and brass band culture there. The landscape is beautiful.

Beyond are the Brecon Beacons. Not as far as you’d think. If you’re staying in Cardiff, driving to the Beacons and back in a day is not a problem.

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9. Check out the markets…
We mentioned Aberdare. Yes, there’s a market there. But Cardiff has some excellent markets besides Cardiff Indoor Market. There’s Jacobs Market near the city centre. Tons of antiques, collectables, art, ephemera, and it has a very cool rooftop café, and a gallery.

Down Penarth Road, you’ll find The Pumping Station. This is a must visit and has over thirty stalls selling really amazing collectables. Downstairs is a great café and they serve up a good cuppa and a pretty good bacon butty.

Another one worthy of your custom is Cardiff Indoor Flea Market offering antiques, collectables and vintage clothing. The market is based in an old warehouse to the north of the city centre. It houses over 60 stalls across three large halls. I believe it’s open Wednesdays and Saturdays so check before heading out.

There are other food markets that pop up through the year. Search Riverside Farmers market and also Roath Farmers Market. Markets like these pop up all over Cardiff in the spring and summer months so well worth seeking out.

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10. Go to a show!
There are plenty of great theatres and venues in Cardiff plus the iconic Wales Millennium Centre. Cardiff is frequently visited by big name entertainers and the Principality Stadium and Cardiff Castle host some amazing music concerts.

There are a host of smaller venues too that feature live music. Covid decimated the live music scene across Wales and the UK but, thankfully, venues are slowly coming back and live music is thriving again.

Mark Roberts Menarth Marina
And one for luck! Pop across to Penarth…
Penarth is technically in The Vale of Glamorgan (The Garden of Cardiff) but it sits right next to Cardiff Bay. The Victorian pier and esplanade are lovely to visit in spring, summer and autumn and the town has a great reputation for good food. Michelin Star Chef James Sommerin has quite literally made the town his home. Home is the name of the restaurant and, if you are a foodie, you will certainly want to give it a try. Book first though – there usually is a waiting list.

Further down the coast are the iconic seaside towns of Barry, Llantwit Major and inland, you’ll find the lovely market town of Cowbridge (very popular with ladies that lunch).

So that’s Cardiff (and a little of the surrounding area). It’s a great city and we’re proud to call it home.

Visiting Cardiff? The Vale of Glamorgan is next door!
Check out our sister site www.valelife.co.uk

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