So you’ve just arrived in Wales’ capital city of Cardiff.
Maybe you’re here to live, study, work, visit family or friends or maybe you’re on holiday (in that case, I hope the weather is kind to you!). As you may have heard or found out through the power of Google, Wales is known for its rainy weather, sheep, rugby, talented singers, its beautiful coastlines and mountainous landscapes. It’s also famous for many other reasons but these have been the most common associations people from other countries have come up with when I’ve told them where I’m from.
Returning to the homeland after living away for a few years made me feel like a newbie myself and I felt eager to explore things and places in my country, some of which I had never actually seen before.
Whether you’re here for a few days, weeks or months, make sure you take the time to explore what Wales has to offer. Here is a list of recommended places near Cardiff for a curious explorer:
Pay a visit to Brecon Beacons National Park. The Brecon Beacons are a must see if you are an avid nature lover who loves being outdoors, and if you’re into photography - you won’t want to miss this! Boasting beautiful and dramatic landscapes for miles and home to the tallest waterfall in southern Wales, the Brecon Beacons are truly breathtaking.
Take in the spectacular scenery along the Gower Coast. The Gower Peninsula is probably one of my favourite places to visit, especially on a dry and sunny day (these do exist in Wales sometimes I promise!). Here you will find lots of great walking tracks along the cliffs overlooking some of the most stunning beaches and bays you’ve ever seen, and if you’re a surfer, you’ll find some of the best waves at Llangennith beach. Some personal favourites along the coast are Rhossili, Langland and Three Cliffs Bay.
Wander through the capital city’s streets and discover the hidden gems found in Cardiff’s charming arcades. Catch a theatre production or comedy show at Cardiff’s Millennium Centre, stroll through one of the city’s lush green parks or check out the city’s art galleries and museums. Although it may seem a small city, there’s plenty to do! If you like being near the water, head over to Cardiff Bay where you’ll find plenty of cafes and restaurants and you can go on a boat trip if you’re feeling a bit adventurous. I can recommend the Bay Blast if you like things that are fun and fast!
If you’re a fan of all things history and like castles, you’re in the right place. Wales is one of the world's greatest countries for castles. You may have already spotted the impressive Cardiff Castle in the city centre but there are many more picturesque castles all over Wales and some are just under an hour’s drive of Cardiff. Castell Coch, Caerphilly Castle, Ogmore Castle, Raglan Castle to
name a few.
If caves and dinosaurs are more your thing then you must go to Dan yr Ogof and the National Showcaves Centre. I’m actually due a visit here as the last time I went was on a school trip (many moons ago) but I do remember being impressed by lots of life-size dinosaurs.
One for the hikers out there - the Glamorgan Heritage Coast. Stretching from Porthcawl to Aberthaw, the Glamorgan Heritage Coast is a 14-mile-long stretch of impressive scenery. Along the way you will come across some rocky beaches, extremely high cliffs and interesting limestone formations. I walked along part of the coast recently and the views from the top of the cliffs were
Learn about coal mining in Wales at the Big Pit National Coal Museum. Here you can go on an underground tour of a real coal mine wearing a miner’s uniform and experience what life was really like for former miners.
If you enjoy history and architecture and are keen to learn more about Welsh history and culture, then head to St Fagans National Museum of History and you won’t be disappointed. Walking through this open-air museum allows you to go back in time as if you’re walking through an old Welsh village. You will see buildings from different historical periods and will learn about traditional crafts and discover how people used to live in Wales.
Spot the deer at Margam Country Park. Margam Country Park has around 850 acres of land along with a 19th Century Tudor Gothic Castle to explore. You can go on a farm trail and spot the farm animals and you may even see a deer or two roaming freely around the park. It’s a great place for all ages and if you want to channel your inner Tarzan then there is an aerial tree top adventure just for you called Go Ape in the park grounds.