Discover Wales: A day trip to Cardiff – Cardiff Bucket List

Cardiff is the capital and largest city of Wales. It is the eleventh-largest in the United Kingdom. Cardiff was a small town until the early 19th century. It became importance as a port for coal when mining began in the region.

In 1905 it became a city and in 1955 proclaimed capital of Wales. Cardiff is the main commercial centre of Wales as well as the base for the Senedd. At the 2011 census, the unitary authority area population was at 346,090. 

Things to do in Cardiff

Cardiff Castle

When we arrived to Cardiff city center via bus, we started to walk to our hotel direction and immediately we found the Cardiff Castle in front of us. This medieval castle and the related mansion located in the city centre. The original castle was built in the late 11th century by Norman invaders on top of a 3rd-century Roman fort.

Cardiff Castle is now run as a tourist attraction, and is one of the most popular sites in the city. The Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama, founded in 1949, was housed in the castle’s main range for many years, but moved into the castle’s former stables north of the castle in 1998. The castle has been used for a range of cultural and social events, various musical performances, including by Tom Jones, Green Day and the Stereophonics, with a capacity to accommodate over 10,000 people.

The Animal Wall

We definitely need to mention the walls of the Cardiff Castle as well. We can spot many different kinds of animal monuments on the top of the walls, kind of trying to escape or defend the walls. You can spot different kinds of species along the way. All designed by Burges and Nicholls.

This Animal Wall borders Bute Park on the approach to Cardiff Castle. It used to stand outside the castle itself, and was then embellished with nine stone animals, an intriguing assortment of creatures with “their expressive faces and poses“. As well as the lioness and seal shown here, there are two separate lions each holding a shield, a lynx, a bear, a pair of apes or monkeys together (these look like a mother and child), a wolf, and a hyena. The animals were originally painted, contributing to their lifelike and characterful appearance.

The Gareth Bale Dragon Monolith

There are 26 Euro 2020 dragon monoliths located around Wales. The most important one, Wales’ most famous football player’s, Gareth Bale’s you can find in the garden of Cardiff Castle. These dragon monoliths are called “DreigiauCymru“, have appeared at famous sites in the summer of 2020 to represent the official Wales squad for UEFA Euro 2020. And of course all of them remained, so you can still find them all around Wales at different historical sites.

Millennium Stadium

The Millennium Stadium known since 2016 as the Principality Stadium for sponsorship reasons, is the national stadium of Wales. Located in Cardiff, it is the home of the Wales national rugby union team and has also held Wales national football team games. Initially built to host the 1999 Rugby World Cup, it has gone on to host many other large-scale events and concerts. It also hosted FA Cup, League Cup and Football League play-off finals while Wembley Stadium was being redeveloped between 2001 and 2006, as well as football matches during the 2012 Summer Olympics.

Bute Park

Behind Cardiff Castle just a short walk from the city’s main high streets and civic centre, Bute Park is the green heart of the city. You can explore here a superb tree collection, natural play features, a visitor centre, three cafes, and a wealth of horticulture and wildlife.

St. Mary Street & High Street

St Mary Street and High Street form the heart of the city center. They are major commercial streets in the Castle Quarter of Cardiff city centre. All major fashion shops, cafes, cool pubs, bars, restaurants we can find on these streets. Actually, these two streets are continuation of each-other. High Street begins at the junction of Castle Street on the A4161 and ends at the junction of Church Street and Quay Street, from where St Mary Street begins until the roundabout at Callaghan Square on the A4160.

St. John The Baptist – City Parish Church

From St. Mary’s street we can already see the St. John The Baptist Church. The church dates from the 12th Century and is one of Cardiff’s oldest remaining mediaeval buildings. It is next to the Covered Market and in the centre of Cardiff’s main shopping area.

St John’s is a Diverse, Liberal and Inclusive Church with a heart for social justice. The community that gathers here believes itself called to share in God’s mission by welcoming people of all ages, cultures and traditions to worship, witnessing to Christian faith, knowing God and making God known by serving Christ in both our visitors and our neighbours. In normal times St John’s welcomes a thousand visitors each week and hosts many different celebrations for city institutions, charities and individuals.”

Cardiff Market

Cardiff Market is an impressive Victorian structure offering a unique shopping experience and has been trading in one form or another since the 1700s. Located in the centre of the city, the market is well and truly the beating heart of Cardiff. Under one great glass roof you will find a buzzing, lively market filled with local independent businesses and a wealth of products ranging from traditional Welsh cuisine to artisan coffee and street food; vintage clothing to second hand records, fruit and veg to a psychic medium.

Cardiff Bay

Cardiff Bay contains the Senedd building (housing the Senedd, the Welsh Parliament) and the Wales Millennium Centre arts complex. Work continues at Cardiff Bay and in the centre, on projects such as Cardiff International Sports Village, BBC drama village, and a new business district.

Pierhead

The Pierhead was built in 1897 and designed by William Frame. It was formerly the headquarters of the Bute Dock Company, later the Cardiff Railway Company, and then the head office for the Great Western Railway. Today it is part of the Senedd estate and is used as an event and conference venue, it is also a Grade I listed building.

You can visit the building for free of charge. There is a small exhibition about its history and you can watch a 15 minutes long informative video as well. It’s really worth it, as it explains how Cardiff developed and gained importance as a port for coal when mining began in the region.

The Senedd

You can also visit the Senedd for free of charge. You just need to get through a mandatory security control, which is very quick. After you can walk around the entire building. You can visit the conference rooms, the cafe and the Senedd‘s debating chamber and committee rooms, where the Welsh Parliament sits.

The 5,308-square-metre Senedd building was opened by Queen Elizabeth II on 1 March 2006. The architect Lord Rogers of Riverside won an international architectural design competition to design the building. It was designed to be sustainable with the use of renewable technologies and energy efficiency integrated into its design. The building was awarded an “Excellent” certification by the Building Research Establishment Environmental Assessment Method, the highest ever awarded in Wales.

Where to eat & drink in Cardiff

The Cottage

One of the oldest pubs in Cardiff. It was renamed from the Cottage to the Cardiff Cottage in 1863. It’s a traditional pub with friendly hospitality and atmosphere. You can find it on St. Mary’s street.

The Prince of Wales

This lovely pub you can also find on St. Mary’s street. Formerly it was The Prince of Wales Theatre, then a cinema of the same name. Today it functions as a pub. It’s extremely spacious with three floors, crazy big bars, and you can find yourself on the stage that was once graced by the great actors Laurence Olivier and Richard Burton. You can also find drawings hanging on the walls how the building used to look internally and externally in the old times.

The Borough

As the locals say it is the best pre and post match bar in Cardiff. A traditional Victorian long bar with friendly staff, good beers and a great atmosphere.

Where to stay in Cardiff

Cardiff offers many options for the night, but the prices are usually very expensive. So it’s better to book upfront and choose a place way before your travel. Feel free to be inspired by the below selection of accommodations.

How to get to Cardiff

By plane

If you’re planning to arrive to Cardiff directly by plane, it’s a convenient option, as the capital owns Cardiff Airport and you can get direct connections here from almost all capitals and major cities in Europe. Other options is to fly to Bristol and take a car or bus to get to Cardiff.

By car

From Bristol to Cardiff you can take M4 or A4 and M4 roads. The journey takes approximately one hour, depending on the traffic of course.

By bus

You can travel via national express, the journey takes 1,5 hours and goes directly from Bristol Temple Meds station to Cardiff Central station. You can check & buy the tickets here.

By train

From Bristol you can take GWR – Great Western Railway at Bristol Temple Meds station directly to Cardiff Central station. It takes 47 minutes and even the slower trains stop only at 3 stations in between.

Best experiences in Cardiff

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