The best things to do in Cardiff
The best things to do in Cardiff
With the Champions League final having been held at the Principality Stadium (formerly known as, and still thought of by many as, the Millennium Stadium) in Cardiff, on the 3rd of June, this year, here at Airport Park and Ride, we thought it would be the perfect time to compile a definitive list of our favourite, and frankly, probably the best things to do in Cardiff.
So, park yourself somewhere comfortable (while you read. When you decide you simply have to visit Cardiff, park in one of our Park Mark awarded Glasgow Airport car parks, obviously.) and join us as we delve into our 15 favourite things to do in Cardiff.
The Norwegian Church and Café
Scandinavia and Cardiff have historic links, dating back to the coal boom when Norwegian ships brought timber to the mines and returned to Norway laden with coal. The surviving Norwegian church (of several that were built) was built from white clapboard cladding, with a pointy spire, to remind the Norwegian sailors who docked in Cardiff of home.
The fully restored church today houses a really interesting gallery and a café with a patio that provides views right across the bay. There’s even a Roald Dahl connection if you look hard enough.
The name of this fairy tale castle is both difficult to pronounce (unless, of course, you happen to be Welsh, and Welsh speaking) and impossible to represent phonetically in English. However, it is simply a must visit.
Not technically in Cardiff, but not far enough out of the city to take away its right to be on this list; you can see its spires rising from the trees, on a hillside off the A470. Castell Coch translates as Red Castle, and although it rests on ancient foundations it is, in fact, (strictly in castle terms) quite new.
The vastly wealthy (in fact, at the time, he was the purported to be the richest man in the world), and equally imaginative, John Patrick Crichton-Stewart, the 3rd Marquess of Bute, employed the eccentric architect, William Burges, to create a rural retreat for him. One that would complement the opulence of his main residence.
Bute was given only two criteria to meet: spend as much as you need to, and; make it a Gothic masterpiece. He did. It’s well worth a visit.
The Wales Millennium Centre
Situated bang in the middle of Cardiff Bay, the Millennium Centre can’t be missed. Its imposing slate and steel architecture is really quite breath-taking. Playing host to a massive array of gigs and plays in its main theatre and two smaller halls, and nicknamed the armadillo for its copper-coloured dome, the outside of the building is inscribed with the words, by Gwyneth Lewis, Creu Gwir fel Gwydr o Ffwrnais Awen (Creating truth like glass from inspiration’s furnace). Quite fitting for such a stunning building.
It also houses a variety of cafes and restaurants and holds regular free events that help to add to its vibrant atmosphere.
The Millennium Centre should be on everyone’s list of things to do in Cardiff.
Cardiff Castle and rooftop garden
Another creation resulting from William Burges’ employment by the richest man in the world, the 3rd Marquess of Bute, Cardiff castle, again, is a Victorian Gothic fantasy, sitting on top of ancient foundations.
Prior to the current iteration, there was a Roman fort on this site and a Norman keep, as well. The castle was passed to the care of the city of Cardiff by the 4th Marquess and has housed the National College of music and Drama, and remains one of Wales’ most popular visitor attractions.
If you take the house tour you’ll travel through the amazingly opulent rooms of the castle. During your guided tour, you’ll take in the Winter Smoking Room, The Nursery, Lord Bute’s Bedroom and The Roof Top Garden.
Cardiff Castle is another destination that should be on your Cardiff bucket list while you’re there.
This one is definitely less of a cultural experience than the rest of the items on our list of things to do in Cardiff. However, it’s also the only thing on our list that is on solely for the food.
Piqued your interest? Thought it might.
Science Cream make their ice cream from fresh ingredients, fresh to order… with liquid nitrogen.
The Sennedd (the National Assembly for Wales)
Back to the culture: not only is this the seat of political power in Wales, where the Welsh Assembly meets and makes laws, it’s also a pretty awesome building.
Designed by architect, Richard Rogers, you can get a guided tour of the building, grab a coffee, or just wonder at the magnificent structure itself.
The boardwalk at Mermaid Quay
Home to myriad bars, restaurants and various other amusements, Mermaid Quay is in the very heart of the Cardiff Bay redevelopment. During the weekends in the summer, when the sun is out and the terraces are filled with people, you could be forgiven for thinking that you aren’t in Wales at all.
It’s the perfect place to while away a sunny afternoon, grabbing a bite to eat, having a drink and watching the sun set and the lights come on.
There’s a carousel ride that will keep the kids happy as well.
The suburb of Penarth is a pretty seaside town on the outskirts of Cardiff, and it retains an atmosphere all of its own.
With steep streets, quaint shops, a Victorian pier and a beautiful Marina, Penarth is a great place to get away from the hustle and bustle of central Cardiff.
The pier even has a recently restored pavilion. Penarth is a lovely place to spend a sunny afternoon if you’re looking for things to do in Cardiff.
There has been a place of worship present on the site since the 600s. There is an early Christian pillar-cross in the south aisle that has survived from the original church.
The present building was built circa 1120 and was extended in the early 1200s and has undergone a couple of facelifts and additions, and even survived the blitz and the explosion of a German landmine in 1941.
Llandaff Cathedral is absolutely stunning, it should definitely be on your list of things to do in Cardiff.
Make the most of the sport on offer
Cardiff has a rich heritage when it comes to sport.
Cardiff Arms Park – the spiritual home of Welsh Rugby, was demolished to build the Millennium Stadium which hosts a plethora of events, sporting and otherwise.
This year’s Champions League Final was held there. Six Nations games are held there. Wales’ international Rugby and football home games are held there. Concerts are held there.
Cardiff is also home to the Blue Birds (Cardiff City FC) and the Cardiff Devils ice hockey team.
If you’re in Cardiff, and you’re into sport, you won’t go without while you’re there.
St. Fagans National Museum of History
More commonly referred to as simply, St. Fagans, after the village where it’s located, if you’re in Cardiff, you just have to go and visit.
Standing in the grounds of St. Fagans Castle, it’s an open-air museum that chronicles life in Wales from the Iron Age, onwards. The buildings are all genuine examples that have survived from their respective periods and have been relocated to St. Fagans, brick-by-brick.
In addition, the castle and Italian gardens are pretty stunning, too.
Best of all? Entrance to St. Fagans is free!
Explore the arcades
As you’ll soon discover, if you spend any time at all wandering round Cardiff, it’s a beautiful city, and it’s also home to a veritable warren of stunning Edwardian and Victorian shopping arcades that really reflect the heritage of Cardiff.
The Morgan Arcade, Royal Arcade, the Castle Arcade, the High Street and Duke Arcade. All worth wandering around at a leisurely pace. All filled with quirky shops, interesting eateries and somewhere in there, is a fantastic deli, which must be visited, if only for the wild boar pâté.
Really. Get some.
Eat in prison
Contrary to the fact that this item may initially seem to contradict our earlier bold statement of Science Cream being ‘the only thing on our list that is on solely for the food’, it doesn’t.
Why? Because this is on the list because it’s not only food, but it’s in a prison. How often do you get that opportunity whilst still being able to go home afterwards?
The Clink is a charity staffed by prisoners working towards qualifications in food as part of their rehabilitation and has even won numerous awards, including the 10th best restaurant in the UK in TripAdvisor’s Traveller’s Choice Awards in 2015.
Great food and a great experience, too.
Chapter Arts Centre
Situated in Canton, Cardiff, the Chapter Arts Centre opened in 1971 and aims to provide a place for art, performance and film, as well as a dynamic and creative social space.
It does. You should visit.
The National Museum, Cardiff
The museum is home to a huge range of art, including world-renowned impressionist and post-impressionist work, 1930s surrealism and 20th Century Welsh art.
There are archaeological, geological and natural history exhibitions, too.
A visit to the National Museum can easily swallow a whole day. And it’s worth letting it.
Here at Airport Park and Ride, we like to make things simple. So, whether you’re planning a trip to Cardiff for the Champions League Final (or any other reason – for example, you found our list of the best things to do in Cardiff and found yourself inspired), or a trip to Costa Rica to try out the coffee, visit our website to book your Glasgow Airport parking.
We feature only the best, most secure Glasgow Airport car parks – all of which have the Park Mark award – on our website, and they all run an on-demand shuttle bus to and from the airport, too.
Park with us and jet off, safe in the knowledge that your car is in good hands. Glasgow Airport parking perfected.