This Welsh capital city is ideal for those looking for a more alternative holiday destination or for those keen to find some of Cardiff’s hidden gems. It’s a city full of culture and history, and frankly, there’s endless amounts of things to do in Cardiff.
Not only is Cardiff regarded as the city of castles, but it’s also known for its many Edwardian and Victorian arcades (the shopping, not game kind) and as the central filming location for British TV series Doctor Who.
So, step foot into one of the most underrated and diverse cities in the UK with this guide to the best attractions in Cardiff and Cardiff’s hidden gems.
1) Cardiff Arcades
Cardiff arcades are one of the city centre’s seemingly small delights. With seven different arcades, each one contains a variety of cafes, shops and bars.
Navigating the Cardiff arcades is different from any other shopping experience, homing mostly independent and unique businesses. These arcades are a literal haven for Cardiff’s hidden gems! And if you’re big on vinyls, then you might be interested to hear that Spillers Records, the world’s oldest record shop, is situated in Morgan’s arcade.
2) Local Parks
Wales as a whole has a pretty hefty selection of parks. So I’m sure it’ll be no surprise to hear that we recommend visting some of these parks as one of your things to do in Cardiff.
There’s a lot of choice, so brace yourself. Up first we have Bute park. Situated behind Cardiff castle, it has a tonne of café choices and an impressive display of trees.
Second, we have Roath park, with botanical gardens, the option for boat hire on its impressive man-made lake and bowling and tennis courts, this an ideal summer haven.
Then there’s Cefn Onn, known for its gorgeous scenery and the access its provides to the footpath of Caerphilly Mountain, this woodland garden is the perfect park choice if you’re looking for somewhere less central.
And last but not least, we have Cosmeston lake. It’s an oasis for local wildlife and a great picnic spot. Located in the vale of Glamorgan, it’s also home to a restored medieval village from the year 1350. This country park and lake offers an experience of the diversity of Welsh life.
3) A City of Castles
It’s no secret that Wales is home to an impressive selection of castles, and Cardiff is no exception to this.
Starting with Cardiff castle itself, or also known as Castell Caerdydd, this place has seen thousands of years of history. In fact, its historical trajectory dates back as far as the Norman Conquest in Britain.
This castle is a pretty expansive source of entertainment. From hosting music concerts to open air theatre to experiencing the trebuchet, one of the deadliest military machines of its time, this castle has something for everyone.
But despite all of Cardiff castle’s magnificent features, let’s not forget its equally glorious counterpart, Castell Coch – a notable location amongst Cardiff’s hidden gems.
Castell Coch, also known as the ‘Red castle’, is located in the heart of Forrest Fawr. It’s known for its grand interior design that derives from the fashion of the High Victorian Era. Although if you look closely, you can also see the undertones of its 13th century remains.
4) Roath, Canton and Pontcanna: Cardiff’s Indie Havens
These residential districts in Cardiff truly embrace the beauty of independent businesses. You don’t need to travel to the city centre for a fun evening out, because each of these districts foster their own dynamic communities.
All three of these residential areas are full to the brim with Cardiff’s hidden gems. From independent businesses, to bars and fine-dining options. Whether you’re looking for a fun night out at a local pub quiz or an authentic Italian pizza, you’ll sure want to take a trip to one of these places if you’re looking for things to do in Cardiff.
5) Cathays Cemetery
Before you skip over this option or shudder at the prospect of visiting a cemetery, hear us out. Originally opened in 1859, this Victorian cemetery is the third biggest in the UK.
It’s the burial place of some notable historical figure, making a visit to this cemetery is a pretty unique experience. So, if you’re a nerd for history or want to see the grounds, this cemetery is a unique item to add to your list of things to do in Cardiff.
6) Porter’s Bar
Amongst Cardiff’s hidden gems, this one is a bit more literally hidden, but it’s worth the hunt. This business serves coffee by day and turns into a bar by night. It’s been voted numerous times as the best place to drink in Cardiff, so I think you might want to pay this one a visit.
And if you’re a musical fan, then the bar’s double function as a mini theatre might take your interest. Not to mention the fact that Hamilton’s creator and star, Lin Manuel, has even paid it a visit. I think it’s safe to say Porter’s has rightfully acquired itself a spot amongst Cardiff’s hidden gems.
7) The Taff Trail
This 55-mile trail from Cardiff to Brecon is one for the hikers and bikers. At 55 miles long, this trail is fitting for those keen to take a hike or bike ride. Although, if you’re going by foot you’ll want to make sure you plan the walking routes beforehand.
Along the way, you’ll pass Castell Coch and Cyftharthfa Castle, as well as impressive waterfalls and mountain landscapes. If you’re looking to indulge in the beauty of Cardiff’s rural life, then the Taff Trail is for you!
8) An Honorary Mention: Womanby Street
Whilst this spot isn’t exactly what you’d consider ‘underrated’ or deserving of more love, this street is popular as one of the many things to do in Cardiff for a reason. It’s one of the oldest streets in Cardiff and has a lively reputation, offering a variety of bars and clubs to choose from.
But this street is best known today as the city’s live music scene. So, if you love live music or just going for a boogie and some drinks, this is a great spot.
Cardiff’s Hidden Gems & Things to do in Cardiff | Summary
Cardiff is a city of variety with some of the most welcoming people you’ll ever encounter. If there’s one thing you can guarantee in this city, it’s that you won’t be strapped for things to do in Cardiff.