Situated on the coast and surrounded by outstanding natural beauty, there’s so much more to Cardiff than just its trendy city centre. From Europe’s largest waterfront development to an open-air museum scattered with over 40 re-erected historical buildings, here are some exciting things to do in Cardiff and the surrounding area.

St. Fagans National Museum of History

A visit to St Fagans National Museum of History is like stepping into a time warp. The attraction sits on the outskirts of Cardiff in the village of St Fagans, standing in the grounds of the stunning St Fagans Castle – a 16th-century manor house once owned by the Early of Plymouth. The museum is pretty spectacular, consisting over 40 re-erected buildings chronicling the architectural history of the Welsh people. In 2011 it was named Which? magazine’s favourite UK visitor attraction and underwent a £30 million revamp in 2018 – so expect to be impressed.

Cardiff Bay

Just a 10-minute drive from the city centre, you’ll find Europe’s largest waterfront development. It’s hard to think that just 100 years ago the area was the hub of Cardiff’s coal shipping industry, as it’s now a glistening shopping and dining district packed with attractions, restaurants and bars. The bay is centred around a manmade 500-acre freshwater lake, and visitors shouldn’t miss the 45-minute guided boat tours departing from Mermaid Bay and Penarth Barrage. With renowned restaurants, buzzing bars, a host of entertainment and even a local craft exhibition, Cardiff Bay is a must-see in Cardiff.

Cardiff Distillery

A visit to the only distillery in Cardiff is a must for any visitor, a hub of all things booze with a restaurant, bar, mixology school and of course, a fully working distillery. The distillery hosts a wide and exciting array of events and activities such as gin and prosecco brunches, cocktail masterclasses and gin-making lessons, along with some serious evening discussions on rum, wine, whiskey and gin for discerning drinkers. The best part? The distillery even has a luxurious hotel on-site, so you can spend the night in the distillery bar before literally rolling into bed. 

Castell Coch

With its ornate rooms, rooftop garden and medieval walls, Cardiff Castle usually gets all the attention when it comes to castles in Cardiff, but it’s definitely worth paying a visit to Castle Coch. Reminiscent of a fairy-tale castle, Castell Coch, or ‘Red Castle’, is a gothic revival castle sitting above the village of Tongwynlais on the outskirts of the city. Once a medieval fortress the castle lay in ruins until the uber-rich 3rd Earl of Bute purchased the plot to turn it into a country residence for ‘occasional summer occupation’. With the medieval remains still in place, inside you’ll find domed ceilings, lavish furnishings and magnificent paintings and tapestries – typical of the High Victorian era. 

Cardiff Central Market

Cardiff Central market has been a hub of the city since the 1700s and has stood in its current home in the Castle Quarter for more than a century. Today, a bustling duel-level market is housed in the glass-roofed Victorian structure, where visitors can peruse anything from clothing and homeware to fresh local produce and records. Once you’ve made your way through the 200 plus traders at the market, and only if you haven’t eaten everything in sight, then it’s worth popping into one of the quaint local coffee shops right around the corner, like Celtic Corner, Donnelly’s of Bull Terrier Café.