Wales is a beautiful country with lush greenery, dramatic landscapes and medieval castles galore. With plenty to explore – from the extraordinary Dan-yr-Ogof caves to the magnificent Conwy Castle – “the land of song” has something for everyone. Here are the top attractions to visit the next time you travel to Cymru.
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St David’s Cathedral, Pembrokeshire
The Big Pit National Coal Museum
The Big Pit National Coal Museum, often referred to as the Big Pit, is a museum showcasing the industrial past of Wales. Set in Blaenavon, south Wales, it was a working coal mine until the 1980s, before being opened to the public as a tourist attraction. Feel the claustrophobia of coal mining as you go deeper underground.
National Museum Cardiff
From dinosaur bones to natural history to world-class art, you will find a varied offering at this museum in the heart of Cardiff. It wouldn’t be hard to spend an entire day walking the halls and discovering fascinating facts about the natural history of Wales.
Zip World’s Bounce Below
Underground adventures courtesy of Zip World are guaranteed to be an exhilarating day out. Slide, roll, jump and bounce in a giant cavern which was once a slate mine. Get a group together and have fun with the Bounce Below experience.
This castle right in the centre of the city used to, until recently, feature free-roaming peacocks. Even without them, there’s plenty to see. Go on a tour and learn about the history, enjoy the beautiful and intricate interiors and walk around the lush, green grounds. Locals who want to visit regularly can get a “key pass” for unlimited visits.
The Fairbourne Railway is a traditional, volunteer-run gauge railway that runs for 2mi (3km) from the village of Fairbourne to the end of a peninsula at the Barmouth Ferry railway station. This is a must-see, especially if you have little ones who love Thomas the Tank Engine. Adult tickets cost £10.50 return, but children under 12 can travel for just a pound.
This medieval castle in beautiful Snowdonia was a powerful fortress in its time. It is situated beside the Conwy Estuary and dates back to 1283. Find the most complete set of historical residential rooms inhabited by the medieval monarchy anywhere in England or Wales, connected by spiral staircases and large chambers. Look out for the weekend schedule for the regular educational events for kids.
The magnificent Pontcysyllte Aqueduct is built on pillars high above the River Dee and is one of the few Unesco World Heritage sites in Wales. If you’re looking for a unique experience, try one of the horse-drawn boat trips that take you along the canal wharf in Llangollen.
Wales Millennium Centre
This building in Cardiff Bay is an impressive feat of engineering, made of Welsh slate and copper. Above it, in English and Welsh, are words by Welsh poet Gwyneth Lewis – “in these stones horizons sing” – which are illuminated at night. The centre itself is a hive of activity, hosting opera, ballet, comedy and musicals.
Perfect to visit, walk around or bike along, the Mawddach Estuary is a gorgeous, broad and sandy estuary in one of the most beautiful parts of Wales. It is where the River Mawddach meets the sea, and it used to be the site of gold panning and ship building. Explore it via the Mawddach Trail, managed by the Snowdonia National Park Authority.
Dylan Thomas Boathouse
The Welsh writer wrote many of his most important works in this picture-perfect boathouse, where he lived with his family. It is found in Laugharne, and has views of the Taf estuary and the Gower Peninsula.
This network of Victorian and Edwardian shopping arcades in the centre of the capital, retaining many original features, is a throwback to the city’s past. It is full of interesting independent businesses, from fancy dress shops and food vendors such Madame Forage to the record shop Spillers Records.
Barry Island is not actually an island but a seaside resort, with rides, arcade games, a promenade, a long beach and food stalls selling items such as freshly made donuts. The resort featured in the hit comedy TV show Gavin and Stacey and offers a quintessential Welsh holiday resort.
Cadair Idris mountain is one of the top destinations in the Snowdonia National Park. Its name is said to come from local Welsh mythology and means Idris’ Chair, Idris being a giant in Welsh mythology. Nowadays, though, it offers an unparalleled view of the area. Be sure to leave before dark, as legend has it that if you sleep on the mountain, you’ll wake up a madman or a poet.
Anglesey Sea Zoo
Anglesey Sea Zoo, on the pretty island of Anglesey, is an aquarium that focuses purely on British marine wildlife. You’ll get to see British marine life, such as octopuses, lobsters, seahorses, conger eels and catsharks. Even better, this is a zoo with a mission: to educate visitors on marine habitats, research and conservation work vital to preserving British sea life.
The National Botanic Garden of Wales
Admire the huge variety of plant species spread across 568 acres (230ha) of parkland in beautiful Carmarthenshire. With huge pod-like domes creating the right climate for exotic specimens, the site is spectacular to behold. There are also several nature trails dotted around the gardens to ensure you get the most out of your visit.
National Roman Legion Museum
The Romans had a big impact on Wales – a history explored at this museum through the remains of an amphitheatre, baths and barracks. Caerleon, where the museum is situated, was a major Roman site, and numerous relics have been found here, including a stone coffin, a wooden tablet inscribed with the oldest writing in Wales, and treasure including coins and gems.
Tenby is a quaint seaside town and harbour in Pembrokeshire. Great for a summer’s day out, this place has a good old-fashioned Welsh holiday feel. There’s plenty to do too, including hiring a boat to go fishing, getting an ice cream or fish and chips, visiting Caldey Island or going on a coastal walk.
Brecon Mountain Railway
This little steam train takes you through the natural beauty of Brecon Beacons National Park: across valleys, past woods, and along the Taf Fechan Reservoir and gorge, before travelling upwards to Torpantau. The journey takes an hour and 40 minutes from start to finish, with a 35-minute stop-off that’s perfect for grabbing a bite to eat.
Developed over 50 years by the eccentric architect Sir Clough Williams-Ellis, Portmeirion is a picturesque, if slightly surreal, village in North Wales. After buying the land that would later become the village in 1925, Williams-Ellis wanted to show the world how to develop an area without ruining its natural beauty. Taking inspiration from Mediterranean architecture, Portmeirion is an amazing place to visit. Now one of the top tourist attractions in Wales, it is still known by many people as the setting for the wildly popular 1960s TV show The Prisoner.
In the Brecon Beacons National Park, the National Showcaves Centre for Wales, or Dan-yr-Ogof as it’s more commonly known, is an extraordinary place to explore. Comprising more than 10mi (16km) of subterranean cave networks, the site features a number of well-known markers, including the Rasher of Bacon, the Alabaster Pillar and the Angel. There are even a few prehistoric residents around, to keep some of the younger visitors on their toes.
With much of its coastline declared an area of outstanding natural beauty and its mainland comprising several picturesque villages, the island of Anglesey offers no shortage of reasons to visit. Lying slightly off the west coast of Wales, the island is home to an abundance of scenic views and mesmerising landscapes and is perfect for hikers and cyclists or those just looking for a quiet place to relax.
Built in 1889 to house the personal book collection of William Gladstone, Gladstone’s Library has become a must-visit for any self-proclaimed bookworms. Set in a beautiful building on beautiful grounds, the library is one of only a few that offers residential stays. As Gladstone was a firm believer in moral and social engagement, Gladstone’s Library offers reasonable rates for anyone looking to stay.
Devil’s Bridge Falls
In the centre of the Cambrian Mountains and a short drive from the town of Aberystwyth, the Devil’s Bridge Falls is one of the best-known tourist destinations in the country. Comprising three bridges, with the earliest dating back nearly a thousand years, the site is an eerily beautiful location. There is a resident nature trail that will take you across the bridges as well as to some of the park’s spectacular waterfalls.
There’s nothing quite like Principality Stadium on game day, from the hustle and bustle of the food vendors to the roar of the crowd and the electricity of the match before you. With rugby being the national sport, it’s no surprise this stadium fills its 75,000 capacity when the national team takes the pitch. If you’re looking to learn a bit more about the history of the sport in Wales, the stadium also offers guided tours for a more detailed look behind the scenes.
Additional reporting by Nicholas Grantham
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