Must-Visit Attractions in Wales

Conwy Castle is one of the top things to see in Wales
Conwy Castle is one of the top things to see in Wales | © Image Professionals GmbH / Alamy Stock Photo
Photo of Poppy Jacob
3 September 2020

Wales is a beautiful country boasting lush greenery, dramatic landscapes and no shortage of castles. With plenty to explore, from the extraordinary Dan-yr-Ogof caves to the magnificent Conwy Castle, Wales has something for everyone. Culture Trip has rounded up the top 25 attractions to visit the next time you travel to Cymru.

St David's Cathedral, Pembrokeshire

Cathedral
Map View
View of St Davids. Image: Visit Wales
© Visit Wales
This stunning, perfectly-preserved cathedral is situated in the picturesque St David’s of Pembrokeshire. It sits in a bowl and can therefore be viewed from above, making it a spectacular sight for visitors. Find it near the little shops and country pubs of St David’s and then head for a walk along the nearby coast.

The Big Pit

Museum
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The Big Pit National Coal Museum, often referred to as the Big Pit, is a museum showcasing Wales’ industrial past, set in Blaenavon, Torfaen, South Wales. It was a working coal mine until the 80s, before being opened to the public as a tourist attraction. Feel the claustrophobia of coal mining as you go deeper underground.

Zip World's Bounce Below

Natural Feature
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Underground adventures courtesy of Zip World are guaranteed to be an exhilarating day out. In a maze of underground trampolines and zip lines in a former slate mine in North Wales, you can slide, roll, jump and bounce from net to net in a cavern the size of a cathedral. Get a group together and have some fun with the Bounce Below experience.

Cardiff Castle

Historical Landmark
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inside the grounds of Cardiff Castle with the Norman Keep Cardiff South Glamorgan Wales UK GB EU Europe
© eye35 / Alamy Stock Photo
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 of the rooms and walk around the lush, green grounds. Locals who want to visit regularly can get a “key pass” for unlimited free visits.

Fairbourne Railway

Architectural Landmark
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The Fairbourne Railway is a traditional, volunteer-run gauge railway that runs for 2mi (3.2 km) 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.

Conwy Castle

Historical Landmark
Map View

This medieval castle in beautiful Snowdonia was a powerful fortress in its time. It is situated beside the Conwy Estuary and dates all the way back to 1283. Visitors to the castle will 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 castle’s regular educational events for the kids.

Pontcysyllte Aqueduct

Architectural Landmark
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Pontcysyllte’s magnificent aqueduct is built on pillars high above the River Dee and is one of Wales’ few Unesco World Heritage sites. 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

Theatre
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The Canolfan Mileniwm Cymru/Wales Millennium Centre which opened in 2004, in Cardiff Bay, Wales. Designed by  Jonathan Adams.
© Maurice Savage / Alamy Stock Photo
This building in Cardiff Bay is an impressive feat of engineering, made up of Welsh slate and copper above the main entrance. 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.

Mawddach Estuary

Natural Feature
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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.

Barry Island

Architectural Landmark
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Barry Island, Vale of Glamorgan, South Wales is a popular seaside tourist attraction. Pictured enjoying late summer sunshine 2018 .  Whitmore Bay pic.
© Peter Bolter / Alamy Stock Photo
Barry Island is not actually an island but a seaside resort, complete with rides, arcade games, a promenade, a long beach and food stalls selling things like freshly-made donuts. The resort is well known for featuring on the hit comedy TV show Gavin and Stacey and offers its visitors a quintessential Welsh holiday resort.

Cadair Idris

Natural Feature
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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 its visitors an unparalleled view of the surrounding 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

Aquarium
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Anglesey Sea Zoo, on the pretty island of Anglesey, is an aquarium that focuses purely on British marine wildlife. You’ll get to see the stars of the British coast and seas, 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

Botanical Garden
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Admire the huge variety of plant species spread across 568 acres (230ha) of parkland in beautiful Carmarthenshire. With its 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 really get the most out of your visit.

National Roman Legion Museum

Museum
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Grass covered remains of the ancient Roman amphitheatre at Caerleon Roman Fortress, Isca, near Newport, Gwent, south Wales
© Graham Prentice / Alamy Stock Photo
The Romans had a big impact on Wales – a history that is explored at this museum, complete with amphitheatre remains, 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 like coins and gems.

Brecon Mountain Railway

Architectural Landmark
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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.

Portmeirion

Architectural Landmark
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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.

Dan-yr-Ogof caves

Natural Feature, Historical Landmark
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Dan Yr Ogof. The National Showcaves Centre for Wales
© Michael Olivers / Alamy Stock Photo
Found 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 over 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 pre-historic residents around, to keep some of the younger visitors on their toes.

Anglesey

Architectural Landmark
Map View

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 for a visit. Lying just 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.

Gladstone's Library

Library
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Originally 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 offer its guests residential stays so they can better reflect on what they’ve been reading. As Gladstone was a firm believer in moral and social engagement, Gladstone’s Library keeps its benefactors’ beliefs alive by offering very reasonable rates for anyone looking to stay.

Devil’s Bridge Falls

Natural Feature, Architectural Landmark
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Based 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 different 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.

Principality Stadium

Stadium
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Millenium Stadium in Cardiff, Wales
© Julio Carmelo Fuentes / Alamy Stock Photo
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 country’s national sport, it’s no surprise that this stadium is full to the brim of 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

These recommendations were updated on September 3, 2020 to keep your travel plans fresh.