The Top Things to See and Do in Cardiff Bay, Wales
Formerly known as Tiger Bay, Cardiff Bay is often described as one of the most successful redevelopment projects in the UK. The Bay has transformed from the rough red-light district of previous decades into the flourishing and trendy part of Cardiff that it is today. From Flat Holm Island to the Roald Dahl Plass, here are the top places to check out in this part of Wales.
Opened in 1999, the Cardiff Bay Barrage was one of the largest civil engineering projects happening in Europe at the time. The Barrage was built in order to reduce the mudflats, which were not aesthetically pleasing and were seen as a hindrance to the area’s progress. The Barrage runs from Penarth to the mouth of the Bay. Its creation has been central to the redevelopment of the Bay, and with the recent addition of a pedestrian and cycle route, it has made Penarth far more accessible.
The Cardiff Devils Ice Hockey team play in the British Elite Hockey league, and their current arena is located in the Bay. Formed in 1986, the team has a large number of followers, many of whom travel with them around the country for support. Wearing red, white and black, the team encourages adults and children to get involved with ice hockey. The fast-paced matches provide an exciting experience. The arena is part of the International Sports Village, which also hosts an Olympic-sized swimming pool and a kayak and canoe course, among other facilities. The season runs from October to April and is well worth looking into if you’re there at the right time.
Flat Holm Island is located on the southernmost point of Wales. The island has a long history of occupation, beginning at least in the Anglo-Saxon age. It is now a local nature reserve and has been declared a special protection area. A handful of shipwrecks can be seen from the island, depending on the weather. The best way to visit the island is by taking a boat trip; visitors are given a few hours to explore the island and the few buildings that remain.
Bayside Brasserie offers some of the most beautiful views over the bay. Priding themselves on their high-quality service, they serve a range of European dishes. This is a place for fine-dining meals rather than pub food, and they have a wine list to match the quality of their food. The restaurant offers a special lunch and pre-theatre menu, ideal for anyone heading to one of the arts venues in the area. Include this in your list of restaurants to visit in Wales.
Considering that Cardiff Bay is, well, a bay, there are plenty of options for those who wish to get out on the water. Sailing lessons, water taxis and water sports are on offer, but there are also several different boat tours available. The Open Boat provides bookings onto a tiny open-top steamboat replica, the Daffodil. Guided by the captain, you will be taken across the harbour to learn more about the maritime history of Cardiff in style.
Speaking of literary figures, Roald Dahl is perhaps one of the most famous former Cardiff residents, and he has his own corner of the Bay dedicated to him. The Roald Dahl Plass is near the Senedd, a public space featuring an oval basin with pillars that light up at night and a tall water tower. It has previously been a preferred site for outdoor theatre and street performers, and it has featured in the background of various TV shows including – you guessed it – Doctor Who.
Founded by the Makers Guild in Wales, Craft in the Bay is an open gallery featuring the work of artisans and makers from all over the city and indeed the country. It regularly runs talks and workshops to help visitors get a hands-on experience. This gallery has been listed as a vital cultural heritage destination since 2004 and continues to update its collection and put on new exhibits all year round.
Another great destination for the discerning art fan, BayArt was founded as an independent collective called Butetown Artists in 2002, thanks to a large grant from Cardiff City Council. Now it is one of the most prominent studio galleries in the city. BayArt has a varied, ever-changing exhibition calendar, so it’s always worth finding out what’s on, and it regularly runs open-studio tours so that you can see what resident artists are working on before it goes on display.
It’s difficult to miss Techniquest when you walk past it; it’s a huge, glass, oblong structure with various scientific apparatuses on display through the windows. Since opening in 1986, it has become one of the most popular science museums anywhere in the UK. The focus is very much on interactivity, especially aimed at kids, with many of the exhibits being designed in such a way, and with events and talks running regularly. The museum features a planetarium, a science theatre and a wide range of exhibits, so there’s plenty to keep you occupied.
Previously the Bute Town East Dock, this section of waterside was converted into new housing in the 2000s; this included the construction of the Atlantic Wharf Leisure Village before it was redubbed the Red Dragon Centre. Inside you’ll find restaurants, a bowling alley, a cinema, and a gym – and it’s even the home of Capital FM, one of Cardiff’s most popular local radio stations.
Additional reporting by Callum Davies