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20 things to do in Wales

A former courthouse and the 17th century Pont Fawr stone bridge on the river Conwy

By Lisa Hansson at Education UK, 1 March 2014

With thanks to: Ruth Owen Lewis, Samantha Windows and Marian Gray at Aberystwyth University; Agustin Valera Medina, Natalie Moyce and Alys Kowalik at Cardiff University; Kathleen Griffiths at the University of Wales, Trinity Saint David; Nicola Brabyn at Cardiff Metropolitan University; Dr Lisa Davies at the University of South Wales; and Caroline Townsend Jones at Gower College Swansea.

Dydd Gŵyl Dewi Hapus! Happy St David’s Day!

It’s St David’s Day! This is the national day of Wales, when Welsh schools, colleges, universities and communities come together to celebrate Welsh culture. St David is the patron saint of Wales, and it’s believed he died on the 1st of March in the year 569.

This is also an ideal time to experience Welsh culture – why not learn a few Welsh words and phrases, try cawl (a traditional Welsh stew) or go to one of the many St David’s Day events going on in Cardiff (the capital of Wales) and across the country today? Find out what’s going on near you with the Visit Wales event search.

For more ideas, we asked the experts to list the 20 best things to do in Wales – today and throughout the year…

1. Escape the city in Cardiff’s parks – Roath Park is home to thousands of roses of different varieties, and Bute Park is a quiet haven in the centre of the city. A trail follows the River Taff as it snakes away from Bute Park and Cardiff Castle, all the way to the town of Brecon 55 miles away – and it's perfect for cycling or walking on a sunny day.

2. ‘Kick the bar’ in Aberystwyth – a local custom where residents walk from one end of the city to the other along the promenade, taking in the sea air, the Castle and all the seafront hotels.

3. Take the Vale of Rheidol steam train to Devil’s Bridge Falls. These unique waterfalls have attracted thousands of visitors since the 18th century, and the steam train winds around the hills with spectacular views of the Welsh countryside.

4. Go underground – 300 feet underground! At the Big Pit National Coal Museum, the tour guides are ex-miners who take visitors through a network of underground roadways, air doors, stables and engine houses. It’s also free to enter, as it’s part of the National Museum of Wales.

5. Are you a Dr Who fan? As well as the many Welsh locations used to film the BBC TV show, you can visit the Doctor Who Experience in Cardiff Bay for an interactive journey and the world’s most extensive collection of original Doctor Who props.  

6. Feel poetic with a visit to Dylan Thomas’ birthplace in Swansea or Dylan Thomas' Boathouse in Laugharne – this was home to the Welsh writer for the last four years of his life (1949 to 1953), and was where he wrote the poem, ‘Do not go gentle into that good night’. Nearby is the small village of Llansteffan and its impressive 12th-century castle.

7. Get lost among the Merthyr Mawr Sand Dunes, a network of dunes rolling towards the coastline between Porthcawl and Ogmore-by-sea. The area lays claim to the highest single sand dune in Europe, and scenes from the famous 1962 film Lawrence of Arabia were filmed here.

8. Watch the Welsh national team play rugby at the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff. People in Wales love sport, and it’s hard not to get caught up in the excitement on match days.

9. Marvel at history at St Fagans National History Museum in Cardiff, one of Europe's leading open-air museums – you’ll see Welsh life through the ages, with buildings from Celtic times alongside Victorian palaces. As part of the National Museum of Wales, it’s free to enter!

10. Pull on your hiking boots and explore the famous Brecon Beacons National Park – home to mountains, waterfalls, forests, quaint market towns and some of the best walking trails in the UK.

11. Visit Portmeirion, an Italian-inspired coastal village, ideally during Festival No. 6 in September – a unique music festival that’s been named Best Small Festival in the UK.

12. Go caving at Dan yr Ogof, and walk behind 40-foot-high waterfalls as they cascade around you in the Cathedral Cave.

13. Read a book at the National Library of Wales in Aberystwyth – which is believed to have more books per person than any other town in the UK!

14. Get a vivid picture of life in 2nd-century Roman Britain in Caerleon, where you can still see the remains of a Roman amphitheatre, fortress and baths.

15. Eat a freshly made Welsh cake (a small sweet cake, like a scone) from Cardiff Market, a Victorian indoor market that’s still bustling with shoppers and market traders.

16. Go fossil hunting at the Glamorgan Heritage Coast – a 14-mile stretch of protected coastline and an amazing place for long walks.

17. Surf and try other watersports in the Gower, a peninsula about an hour from Cardiff and a beautiful destination for surfers. If you’d rather stay in the city, try the Cardiff International White Water centre.

18. Visit Snowdonia National Park, take the train to the top of Snowdon and walk back down – or vice versa, if you’re feeling energetic! Snowdon is the highest mountain in Wales, and the highest point in the UK outside the Scottish Highlands.

19. Admire miles of natural attractions along the Pembrokeshire Coast – cliffs, beaches, caves and wildlife. Look out for seals, puffins and wild horses, and stop by St David’s, home to a 12th-century abbey.

20. Have your picture taken with the railway station sign at Llanfairpwllgwyngyll – the village with the longest place name in Europe. Its full name is Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogo-gogoch!

Please visit the National Museum Wales website and Visit Wales for more information about sites and attractions.