If you ask a local what to do in Cardiff, chances are they’ll lead with Cardiff Castle. Two thousand years of history are contained within its walls: it’s been a Roman keep, a Norman garrison, a Victorian neo-Gothic mansion and more. House tours are worth doing for an explanation of the colourful interiors, and a small museum details hundreds of years of Welsh military history in a brisk and entertaining manner. Next to the castle is Bute Park, with 130 acres of green spaces and varied tree species, plus a sculpture trail that makes a fun scavenger hunt for kids. It’s also a stellar spot for a picnic. Plan ahead and make a stop at Cardiff Market before you head to the castle: this glass-roofed Victorian structure has housed rows of stalls selling fresh bread, cake, cheese, fruit and much more for over 100 years.
Attractions in Cardiff run the gamut from the very old to the very new. The stunning Senedd (the Welsh National Assembly building) was designed by Pritzker Prize-winning architect Richard Rogers, who created a building that mimics a massive tree. The slate and oak used in its design are all local, and there are free daily tours that explain the construction of this sustainable building, as well as information about how the Assembly works.
One of the most popular things to see in Cardiff is St Fagans National History Museum, one of Europe’s leading open-air museums and a fabulous place for children. The parkland houses over 40 historic buildings (including farm buildings, a school, a chapel and shops) that have been relocated here. Exhibits are as lively as it gets: watch craftspeople in their workshops perform traditional skills, from dying wool and making clogs to farming livestock and forging iron. Admission is free.
Surprisingly enough one of the top things to see in Cardiff is a record shop. Not just any record shop, Spillers, opened in 1894, making it the world’s oldest. It started life as a “phono exchange” run by the Spiller family and still sells CDs and vinyl records (and Spillers T-shirts). Ask the friendly staff to recommend something new. A CD by your new favourite band from Spillers makes a perfect Cardiff souvenir.