Top 12 Free/ Cheap Things To Do In Cardiff | Budget City Guide
So it's been confirmed that people from any Tier 1 or 2 regions of England are free to travel to Wales, which is very exciting for some of us. I travelled there myself over Summer for a weekend in Cardiff with my best friend and we absolutely fell in love. The city felt like a mix between all the best parts of Liverpool, York and Leeds; a combination of rich history, cool shopping arcades and water-side adventures. There are so many things you can do in the city, and most of it is really cheap if not completely free. I highly recommend heading there if you get the chance, and here's what I recommend getting up to if you do:
Cardiff Castle Public Square
Free. Although going up into the castle itself will set you back a few quid (£14.50 to be exact), the surrounding public square is completely free to enter. From here you can view the keep and it's surrounding moat, sit and picnic at one of their public tables, and see lots of castle memorabilia such as the pillory and suits of armour. The gift shop is also located here.
Ferry To Penarth
£4. Penarth is a quiet little seaside town that sits just across Cardiff Bay. If you walk down to Mermaid Quay (see below), there are lots of different boat companies that operate services across the bay all day long. You can get to Penarth by taxi if needed, but the boat is really relaxing and such a nice activity for only a couple of pounds. The trip takes approximately 20 minutes each way.
Penarth Beach & Pier
Free. After the ferry trip, make sure you head down to Penarth town centre via the beach. The entire route is framed by soaring cliff faces on one side, and lapping waves on the other. The beach is rocky, so not great for sunbathing (you are in Wales so sunbathing isn't really on the cards anyway like) but provides a great walk out in the sea air with the most fantastic views. You'll know you've arrived when you see the pier, a postcard-perfect structure that dates all the way back to the 1890s. You can grab some traditional ice cream or fish and chips here, or you can head up the hill to the centre for a good plate of pub grub.
Free. This Grade 1 listed park is just a short walk away from the city centre. Here you can visit the botanical gardens, walk around the 30 acre lake and picnic next to the rose gardens.
Free. Who doesn't love a good market visit while in a new city? Here you can find market traders of all kinds, from food to homeware to jewellery and trinkets. A huge portion of the top floor is ran by the famous Kellys Records which is great to have a rummage around in, and I definitely recommend stopping by The Naked Vegan for some guilt free treats,
National Museum Cardiff
Free. This incredible museum boasts a vast variety of collections, from fine art galleries to national history displays. My personal favourite gallery is the 'Evolution of Wales'. The exhibition shows the transformation of the earth, it's plants and the animals in the area, from dinosaurs and woolly mammoths to the birds and mammals of today. The building itself is also a sight in itself, situated right next door to Welsh Parliament.
Drinks In The Brewery Quarter
Free. If you fancy a chilled evening of drinks then this is where you need to head. The pubs here all offer outdoor seating in the inner courtyard, complete with heaters and fairy lights. It's the perfect place to wind down after a busy day of exploring. If you'd like a particular pub recommendation then I'd say head over to Brewhouse for a fab selection of reasonably priced beers, spirits and cocktails.
Free. There are a total of 7 shopping arcades in Cardiff nestled in a mixture of beautiful Victorian and Edwardian structures. Head here for vintage shops, tea rooms, boutique stores and independent restaurants. The Castle Arcade and Royal Arcade are probably the most popular but you can read all about the others, as well as what's inside, via their website here.
The Animal Wall
Free. This fascinating structure was built back in 1890 and houses a total of 15 different animals, from pelicans and anteaters to bears and baboons. The wall is now Grade 1 listed and you can find it along the side of Bute Park and castle Street, in the Castle Quarter.
The Norwegian Church Arts Centre
Free. This, quite haunting, gothic church stands out from the other historic buildings on the edge of Cardiff Bay. Roald Dahl's old church (yep, he used to worship here!) is now host to a whole variety of classes and events, and it's completely free to pop in and have a look around.
Free. This waterside shopping and leisure centre is a fab way to spend a chilled out afternoon after being by the water (or maybe even after visiting Penarth like we did). I can highly recommend grabbing a bite to eat at Signor Valentino if you like Italian; the food was to die for and you can sit outside on the balcony with a view of the Bay. A perfect way to finish off an evening, and they also have heaters at each table so you can even visit in winter. For a full list of my food recommendations, you can read this post about my top 5 'cheap eats' in Cardiff.
Bute Park and Blackweir Fields
Free. Cardiff is one of the few capital cities these days that boasts an excess of green space, after being cooped up in Manchester for months during lockdown, we definitely appreciated it when we visited. This gorgeous park is great to walk around and has lots of little gems inside, including Gorsedd stone circle, some adult playgrounds and the remnants of the old Blackfriar's Friary.
And that's all I have for now! Again, I'm so incredibly glad we finally got to visit the city of Cardiff this year, and I highly recommend that you add it to your UK bucket list too. Are there any other places in Wales that you recommend? Let me know!
Speak soon, Meg x