Introducing guest blogger Cath from Passports & Adventure
Having spent most of my time in the UK in South Wales, almost twelve years in total, you could say I consider myself a local. I lived within commuting reach of the city, worked in the city for 9 years and came to consider Cardiff and the broader South Wales area as home. And once our son came along, we started to discover the city and surrounding areas as a family.
Spending a long weekend in Cardiff with kids is a UK break which is both doable and affordable.
This post is part of our Explore My City series – come and visit cities around the world through the eyes of local parents
How to get to Cardiff
Cardiff is the capital of Wales and is easily reachable from other areas of the UK. If you live outside of the UK, you can fly direct into Cardiff from most major cities in Europe. Or you could fly to Bristol and reach the city by car, train or bus.
From within the UK, you have a few options. There are direct bus routes from most cities and Cardiff is linked to the likes of Swansea, Shrewsbury, Manchester, Portsmouth, Birmingham and London via direct train links from where you can reach other areas of the UK. Reaching Cardiff by road is also easy with it lying just off the M4 motorway.
Where to stay in Cardiff
There are many hotels, AirBnB’s and traditional B&B’s located both in the city centre and further afield. And when it comes to hotels there is something to suit every budget.
There are low-cost hotel chains such as Premier Inn and Travelodge as well as premium hotels such as the Hilton. Where you stay will be dependant on whether you have access to a car and budget. Without a car, choosing accommodation in or close to the city will be preferable.
The city has good public transport links to get you around. If you are driving a car, be it your own or a hire car, then you have more options available to you.
I have stayed in a budget-friendly Premier Inn in Caerphilly, just over the mountain from Cardiff on a return visit to Wales and had a very pleasant stay with my son there.
And if budget is not a worry, then the very luxurious Celtic Manor Hotel in Newport is just a short hop down the M4 and reachable in around 30 minutes. There is also a 5* hotel in Cardiff Bay called St David’s Hotel.
How to spend a long weekend in Cardiff with Kids
Assuming you are arriving in Cardiff on a Friday around midday and checking out of your accommodation on a Monday morning, you will have two and a half days to explore the city. Here is how I recommend you spend your time in the Welsh capital.
If you arrive into Cardiff around, or just after, lunchtime, you could head straight into the city centre and check out Cardiff Castle. Located in the heart of the city centre, and with a few parking options nearby if you have a car, it’s a great place to visit with kids.
Cardiff Castle is a medieval castle and Gothic mansion house which dates back to the 11th century. The Norman Keep, the centrepiece of the site, was built on top of a 3rd-century Roman fort. You can explore the keep, the castle apartments, walk along the top of the battlements and also explore inside the battlement walls, which were used as air-raid shelters during World War II.
There is plenty of open grassy areas to let the kids stretch their legs if they’ve spent the morning travelling. Cardiff Castle with kids would be a great way to start your visit to the city. After exploring the castle, as you are in the centre of the city, you could visit the National Museum of Wales if you have time or enjoy a stroll through Bute Park, located to the rear of the castle.
You could also head into St David’s Shopping Centre for a browse through the shops or for a bite to eat. There are a host of restaurants inside.
After breakfast, why not hop in the car, or a taxi, and head to St Fagans National Museum of History. Now, I should warn you, this is no ordinary museum.
Originally called the Welsh Folk Museum, this museum contains more than forty buildings which depict Welsh life and architecture throughout the ages. Each building has been taken from where it originally stood and brought brick-by-brick to the site in Cardiff and re-erected. Each is also furnished as it would have been at the time of its use or inhabitation.
At St Fagans, you’ll find churches, farm buildings, an old post office and bakery and miners houses from the 1800s. It’s a fascinating place to visit and kids will love peering into the old buildings, enjoying the open spaces and even saying hi to the resident farm animals. And best of all entry to this museum is free, you just need to pay for parking if bringing a car, which costs £5 for the day. Just be warned to bring change as the machines do not accept cards or notes. You’ll most likely spend most of the day, or least a couple of hours here.
A visit to St Fagans with kids is a must if you are in Cardiff. For lunch, you could either visit the Plymouth Arms pub in the small village of St Fagan’s adjacent to the museum site (after which it was named), or head to Cardiff Bay. I can highly recommend the food in the pub and they are family-friendly.
After lunch, head to Cardiff Bay, the marina part of Cardiff. There is a host of things to do there, that deciding exactly what to do might cause arguments.
There is a lovely walk to be enjoyed around the Cardiff Bay Barrage. The pathway is flat and there is a kid’s playground just before it with buried pretend shipwrecks in the sand. You could bride them with this as a treat for doing the walk.
You could simply enjoy taking in the buildings and architecture in the Bay. There is the Welsh National Assembly building, the Senedd, and the Millennium Centre, a formidable building and very beautiful when lit up at night.
There is also the Pierhead, a Grade I listed building, and the Norwegian Church, where you could stop for a coffee in the café. Or if you finished early, you could take the kids to Techniquest, a Welsh science and discovery centre.
There are lots of fun, interactive displays to give children hands-on experience with all thing’s science. You can see stars of the Welsh night sky in the planetarium and there are science theatre shows. It’s a great place to visit with kids.
Afterwards, you could grab dinner in one of the many restaurants in the Bay, and if your kids are slightly older, you could catch a movie or enjoy a game of bowling in the Red Dragon Centre.
Sunday around Cardiff
If you have a car, I would suggest getting out of the city and enjoying some of the Welsh countryside and sites to see. You could start with a visit to Caerphilly Castle, one of my favourite castles in Wales to visit with kids.
Not only can you see Wales’ equivalent to the Leaning Tower of Pisa, but you can also say hello to the resident dragons and try to find your way out of Gilbert’s Maze.
After your morning exploring the castle, why not head to the Traveller’s Rest pub on top of Caerphilly Mountain for lunch before finding your way to Wenallt Woods for a stroll with the kids.
Alternatively, you could visit the Mountain View Ranch on the side of Caerphilly Mountain. This is a great place to let the kids run off some steam. You’ll find a Gruffalo trail, Wales’ answer to Hobbiton, a Fairy Woods, playground and much, much more. Just watch the weather and bring waterproof clothing in case the Welsh weather makes a turn for the worst.
If you don’t have a car, then you could simply enjoy the parts of the city you haven’t had a chance to already. Within the city, you can visit the National Museum, if you didn’t get a chance on Friday afternoon. It is open until 5pm on a Sunday and entry is free. It’s also one of the best things to do in Cardiff on a rainy day.
You could also visit the Cardiff Story Museum where you can learn about the history of the city. Entry is also free to this museum.
If you have any sporting fans on your hands, you could take a tour of the Principality Stadium (previously the Millennium Stadium), home of the Welsh National Rugby team. Tour tickets are available at the door, provided there is no event taking place. I’ve visited the stadium both for rugby matches and music concerts and it’s an amazing stadium.
After a day of visiting the surrounding areas or exploring more of the city, why not grab a bite to eat at Bills’ Restaurant near the St David’s 2 Shopping Centre. We’ve eaten there many times, often with our son, and the food and service never disappoint.
After checking out of your accommodation, if you have time before you leave South Wales and have access to a car, you could pop to Penarth or Barry Island to catch some sea air before your trip home.
Penarth has a lovely pier and of course, some of you will know the name of Barry Island from the TV series, Gavin and Stacey. How much time you spend there depends on your timetable. And there you have it, a long weekend in Cardiff with kids.
Cardiff is a great city, with a welcoming atmosphere and plenty on offer for families. The suggestions included here are just a small fraction that you could include in your weekend itinerary. And of course, there is a lot more in the South Wales area you could explore if you chose not to spend all your days in and around Cardiff. But make sure not to miss some of the best bits like the castle and St Fagans.
About the Blogger
Cath is an Irish expat who now lives in Portugal with her husband and son. A former scientist, she gave up working when they emigrated south from the UK.
She is a family travel blogger and, through her blog, inspires more families to travel by showing them that you can find education and adventure through cultural travel. As a family, they love travelling and have started working their way through their family travel bucket list.
Cath writes about their family travels and experiences on her blog Passports and Adventures.
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