The Top Places to Visit in Wales
Famous faces, stunning beaches and the largest mountains south of Scotland.
Jutting out from the western side of England and separated from it by the historic River Severn (no, that’s not a spelling mistake, there’s an ‘r’ in there for some reason), Wales is a picturesque country of rolling green hills, picturesque coastline and cultured cities. With the singsong accent, fierce rugby traditions and wonderful acting heritage (think Richard Burton and Anthony Hopkins), the Welsh have a lot to be proud of, and we’re sure they’ll delight in regaling you with tales of sporting victories and the like.
It is split into three distinctive parts, from south to north. The southern section is where you’ll find the capital city of Cardiff and the seaside settlement of Swansea, while the middle area is made up of swathes of stunning nature trails and mountains. Up north is where many of the holiday resorts lie, between some of the UK’s largest rocky giants. So, you’re bound to have a fun and diverse experience, especially if you take on Plum Guide’s expert advice on the best places to visit in Wales.
You can’t go holidaying in Wales without at least taking a quick look around the capital city. Well, you absolutely can, actually, but if you do happen to be there, here’s our advice: get your shopping on. Known as the City of Arcades, it is one of the top destinations in the UK for shopping. The Royal Arcade, the Capitol Shopping Centre and the St. David’s Dewi Sant are among the behemoths of commercial splendour in the city centre. Check out some of the landmarks – it’s what you’re here for after all – including the 19th-century Cardiff Castle, built atop Roman fortifications. Explore the Roman ruins, visit the Norman fort and explore the Welsh regimental museum at the heart of the castle.
Other top sights include the Millennium Stadium for rugby or football. Its modern design and impressive retractable roof place it at the pinnacle of sports stadia. Speaking of the Millennium (remember that Robbie Williams song?), the Wales Millennium Centre makes for an impressive architectural feat, hosting dance, opera and West End musicals among other shows. See the Llandaf Cathedral and don’t think about how to pronounce some of those Welsh words; just breathe it all in, safe in your ignorance. With that in mind, go to the Caerau Castle Ringwork, the Cathays Park and the Castell Coch. All manner of festivals brighten up the city in summer, while you can also explore the city by water bus.
While in the south, it’d be a crime not to visit the coast (not literally). Swansea is a seaside resort, known internationally for its beaches and its football team. Go watch a game and then rest those weary legs, tired from merely watching the action, at the beach. The city is also the birthplace of many famous stars, from poet Dylan Thomas and actress Catherine Zeta Jones to rock star Bonnie Tyler and comedian Rob Brydon. One of the best places to visit in Wales if you're paparazzi, then. It also has its own Welsh slang, that’ll take you a few days to pick up. While learning the lingo, visit some of the main attractions, from the Swansea Castle and the Arthur’s Stone to Dylan Thomas’ Childhood Home and The Guildhall.
Outside the city, explore the Swansea Bay (remember to bring sun cream and your swimming costume). Reach the strangely-named The Mumbles, known for the Mumbles Pier and the All Saints’ Church, Oystermouth. Knock back beers in the pubs along the Mumbles Mile and hang out at the beach. Maybe get all that swimming out the way, before – rather than after – all those beers.
As you head north, you’ll find yourself being accompanied by larger and larger boulders, as if nature is warning you to turn back. Listen to your instincts, though, and keep on trucking: you're about to see some of the most beautiful places to visit in Wales. Pass the scenic Brecon Beacons (do stop a few nights at Strawberry Wood while you're there) until you get to Hay-on-Wye. It’s known as the book capital of the UK; its annual literary festival is one of the biggest events on the nation's cultural calendar and attending it is one of the best things to do in Wales. Amble along the quaint alleys and admire the crumbling medieval buildings, stopping in at the various book shops selling antiques and second-hand classics.
It’s certainly deserving of its book-capital status. And yet, the National Library of Wales sits on the other side of Mid Wales, in Aberystwyth. Again, don’t waste your time trying to pronounce it, but rather drink up the culture by the sea. And we mean 'drink up' – the city is known for its countless pubs and the university; a devious mix. Watch the sunset from Cardigan Bay and see the castle ruins.
Looks like we finally made it: Snowdonia National Park. Those increasingly large rock formations, as you travelled north, were all pointing to Snowdonia, a region of the highest UK peaks outside Scotland. It sounds like it was named for a superhero movie of mountains, but is simply based on Mount Snowdon, the highest in England and Wales. Reaching Snowdon's summit is one of the most popular things to do in North Wales, so get your hiking boots on and have a go. Once you're done, climb back down and put those feet up at Plum Guide home Welsh Oak, waiting for you on the outskirts of the park.
Back by the coast, we’ve got a range of resorts to introduce you to. Bangor is perhaps the most well-known, thanks to its large pier, university and proud Welsh traditions (most of the non-university folk speak Welsh). Explore the beaches in Conwy, Llandudno and Caernarfon, and visit the larger city of Wrexham, a little inland.