On a cloudy Friday evening after work, I made my way from South East London all the way to Paddington Station in West London. I was going to visit a friend in Wales that weekend, and could not wait to get out of town for a little while. I hopped on a train and just over two hours later, I arrived in the Welsh capital of Cardiff.
What are the most beautiful places near Cardiff?
Since I visited the city of Cardiff just the year before, I wanted to see something different this weekend. Places that are not too far from the capital. To be very honest with you, I had never heard much about South Wales, the region where Cardiff is located. When I think of Wales, I think of Castles and the mountains of Snowdonia National Park.
However, I found out that South Wales offers a wide range of possibilities. From beaches, to castles, and from hilly market towns to actual mountains. All are reachable within one hour from Cardiff.
1. St Fagans National History Museum
For people who would like to learn more about the national history of this country in the United Kingdom, St Fagans National History Museum is a great place to start. It is one of Europe’s leading open-air museums and Wales’ most popular heritage attraction. The best part: it’s admission free!
Buildings from different eras are scattered around the woodland that is surrounding the castle’s grounds that the museum is built on. Historical houses, shops, gardens, and chapels give a good idea of how people lived and worked in Wales throughout the centuries. With craftsmen performing their jobs and interior from times long gone, it really feels like having traveled back in time.
St Fagans National History Museum is only 5 miles from Cardiff’s city center on the grounds of St Fagan’s Castle. Admission Free and 10 am – 5 pm daily. (At time of writing – May 2016 – some parts of the museum were closed for redevelopment)
2. Caerphilly Castle
It is the largest castle of Wales, and the second-largest of Europe, it has a tower that is even more lopsided than the Leaning Tower of Pisa, and it is the backdrop for many movies and Television series. Caerphilly Castle is situated right in the heart of the town of Caerphilly and is quite a spectacular sight, both from the inside as well as from the outside. It survived many wars and had quite a few royal inhabitants over the years.
We even found a sleeping dragon in the ‘front yard’, and some stunning views over the moats, little islands and further out in the hills that surround the site.
Caerphilly Castle is located 8 miles from the city center of Cardiff. Opening times change throughout the year – visit their website for the latest updates.
3. Barry Island
Barry and Barry Island became world-famous when the Television series ‘Gavin & Stacey’ aired. But long before the world got to know Barry, it was the locals who changed into their summer dress and went down to the beach for a dive or for a round on one of the rides of the pleasure park.
This beachside destination has some of the steepest streets I have ever seen in my life, a large pleasure park, and – of course – a beach. Eating fish and chips here is a must I have learned! And game arcades are a big thing.
Barry Island is situated 10 miles from Central Cardiff.
4. Cardiff to Hay-on-Wye
Hay-on-Wye, or the Town of Books, is located right on the border between England and Wales. The town’s nickname is not a coincidence, as this town literally sells books everywhere! In book shops, but also even on cabinets on the streets. Simply drop one pound into one of the boxes next to the cabinets and pick the book you like.
Every year in late spring the town hosts its very own book festival, which invites writers and readers alike to come and celebrate everything that is written language. In 2022, the Hay Festival will take place between 26th May and 5th June.
We very much enjoyed the lovely shops, adorable market hall and the stunning landscape the town is set in.
Slightly cheating here a bit, as Hay-on-Wye can be reached within 1 hour and 20 minutes from Cardiff’s city center. But hey, those extra 20 minutes are worth the detour!
5. Brecon Beacons National Park from Cardiff
For someone who has spent the last six months in an enormous city, hiking in the mountains of Brecon Beacons National Park was such a welcome change. The ride from Cardiff through the heart of the national park all the way up to the town of Brecon was breathtaking and I wish I could have spent more time there.
People visit the park for hiking, mountain biking, horseback riding for water sports and even for mountain climbing. The tallest mountains in the park are almost 900 meters high with no trees on top, making them look quite daunting! Secret lakes, waterfalls, and market towns can all be found here.
The nearest entrance to Brecon Beacons National Park is about 40 minutes from Central Cardiff.
What is your favourite place to visit near Cardiff?
Frequently asked questions about Cardiff
2 hours and 24 minutes from Paddington Station
Yes, absolutely! There is enough to do and to see to fill an entire weekend. Explore historic Cardiff Castle, go shopping in one of the Victorian arcades, catch a show at the Wales Millennium Centre or enjoy a game of rugby at Principality Stadium.
Cardiff had a bad reputation for being an industrial city but it is a relatively safe city for tourists.
The warmest month of the year is August, with temperatures around 18 degrees Celcius on average. December to April are the coldest months of the year with average temperatures below 9 degrees celsius. Cardiff is officially one of the wettest cities in the UK with around 149 days of rain per year.
Unfortunately, there is no direct train connection from Cardiff to Brecon Beacons. The best way to travel to Brecon Beacons is to take the train from Cardiff to Merthyr Tydfil and take a taxi to Brecon Beacons. A taxi directly from Cardiff to Brecon Beacons is about £70 – £90 and takes 1h 12m.
There are several options for overnight stays at Brecon Beacons National Park. From cosy B&B’s to quintessential hotels and from campsites in the middle of nature to large farmhouses.