Whether you’re road tripping the UK or taking a weekend trip from London, Wales is a beautiful destination worth the visit.
There’s plenty of insane scenery in this small country, and the capital has a lot of gems to offer.
If you only have a limited amount of time and are wondering what to do in Cardiff in one day, here are all the highlights in a nutshell – plus information on how to get there and where to stay.
What To Do In Cardiff In One Day:
1. Stroll and dine at Mermaid Quay
You should visit Mermaid Quay by day as well as by night, as it completely transforms from a family meeting point with a big kids playground/theme park and many small shops/boutiques to a romantic promenade at night, with live performances, lots of restaurants and the giant wheel all lit up.
Any time of the day, when you’re wondering what to do in Cardiff, you have your destination!
Because I’m really into photography, I spent my entire evening taking long exposure photos of the bay, but most people would probably rather enjoy a nice dinner or a walk.
Check out my Facebook Live video from Mermaid Quai!
2. Take a scenic boat ride
You can take a boat to Mermaid Quay (and back) from a little pier at Bute Park (next to Cardiff Castle) for £2 – £4 one way, depending on which company you choose.
It’s a 25min scenic boat ride and a no-brainer for this low price.
There are also boats that take you around the bay or you can book a private one for a bachelor party e.g.
The prices are really reasonable and it’s definitely something you shouldn’t miss when you’re in Cardiff!
3. Explore the beautiful Cardiff Castle
Entrance fee: £12.50 (Students £10.95, Kids 5-16 £9)
Opening times: 9am – 5pm (Nov-Feb)/6pm (Mar-Oct), 7 days a week
Tip: If you download the Cardiff Castle App, they will give you a 10% discount! You can also book a ticket ahead online.
Your Castle Ticket includes:
- Free audio guide
- Stunningly decorated rooms in the House
- Medieval Keep
- Second World War Shelters
- Roman Wall
- Firing Line: Cardiff Castle Museum of the Welsh Soldier
- Interpretation Centre with film show and exhibition
For an extra £3.25 you will get a house tour, which allows you to access rooms you can’t usually access and of course gives additional information.
It is not allowed to take a tripod inside the castle (in order to protect the floors), but you can leave it with the staff while you’re inside.
I’m not going to talk much about the history and background, because obviously, you will hear about it on your tour when you get there.
This castle should be a MUST on your list of what to do in Cardiff in one day. I will let the pictures speak for themselves:
If you want to see more, feel free to go through my gallery:
4. Stroll around High Street Arcade
Cardiff is a historical city and therefore has a unique shopping experience to offer. Forget the huge, shiny malls – in Cardiff, you can shop in one of six Victorian arcades!
Right on the well-trodden path of Cardiff High Street, you will find an Instagram-worthy shopping experience with beautifully tiled floors, walls and ceilings.
The question for the girls about what to do in Cardiff should be answered right there 😉
High Street Arcade is part of “The Castle Quarter”, which is also made up of Duke Street Arcade and Castle Arcade.
These historic places are full of vintage clothing stores, craft shops, and coffee shops.
High Street Arcade is also home of the famous New York Deli and Bombai Street Food, which you absolutely have to try!
5. Have a Hoagie at the famous New York Deli
The New York Deli is probably the most popular food place in Cardiff. Enjoy an authentic bagel or hoagie and never eat again! Just kidding, but it really is a huge portion.
I had the California Hoagie and was definitely filled for the rest of the day. And that really means something, I’m a very experienced eater 😉
Do ask for some extra napkins. You’ll need them!
6. Snack on tasty Indian Street Food at Bwyta Bwyd Bombai (3B’s)
This is food heaven for everyone who loves Indian cuisine! The best thing is, you won’t find the typical Indian dishes here.
I literally hadn’t heard of 70% of the menu, and I’m seriously into Indian food, as it’s paradise for vegetarians like me.
Try the Pav Bhaji or Dahi Puri e.g. To be completely honest, the Daal wasn’t my favorite, but the other things I tried were fantastic!
What To Do In Cardiff If You Have More Time:
- Doctor Who Experience (Update: Unfortunately, it was shut down)
- Castell Coch
- Llandaff Cathedral
- Day Trip to Brecon Beacons and Caerphilly Castle
Getting To Cardiff, Wales
From London Victoria Station, you can take a bus (like Megabus) for anything between £3 and £15 and arrive in Cardiff around 4 hours later, depending on time of the day.
Personally, I’m not a big fan of Megabus, but my favorite company Flixbus is operating mostly in central Europe and not so much in the UK.
Where To Stay in Cardiff, Wales
When I went to Cardiff, I was on a budget and so I can only tell you about my own experience, not about fancy hotels.
A 10min walk from the bus station, I arrived at the cutest hostel I’ve ever stayed at: Mrs. Potts. I paid £17 per night, which was totally worth it.
There are hostels for £10 a night, if you want it cheaper, but this place was just soooo sweet, I had to book it.
I also have a list of 123 Free Things To Do In London.
If you’re traveling to the UK, these articles might be helpful for you as well:
- 123 Free Things To Do In London
- What To Do In Cardiff In One Day
- Full Hiking Guide to the UK [England, Scotland & Wales]
- 15+ Photos That Will Make You Fall In Love With London By Night