Places to see in Cardiff Bay, Wales
Have you ever visited Cardiff Bay
Are you planning a visit of Cardiff? Ever wondered what to do if you travelled to Wales? No idea what you can do and see in Cardiff Bay? Well here is a list of all the best attractions Cardiff Bay has to offer. And to give you an idea of things to do on your holiday in Wales!
I'm not going to give you a history lesson about the area (I'm sure I'll write another Hub for that at some point) all I'm going to do here is layout all the attractions Cardiff Bay has to offer and my personal opinion about whether they are worth visiting. I'll give you some general info about the attractions and what you can do and see in them, plus some guidelines on prices and opening times. And how to find out some more info if you need it.
I suppose this is (or I hope it will be) a definative list of what Cardiff Bay has to offer.
I hope this will help you plan your trip to Wales, and include a trip to the cosmopolitan Cardiff Bay area. If you ever do - come see me in the tourism office! I'll be happy to help some more!
You can download a map and local events guide from this website to help you navigate once you're here.
1. The Pier Head
This is probably the most iconic and recognisable building in the whole of Cardiff (along with the Millennium centre now). You can see it on the BBC News and weather, on many post cards and books and generally anytime Cardiff Bay is mentioned. It is the big red brick building with the clock tower, you know the one I mean. Built over 113 years ago to house the Bute Dock Company it was once the focal point of commerce for Wales. Now a Grade 1 listed building it houses a cultural exhibition about the history of the Bay area plus a galler, and plays host to many political and cultural debates and discussions.
To find out more about what's going on you can visit their website.
Free Entry - open Monday-Saturday 10:30-4:30
My Opinion: This is a good place to visit if you are specifically interested in the history of Cradiff Bay and specifically the industry and development. Other than that not much to say. Great building to take photos of.
2. The Norwegian Church
This is a traditional Norweigan Church built originally in 1868 but it was conserved and deconstructed in 1987 by the Norweigan Church Presevation Society and then reconstructed in its new permanent home at the end of the harbour in 1992. Famed as the christening place and family church of Roald Dahl makes it a point of interest to any literary fan. If you would like a more detailed history please visit their website.
Now housing a cafe, gallery, conference room and arts space the Norweaigan Church is well loved and well used by many locals.
My Opinion: A great place to while away a sunny afternoon. You can sit outside the little cafe with tea and crumpets or prehaps a nice sandwich and watch the world go by. As they often host local and interesting exhibitions in their gallery its also a nice place to pop into for a quick view of the art work on show. Plus they often hold craft fairs and charity events, so check the website for a list of upcoming goings on
If you've got kids (or even if you haven't, adults will still have fun here) this is THE place to go. Its one big interactive science museum! You can have a go at operating a mechanical dragon, sending a hot air balloon into the sky, reconstructing a human body, playing music on a light beam harp, and so much more. Plus with the amazing digital planetarium the skies really are the limit. A great fun experience will be had by the whole family, and maybe you'll learn a little something along the way too!
For more information on what's going on please visit the website
Open 10 - 5 on weekends and Bank Holidays. 9:30 - 4:30 Tuesday - Friday.
Adult £7. Child £5. Concessions £5. Family £23. Planetarium Show £1.30 extra per person.
My opinion: Well as an adult without children I felt a bit odd going in at first, thought they might look at me a little strange as it is primarily for kids. But we were greated by a friendly member of staff who sold us are entry passes and told us what was going on that day. I had been a number of times as a child on school trips, but not for a good 10 years, and they are always changing and updating the exhibits so most of the things were new to me. It was the first time for my husband to go and at first he wasn't too sure about it when I suggested it, but in all honesty he loved it! We had such a fun time trying to rebuild a human body (we figured it was for kids so would be easy! We were wrong!) and pumping up the water pressure to send the rocket ship into space - it takes muscle! So I really would advise anyone to take a trip to Techniquest if they want to play like a kid for a few hours, or have kids as they will thoroughly enjoy it.
4. Wales Millennium Centre
The Wales Millennium Centre is the number 1 tourist attraction in Wales with thousands of people passing through its doors every day. Situated at the heart of Cardiff Bay this magnificent iconic building (built in 2004) houses an impressive 1,896 seater main theater as well as 5 other performance spaces, a number of gallery and exhibition spaces, 2 restaurants, 2 cafes, a shop, a tourist information centre, numerous meeting and conference rooms and plays host to nine creative welsh arts companies including the Welsh National Opera and the BBC National Orchestra of Wales.
It is now known as one of Europe's most exciting arts venues, providing a world-calss stage for West End Shows, Musicals, Operas, Orchestras, Ballet and other contemporary dance performances, as well as a huge host of other international performances. Plus many free local performances are available to view on the Glanfa Stage.
For a full list of upcoming events please visit the website
You can also take a tour of the building itself and learn about the architecture and the materials used to build it, plus a little history and info about what goes on here. It is £5.50pp (correct at time of publishing April 2012) and they usually run twice a day but you can phone to book and check times on (+44)02920 636464
My Opinion: I currently work in this building so I suppose I am a little bit biased, but it really is a spectacular building. The theatre is perfect for hosting the huge West End shows they get and the smaller stages are brilliant for dance performances and plays. Having seen numerous performancs here I can say the building really is designed perfectly for what it does. It is also a great place to while away an afternoon, whether you sit in the Glanfa listening to some local musicians, or outside one of the bar's sipping a local cider in the sun, or even curled up on a sofa on the concourse people watching for a little while, you relly get to soak up some of the culture and atmosphere Cardiff Bay has to offer.
5. Craft in the Bay
Craft in the Bay is a great place to see some of the local creative talent of Wales. The 'D Shed' showcases jewellery, ceramics, textiles, furniture and metal work made exclusively in Wales by members of The Makers Guild in Wales. Situated at the heart of Cardiff Bay this modern gallery allows you to view and buy some of the best creative work in Cardiff.
If you're feeling peekish you could also try some of the great treats on offer in Kemi's Cafe.
Or maybe your feeling creative yourself, then you could sign yourself up for any number of weekend hands-on crafting workshops.
For a full list of events, exhibitions and classes please check ot their website
My Opinion: I love wandering around this place just in awe of the creative talent some people possess. Sadly it is unlikely I could ever afford anything from here as it is quite pricy, but if you are an art collect or love hand made unique items then this could be the place to find them.
6. The Senedd
The Senedd is a beautiful modern building that has become a part of the Cardiff Bay landscape. Home of the National Assemble of Wales - The Senedd is the welsh parliament building, home of the Welsh Assemble Government debating chambers and commity rooms. If your are interested in Politic's (or architecture) this is a must see. Free to enter, once being scanned you are free to roam the majority of the building (or have a tour if you wish) and take in the grand features and sheer size of it.
7. The Barrage
I don't want to give you a huge amount of history and technical stuff about the barrage as this Hub is about places to see, so if you want to read more about the barrage construction etc, you can here.
I'm going to tell you why you should go there! Ok brief bit of info though, the barrage was completed in 1999 to make Cardiff bay a fresh water lake to help make it a more interesting area for developers and allow the bay to be used for things like water sports. It wasn't opened to the public until 2008 - that's it for the history!
The barrage is a great place to go for a nice stroll on a sunny (or at least dry) day. Giving you views out to see and Flatholm Island as well as back over the entire Bay and Penarth area. After a small area of building construction the walk is quite scenic. Surrounding the barrage we now have a small harbour, a kids play area, skate park, outdoor gym area and small gardens. This is a great place for a picnic, photo opportunity or family afternoon out.
You can also use the barrage to walk from Cardiff Bay right across to Penarth. It is part of the Cardiff Bay Trail also - which is a 10km or 6.2mile bike and walking route, circling the whole of the Cardiff bay area.
My Opinion: I have walked on the barrage on a number of occasions and think it is a lovely scenic place to visit, often busy in the good weather with families and students, although not that well known about yet so it doesn't get too busy. Great for views and photos of the entire bay, and it really feels like your no longer in a city there, so a nice change of pace really.
8. International Sports Village
Ok so this isn't exactly 1 attraction, its many little attractions, but as they are located a little away from Cardiff Bay itself, on the other side of the bay actually, I thought it would be easier to group them all together. They are all sports related and come under the title of the International Sports Village. You can find info about the venues and current developments/events on the official website. As lots is happening there at the moment with the lead up to the Olympics I will try to give you the most up to date info but please check the site if you plan on visiting.
Cardiff International White Water Centre - Our newest addition to the Sports Village is the adrenaline pumping White Water Centre. Whether a beginner or an expert this custom built and completely controllable water run is perfect for Kyaking, Canoeing, White Water rafting and a number of other thrill seeking sports Even if your not interested in having a go yourselfe it can be great fun to watch others crashing around in the waves. To find out more about run times, courses or party bookings see their website
Cardiff International Pool - This pool contains a 50m Olympic pool and a fun Leisure Pool (as well as gym facilities) which will provide hours of entertainment for the whole family. The Leisure pool has jets, waves, flumes, water falls and a jacuzzi for all the family to enjoy and usually open daily 6-10 with the flumes working after 4. Plus you can book onto swimming or exercise classes. For more information you can check the website
Planet Ice - Fancy trying your hand at Ice Skating or just want to watch the mighty Cardiff Devils battle on the ice, then why not take a trip to Planet Ice. With a capacity of 2,500 and a full size ice hocky pitch Planet Ice is a great fun attraction to go to if you fancy something a bit active on your trip. For up to date prices and times please check the Website
My Opinion: In all honest I have yet to try out any of the sports centers but I promise I shall update you when I do.
9. The Red Dragon Centre
Not really sure this can be termed as an attraction as such but it is a useful place to know about. The Red Dragon Centre is located just behind The Wales Millennium Centre and houses a selection of restaurants, and Odeon (with an imax) a bowling alley and a casino. It's a good place to go if you just want to chill and have some fun and food for a little while. As it is all under one roof its also helpful when the weather is a bit rubbish.
They often host kids events and fun days in the main concourse of the building during the holidays and festivals so its worth checking their events calandar on the website to see if there is anything happening there. You will also find a full list of the restaurants and cinema listings on the website.
My Opinion: Most of the restaurants are chains so at least you know what kind of food you are getting, but there is also the down side that they are a little generic and not exceptionally good food. The bowling alley is good though and fairly reasonably priced as you can often score different deals thoughout the week, plus its not too busy, unless in the middle of the kids holidays. I have never used the casino so can't really comment on that. The cinema is generally good and if you are in the bay its very practical to get to - but as we live the other side of the city we rarely use it.
Worth going ot if you specifically want to bowl/cimena and are in the area, but there are far better restaurants within walking distance.
10. The Doctor Who Experience
The Doctor Who Experience Cardiff is now open and it is a rilliant place to visit with children or Doctor Who fans. The experience is broken into 2 main parts; the first is the interactive experience where you work your way through a doctor who scene with the doctor and save him from the bad guys. the second part is a large costumes and props museam type of set up. This is great for the older generation who may have been into the original Doctor Who series. With costumes from all the Doctors as well as aliens and mosters through the ages and costumes from his side kicks. Plus prosthetics, masks, weapons and even a few tardises, there is lots to see.
I have been and took my father with me. i'm a modern Doctor Who Fan my dad is an original fan and we both really enjoyed it. It has been hugely popular so if you are coming from a long way and don't want to bne disappointed you can book your tickets online ( at a discounted rate). Check the link below for dates and prices.
For more info about what it will be like and updates on its opening progress you can see the original London Experience website
11. Mermaid Quay
Again I'm not sure this is exactly an attraction, it's more of an area of Cardiff Bay. Mermaid Quay is the area that houses the majority of restaurants in Cardiff Bay as well as the few shops the Bay has. Most are independently owed restaurants and cafes, with only a few chained brands. This is the best place to go to eat as the selection is very impressive and your bound to find someone that appeals to you. For a full list of restaurants you can visit the website (I am going to write a hub reviewing them all soon though). This area is very busy in the summer time, due to a large portion of outdoor seating and great views. Your best off booking for lunch and dinner if you want to eat in one the restaurants to avoid disappointment.
The Quays also plays home to Glee Club - Cardiff Bay's own comedy venue. With a great and varied selection of comedies playing this venue its a good idea to check out the website before your visit to see whos playing.
In the summer there is also a whole host of entertainment and festivals that happen on the Quays and in Cardiff Bay in general. The events list can be found on the website.
My Opinion: I love spending an afternoon sitting in Mermaid Quay in the summer time when the sun is out. You can have some great food, sit outside a bar in the sun then go for a walk with a yummy Cadwaladers Ice Cream, perfect!
12. The Lightship 2000
Note: The Lightship is now closed
Again I am not going to give you loads of history on this, what I will say is the Lightship was brought to Cardiff Bay in 1993 and restored to create a floating Christian Centre.
It plays home to the Cardiff Bay Chaplaincy and is the focus point of the Church of Wales for Cardiff Bay. Holy communions are held weekly and the chapel is an open door for quiet contemplation and prayer.
It also has a great cafe area and exhibition area as well as meeting rooms. A lot of the original boat has been restored so is also interesting to visit if you are intrested in boats. You can find more info on what's going on and what you can see on the website
My Opinion: Actually I can't give you one as I have never been. But I have been reliably informed its a good place for a cheap tea or coffee and a snack!
Additional Places that may be of interest
- Challenge Wales - a 72-foot yacht dedicated to providing young people aged between 12 and 25 years old a chance to develop their self-esteem and life-skills of team working and communication through the experience of sailing.
- Cardiff Bay Water Activity Centre - Offering a range of 16 land and water based activities for groups and parties.
- Bute Town History and Arts Centre - Exhibition, photography and educational material on the history and multiculturalism of Cardiff's docklands and the surrounding area of Bute Town.
- Sayers Amusements - The world's only Welsh themed Carousel
- St David's Hotel and Spa - Pretty self explanatory! If you want a spa day.
- Third Floor Gallery - Gallery dedicated mainly to photography
- Cardiff Bay Visitors Centre - Where you can pick up some maps and extra info if you want.
- Aquabus - Incase you fancy a boat trip round the bay or into the city centre
- City Sightseeing Bus - A typical open-topped guided bus ride around the city and Bay area - currently £10.50 for adults and £8.50 concessions £5.50 children.
- The Coal Exchange - Was the heart of coal trade and the first place for a £1,000,000 deal to be struck in the UK. Now a great live music venue.
That's all folks!
I think I have covered pretty much everything Cardiff Bay has to offer. I hope you will visit here one day and see how great a place Cardiff is. I have lived here for 6 years now and think it is a beautiful city and a great place to live.
If you know of anything else in the Bay that should be added to the list let me know and I will do my very best to keep it updated.
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