Visit Wales, a country known for its gorgeous coastline, mountainous national parks, and unique Celtic culture. This one-week itinerary from a local will give you a perfect rundown of the things to do Wales, a country that sits in the Southwest of Great Britain.
Growing up in South Wales, I never thought much about tourism or sightseeing within my own country. It was only when I left that I realized that there are many things to do in Wales.
As part of the United Kingdom, Wales shares a lot with its neighbors (England, Scotland and Northern Ireland) such as currency, humor, and customs. As well, the Welsh people have their own set of identities. This includes our own language (Welsh), and over 4000 years of history and traditions.
Most people who visit the UK head straight to London. However, if you’re looking for an off the beaten path destination, I think Wales is a great place to explore. A visit to Wales usually requires no less than two weeks to cover the whole country. For this 1 week Wales itinerary, I’m going to detail the Southern and Western parts of the country. If you’ve additional time, I’ve also some suggestions to extend the one week trip!
Day 1: Explore Cardiff City Center
Cardiff is the capital city of Wales and home to over 300,000 people. This metropolis was once one of the biggest coal-exporting docks in the world. It quickly became the hub for seamen, which resulted in Cardiff to be the multi-cultural city it is today.
One of the best things to do in Wales is wander through downtown Cardiff. From plaza shopping to medieval castles, Cardiff is ideal for tourists interested in a variety of experiences. For this 1 week in Wales experience, spend two days in Cardiff to explore the major hotspots as well as a few hidden gems.
Start day one in the heart of the action. For cheap pub-grub, you could go to a Wetherspoons for lunch and a pint to experience something ingrained in British Culture.
Afterward, head to Cardiff Castle to learn the history of the 3rd-century Roman Fort, a fort that was later invaded by 11th century Normans. Following the castle, a short walk will take you to the National Museum Cardiff, which is free to enter.
Once you’ve better understood the history of Cardiff, take a short rest before heading out for the night. You have to experience Cardiff nightlife! Have a cheap pint in the Prince of Wales, a fancy cocktail on Mill Lane or late-night clubbing on Greyfriars Road. A night out in Cardiff wouldn’t be complete without ending your night with a bag of chips on Caroline Street. Caroline Street is locally (and fondly) known to us as chippy lane and is the inevitable last stop before going home.
The best thing about Cardiff is that everything is accessible by foot and all the major landmarks to visit on day one are close to one another.
The Riverbed is only US 40 a night during shoulder season. For something fancier, the Marriott is a great choice.
Day 2: St Fagan’s & Cardiff Bay
After your first day around the center of Cardiff, day two will take to St Fagan’s and Cardiff Bay.
Starting in St Fagan’s Natural Museum of History, you get to experience what life was once like in Wales as well as Welsh traditions such as crafts, skills, workshops, and farming. The museum entry is free but they also hold regular classes and workshops. St Fagan’s is a place every Welsh school visits for school trips to learn about our ancestors and way of life.
After your museum visit, head to my favorite spot-Cardiff Bay. Cardiff Bay is accessible by foot but you can also hop onto the train from Cardiff Queen Street Station for an easier journey.
Cardiff Bay, locally known as the docks, is where the major coal-exporting originated. It also doubles as my birthplace, so I’m definitely well acquainted with the area!
There are lots of restaurants for lunch around the Bay. I’d recommend finding one where you can have a nice view of the water. The Red Dragon Centre is a hub for activities, including cinema, bowling, the famous Dr. Who experience and home of the local radio station. During the afternoon, I’d suggest finding out what’s on at the Wales Millennium Centre and catch a matinée performance at this grand theatre. Later, get ice cream and finish the day with more food options around the area.
Day 3: Caerphilly: Caerphilly Castle & Castell Coch
Using Cardiff as your base, day three can be spent traveling about 40 minutes by car (or bus) to the nearby city of Caerphilly. Here you can explore two gorgeous castles: Caerphilly Castle and Castell Coch. Castell Coch peers out from the mountains and looks like something out of Harry Potter!
Caerphilly is also home to Cefn Mably Farm Park, where you can visit and feed farm animals. You can’t leave here without buying the famous and tasty Welsh cheese!
Whether you decide to take a group tour of Caerphilly Castle and Brecon Beacons mountain range or go solo, don’t miss the scenic views of Pen-Y-Fan! It is a must for adventure-lovers. You can snap a picture at the top of the hill as a souvenir.
Day 4: Barry Island & Jackson’s Bay
A 20-minute train ride from Cardiff Central will take you from Cardiff to Barry Island. Barry Island is a seaside town with a fairground full of rides and arcades. There are also various places candy floss and warm doughnuts!
The majority of tourists flock to the main Barry Island beach but a hidden gem is just around the corner. Jackson’s Bay is the perfect place away from the tourists. Have a picnic along the beautiful waters!
Barry Island is famous in the UK thanks to the hit TV sitcom Gavin & Stacey. You can check out the filming locations of the show and grab a coffee next to murals of the cast！
Day 5: Tenby & Caldey Island
After the hustle and bustle of the big city, take a scenic drive to West Wales and the cute town of Tenby. Welsh people love a staycation at this gorgeous seaside village and the drive on the way takes you past green hills and farm animals. You can also opt for a train from Cardiff Central straight to Tenby.
In Tenby, you can rent a caravan or stay in small guesthouses right in the center of town. Stroll along the gorgeous north and south beaches. They both have views of Caldey Island on the other side. Caldey Island is a nice way to spend the afternoon and you can get a boat to explore the ocean.
If you’re on Tenby Harbour you can see the colorful houses lined up which makes for a picture-perfect shot. Be sure to grab a huge ice cream at one of the famous stores within the town’s old fortress and walk down the cobbled streets!
Day 6: Shops & Seafood in Saundersfoot
Explore Saundersfoot, a beautiful village about 10 minutes away from Tenby. It is another popular holiday destination and offers a beautiful view of the ocean.
Saundersfoot has great local shops with lots of unique hand-made products. One of the best things to do in Wales is to check out the many local stores and get yourself a great souvenir!
Remember to sample seafood at one of the gorgeous restaurants on the beach and ask for that day’s catch!
Day 7: Laugharne & Swansea
In between Tenby and Cardiff, there’s a town called Laugharne (pronounced ‘Larne’). For such a small place, it holds history and inspiration unlike any other.
One of the top things to do in Wales is to visit the Dylan Thomas Boathouse. Dylan Thomas was a famous Welsh poet and this boathouse was what he used as his writing shed. The inspiration taken from the surrounding area is something to behold. Nowadays, the Boathouse is a museum, cafe, and shop that you can visit and enjoy.
The last city to visit Wales would be Swansea, home to the gorgeous Gower Peninsula and with a culture different to that in Cardiff. Note: Cardiff and Swansea football teams are rivals so visit both and let me know which you prefer!
Other Tips & Advice
Visit Wales and experience the beautiful scenery this country has to offer! There are many things to do in Wales. Below are a few additional tips and advice to make your trip planning easier!
How to get to South Wales
South Wales has its own airport (Cardiff International Airport) which is accessible from destinations around the world. From the airport, it takes about 30 minutes to get to the center of the city. You can reach the heart of Cardiff via train, bus or taxi which are all found outside of the airport.
Alternatively, if you are traveling to Wales from London, there are direct train lines but train travel in the UK is overpriced. If you’re on a budget, I recommend using Megabus, which runs very cheap fares from London to Cardiff and takes about 4 hours. I’ve once traveled from Cardiff to London for just £5!
Wales and England are connected at the borders and the easiest way to reach Cardiff is using the Severn Bridge if you’re traveling by car.
Best Time to Visit Wales
If you want to experience the prettiest of Wales, then the best time to visit Wales would be in the summer months of June, July, and August with the most likely chance of some sun. I can’t stress enough that the sun is not guaranteed because, in classic British weather, it’s highly likely to rain even during the summer.
December is also a great time to visit Wales, as beautiful Christmas markets and over-the-top Christmas decorations are everywhere. Plus, there’s a chance you could experience snow!
Rugby is a very popular sport in Wales and during February and March, the Six Nations tournament occurs. Six Nations is a Rugby tournament between Wales, England, Scotland, Ireland, Italy and France. On game days you will be surrounded by red clothes, daffodils, Welsh songs, and light banter against the English. This time would be great to visit Wales and if you can get a ticket to the Principality Stadium to watch a match, you’ll be in for a treat!
Estimated Cost for a Trip in Wales
Europe can be an expensive place to visit. But compared to 3 days in London, a week in Portugal, or traveling around Paris, Wales is relatively cheap to visit. Whether you have a weekend in Wales or a whole week, you will surely be captivated by all the beauties of this country.
Lunch at an average restaurant will set you back about EUR 20 but there are lots of places to find cheap eats such as fish and chips for EUR 5 or pub-lunch for EUR 10.
The average alcoholic drink costs EUR 4 compared to London drinks which are about £6.
Accommodation is manageable with a standard one-night stay in Cardiff costing about EUR 40.
Activities and tourist trips vary in price. There are free things to do in Wales such as museums and tourist landmarks. Cardiff Castle with a tour costs about EUR 14.
Souvenirs come in abundance and you can get a cheap EUR 1 magnet to take home as a reminder of your Wales travel trip.
Other Tips for One Week in Wales
- Every sign, leaflet, advert you see in Wales will have the Welsh translation first and English underneath so don’t panic as soon as you see the really confusing and long letters because English is spoken and used more widely in Wales than Welsh is.
- Don’t visit Wales without taking an umbrella, even in the summer months it rains here!
- Rugby is taken seriously and there’s an undeniable rivalry against England that you’ll definitely hear being thrown around. It’s all light-hearted though!
Shireen is the founder of The Happy Days Travels. She is a travel writer focusing on learning through travel and making travel meaningful. Her favourite things to do while travelling are tasting local cuisines, meeting locals and travellers alike and sitting with a coffee watching people and the world go by. She travels slowly in order to learn about the culture of a region/country. She grew up in South Wales near the sea so whenever she is near the ocean when travelling, she truly feel at home. Follow her on Twitter, Instagram & Facebook.