Visit Cardiff on a budget
Even though Cardiff is the capital city of Wales, there is plenty to keep you occupied when travelling on a budget. Take advantage of our insider knowledge and check out our favourite free things to do in Cardiff.
We may be biased, but Cardiff is a great city to visit – especially if you are travelling on a budget. There is a surprising number of free tourist attractions ranging from museums, parks and walking trails. Even some of the castles and entertainment venues have a low entry price tag. Here's what you can see and do when visiting Cardiff for free.
The great news is that all national museums in Wales have free entry, so visiting won't cost you a penny. Here are some of our favourites in Cardiff:
At the National Museum of Wales, there is plenty to see from art, natural history, archaeology, geology, jewellery, ceramics, as well as major touring exhibitions. Favourites are the colossal skeleton of a humpback whale, dinosaurs and a woolly mammoth.
The Cardiff Story Museum exhibits the history of the city. It shows off a collection of Cardiff-related artefacts, many donated by Cardiffians and communities. Exhibits highlight Cardiff during World War 2, the growth of Tiger Bay and Growing Up in Cardiff.
St Fagan's Natural History Museum is an open-air museum. You can discover centuries of Wales' social history from houses, a working farm, school, chapel and even a pub. There's also St Fagan's Castle and gardens to explore.
Unlike most major cities, Cardiff has plenty of fantastic parks and gardens. It also has local nature reserves and country parks. These open spaces are perfect for exploring Cardiff as well as stretching your legs, riding your bike and enjoying the fresh air.
One of Cardiff's most popular parks is Roath Park and Gardens. Explore the Wild Garden, Llandennis Oval, Botanic Garden and Pleasure Garden. Check out the Scott Memorial Lighthouse, and don't forget to bring food to feed the swans, geese and other large birds.
Bute Park is one of Cardiff's premier visitor attractions, and it is in the shadow of Cardiff Castle. There is lots to discover; Blackfriars Friary, the Animal Wall running along the entrance to the park, Gorsedd Stones from the National Eisteddfod in 1978 as well as a Sculpture Trail.
The Fforest Fawr Sculpture Trail is located in a woodland area adjacent to the fairy-tale castle, Castell Coch. It will be easy to forget you are in the city, as the path will take you through the forest. Discover the sculptures depicting animals, three bears cave and industrial history from iron mining here.
Cardiff Bay has heaps to do. From walking around the Cardiff Bay Barrage to stopping off at the Norwegian Church for a coffee, a tour of World of Boats or science discovery at Techniquest. There are a whole host of free activities:
The Pierhead was initially built as offices for the Bute Docks Company. Following the decline of the coal industry, the building became disused. It was eventually revived in 2010. Today it hosts art exhibitions and historical displays for visitors to enjoy.
The WMC is where you can find the best West End and Broadway shows that are touring. The Centre is free to enter and look around, and there are several cafes, restaurants, bars and gift shops. There are often free activities and performances on the Glanfa Stage.
Situated overlooking the waters of Cardiff Bay, you can visit the home of Welsh democracy, The Senedd. The public building was opened on St David's Day 2006 by Queen Elizabeth II. Take a free tour or watch a debate taking place in the Welsh Parliament via the public gallery.
Regardless of your religious standing, by visiting local churches, you can learn more about Cardiff's local history and admire the buildings' architecture and grandeur.
The stunning building dates from 1120. Llandaff Cathedral has undergone major restorations, the most recent after World War II when a bomb destroyed the roof. Visitors are welcome daily for self-guided discoveries. The churchyard is also fascinating, and it leads onto the Taff Trail.
In the heart of the city centre near Cardiff Indoor Market, is the 12th Century church. It is one of Cardiff's oldest remaining medieval buildings. St John's Church was built in 1180 by Benedictine Monks. The old graveyard is now St John's Gardens, brass numbers mark the location of graves.
On the outskirts of Cardiff in St Nicholas is Tinkinswood Burial Chamber. The New Stone Age tomb is topped with one of the most enormous capstones in Britain. Experts reckon at least 200 people would have been required to hoist it up there. Comfy shoes are definitely recommended for the walk up to it.
Cardiff has become a filming mecca, there are many locations from film and TV that you can easily stumble across. Popular shows include Sex Education, His Dark Materials and Discovery of Witches. Some of the most famous films shot in Cardiff are 28 Weeks Later, Human Traffic and Infinite.
Follow in the footsteps of TV's favourite Time Lord, and visit memorial locations from the sci-fi drama Dr Who. Cardiff Bay is home to Torchwood. Ianto Jones' shrine is still going strong if you want to pay your respects to Torchwood's much-missed 'tea boy'.
Filmed mainly in Barry and Dinas Powys (both neighbouring towns), there are many locations from Gavin and Stacey in Cardiff. Highlights include the Wales Millennium Centre, Retros on Mill Lane, Steinbeck and Shaw, Capital Shopping Centre and the Red Dragon Centre (opposite our hotel).
Take an elementary stroll and discover the filming location of Sherlock. Cardiff University Students' Union, many of the Cardiff University buildings, were used, plus the National Museum of Wales, Cardiff Castle and Bute Street, The Packet and Mount Stuart Square in Cardiff Bay.
If you are a National Trust member, you get free entry and free parking to their sites in and around Cardiff. The National Trust is dedicated to preserving buildings and places' cultural heritage and preserving historically significant items and natural beauty areas.
The gardens at Dyffryn cover more than 55 acres, which is excellent for outdoor exploring. Dyffryn House is Grade II listed. You can look around inside; it is an ongoing project after coming to the National Trust in 2013 without a collection or belongings. It is being restored to its 1920s splendour.
Wander through the meadows, on the outskirts of Cardiff in Preston-Super-Ely. Lanlay Meadows is accessed through a kissing gate, to discover the vast array of wildlife, hedgerows and twisted old oak trees. You may even see otters or kingfishers in the River Ely.
Tredegar House is the home of the Morgan's. The gardens and surrounding park are perfect for stretching your legs and taking in the scenery. Within the house, itself is full of grandeur. Currently, as you wander around, rooms have been set up to tell the story of the Newport Rising in 1838.
Visit Cardiff on a Budget
Alongside free parking and free WiFi, there is a whole host of home comforts. All bedrooms can sleep up to four, which are ideal for families. Under 12's even stay for free! Plus, you can even dine on homemade, fresh, local food in Thomas Restaurant.
Many new or improved procedures have been introduced with our safeguarding measures, and we are welcoming guests safely. You can also book with confidence, with our super flexible hotel rates.