Of all the places I’ve been, Wales is probably one of the most beautiful. The countryside is green and hilly (not to mention all the sheep!); the towns are adorable; and the history is everywhere. There truly is something for everyone! While there is so much to see in Wales (an extensive road trip is in my future), here are my favourite stops (thus far) in south Wales. Read on to the end to see a map!
I write about all the things to do in Cardiff here. It’s Wales’ capital city and it boasts many tourist attractions and things to do. Bonus: it’s also an easy train ride from London.
St. Fagans National History Museum
St. Fagans is an open-air museum featuring Welsh history from Celtic times to the present day. The museum is built on the ground of St. Fagans Castle and Gardens (beautiful in itself) and features original buildings like farmhouses, houses, a school, and a chapel from different time periods.
You’ll also spot the traditional cockpit (where roosters used to fight) and several sheep. Throughout your visit, you can see craftsmen demonstrate traditional skills and even visit some traditional Welsh shops!
St. Fagans is located 4 miles west of Cardiff and admission is free.
Caerleon: for the Roman history lover
Caerleon is a town outside of Newport, Wales that it makes for a perfect visit if you love the Romans. It is the location of a Roman legionary fortress as well as a Roman amphitheatre that could once sit 6,000. It also has the best remains of Roman barrack buildings in Europe. While there, check out the free National Roman Legion Museum, which houses Roman artefacts from the region, or the Roman Baths Museum, which uses technology to show how the baths once looked.
Caerphilly: for the castle and cheese lover
If you love castles, visit Caerphilly: home to the second largest castle in Britain (losing out to Windsor Castle). The castle was built in the mid 13th-century by Gilbert de Clare (Gilbert the Red) to take control of Glamorgan. The castle design (a concentric ring of walls) was the first of its kind in Britain and you’ll definitely feel dwarfed by the giant gatehouses and moat as you approach. Take note of the leaning tower, which has been that way since 1648!
If you’re a lover of cheese, pick up some Caerphilly cheese, a hard, white, crumbly cheese that was created in the 1830s to provide food for local coal miners.
Monmouth: for the small town lover
Monmouth is adorable. I remember I texted my parents as I was leaving and told them they needed to move there when they retired. It was the site of my first proper Sunday roast (yum!) and some serious wandering. Needless to stay, if you need a quiet, beautiful place to explore, this is it! Visit on a Saturday and take a stroll through the town market.
Of note is Monnow Bridge, a 13th-century gated bridge and one of three such bridges left in Europe.
Tintern Abbey: for the ruins lover
Tintern Abbey is one of the most beautiful and romantic places you will ever see. What is still standing today was built in the 13th century by Cistercian monks. It is featured eponymously in a poem by William Wordsworth and is also referenced in Jane Austen’s Mansfield Park. Have you ever seen ruins this beautiful before?
Brecon Beacons National Park: for the nature lover
Brecon Beacons National Park is one of three national parks in Wales, established in 1957. Take in the stunning Welsh nature on a hike, climb, or bike, or try your hand at caving, gorge-walking, or horseback riding.
If you want a more historical/interactive activity, check out Big Pit Coal Museum, located on the edge of Brecon Beacons. The museum is run by Welsh ex-miners who, in addition to their fabulous accents, had hilarious senses of humor. You can descend 300 feet down into a retired coal mine dressed in a hardhat and safety gear, learn about the working conditions of the miners, and experience true darkness when you turn out your lights. It really is an amazing, once-in-a-lifetime experience.
As someone who is slightly claustrophobic, I was nervous at first but our guide was so sweet and definitely did a good job of making us feel comfortable in the mine. I definitely recommend a visit to learn about a major part of Welsh history.
Swansea: for the nightlife lover
I can’t speak authoritatively on Swansea, as I arrived in time for dinner and left early next morning, but I can say that it does have some vibrant nightlife. After an early dinner at Nandos, we walked on Wind Street, which was packed with people dressed to the nines spilling out of bars and clubs and having a lot of rowdy fun!
Have you visited Wales before?