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Cardiff is the capital city of Wales, and while it’s not as expensive as other UK capitals like London or Edinburgh, it’s still an expensive place to visit in Wales. Luckily, Cardiff boasts excellent history, art, and culture that can be enjoyed for free. Most of the free things to do in Cardiff are mostly within the city centre and everything is easy to get to.
While here, don’t miss out on great Cardiff activities like a rugby game at the Principality Stadium and Cardiff Castle (not free), and although some of the places on this list are free to explore, don’t skip spending the money at the independent businesses in and around the spots.
Here are the top free things to do in Cardiff!
The Best Free Things to do in Cardiff
Go To Cardiff Indoor Market
This Victorian indoor market is somewhat of a landmark in Cardiff and somewhere where locals have been getting their produce since the 1700s! The market is found in the centre of the city with two entrances from Trinity Street and St Mary’s Street (look out for the majestic clock above the entrance).
Your senses are hit on arrival with strong whiffs from the local fish produce and deals on strawberries being shouted by the fruit and veg stall owners. Under the one glass roof, you will find hundreds of independent stores, from florists and vinyls to hand-crafted cards and tarot readings.
The best time to visit here is for lunch, with a plethora of homemade meals and snacks. Take this list of the best Welsh food to eat in Wales with you on your visit to Cardiff Market and find some of the dishes at this fine Cardiff institution.
Visit The Bookshops of Cardiff
For a fairly small city, Cardiff is home to some of the nicest and unique bookstores such as a specific indie shop for marginalised voices and a Welsh language and learning bookshop. There is the usual Waterstones as found in most UK cities but also second-hand and quirky bookshops like the Bear Exchange in Cardiff Market.
Follow my ultimate guide to the Bookshops in Cardiff to find your perfect spot!
Explore The National Museum Cardiff
Located in the town centre and next to City Hall (a building worth marvelling at and snapping a photograph of), is Cardiff Museum, and entrance is totally free, but you do have to book a time slot for your visit.
The museum features natural history, geology, and the evolution of Wales and Wales’s art galleries. Touring exhibitions around the UK also hold events in The National Museum Cardiff, so check out the website for what’s on.
Walk the Cardiff Bay Barrage Trail
Starting at Cardiff Bay, follow the well-trodden path through the Bay and the waterfront, over the barrage, and through the neighbouring town of Penarth.
There are scenic views to see along the walk, information about Cardiff history, and trail QR codes for children to play games and learn. Also, the circular walk from Cardiff Bay to Penarth and back gives you 10,000 steps. Well worth doing this for the sights and steps!
See The Norwegian Church
The Norwegian Church is a pretty, black-and-white building located in Cardiff Bay which you’ll pass on the Cardiff Bay Barrage walk. It was the church for Norwegian sailors when Cardiff Docks was the busiest coal exporter in the world!
This was the church where world-famous children’s author Roald Dahl was baptised. Roald Dahl wrote some of the best children’s stories like Matilda, Charlie and The Chocolate Factory, and BFG and was born and bred in Cardiff. The church also has lovely views over the waterfront of Cardiff Bay.
Find Doctor Who Filming Locations
Did you know the famous Doctor Who series was filmed in Cardiff?! So if you’re a fan and in Cardiff, you can see the filming locations for free.
Most of the locations are in the city centre within walking distance of other locations and luckily found in some of the places on this list like Cardiff Museum, St Fagans and the Roald Dahl plass near the Norwegian Church. See Visit Wales’s list of Doctor Who locations.
Tour Castell Coch
While Cardiff Castle has an entry fee, there is the lesser-known castle called Castell Coch on the outskirts of Cardiff, which is completely free and has a fun circular walk in adjacent Forest Fawr.
Castell Coch translates as the ‘red castle’ and is a fairytale-looking building that was historically used as a retreat for the Marquess of Bute and friends and has a gorgeous interior to marvel at where you can imagine what it must be like to ‘holiday’ here.
Discover Roath Park and Lake
Roath Park and Roath Lake is a great areas of Cardiff just outside the city centre. There is a 30-acre lake surrounded by trees and a one-way path for walkers, lots of places to sit and relax, wildflowers to find, an ice cream kiosk, a cafe, swans to feed, a children’s playground, a lighthouse for a good photo opportunity, boat hire facilities and sports areas.
Expect to see lots of locals when you visit because it’s a popular spot for people doing the circular walk around the lake.
Look For The Animal Wall in Bute Park
Another park to visit in Cardiff is Bute Park next door to Cardiff Castle. Bute Park is named after the 5th Marquess of Bute, who gifted Cardiff Castle and the surrounding area to the people of Cardiff in 1947.
Along with the usual things to do in green parks including walking and cycling trails, cafes, botanic displays, and seeing the canal, Bute Park is surrounded on the West by the Animal Wall. See if you can find all 15 sculptures of animals along this park wall.
Dubbed as the ‘city of arcades’, Cardiff has seven arcades hosting hundreds of shops, cafes, bars, and restaurants and decorated beautifully that walking through all seven is definitely a fun, free thing to do in Cardiff.
Arcades to visit include Castle Arcade, High Street Arcade, Duke Street Arcade, Morgan Arcade, Dominions Arcade, Royal Arcade, and Wyndham Arcade. Although they are spread out over the town centre, some of them have secret passageways to go between two or three arcades. See if you can find them!
Find Street Art in The City
Cardiff has never been a city with a big street art scene, but in recent years, this has changed with the times and moved away from being seen as graffiti and now seen as art.
The local council and businesses often reach out to local artists to design and create art, including the recently decorated road crossing. Street art found in Cardiff celebrates both the accomplishments and multi-cultures of the city.
Enjoy St Fagans National Museum of History
Entry to this outdoor museum of Welsh history is completely free, but if you’re driving, you need to pay for parking.
St Fagans is one of the best places to learn about traditional Welsh life and with real models of how Welsh homes, farms, and workplaces used to look; as well as hosting lots of workshops and activities such as spoon carving and lambing and lots of exhibitions and talks to learn about history and tradition.
Now you know the top 12 things to do in Cardiff for free, you can visit Wales’ capital city and know you can have a great time without spending a fortune. Most of the places on this list are within walking distance of each other, so once you’re visiting one, the others will be close by.
A top tip would be to try out the Hop On, Hop Off Cardiff, which can transport you to other parts of the city to see the complete list!
About the Guest Author
Written by Shireen from The Happy Days Travels, a local Cardiffian.
I’m Shireen, and I run the travel blog The Happy Days Travels focusing on stories, food, and books on travel. My favourite things to do while travelling are tasting local cuisines, meeting locals and travellers alike, and absorbing a novel in a scenic spot. I grew up near the sea so whenever I’m looking out to the ocean when travelling, I truly feel at home.