With secret tunnels, a Norman keep, Roman ruins and a spectacular neo-gothic Victorian palace, there’s plenty to see and do at Cardiff Castle.
From the outside, Cardiff Castle may look like any other castle, albeit a very well preserved one, but step inside and you’ll discover an opulent, elaborately decorated fantasy designed by the 19th century architect William Burges. When you visit Cardiff Castle make sure to join a tour around the castle apartments that were once home to the Bute family and marvel at the intricate wood carvings, tiles, murals, marble and stained glass windows within. The 50-minute tour takes you through rooms such as the Winter Smoking Room, Lord Bute’s Bedroom, The Roof Top Garden and The Nursery. Between late March and October, you can also take a 30-minute tour inside the Clock Tower to the Summer Smoking Room.
Following your tour of the castle apartments, take time to explore the many things there are to see and do within the castle, such as the remains of the original Roman fort and the Norman keep – the 12-sided stone tower offers fantastic views across the city. Did you know Cardiff Castle has a series of tunnels hidden within its walls? They were used as air-raid shelters for up to 1,800 people during the Second World War and are now open to the public. There you can see how the dormitories, kitchens, lavatories and first aid posts would have looked during the war. When you leave the castle, look out for the animal wall that leads from the castle to Cardiff Bridge – it features 15 stone animals, including a hyena, pelican, vulture, anteater and a seal.
Cardiff Castle events
Want to find out more about the contribution of Welsh soldiers through the years? The castle is home to a Cardiff museum that explores 300 years of Welsh military history. Firing Line: Cardiff Castle Museum of the Welsh Soldier features exhibitions that chronicle Welsh involvement in the Battle of Waterloo, the Anglo-Zulu War and the recent conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, among others. The museum building also houses a café. Caffi’r Castell (the castle’s café) sells traditional Welsh dishes such as cawl (a hearty lamb and vegetable stew), Welsh rarebit and Glamorgan sausages, along with jacket potatoes, freshly made sandwiches and a selection of cakes.
Have you ever wanted to see a jousting tournament, go on a torchlit ghost tour or meet the Romans? You can at Cardiff Castle, thanks to its wide programme of events that run throughout the year. Join a Ghost Tour and wander through the castle by torchlight and learn all about the spooky goings on at the castle, or watch an outdoor theatre production at the Open Air Theatre. Each summer, the castle welcomes the Tafwyl Fair, a Welsh language festival of culture, music and sports. The castle also organises a series of lectures on subjects such as Cardiff’s Victorian buildings and the history of the castle’s animal wall, as well as a number of events where you can meet the Romans, medieval warriors or Georgian gentlemen, or enjoy a day of jousting.
Fancy a bite to eat or spot of shopping after your day in the castle? Head over the road to the Castle Arcade Cardiff, one of the many arcades in the city centre. There you’ll find Madame Fromage, a delicatessen that sells more than 150 types of cheese, and Seasons café bar, which sells dishes such as crempog (a Welsh pancake) and cawl. For a sweet treat, Science Cream is Wales’s first liquid nitrogen ice cream parlour, while you can enjoy coffee and cake at Coffee Barker. The arcade is also home to a number of quirky shops including Claire Grove Buttons, where you can buy buttons and beads in a variety of shapes, sizes and colours; Troutmark Books, which sells a range of secondhand books; and Rules of Play, which has an array of board games, from retro favourites, such as Pass the Pigs and The Settlers of Catan.