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Cardiff is a great city to explore and although you can do a weekend break in Cardiff or spend a few days in Cardiff, it is a small city so one day in Cardiff really is enough to do a lot of the best things to do in Cardiff!
If you are popping through Cardiff on a Wales road trip, doing a day trip to Cardiff or even if have longer in Cardiff,
I suggest following this 1 day Cardiff itinerary so you can see a good amount of the city in 1 day!
With one day in Cardiff, you’ll be able to visit historic places like Cardiff Castle and the shopping arcades, modern places like Cardiff Bay, you’ll even have time to go to a beach near Cardiff!
Oh, and I’ll tell you where to get the best Welsh cakes in Cardiff!
One Day in Cardiff!
Cardiff Itinerary Map
Here is a map of Cardiff with all the places I have mentioned below to help you see Cardiff in one day!
Getting to Cardiff:
Cardiff Central Train Station is the main train station and it’s right in the city centre.
Cardiff is a pretty small city and really easy to walk around so if you arrive at Cardiff Central Station in the morning you can easily start this Cardiff itinerary straight away without worrying about additional transport from the station to the city.
Still need to book your train to Cardiff? Check Transport For Wales now and compare the best dates, times and prices!
If you are staying outside of the city centre on your Wales trip and need to get into the city. As well as local trains, Cardiff is well connected by bus.
Just go onto Cardiff Bus and you’ll easily find a bus route into the city. A one-way adult ticket is £2.00 which you buy on the bus.
Parking in Cardiff:
If you want to drive into Cardiff City centre then you can. Cardiff is not a horrible and busy city to drive through.
For the best place to park in Cardiff City Centre I recommend St Davids Shopping Car Park, or John Lewis.
A Day in Cardiff:
Coffee Shops in Cardiff
For most of us, coffee is a good way to start the day, so in order to get your bearings of the city and get a good caffeine fix head to one of the many independent coffee shops in Cardiff City!
I really like sitting outside in Uncommon Ground because it’s located in one of the shopping arcades so it’s a really unique place in Cardiff and what Cardiff is known for, which leads me onto…
Cardiff Shopping Arcades
The arcades date back to 1885 which is when the first one was completed which is High Street Arcade.
The arcades can be hard to spot as they are pretty plain entrances off busy streets with shops and cafes on either side, but once you’re inside them you feel like you’re in another place.
The Harry Potter vibes in them are strong, I’ll leave it at that!
I like visiting these arcades early in the morning just as the shops are opening (which is between 9:00-10:00 am) because they are not too busy then.
If you are looking for good photo locations in Cardiff, these arcades are definitely one of them and that’s another reason to get there early – to get photos without as many people in them!
Head to: Castle Quarter Arcades, High Street Arcade, Royal Arcade and Morgan Arcade
Whilst working your way between the shops and impressive arcades in Cardiff, be sure to stop off at Cardiff Market too!
I used to visit Welsh markets like this all the time when I was younger but these days, not as many are still running so it really is a piece of history to see!
Cardiff Market has been recently redeveloped and this Victorian Market offers a unique experience to see independent welsh businesses and experience the beating heart of Cardiff!
If there’s one thing you buy from Cardiff Market and if there’s one thing you need to try with one day in Cardiff, it’s welsh cakes and the stand called Cardiff Bakestones.
They have been making Welsh Cakes for 20 years and most people say they are the best Welsh Cakes in Cardiff, and in Wales!
Next on the list of the things you must do in Cardiff is to head to Cardiff Castle which is at the top of the high street and the view of the castle at the end of this commercial and busy street is a pretty good view!
Cardiff Castle is one of Wales’ leading heritage attractions with over 2000 years of history to be seen.
It’s a really interactive castle with a museum inside too so it’s one of the best places to visit with children in Cardiff!
What I also love about the Castle is that you can enter the grounds and see a lot from the outside for free!
This means if you are in Cardiff on a budget or have limited time on your one day in Cardiff, you can enter the Castle walls and at least see the buildings from the outside and read some of the signs which explain the history of what you can see.
Going inside Cardiff Castle is highly recommended though and a ticket for an adult is £12.50 which is reasonable for all that you can see inside. Click here for opening times and more ticket prices.
Cardiff Hop On Hop Off Bus
Even though Cardiff is fairly small to walk around and it’s all pretty flat if you don’t fancy walking from attraction to attraction and you want a guided tour to learn more about the Welsh Capital on your one day in Cardiff I recommend booking a ticket on the Hop On Hop Off Bus!
The Cardiff Hop On Hop Off Bus offers 11 stops throughout the city which is a great way to see a lot of the city in a short time and just want you need with just a day in Cardiff!
From Cardiff Castle, the National Museum of Cardiff, Principality Stadium, The Norwegian Church, Cardiff Bay and many more stops, you really will visit the top things to do in Cardiff on this bus!
Museums in Cardiff
If museums are your thing, or perhaps it’s raining on your day in Cardiff and you’re looking for things to do when it rains in Cardiff, then there are a few museums in Cardiff to keep you busy!
Head to: National Museum Cardiff, Techniquest, Cardiff Castle Museum
Mermaid Quay, Cardiff Bay
Now you have seen the top places to see in Cardiff City centre, head down to the water at Cardiff Bay.
To get from Cardiff City Centre to Cardiff Bay you can either walk down Lloyd George Avenue which will take about 15 minutes or you can check Cardiff Bus for nearby bus stops.
If you are driving you can move your car and park at Mermaid Quay Car Park.
I suggest coming down to Cardiff Bay with your one day in Cardiff because it shows you quite a different side of the city to what you will have seen so far, and everyone likes to be by the water right?
Mermaid Quay is full of restaurants and a few bars so it’s a good place for a lunch stop in Cardiff.
Things to do in Cardiff Bay:
Whilst in Cardiff Bay on your 1 day in Cardiff, I recommend checking out some of the below places to visit in Cardiff:
Cardiff Bay Wetlands Reserve
For some nature and to see a good view of the water and nearby Penarth, head to Cardiff Bay Wetlands Reserve.
Norwegian Church Arts Centre
This is a really unique white church where many Norwegian sailors lowered their anchors on arrival at Cardiff port.
The church is now a thriving arts centre with a cafe and home to a gallery celebrating Cardiff’s most famous writer, Roald Dahl who was born in the area to Norwegian parents.
Techniquest is a science and discovery centre with over 120 interactive exhibits and an exciting programme of shows and events in the Science Theatre.
This is one of the museums in Cardiff but it’s a fun one and a good one for a rainy day or if you are on a one day trip in Cardiff with children!
10km Cardiff Bay Trail
If you have the time, the best way to see Cardiff Bay and one of the top things to do in Cardiff is to do the 10km circular Cardiff Bay Trail.
There are signs showing the direction of the circular trail throughout the bay so you can’t get lost, the footpath is also on Google Maps.
So why not take yourself for a walk, or hire a bike which will make the 10km much quicker, out onto the water over the barrage and back round for a unique and impressive look at Cardiff!
If you still have time, the perfect way to end a day in Cardiff is to go to Penarth and see Penarth Beach and Pier because the best thing about Cardiff is its ocean location!
There is a bus from Mermaid Quay bus stop to Penarth bus stop which takes 22 minutes. You can check the times and stops on Cardiff Bus.
Once there you can get some fish and chips or have a meal at one of the beachside restaurants in Penarth, have a walk along the beach, promenade, pier and Italian Gardens.
To get back to Cardiff City you can either take the bus again or take the train from Penarth Station to Cardiff Central Station.
Places to visit near Cardiff:
After this one day in Cardiff, if you are staying in Cardiff or staying in Wales, here are more of my posts for places to see near Cardiff and in South Wales including walks near Cardiff to help you plan the rest of your trip:
- 16 Day Trips From Cardiff Visiting South Wales & England!
- 16 Beaches Near Cardiff To Visit, All 1 Hour From Cardiff!
- Barry Island Beaches Guide! 4 BEST Beaches in Barry To Visit!
- How To Do Caerphilly Mountain Walk. Easy Walk Near Cardiff!
- How To Do Garth Mountain Walk! Easy & Hard Route!
- How To Do The Brecon Beacons Waterfalls Walk to 4 Waterfalls!
- How To Do Pen Y Fan Walk in The Brecon Beacons!
FAQ About One Day in Cardiff:
Is Cardiff worth visiting?
Yes! Cardiff is a really great city which is full of history but it’s also very modern. It’s right on the water making it a lovely city to visit. Cardiff is fairly small so you can see a lot in a few hours.
What can you do in Cardiff for one day?
With one day in Cardiff you can easily see the top attractions in Cardiff like Cardiff Castle, the Shopping Arcades, Cardiff Bay and visit a nearby beach.
How many days do you need in Cardiff?
One day in Cardiff is enough to see all of the city and with two days in Cardiff you can visit places near Cardiff too!
Is Cardiff a fun city?
Cardiff has a lot of university students which makes it a fun city to visit during the day and also at night.
Is Cardiff worth a day trip from London?
Yes! If you have never been to Cardiff before, the train from London to Cardiff is just 2 hours and you will be able to experience another city which is full of history and life and a city that is right on the water!
I hope this helps you plan your perfect one day in Cardiff!
More of my Wales posts: