As the Welsh capital and tenth largest city in the UK, Cardiff has undergone significant regeneration in recent years, progressing from one of the largest ports in the world to an important cultural hub, attracting visitors all year long.
It is now home to a large number of indoor shopping arcades, museums covering the history of the area, a trendy foodie scenery including a brewery said to rival the Guinness Brewery of Ireland, natural beauty spots, and one of the most visited castles in all of the UK.
Within easy reach of London and a local airport with flights landing from across Europe, Cardiff has become the unofficial city of culture for Wales.
This guide is perfect for those who only have 48 Hours in Cardiff – A 2 Day Itinerary. We will show you what to do in Cardiff, where to stay, what to eat and how to get around, whether its a weekend in Cardiff or just a quick trip.
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Best time of Year to Visit Cardiff
June to September are typically the warmest and driest months to visit, with temperatures during this time reaching the mid-twenties.
November, on average, sees more rain than any other month and is best to be avoided, but for those after a wintry, festive break, Cardiff has seen their Christmas Market grow in popularity over the last few years.
Where to Stay in Cardiff for 48 hours
Whether you are looking for a budget hotel or somewhere more luxurious, a boutique B & B or an apartment, Cardiff is full of unique places to stay in to choose from.
For first-timers in the city, Cardiff city centre itself is full of wonderful places to stay, like the Clayton Hotel Cardiff, which is within walking distance of all the major attractions, including Cardiff Castle.
While others looking to spend 48 hours in Cardiff prefer to stay close to the Riverside, which is slightly further away from the bustling nightlife and closer to the weekly Riverside Farmers Market for those visiting at the weekend.
48 Hours in Cardiff itinerary
If you are wondering how many days in Cardiff are needed, you will find a comprehensive guide highlighting places to visit below.
This guide is split across two days and includes a mixture of cultural locations, museums, and sporting choices that will appeal to everyone.
Day 1 in Cardiff
Start your trip with a good breakfast
When you land in the city, especially if travelling via train, you will find yourself central to the city. Therefore, head towards the Wyndham Cafeteria in the main shopping area and grab a coffee and a traditional British-cooked breakfast before you start a day of exploring.
Start this two-day Cardiff itinerary by taking a short stroll along St Mary’s Street until you reach the grounds of Cardiff Castle.
This castle is, without a doubt, the most popular attraction not just in Cardiff but across Wales, for a good reason.
For more than 2000 years, Cardiff Castle has been at the heart of the city, having stood the test of time through the Norman Conquest, civil war, and even World War II when it was turned into an air raid shelter.
Today, the castle and its grounds are open for all to explore and even host several festivals and concerts throughout the year.
Enter the castle to learn more about the history of the Bute family, one-time owners of the monument, before you climb the Norman Keep to see the replica trebuchet.
You can also explore the castle apartments, uncover Roman remains and take a look at Chariot Corner.
Finally, make sure you allow time to wander through the military museum and the wartime shelters to get a true sense of how Cardiff Castle has supported the area over time.
Lunch in a Former Gaol
Not far from the castle, Cardiff Market is a Grade II listed, Victorian structure that has been trading as a market since the 1700s.
Before that time, this site was used as the Cardiff gaol, with St. Mary’s St entrance at one time being the location of the gallows where people were hanged for their crimes.
Spread over two floors, you can wander around enjoying the local produce on sale and the remarkable structure that has stood the test of time before heading to one of the many food outlets for a lunch of street food delights.
Explore the City of Arcades
After a hearty lunch, take some time to get lost in the many arcades, home to more than 100 independent shops, and whether you are looking for vintage clothes, homeware, artwork, and several bookshops, there is plenty to explore.
Make sure you pick up some welsh cakes from the Castle Arcade, a local treat that must be tried during your weekend in Cardiff.
Make sure to include a visit to Spillers Records, the oldest record shop in the world, dating back to 1894; there may even be a live music event during your stay if you are lucky.
Museum of Cardiff
When you have had enough retail therapy, head to the Museum of Cardiff in the heart of the city, where, for free, you can find out about Cardiff’s heritage and history through its people’s eyes.
It is here you can uncover information about the earliest recorded times, through to the industrial boom and up to the present day, and it is a great way to end your first day of exploring in the city.
Cocktails at The Alchemist followed by a Portuguese fest
For a bit of drama to your early evening drinks, head to The Alchemist, home of theatrical drinks in an upmarket setting.
The cocktails are designed to dazzle and bewitch with mixologists creating drinks that arrive surrounded by theatrical smoke and served in an array of glasses similar to test tubes and bottles that you could find in a chemistry set.
From here, it is a short walk to Ty Madeira, a family-run Portuguese restaurant offering traditional dishes in a rustic setting.
Mixed with well-known Mediterranean dishes, you can also try Pastel de Bacalhau, a traditional plate of grilled sardines, Caldeirada fish broth, and Tipica. An evening here is the perfect way to relax after a long day on your feet.
Take a Ghost Tour
For those who would prefer an earlier dinner and then something spooky to finish their evening off, consider heading back to Cardiff Castle and hop onto one of their ghost tours.
Visit the castle at night and listen to stories about ghostly phenomena, strange sounds, unusual sightings, and ghastly deaths.
There are also many stories about how the 3rd Marquis of Bute tried to summon the dead with bizarre experiments. Make sure to book in advance though, to avoid disappointment.
Day 2 in Cardiff
If you only have 2 days in Cardiff, day two is likely to include an early start, and you may wish to wear comfortable shoes, as there will be some walking involved, but it is the best way to see the sights of the city.
Breakfast of Champions at Coffee Barker
Walking into Coffee Barker, you could be forgiven for thinking you are in New York, as this cafe is an eclectic mix of New York West Village and a Parisian brasserie. Inside are paintings on the ceiling and typewriters in the toilets.
At the same time, those who prefer coffee shop curbside culture can enjoy breakfast outside any time of year thanks to its central location in the Castle Arcade.
Breakfasts are served from 8:30 each morning, and you can enjoy either a traditional welsh breakfast or something more unique that involves smashed avocados or peanut butter.
Either way, it is the perfect place to fill up for a morning of sightseeing and offers some of the best coffee in the city.
The Principality Stadium
To start the second day of your weekend in Cardiff, head to the Principality Stadium, once known as the Millennium Stadium and home to Welsh Rugby.
It has become one of the main places to visit in Cardiff, Wales, not only for its sporting events but because it has a large retractable roof, making it one of the biggest indoor arenas in the country with a 74,000 seating capacity.
Booking onto a tour here will see you walking around with a professional guide sharing facts about the stadium’s history, including details about rugby games, world-class boxing, and football matches, as well as rock and roll concerts featuring the Rolling Stones and other events that have been held there since it opened in 1999.
Again, booking ahead of time is recommended as they only run a few tours each day and can fill up quickly.
From the stadium, take a walk along the Taff river to Bute Park, a 13-acre green space home to several nature trails and more than 20 sculptures created by artists using dead trees to explore, along with landscaped gardens and wildflower meadows.
It is also home to Blackfriars Friary, an ancient monument dating back to the 13th century. It was occupied for 288 years before Parliament ordered its closure in 1536.
While here, head through The People’s Door and into the Secret Garden, where you can pick up some refreshments to enjoy in the park before the exploration of the city continues.
The National Museum
From Bute Park, head east past the South African War Memorial, which honours the victims of the Second Boer War, and onto the National Museum, home to one-of-a-kind art displays and interactive science exhibitions.
Make sure you visit the Evolution of Wales, which takes you on a 4,600 million year journey from the Big Bang to the age of Dinosaurs and woolly mammoths to the present day, and the Natural Science galleries.
Also, allow time to check out the historic art galleries where you will see works by Botticelli and Rembrandt. The National Museum also has many short-term exhibitions, so it is always worthwhile checking before you visit to see what is on.
Enjoy a Turkish Mezze for Lunch
Before heading to the other side of the city, take some time out and visit Lezzet Turkish Kitchen, a restaurant started by two friends more than 30 years ago.
This location offers a cosy, relaxed atmosphere with traditional Turkish dishes, including mixed grills, lamb koftas, baklava, and Turkish delight.
At lunchtime, you can enjoy either the main menu or a lunchtime special which gives you a choice of some of their best dishes at a budget price.
An afternoon at Cardiff Bay
For the last part of your 48 hours in Cardiff itinerary, it’s time to hop on a bus and head out towards the Wales Millennium Centre near Cardiff Bay. This arts centre hosts a range of productions, operas, and learning experiences.
Even if you decide not to go in, chances are you will recognise the area if you are a fan of Doctor Who or Torchwood, as the Water Tower at the northern end, which stands around 21 metres high and has a constant stream of water running down it, has appeared in both.
This area is also home to the Welsh Parliament Building (the Senedd) and Roald Dahl Plass, a public space named after the Cardiff-born author, and is often home to concerts and events as well as offering areas to eat and drink.
Cardiff Bay is also home to the Techniquest Science Discovery Centre, a space hoping to inspire a passion for the subject and offers a great family afternoon out. You will also find The Welsh Assembly at Pierhead, home to a terracotta building that resembles Big Ben in London, and the Norwegian Church.
You will be able to spot the Norwegian Church as it is unique with its black and white colour and is where Roald Dahl was baptised.
Finally, while in this area, wander down to Mermaid Quay and walk around the Riverside until you come across Ianto’s Jones Shrine.
This was set up in 2009 as a fan memorial to the character of the same name from the show, Torchwood, and includes photos, poems, and stories from fans worldwide, including a plaque dedicated to the fictional character.
Evening Drinks in an Old Chapel
After heading back into the city, your first stop must be Chapel 1877 for pre-dinner drinks. This location stands out both outside and inside.
Outside from a distance, it still looks like an active ornate chapel, while inside, you will find three floors giving the nod to French-Italian gothic design. If you want to end your evening in style, this is the place to start with a Long Island Iced Tea or an Elderflower Bellini.
It is just a short walk from the Old Chapel to The Ivy, a trendy yet refined dining experience offering everything from lobster to shepherd’s pie in a vibrant, art-deco environment.
As this is your final night in the city, there are plenty of other things to do in Cardiff should you wish to carry on.
Whether you want to continue with a few drinks, dance the night away in one of the many nightclubs, or do something completely different, like Tree Top Adventure Golf, Cardiff has what it takes to make it a memorable evening.
Tour ideas to do in Cardiff
For those that would like to see Cardiff Bay from a different perspective, you could take one of the many boat tours on offer, including a speedboat thrill ride that departs daily from Mermaid Quay.
Finally, just 4 miles out of the city, you can also visit St Fagans National Museum of History, either on your own by jumping on the 32A bus or via a private tour.
St Fagans, a magnificent castle, is now known as the people’s museum that tells the story of locals, Welsh history, and their everyday lives.
We hope that this 48 hours in Cardiff itinerary has given you an idea of things to do in the city. On top of the suggested activities, you could also choose to spend time castle hopping around South Wales or explore the Rhondda Heritage Park, a coal mining museum highlighting the area’s industrial past.
Alternatively, you could take in a rugby game, visit the opera, or go on the Cardiff Bay Trail to learn more about Captain Scott and his fatal journey to the Antarctic.
Recommended tours in Cardiff
- City Sightseeing Cardiff Hop-On Hop-Off Bus Tour
- Doctor Who Cardiff Walking Tour
- Cardiff City Tour
- The Wandering Bard Tour of South Wales
- Cardiff Like a Local: Customized Private Tour
- Day Tour – Castles, Mountains & More
- The Ghosts of Llandaff: A Self-Guided Audio Tour