Lizzie PopeSee other travel guides written by Lizzie Pope
Wonderful historic monuments, fantastic shopping and a haven for sports fans: Wales’s vibrant and popular capital city will appeal to caravanners of all ages when you visit Wales.
Caravan holidays in Wales have been popular for decades and Cardiff is a top destination. There are few UK cities with as much history, attractions and sophistication as Cardiff – if you’re planning a tour of Wales or South Wales in particular, you really shouldn’t miss the fabulous capital city. Whether you’re part of a couple touring alone, or are travelling with a large family, you'll find plenty of things to do and places to see in Cardiff to keep you occupied for weeks at a time.
Sports fans will find themselves in their element here – they should try to catch a Welsh rugby or football match at the fantastic Millennium Stadium, an athletics meeting at Cardiff International Sports Stadium, or another Cardiff RFC Blue & Blacks fixture at Cardiff Arms Park. It’s such a great place to watch sports that it's European Capital of Sport in 2014, an accolade it also took in 2009.
If sport isn’t your thing, then you might prefer to visit Cardiff for its magnificent heritage sites during your caravan holidays in Wales. One of the most exciting tourist attractions in this part of South Wales is Cardiff Castle, which you’ll find right in the heart of the city. It was originally built in medieval times, but was upgraded during the Victorian era, and today it stands as part castle, part Gothic Revival mansion. It’s open all year, and you can even book an evening at a traditional, 15th century style Welsh banquet (suitable for all the family). And if you get a taste for castles, Castell Coch is just to the north of the city while Caerphilly Castle is only about a 30-minute drive away.
If you’d like to learn more about Cardiff’s fascinating history, then do visit the National Museum Cardiff, which stands in the city’s civic centre. It offers an impressive collection of Wales’s finest art, geology, history and archaeology collections, as well as other, temporary exhibitions. It’s free to enter, and is open every day except Mondays (bank holidays aside).
If you're looking for free things to do in Cardiff, head for the outskirts of the city and go to St Fagans National History Museum. It is free to enter and consists of more than 40 buildings from a range of historic periods, all of which have been re-erected in the parkland setting.
Between Cardiff and Newport you can visit Tredegar House, which is owned by the National Trust and is rather impressive.
If you prefer lively family holiday activities, then don’t miss the Red Dragon Centre. This is a great destination if you’re enjoying caravan holidays with children, as it has a bowling alley, restaurants, an IMAX cinema and even – for the adults – a 24-hour casino.
Go shopping in Cardiff city centre and you'll find a fantastic and varied range of shops, but for a greater selection under one roof, don’t miss St David’s Dewi Sant, a huge shopping arcade with lots of designer stores where you can find designer fashions to bring back from holiday.
For something even more active on your caravan holidays in Wales, head to Cardiff International White Water. No matter what your skills, if you're prepared to get wet, you'll have a great day out.
Still need to tire the kids out? Visit Go Ape! at Margam Country Park, only around 40 minutes away by car, taking the M4 and heading west from Cardiff city centre. While back in the city centre, you can watch the Cardiff Devils ice hockey team.
Do you like walking holidays? Follow the Cardiff Centenary Walk, a great way to explore the city on foot. Or you can venture further afield either on foot or by bike, to discover the city and the surrounding area. Cardiff Bay also sits at one end of the Taff Trail, a cycle route that will take you right up to Brecon.
Of course, there are lots of events in Cardiff at the Wales Millennium Centre in Cardiff Bay. It only opened in 2004 but has already become one of the city's landmark buildings. And if someone in your party is a Doctor Who fan, then no caravan holidays in Cardiff can be complete until you take the family to see the Doctor Who Experience, also in the Cardiff Bay area.
As with most capital cities, you won’t find many caravan parks around Cardiff, although there is one council-run site – Cardiff Caravan Park – right in the heart of the city. If that doesn’t appeal, you’ll need to stay at one of the many campsites near Cardiff further afield and drive in. With three park and ride sites around the city, you can leave your car out of town and negotiate the city on foot.
Top five things to do in Cardiff
Visit St Fagans National History Museum, one of the top tourist destinations in Cardiff and a great day out for all ages during caravan holidays in South Wales.
People from all over the world visit The National Museum Cardiff, making it a must-see attraction during caravan holidays in Cardiff.
Don't miss Cardiff Bay during your caravan holidays in South Wales. Visit Wales Millennium Centre, an architectural masterpiece, the slate and steel building now an iconic landmark famous the world over. If you have children, go to the Doctor Who Experience and the Red Dragon Centre, as well as many shops, bars and restaurants in Cardiff Bay.
The National Assembly for Wales meets at the Senedd in Cardiff Bay, an award winning, innovative, Lord Richard Rogers designed building made of glass, steel, slate and concrete with a striking roof that's lined with red cedar. But it's not just a place for politics, visit the home of the Welsh Assembly for events and a café, or take one of the free, pre-booked guided tours.
When to visit Cardiff
Just like any other major city, whatever time of year you choose for your caravan holidays in and around Cardiff, you won't be short of things to do – just pitch your van at a local campsite and get exploring!
Of course, there are events across Wales to mark St David's Day on 1 March. Then in April, take in the blooms and entertain the little ones at the RHS Flower Show Cardiff, the same month that the Cardiff Independent Film Festival takes place.
July is a busy month in Cardiff. Foodies will enjoy the Cardiff International Food and Drink Festival, or how about Beyond the Border, the Wales International Storytelling Festival, at St Donat's Castle, less than an hour's drive from Cardiff. But that's not all, as July also sees the Welsh language festival Tafwyl arrive at Cardiff Castle.
Then Cardiff Carnival brightens the city with colour and music in August, before the Cardiff Harbour Festival brings extreme sailing to the city over the August bank holiday weekend. But for fun and games throughout the summer holidays from late July and through August, head to Roald Dahl Plass for Cardiff Bay Beach.
Enjoy live music at Sŵn Festival in October, the same month that the Cardiff Half Marathon takes place. Be wowed by the annual fireworks display Sparks in the Park in November, then finish the year and welcome the new one with Cardiff's Winter Wonderland.
But this really is just scratching the surface. Cardiff is such a vibrant city that whenever you choose to take your caravan holiday, you're sure to find plenty to do.
How to get to Cardiff
Cardiff sits adjacent to the M4, thus many people coming to the city will use this to get there on their caravan holidays. If you're travelling from the Midlands, take the M5 to Bristol where you can join the M4 and head west into Wales crossing one of the Severn Bridges – tolls apply when entering Wales only.
To avoid the tolls when approaching from the north, you can leave the M5 at junction eight and join the M50 which will take you to Ross-on-Wye where you can join the A40. Near Raglan you'll need to join the A449 then follow this south until it meets the M4.
From Brecon, take the A470 south to Cardiff, the A4042 the main route from Abergavenny to Cardiff.