20 things to do on a rainy day In Cardiff
Rain in Cardiff

The British obsession with spending every spare moment grasping at our meagre ration of sunshine is fading once again.

As we trudge into the cold mornings and diminishing evenings, it’s time to look at some fail safe options for when the weather inevitably turns sour and you’ve got some time to kill in Cardiff.

1. Explore the Old Arcades

Where better to start than the snaking network of covered Victorian arcades found around the vicinity of the Hayes? You’ll keep bone dry and have an endless amount of unique and independent shops and cafes to choose from. Browse around Spillers, the oldest record store in the world, or get some breakfast at the Kaffeehaus at Wally’s Delicatessen, a loving and authentic recreation of an Austrian coffee shop.

2. Carry on with Cardiff’s shopping heritage at Cardiff Central Market

Not too far away is Central Market, dating from 1891. Here you’ll find an endless range of stalls selling pretty much anything you can think of. If you fancy a second breakfast, get some beautiful hot welshcakes from the bakery, buy up some loose leaf teas from Gurmanotea, and make your way upstairs to take in a full view of the hustle and bustle which has carried on uninterrupted on this site for over a hundred years.

3. Read up on the Cardiff Story

It might not have the majestic size of the National Museum Wales, but the Cardiff Story is an excellent space providing an intimate look at Cardiff from its prehistoric origins through the industrial revolution to today, using a range of interactive pieces and a carefully collated selection of artefacts which perfectly sum up the fabric and culture of the City and it’s shaping of the people that live here.

4. Play a round of mini-golf in a car park

I still can’t get my head around how they’ve fitted it in there, but seemingly out of nowhere, Treetop Adventure Golf, a 36 hole mini-golf course, has popped up in the carpark of the St David’s Centre. It serves alcohol, stays open till 10 pm, and takes you through jungle guarded by ancient spirits by way of the Rhondda. What isn’t to like?

5. Take a trip to Chapter Arts Centre

Walking up towards the Castle (which is a far from ideal place to visit on a rainy idea), make your way east down Cowbridge Road, and eventually you’ll end up at Chapter Arts Centre. Reward yourself with lunch and a pint at its café, check out whatever art exhibitions they’ve currently got on display in their galleries, and if you have time, see a carefully selected film in one of their plush screens. If you get chance to come back later, they regularly put on plays by both new and well established writers, as well as talks by a very wide range of cultural figureheads.

6. Lose yourself in the National Museum Cardiff

Walking out towards the Civic Centre, admiring the classical architecture of the university buildings and City Hall as you go, you’ll find the National Museum. There are countless exhibitions to choose from; learn about the 4,600 million year long Evolution of Wales and come face to face with their animatronic mammoth, or lose yourself in one of Europe’s most significant collections of art, with constantly changing temporary exhibitions. Try and catch one of their many lunch time events whilst you’re there, and soak up the atmosphere of the foyer with a coffee in their café.

7. Make a fly by trip to Llandaff Cathedral

Next, grab a train or bus and take a quick ride to Llandaff. Gradually swallowed up by a rapidly expanding Cardiff in the 19th century, it’s survived relatively untouched as not much more than a picturesque village in the middle of suburban Cardiff. The massive cathedral and its grounds are always worth a visit, and a nice bit of rain can only add to the peaceful atmosphere here. Afterwards grab a quick restorative pint at the Maltsters, popular with locals and staff from the nearby BBC building.

8. Take in Cardiff from a hillside castle

Castell Coch

If you have time to venture even further out of Cardiff, travel to the cusp of the valleys and visit Castell Coch, where you’ll be treated to rain drenched panoramic views of Cardiff and the surrounding area. Just like Cardiff Castle, the Gothic Revival building was built deceptively recently on the foundations of an older castle by William Burges for the 3rd Marquess of Bute. Unlike Cardiff Castle, most of what there is to see is inside, so you won’t get wet as you wander around the plush surroundings.

From here, take a train via Queen St to Cardiff Bay. What was up until relatively recently a dilapidated relic of Cardiff’s once busy dockland, constant redevelopment since the 90s has led to it becoming one of Cardiff’s main tourist traps. Whilst down there, you should…

9. Take in the Wales Millennium Centre

Recently celebrating its 10th birthday, the WMC has fast become a jewel in Wales’ cultural crown. Its dramatic design is stunning enough, but there’s also plenty to do inside. You might be able to catch one of their regular free performances in the foyer, browse one of their art installations, attend a workshop, and of course book tickets to see a show, ranging from touring musical blockbusters to their own recently started in-house drama productions.

10. Dive into the Pierhead Building

Situated next door, the Pierhead building’s elaborate red brick and tile designs makes it one of the most eye-catching of Cardiff’s landmarks inside and out. Built in 1897 as the Headquarters of the Bute Dock Company, the building is charged with history, and has exhibitions on many different aspects of Cardiff Bay, as well as photography galleries and regular events; see if you can catch one.

11. Visit the Senedd

As the presiding officer Dame Rosemary Butler AM puts it, the Senedd is not just a Members building, it is your building. The main public building of the National Assembly, it welcomes visitors who are free to explore the breath-taking building and view various meetings from the public gallery. Look for its integrated art installations by artists and sculptors such as Richard Harris, and see if you can catch one the many cultural events put on throughout the year.

12. See the Norwegian Church

Jutting out on the Bayfront, this church might be small but it’s hard to miss. Once a church for the Norwegian community and the place where Roald Dahl was christened, it is now an arts centre with exhibitions by upcoming artists upstairs, and a great restaurant downstairs with panoramic views of the bay perfect to grab a snack.

13. Assist the Doctor at the Doctor Who Experience

A must for all sci-fi fans, this massive Tardis-blue structure dominates the landscape of Porth Teigr, and is a cathedral to the program which helped to put Cardiff on the map as a major media centre. It offers the Interactive Experience which allows you to go on an interactive adventure with the Doctor, and is also home to the world’s largest collection of Doctor Who props, costumes and sets.

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14. Unleash the scientist at Techniquest

The first purpose built science and discovery centre in the UK, Techniquest’s mission is to get as many people engaged with science as possible, and does so through a gigantic range of hands on exhibits which are not only great fun but highly educational, all suitable for children and adults alike. If you’re around on the right day, you can also attend one of their After Hours nights, where you can compete against other teams to complete tasks, and feel like you’re in an episode of Takeshi’s Castle.

15. Stock up at the Pumping Station

If you have the time and transport, it is worth taking the trip out to the Pumping Centre towards Penarth. An impossibly large and sprawling antiques centre with stalls across 5 floors and various lean-tos, a large outdoor reclamation centre, café, and supposedly the largest ever trained lion stuffed in a cabinet, it will be impossible not to find something here. Even if you don’t, the sheer marvel of its massive surroundings set in a Victorian pumping station with many features intact is worth the trip alone.

16. Go for an indoor adventure

If you have a whole day to kill, then there are a number of indoor activity centres dotted around Cardiff. Boulders is an indoor climbing and boulder centre catering to all ages and experience levels covering over 2000 square metres of climbing surface. Also worth considering is Cardiff International White Water, which gives you the chance to do a load of white water activities in a controlled environment. If you’re getting wet anyway, what does it matter if it’s raining?

17. Grab a burger at the Grazing Shed

Heading back into the centre for food, Cardiff seems to be the city of burgers right now, which is exactly what you probably need after a hard day’s slog in the rain. There are many places to choose from and a failsafe option is always the Grazing Shed on Barrack Lane. It stresses the upmost importance on locally sourced, high quality meat and has an irresistible selection of original burgers to choose from on the menu, from a Mr. Pickles to a Spicy Uncle Pedro.

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18. See a play…

Hopefully all full up, make the most of the bad weather and see a show at one of Cardiff’s many venues. If you fancy some stand-up, go back out to the Bay to the Glee Club in Mermaid Quay or see who’s on at the slightly larger St David’s Centre. If it’s a play you’re after, Cardiff caters for the smallest and the biggest. Catch something off-key at Porter’s The Other Room, described as Cardiff’s Pub Theatre, or see what’s on from the diverse mix that is constantly coming to the doors of the Sherman Cymru or the New Theatre.

19. …or a concert

If it’s music you’re after, try Gwdihw or the Full Moon for something more intimate, or the Cardiff University Students Union or the Motorpoint arena for a larger affair. It is also worth trotting out to The Globe in Roath to see what is on, often hosting impressively big touring veterans and newcomers alike, along with the endless stream of cover bands. On pretty much any given night, you are guaranteed to find a decent gig to see somewhere in Cardiff.

20. End on a Womanby Street crawl

Womanby Street is one of Cardiff’s main party streets, and has been for hundreds of years. Its past is well documented as the domain of the lawless when Cardiff was a pirate port during Elizabethan times, and some nights it feels like it hasn’t changed. Many great pubs and bars are located along here, and if you don’t have the inclination to visit each one, beer lovers should make a beeline for Urban Tap House and the City Arms with a massive selection of real ales on tap and bottle. Then if the night progresses, move on to Clwb Ifor Bach to join the bearded and double denimed of Cardiff to round off a day and night successfully dodging the Welsh weather.

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