Planning Your Trip
Things to Do
What to Eat & Drink
With more than 600 castles, unique cultural and culinary traditions, and untamed, dramatic coastline, it's shocking that only a small percentage of visitors to the United Kingdom set foot in Wales. There's something for everyone here, whether you're into trekking mountain peaks in Snowdonia National Park, exploring "Dr. Who" filming locations in Cardiff, or strolling among Easter egg-hued beachfront cottages in quaint Tenby. Plus, it's remarkably easy to get to. Here's what to know for planning your trip to Cymru. (P.S. That's the country's name in Welsh, which you might be surprised to hear throughout the country!)
Planning Your Trip
Best Time to Visit: Wales is at its best during the late spring through early summer. You can expect a fair bit of rain, but also beautiful flowers throughout the country. Wales's temperate, humid climate means that there's only a small variation among temperatures throughout the year, with summer temperatures usually hovering in the mid-60s F.
Language: English and Welsh, the latter of which has seen a resurgence in recent years. According to a survey conducted by the Welsh government in early 2020, nearly 30 percent of the population can speak Welsh , and the government aims to have 1 million Welsh speakers by 2050.
Currency: The pound sterling.
Getting Around: Wales is a tiny country—you can drive from Cardiff, along the Southern coast, to Angelsey, an island in the north, in about four-and-a-half hours, and many of the roads are scenic. Wales is also supported by an excellent network of cycling and rail connections.
Travel Tip: Don't let the tiny size of Wales fool you—this small area can easily sustain a trip of a week or more.
Things to Do
Depending on where in Wales you're visiting, activities can include everything from coasteering off the coastline, visiting the many famous television and film sites (Dr. Who, Harry Potter, James Bond, and Tomb Raider, among others), or simply lying on one of Wales's sprawling, sandy beaches. You won't be bored no matter what you choose.
- Even if you're planning on heading farther afield, spend at least a day or two in Cardiff, Wales's largest city. This bustling university town has excellent nightlife and restaurants and is also home to the National Museum of Wales, which houses one of Europe's best collections of Impressionist art.
- Wales is a surfing hotspot, with surfers taking to the sea in Whitesands and Freshwater West in Pembrokeshire, Oxwich Bay, and Llangennith in Gower, among others. Want to get your feet wet (literally) in a more tame environment? Adventure Parc Snowdonia has an artificial wave lagoon, perfect for beginners.
- With so many castles (and ruins) across Wales, it's hard to choose which to visit. But if you only visit one, make it Conwy Castle. The castle still has a complete set of medieval royal residential rooms, and visitors can walk a full circuit of the eight-towered battlements and town walls.
What to Eat and Drink
Wales is home to many unique culinary traditions that can be hard to find elsewhere in the U.K. While some commonly-used ingredients in Welsh cooking—leeks, lamb, and excellent cheese, among others—might not be surprising, they can come together in unique ways. Don't miss trying Glamorgan sausage, an ironically meat-free snack made from cheese, leeks, and breadcrumbs, or laverbread, a seaweed harvested in South Wales. You'll also want to tuck away a sleeve of moreish Welsh cakes (firm, thick pancakes studded with fruit) as a souvenir.
Learn more about the best foods to try in Wales.
Where to Stay
Whether you're interested in roughing it or being treated like a queen, Wales has it all. Cardiff, being Wales's largest city, has an abundance of hotel choices, while smaller towns' accommodation options might be limited to quaint pubs or guesthouses.
In the countryside, you'll find castle hotels like Ruthin or Roch Castle, farm stays, and even yurts, and along the coast, there are many seaside resorts. (One of the nicest is Pembrokeshire's St. Brides Spa Hotel, famously where the cast of "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2" stayed during filming.)
If you're spending any measurable amount of time in London, there's no excuse for not visiting Wales—it's just that easy. Getting from London to Cardiff is very easy and affordable via train, which takes only 1 hour, 45 minutes, and costs around $36. If you don't mind a more extended trip, bus tickets can be had for as little as $6.
The Cardiff Airport isn't huge, but it does receive international flights from Paris, Geneva, Amsterdam, Munich, and others. There are also plenty of regional flights from other destinations within the U.K. If your trip is starting in northern Wales, you might find it easier to fly into the U.K.'s third-largest airport , Manchester Airport, less than an hours' drive from the Welsh border.
Driving in Wales is uncomplicated, but many roads are small, so you shouldn't be surprised if your trip is briefly derailed by a flock of sheep on the road!
Culture and Customs
Whiles Wales is part of the U.K., don't call a Welsh person British! The Welsh are fiercely protective of their country's history and traditions, and the country has its own set of customs, holidays, and even political practices that distinguish it from England. If you're visiting Wales in August, don't miss the annual National Eisteddfod, a massive celebration of Welsh music, poetry, and art.
- In Cardiff, the excellent National Museum is free. On the outskirts of the city, visit St. Fagans National Museum of History. This free, open-air museum offers a unique glimpse into Welsh history through relocated historic buildings, reenactments, and more.
- Rugby is huge in Wales, and going to a match is an experience unlike any other. If you're looking to save money on tickets, try to get tickets for the fall international matches (held in November and December), as opposed to the Six Nations matches in early spring.
- For a quick and inexpensive meal on the go in Cardiff, pop into the Victorian-era Cardiff Market. The market has been operating since the 18th century and is home to butchers, produce vendors, fishmongers, and plenty of Welsh cakes.
Welsh Government. "Welsh language data from the Annual Population Survey: April 2019 to March 2020." June 25, 2020
UK Civil Aviation Authority. "CAA Airport Data 2019."
Cardiff. "Cardiff Central Market."