Sitting right on the estuary of the River Severn, Cardiff has a brilliant waterfront area well worth exploring, while pounding the city streets with your dog is a great way to get acquainted with this young, fun metropolis.
A huge park at its heart and plenty of dog-friendly attractions – including museums – make Cardiff a brilliant city break destination when you’re bringing your pet. Here’s everything you need to know about coming to Cardiff on a dog-friendly city break.
Explore Cardiff Castle
A great place to start any Cardiff city break is in the grounds of the medieval castle. Sitting right on top of a typical Norman motte, hemmed in by walls that date back to the Roman period, this imposing stone structure is a symbol of the city’s power throughout the centuries. Today, you get a two-for-one treat in the public square inside the old battlements, as a handsome Victorian palace shares the grounds. Have a coffee and a stroll through the grounds – dogs are welcome by your side in all outdoor areas – and then tag-team with your travel partner to visit inside both buildings. The palace has a spectacular 19th-century Arab room well worth seeking out for its ornate decor. A detailed accessibility guide for visitors is available on the Cardiff Castle website.
Enjoy zoomies in Bute Park
Next door to Cardiff Castle is the ultimate place for games of fetch or frisbee with the dog: Bute Park is as big as 75 football pitches stitched together. Lose yourself amid its 3,000 catalogued trees and pretty plantings, or follow one of the excellent trails which range from digital history tours using QR codes to nature walks and tree trails (guides are available at the Education Centre).
Take a boat to the Bay
With its compact centre and pedestrianised areas, Cardiff is a walking city. But when you tire of walking there’s another great way to get around: by boat. From the pier near the Castle Street entrance of Bute Park climb aboard one of the regular water taxis that makes the journey between the city centre and Cardiff Bay. Boats cruise along the River Taff past the Taff’s Mead nature reserve, the Wales Millennium Centre and the striking red-brick Pierhead building before docking in the bay. Book onto Princess Katharine for a guided tour, or simply sail in serenity with the AquaBus.
Hike the Bay Trail
If you’re after a longer walk, the 6.2-mile Bay Trail is a fantastic route to follow. Start at the Pierhead Building, built in the late 1800s as the Bute Dock Company headquarters, and walk south along the promenade past the Norwegian Church, where seafarers from Norway would come to meet during the Industrial Revolution. The trail takes you through Penarth Marina, International Sports Village and along the mouth of the River Taff before heading back to Mermaid Quay where you can enjoy a hot drink at Coffi Co, while the dog sips on a ‘puppaccino’.
Browse in the arcades and Central Market
Cardiff is well known for its excellent shopping scene, with both high street and designer stores in its pedestrianised area. While you can’t really take the dog into many of the larger department stores, there are lots of little boutiques where you can browse with them by your side. The city centre is blessed with a network of gorgeous Victorian shopping arcades, where vaulted glass ceilings and hanging lanterns make an atmospheric scene for shopping with the dog. Many of the stores and cafes within the arcades allow dogs inside, but if you're not sure pop your head in and ask. You can buy local and regional drinks in the vast Wally’s Liquor Cellar and the Fabulous Welsh Cakes store in the Castle Quarter Arcades even make dog-friendly Welsh cakes in the shape of bones.
The Victorian Central Market is also incredibly dog-friendly, with vendors often delighted to see four-legged patrons inside. Pop in to pick up everything from fresh meat and fish to Welsh cheeses and takeaway lunches.
Take a history lesson at St Fagans
Set amid a castle estate on the fringes of Cardiff city, St Fagans is an ideal day out for families with both kids and dogs. This vast outdoor living museum offers a window on Wales’ past, with over 40 different buildings from all around the country re-erected on the site over the last 70-odd years. See traditional craft processes in the blacksmith’s shop where decorative ironwork is made by skilled men, and watch the whole process of creating classic Welsh carthenni (blankets) in the mill, including dyeing the wool in bright colours.
Of course, the highlight for most will be a visit to the Derwen Bakehouse, where delicious cake and bread is baked onsite every day inside the 120-year-old Aberystwyth bakery. Dogs on leads are allowed in all outdoor areas of the museum and inside the main building.