Welcome to the past
The castle has its origins in Roman times, but had an astonishing Gothic transformation that took place during the 19th century. Pick up a portable audio guide when you first get to the castle if you're not going on a guided tour. The audio guides are available in ten languages, with a children’s version too, and they help you get the most out of your visit. You can also download the Cardiff Castle App on your smartphone (hop on the free wi-fi service).
One of the many fascinating secrets of Cardiff that you unlock when you visit Cardiff Castle is the network of underground tunnels. These pathways, which were used as air-raid shelters during World War II, lie between the ground floor level and the battlement level, with room for around 2,000 people from the city centre.
Cardiff Castle as you now see it is the result of an extraordinary transformation carried out in the late 19th century by the eccentric architect William Burges. He created some of the most lavish interiors in Britain, inspired by Gothic, Mediterranean and Arabian styles. They have to be seen to be believed.
There’s so much history and detail that it’s worth taking a house tour. The expert guides have intimate knowledge of every nook and cranny, and you'll get to visit 10 spectacular rooms.
A tower with a difference
The great Clock Tower Tour, which runs on weekends, lets visitors climb up a long spiral staircase to the Clock Tower and Summer Smoking Room. Both are remarkable representations of Burges’ fertile imagination for elaborate, colourful interior design.
If you're overwhelmed by the opulence (or the 101 steps), stop for a cuppa at Caffi’r Castell (the Castle Café, in English). It has views of the Norman Keep and the Castle across an outdoor terrace, so you can watch others explore the wonders of the castle. If it's on the menu, try the cawl – a hearty Welsh broth which is arguably the definitive Welsh dish.
The Firing Line
The Firing Line is the Cardiff Castle Museum of the Welsh Soldier. It tells stories and displays memorabilia from over 300 years of service by two Welsh regiments, 1st The Queen’s Dragoon Guards and The Royal Welsh. Entry to the Firing Line Museum is included with your ticket to visit the castle.
Afterwards, pop into the gift shop for a souvenir, then stroll around Bute Park. Recognised as a Grade 1 historic designed landscape, it has nearly 150 acres of green space that surrounds the castle and trees from all around the world.
Banquets and galloping knights
Cardiff Castle is a hive of activity throughout the year, with all kind of events taking place. They have over 200 Welsh banquets every year, where visitors can enjoy a night of traditional Welsh food and entertainment.
Joust! takes place in the castle grounds on the third weekend in June, with medieval battle reenactments, storytelling, minstrels and twice-daily jousting competitions.
Tafwyl, in June, is a week-long celebration of the Welsh language, accessible to Welsh speakers and non-Welsh speakers. Its main event – a weekend showcase of Welsh arts, culture, sport and street food – takes place in the castle grounds.
The Grand Medieval Mêlée in the middle of August is another whirl of swords, spears and maces, as skilled knights battle it out for supremacy.