Whether you're a visitor to Cardiff or a resident of the city, there are so many things for you to enjoy. Experience gorgeous green spaces, bike trails, art and culture, live music and free festivals in this compact Welsh city.

Its impressive parks and historic shopping arcades are stand-out features, as is the iconic Principality Stadium which hosts sports and music events throughout the year.

Cardiff also has an exciting food scene, with many independent restaurants, cafes and bars serving local produce and a range of Welsh and international dishes.

Read more:Pop up vendors transforming the street food scene in and around Cardiff

As well as the usual visitor hotspots there are plenty of hidden spots and quirk places known only to locals, so there's always something new to do or see in Cardiff

Our bumper guide should help you make the most of your time here as we've scoured the city for the best things to do in Cardiff, whether you are visitors or are lucky enough to live here!

Explore beautiful Bute Park

Bute Park starts right in the city centre and has a castle at one end of it — but because of the way it merges into Blackweir and Pontcanna fields, you could walk for hours along its paths, under its trees and alongside the River Taff.

You can also join the Taff trail in Bute Park, it's an incredibly popular biking and walking route that runs for 55 miles, from the Welsh capital of Cardiff to the small town of Brecon. Bikers and walkers can attempt the whole route or enjoy smaller sections of this scenic trail.

In 1948 the Marquess of Bute gifted the park to the people of Cardiff to enjoy and it has been a popular park for locals and visitors ever since. Here you'll find walking and biking trails, fitness features, sculptures and the legendary Animal Wall, designed by architect William Burgess.

As you approach the main entrance to Bute Park (opposite the Holiday Inn) you’ll notice the Pettigrew Tearoom in the old castle lodge. A great place to stop and treat yourself to an afternoon tea after a long walk in the park.

The park is famous for its arboretum collections and there are over 3,000 individually catalogued tree species and tonnes of wildlife to keep your eyes out for.

Head to the Secret Garden Cafe in the centre of the for a delicious brunch, veggie salad or hot chocolate to warm you up on your walk.

Take a walk up the side of the Taff, through Blackweir Woods, and you’ll forget you're in the middle of a capital city. It's perfect for walkers, joggers and kicking a ball around.

More details:bute-park.com

Experience the lively waterfront at Cardiff Bay

Cardiff Bay has undergone a dramatic redevelopment from historic dockland to the modern waterfront destination that we know today. It's packed with restaurants, bars and the impressive Wales Millennium Centre, a world-class venue for theatre, musicals and live performance.

The bay is one of the most historic parts of Cardiff, the former docklands that stood here built the city as it transported Welsh coal around the world.

You can get from the centre of the city to Cardiff Bay (and vice versa) from the water taxi stop in Bute Park and it’ll take you down the River Taff right to the bay. Mermaid Quay is where you'll find the biggest collection of restaurants, shops, bars and places to grab a coffee.

Thanks to Pont y Werin, the "People's Bridge", there is now a complete 4.5-mile circuit around Cardiff Bay. The trail offers a lovely circular ride or walk that links up all the iconic attractions, sights and activities within Cardiff Bay.

It is designed for bikers and walkers and is a perfect trail for families and bikers looking for an easy ride around the waterfront. If you are flagging during the trail, try a delicious cookie and cream cappuccino from Coffi Co on the way. Guaranteed to perk you right up

For a thrilling paddle adventure in the bay, join a kayak experience at Cardiff International White Water Centre (CIWW). There's a range of taster sessions, courses, and watersports socials at this dynamic water sports hub in the city.

CIWW are well equipped for a range of paddlesports and have a flat water pool and an Olympic standard white water course to paddle on.

A wander around the Wetlands reserve, which covers around eight hectares and can be reached from a gravel walkway and boardwalk is a brilliant free activity in Cardiff. The reserve supports a rich diversity of plants and animals and includes a viewing area that extends out over the water, which is great for bird watching.

As for buildings, as well as the WMC, the Norwegian Church and terracotta-coloured Pierhead building are well worth a visit and both have events and exhibitions and the former has a cafe too.

But just a few steps away are some of the more historic parts of the Bay including The Exchange. It's one of the most significant buildings in Welsh history and reportedly the place where the first-ever £1m cheques was signed.

It was built in 1888 as the Coal and Shipping Exchange to be used as a market floor and office building for trading in coal in Cardiff, then a hub of the global coal trade.

It later became a music venue and, after closing for a while, it reopened in 2017 as boutique hotel The Exchange. Pay a visit to the hotel's R P Culley & Co restaurant for an afternoon tea or dinner and you'll be able to feel the echoes of the room's past thanks to the original iron beams, stripped brick walls and features like an old iron service lift.

For much more on this part of the city, read this guide to making the most of Cardiff Bay.

Soak up the city's rich history

Cardiff has a long history and its past is brought to life in so many ways. You can stand on the sites of slums, a bull ring and an execution site without having any idea they were ever there.

There are several historical spots in the city that you can find for yourself. Popular history spots include Cardiff Castle, the sculptured animal wall and the Victorian corridor in Cardiff’s old library.

Cardiff’s small size means that you can take yourself on a self-guided walking tour and find all the interesting architecture and historical spots quite easily.

In the city centre, pay a visit to the Prince of Wales pub - and see for yourself the site where St Mary's Church once stood. Washed away in the Great Flood of 1607, the outline of the church can be seen on the side of the pub's wall.

Nearby is Womanby Street, which is now a hub for music venues and bars, but it's one of the last visible examples of what was once the city's slums. Jones Court was a place where the waves of migrant workers who were coming to Cardiff at that time lived.

Bute built them in the 1830s for his dockworkers but the houses had just two rooms, no water supply or drainage and were poorly ventilated - so they were perfect breeding grounds for diseases like cholera and typhus. In a cholera outbreak in 1849, 396 Cardiffians died.

You can also still see part of Cardiff's town wall. In 1111, the Normans had fortified the town with a wooden fence and in 1270, in response to the uprising of Llewelyn ap Gruffydd, it was rebuilt in stone.

After the Civil War, it wasn’t seen as necessary for defence anymore and fell into ruin. By 1774 people were stealing stone from the wall for building their own homes and buildings. In 1839 the town clerk ordered its dismantling as it was in such a poor state of repair. But a remaining piece of the town wall can still be seen at the back of the flowerbed by the castle on North Road – and there are also references to it within St David’s shopping centre.

Between the Bay and the city centre, one stone wall is all that remains of Little Ireland, a community of several streets flattened by the 1960s and now buried under brand new office blocks. The wall runs along the rail track.

Aneurin Bevan statue on Queen Street
Aneurin Bevan statue on Queen Street

And if you have an interest in the macabre, you can head to "Death Junction", the busy crossroads of City Road, Albany Road, Crwys Road and Mackintosh Place. Now just a relentlessly busy junction in the Roath area of the city, this was once known as Great Heath and people were hung here, including Father Phillip Evans and Father John Lloyd in 1679 for "exercising their priestly duties". A plaque remembering them is on the Natwest bank.

If you want to get a more in-depth insight into the history and culture of Cardiff then why not book a walking tour? If there is a group of you, the price comes down considerably.

You can book a history walking tour with the Difflomats for £15 per person if you have a group of 3-4 people.

You can read more on Little Ireland here, more on Cardiff's other lost suburbs here, find out all the other people executed in the city here, and discover other city secrets hidden in plain sight here.

Bike the Taff Trail

With bike hire as easy as, well, riding a bike, Cardiff’s so accessible on two wheels now. As well as bike-sharing provider Nextbike, there’s also Pedal Power, which has locations in Cardiff Bay and Pontcanna where you can hire bikes.

The Taff Trail takes you all the way to the Bay but also you can venture further out of the city to Castell Coch, Fforest Fawr walking paths, and all the way up to Merthyr Tydfil if you have the energy.

We recommend a stop at Castell Coch, which is famous for its fairytale castle appearance. The Victorian castle rests on ancient foundations and is the product of the vivid imagination of ‘eccentric genius’ William Burges and the wealth of the 3rd marquess of Bute.

Make sure to also stop for a brew and a delicious toastie at the secluded Forest Tea Rooms in Tongwynlais. It's a family-run business in a gorgeous forest setting that even has the odd peacock roaming around.

More details:www.tafftrail.org.uk

Read more:Scenic cycling routes in Wales that will have you jumping on your bike

Go back in time at the National Museum Cardiff and St Fagans National Museum of History

Step back in time at the National Museum Cardiff in Cathays Park or at the St Fagans National Museum of History.

The National Museum is home to the prestigious Artes Mundi exhibition and has welcomed Tim Peake’s spacecraft, iconic artworks by Grayson Perry and Francis Bacon. there are also several permanent exhibits of world-class art and history, including a popular dinosaur exhibit and an outstanding range of Impressionist paintings.

On the outskirts of Cardiff, is the museum at St Fagan's National Museum of History.

This unique, open-air museum gives a fascinating insight into the stories of the people of Wales and offers Welsh visitors the chance to discover their roots.

There are over 50 historic buildings from all over Wales that have been rebuilt at the Museum, including a Victorian school, a medieval church, traditional stores and a Workmen’s Institute.

Keep an eye out for new events, talks and fresh exhibits at the museums, on their social media channels. Upcoming events and exhibitions at the National Museum Cardiff and St Fagans Include:

Lily’s Fossil Footprint at the National Museum Cardiff – see the 220 million-year-old dinosaur footprint discovered by four-year-old Lily at Bendricks Bay.

Amgueddfa Cymru Food Festival - a week of virtual talks, courses, cookery demos, music and more from September 6-12 2021.

Becoming Richard Burton -at National Museum Cardiff, until October 3, 2021.

Wales is... Olympics, at St Fagans National Museum of History, until October 2nd 2021 – discover iconic objects from Wales’ top Olympians and Paralympians in this new display.

More details:museum.wales

Wander around the burbs' of Cardiff

Step outside the city centre and pay a visit to Cardiff's neighbourhoods, where the locals know the best places to eat, drink and walk.

Pontcanna, just west of the city centre, is a lovely place to have coffee, lunch and admire the colourful (and expansive) terraced urban cottages and townhouses. Go here for the definitive guide on where to eat in this area.

This leafy suburb has a range of independent shops and cafes including Ground Bakery is the new Pontcanna venture by MasterChef star Thomas Simmons. This small and sleek venue serves sandwiches, soups, stews, as well as excellent toasties, and quiches. Canna Deli is a top spot for coffee and brunch on a lazy weekend morning and there's also Hardlines that brews up their own-roasted coffee

There's also a range of decent pubs and bars in the area including the Conway, The Pontcanna Inn, The Beverly and CFeleven Hotel & Gin Bar.

A touch further north of Pontcanna is Llandaff, where the grand Llandaff Cathedral is accessible via a lovely walk from either via Cathedral Road and through Llandaff Fields, or via Bute Park and the Taff Trail.

Deli Bach is the perfect breakfast stop in Llandaff High Street for tasty breakfasts made with locally sourced ingredients. Grab a coffee to go, or have a heavenly Bacon & Cheese Toastie with Bloody Mary ketchup in their cute courtyard.

A stone’s throw away is Insole Court, a beautiful mansion house saved by the community which is open to visitors and has a lovely cafe.

Whitchurch Village has long been a popular suburb of Cardiff with a good selection of cafes, pubs and shops. You can even get a proper fry up at Coopers Cafe, a traditional cafe right in the heart of Whitchurch.

Wellfield Road is another busy suburb with independent shops, cafes and restaurants. Grab delicious pasta and pizza at La Dolce Vita, insanely good kebabs at Troy Meze Bar and a reasonably priced, charitable cuppa at St. Andrew's Coffee Court.

Eat your way around Cardiff's restaurants

The burgeoning foodie culture of Cardiff has been growing in reputation and quality over recent years. Sure, you'll find the usual chain restaurant offerings, but there are loads of indie venues, innovative pop-ups and food festivals, too!

This cosmopolitan city has also been raising its game in terms of high-end dining, quality produce and hip venues.

Some highlights include Ansh on Cowbridge Road for ethical burgers, Ffwrnes in Cardiff Market for pizzas, Purple Poppadom in Canton for award-winning curry and Bar 44 on Westgate Street for tapas.

The latter now has sister restaurant Asador 44 on Quay Street which has introduced the Spanish 'asador-style' of cooking to the Welsh capital. For the best bacon bap in Cardiff, head to the Hayes Island Snack Bar, an iconic landmark in Cardiff that opened in 1948.

A vibrant dish at Purple Poppadom

There are also superb neighbourhood restaurants, including Milkwood and Heaney's and in Pontcanna and The Heathcock in Llandaff, which has just been reopened by the team behind the award-winning Hare and Hounds in Aberthin.

If it’s just a cuppa you’re after we’ve also listed the best coffee shops and tea rooms you can find in the Welsh capital, but if you fancy something a little stronger, there's always Gin & Juice for the biggest selection of gins, Lab 22 for carefully crafted cocktails and Cambrian Tap for craft beers.

Contemporary dining options are plentiful in the city, with a variety of chic venues dishing up plated perfection. Try the Potted Pig for modern British cuisine served in a former bank vault, or The Classroom at Cardiff and Vale College, for seasonal European cuisine, prepared by students at a teaching restaurant.

Street food and pop-ups are hugely popular in Cardiff and constantly changing the food scene in the Welsh capital. They are a wonderful showcase of the vast range of cultures and food influences we have here.

You can find them in a range of places in and around Cardiff, from festivals to food trucks, events and more permanent venues.

Popular street food venues, markets and events in Cardiff include Depot, Sticky Fingers, Roath Yard, The Bone Yard, Street Food Warehouse and Neighbourhood Kitchen.

Read more:The 50 best restaurants in Cardiff in 2021: The best places to eat in the city

Walk the Cardiff section of the Cambrian Way

If you are looking for a long day walk in Cardiff, this nine-mile route takes you through beautiful parklands, canals and forests.

The Cambrian Way is an incredibly scenic and challenging long-distance trail from Cardiff to Conwy. It’s over 298 miles through some of the wilder parts of Wales.

Stage one of the Cambrian Way runs from Cardiff to Machen and is just over 15 miles long if you want to walk the entire stage. It's one of the longer day hikes in Cardiff but is achievable with the right planning and preparation.

If you just want to walk within the Cardiff section, you can walk 9.5 miles from Cardiff Castle to the Caerphilly border, just by the Travellers Rest pub. It’s a great trek through pretty parklands, heritage canals and wooded areas and offers a long walk within the city boundaries.

The Cardiff section starts in Bute Park and is fairly well marked, though it does cross in and out of the popular Taff Trail.

Catch a Wales rugby game at the Principality Stadium

It can be seen from almost every corner of the city and is a focal point for many visitors to Cardiff, especially for rugby fans who come to cheer on Wales or their opponents in the Six Nations and Autumn Internationals ever year.

But as well as attracting thousands of sports fans - it hosted the Champion’s League final in 2017 - it's also got a strong reputation as a music venue with huge names like Ed Sheeran, Take That and Beyonce all having performed there.

You can rock up there even when there aren't events on thanks to the stadium tours. Discover the inner workings of the 74,000-seater venue that has also hosted boxer Anthony Joshua's fights.

Each year you can also book for the Rugby Legends Tour, where iconic rugby players like Shane Williams and Sam Warburton play host as you explore the stadium.

More details:www.principalitystadium.wales

Learn more about the city's history at Cardiff Castle

Not only a fantastic historic attraction, Cardiff Castle is also the venue for a host of events, concert and festivals. The castle is free to enter for Cardiff residents, thanks to the famous Castle Key that was given to the people of Cardiff since 1947.

The 'key' is available to people who live or work in the city and it gives free entry to the attraction for three years plus a 10% discount at the gift shop and The Keep Terrace kitchen and bar. Visitors from outside of Cardiff can purchase tickets from Ticketsource.

While anyone can use Public Square, only visitors with a ticket can gain access to the whole site and explore everything on offer. The ticket is valid all day and it means visitors can climb the mighty Norman Keep, marvel at the Castle Apartments, discover the Roman remains, see the Firing Line Military Museum and experience the Wartime Shelters.

The self-guided experience allows people to walk around at their own pace and the audio guide on the free Castle App includes the opportunity to learn more about its 2000 years of history.

Cardiff Castle

If you have a general admission ticket or have a Castle Key, you can also upgrade to a guided tour of Cardiff Castle, for a small cost.

The popular 'House Tour' is a 50-minute tour that includes a look around the lavish Victorian living quarters. A guide will show visitors the Castle Apartments and incredible rooms that are not accessible with general admission tickets - including The Nursery, Chaucer Room, Bute Bedroom and Roof Garden.

The castle itself is a mishmash of medieval and Victorian Gothic architecture and is fun to explore - be prepared for the steps up to the Norman keep, they are steeper than steep but there's a brilliant city view from the top.

It's also a really nice location for a summer picnic as

More details:www.cardiffcastle.com

Browse boutique shops at the Victorian arcades

Hanging art exhibition in Cardiff arcades

A huge shopping development, St David's, changed shopping in Cardiff dramatically in the last decade. But what makes it stand out from other cities is the presence of its beautiful Victorian arcades. These charming arcades house over 100 independent cafes, bars and shops right in the heart of the city.

Across the arcades, you'll find 150 years of Welsh retail history are brought together under a roof of classic Victorian and Edwardian architecture with modern elements as well.

These arcades are home to coffee shops like The Plan in Morgan Arcade and Madame Fromage in Castle Arcade to delis like Fresh in Royal Arcade, which sees people queuing out of the door each lunchtime.

You will also find antique shops, clothing boutiques, gift shops and camera shops sandwiched in between independent cafes and restaurants.

Read more:The wonderful images that show the changing face of Cardiff's much-loved arcades

Hike to the top of Garth Mountain

On the fringes of Cardiff is the Garth Mountain, a hill located in between the communities of Llantwit Fardre and Pentyrch. The Garth can be seen from nearly the whole of the city of Cardiff and the Taff Valley, and on a sunny, clear day as far as Weston-super-Mare across the Bristol Channel in southwest England.

Hiking fans can walk to the trip point at the top of the Garth on a waymarked trail. The Garth Mountain walk is a roughly six-kilometre trail that takes you to the summit of 1007-feet high Garth Mountain. More of a hill than a mountain, it’s the site where Hugh Grant’s 1995 picture, The Englishman Who Went Up A Hill But Came Down A Mountain was filmed.

There are several starting points for this strenuous hill walk and many walkers either start from Taffs Well or from Gwaelod-y-garth Village.

It’s one of the more challenging day walks in Cardiff, so you’ll need decent hiking gear, a map, or the super handy OS app.

If you start from Gwaelod-y-garth, you can walk through the Garth Wood and experience the stillness of an ethereal pine forest. The Garth Mountain trails are well waymarked but it's recommended that you take an OS Map with you, or use the Outdoor Active app if you are new to walking. You can follow the peaceful trails to the summit, or opt for more of a loop walk around the ridgeway?

Cardiff for children

There's no chance of little ones uttering "I'm bored!" as there's so much to do in Cardiff for kids. Firstly, there's free entry to our impressive museums - as mentioned earlier - so you can keep them happy for hours as they enjoy the exhibits. They will especially love the dinosaurs at National Museum Cardiff.

If they love science then Techniquest in Cardiff Bay is a must. Offering interactive experiences that are accessible to all, your little Einstein will learn while having fun.

If they prefer splashing around then take them to Cardiff International Pool where there are plenty of family fun sessions as well as water slides. Also in Cardiff Bay, you will find the ice rink where there are plenty of public skating sessions.

During the summer months, the kids can slip, slide and splash at the exhilarating Aqua Park in Cardiff Bay. This inflatable Aqua Park offers a unique, open water experience with a variety of fun obstacles, with lush bay views to boot.

There are parent/toddler gymnastics at Ocean Way, Planet Gymnastics on Penarth Road and we've listed 12 excellent soft play centres here.

On the outskirts of Cardiff, on a mountaintop overlooking the city, is the fantastic Mountain View Ranch, with goats, rabbits and guinea pigs, a large playground, fairy forest and Gruffalo trail. And there's Cefn Mably Farm Park, with lots more animals and an indoor soft play area.

There are so many lovely parks they can explore - from Bute Park and Roath Park, both mentioned previously, to smaller places like Thomson Park.

The Victoria Park splash pad in Canton is great for children of all ages and is set up with 33 fun features including water sprays and jets, a tipping water bucket and a tunnel - perfect for little adventures.

This historic park also has a children’s playground, games area and loads of space for little ones to run around at this Grade II-listed location

Why not go on a family bike ride along the Taff Trail and head to Fforest Fawr, near Castell Coch, where you will find a fantastic sculpture trail that the kids will love.

To get the latest email updates from WalesOnline click here