10 Free Days Out in South Wales
Exploring South Wales doesn’t have to be expensive. Instead, take advantage of the countless free days out in Cardiff, Newport, Swansea and more!
Stroll around the capital’s fascinating museums and galleries. Or marvel at Swansea’s stunning peninsulas and bays. Outside the bustling cities, you’ll find the picturesque South Wales Valleys. This pretty pastoral stretch showcases the country’s rich industrial heritage.
Of course, there are plenty of activities for adrenaline seekers. South Wales boasts some of the best cycling and hiking trails around. Plus, the inviting coastal waters are perfect for splash-tastic watersports or a relaxing afternoon dip.
Looking after the pennies this holiday season? Keep reading as we reveal ten free days out in South Wales to include on your itinerary.
Free days out in Cardiff
National Museum Cardiff
If you’re searching for budget-friendly things to do, see and visit in Cardiff, check out the National Museum Cardiff. It’s home to one of Europe’s finest art collections, including masterpieces by Claude Monet, Vincent Van Gogh and Pierre-Auguste Renoir.
Walking through the winding halls will transport you to another time. One minute, you’ll be in 19th-century France, surrounded by vivid Impressionist portraits. The next, you might stumble across the museum’s gigantic dinosaur fossils and footprints. We love the adorable woolly mammoths hiding in their cold tundras!
Bringing the little ones? Head to the exciting natural history exhibitions. You’ll learn about the country’s prehistoric and present wildlife. It’s impossible to miss the 29ft skeleton of a young humpback whale washed ashore near Barry in 1982. Suspended from the ceiling, there’s a four-tonne basking shark displaying its enormous gullet.
While the self-led resources and many tours are free, booking is encouraged. Use the money you save on admission to make a small donation to support the museum. Or, if you’re feeling generous, buy a thoughtful gift for your loved ones back home.
St Fagans National Museum of History
Free places to visit in South Wales don’t get much better than St Fagans National Museum of History. This open-air attraction offers guests an immersive experience with talented live actors. Discover over 40 buildings from different historical periods, including a school, chapel and farm.
St Fagans guides you through the story of Wales, starting from the Bryn Eryr Iron Age roundhouses. Every engaging re-enactment reveals more about the country’s history. You’ll listen to a treasure chest of captivating stories as you journey through 100 acres of splendid parkland.
The museum’s gallery is a blast from the past. Study the remains of a young Neanderthal boy who lived in Wales 230,000 years ago. Then, discover how our ancestors built tools from basic materials. There are also practical demonstrations to cement your knowledge. Watch expert carpenters replicate the process using traditional blacksmith and forgery skills.
Outside, take a walk around the wonderful beech woodland. It’s an important habitat for rare birds, bats and creepy crawlies. Many trees are over 100 years old, adding to the venue’s authentic, ye-olde feel.
Bute Park and Arboretum
Craving time away from everyday stress and overflowing to-do lists? There’s a wealth of free days out in Cardiff for nature lovers. Bute Park is a celebrated Green Flag and CADW Grade 1 listed site in the heart of the city. Inside the boundaries, enjoy manicured gardens and natural play features. The eclectic tree collection is another must-see for keen horticulturists.
You could spend hours unearthing the park’s diverse plant and animal life. The jaw-dropping arboretum contains over 3,000 native and exotic species. Forest-bathe among the impressive Ginkgo biloba trees, identifiable by their erratic branches. Nearby, you’ll find a rare Siberian elm – one of only two mature specimens in the UK.
The wildlife explorer trails are an exciting way to drink in the park’s outstanding natural beauty. Kingfishers hide in the river banks, occasionally treating twitchers to a striking blue and orange flash. If you’re lucky, you might spot a playful otter bathing in the water below.
Hungry after your day’s adventures? Refuel at the vintage-inspired Pettigrew Tea Rooms. The reasonably priced lunch menu has a selection of mouth-watering cakes. Thirsty? Sip on loose-leaf teas and locally roasted coffees.
Free days out in Newport
Newport Wetlands Nature Reserve
Newport’s prime location on the River Usk makes it a hotspot for wildlife enthusiasts. There are myriad magical habitats on its doorstep, home to some of the country’s rarest critters.
The Newport Wetlands Nature Reserve sits between the Severn Estuary and the River Usk on the South Wales coast. The Severn Estuary is one of the largest estuaries in Britain, attracting 80,000 migrant birds every winter. Follow the River Usk and you’ll end up in the Wye Valley. Here, breathtaking limestone gorges, wild forests and green vales dominate the landscape. Who knew that free days out in South Wales could be so beautiful?
Back to the nature reserve, wetlands are one of the most critical habitats for conservation. Not only do they provide breeding grounds for animals, but they protect humans against extreme weather. The spongy soil soaks up heavy rainfall and flood water.
What will you see during your trip? In spring, swifts and swallows arrive from Africa, gifting guests spectacular aerial displays. As the weather gets colder, shy bitterns boom in the reedbeds.
Newport Cathedral is a fine example of Norman and Roman architecture. The parish gained cathedral status in 1930 but retains many original features. The 11th-century naves and 12th-century columns are a stark reminder of the building’s medieval roots. Above the pews, there’s also an eye-catching stained glass window with colourful carvings.
While the inside has been renovated to better serve the community’s needs, the outside is brilliantly wild. The old Victorian graveyard is now a living garden. In the thicket, there are bat boxes, bird feeders and insect houses. Enthusiastic volunteers encourage guests to keep a note of what they see.
Free days out in Swansea
The Gower Peninsula
Beaches are the best free places to visit in South Wales for the whole family. There’s always something to do, from jaw-dropping coastal walks to hair-raising watersports. If you’re staying near Swansea, enjoy the country’s abundant sun, sea and surf at the Gower Peninsula.
The Gower Peninsula was the first Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty in the UK, and it’s easy to see why. It’s a geological goldmine featuring sweeping, wild moors and dramatic limestone cliffs. There are several award-winning beaches to spend lazy afternoons. Our favourites include Rhossili Bay and Llangennith.
Rhossili Bay is perhaps the most famous. Amble along three glorious miles of golden sand and spot Worm’s Head in the distance. The beach is part of the Gower Coast Path – an accessible and dog-friendly walking trail. Grab your boots, scale the clifftops and watch for basking seals and dolphins playing in the waves.
The western part of the Gower Peninsula is also on the Register of Landscapes of Outstanding Historic Interest in Wales. Archaeologists and scientists have identified 1200 historical sites, including ancient Iron Age forts. You’ll walk forward in space and backward in time through Arthurian caves and mysterious shipwrecks!
National Waterfront Museum
The National Waterfront Museum is a fantastic rainy day activity for history buffs. The thought-provoking exhibitions tell the story of the Industrial Revolution. Many displays incorporate the latest sensory technology for an interactive experience. Kids and big kids will love learning through touch, smell and sound.
Mad about machines? View the once functional coal wagon that transported fuel around the UK in the mid-19th century. The cutting-edge workstations dive into the steam coal industry. Animations explain how it boosted the region’s economy and prosperity.
Above all else, the museum celebrates Welsh heritage and folklore. The “Made in Wales” collections are produced by local artists and archaeologists. Appreciate masterpieces inspired by the country’s untamed landscapes. Or glimpse into the past by browsing and handling preserved artefacts.
The building itself is worth visiting, even if you don’t step inside. It stands on the quayside of Swansea Marina. The structure combines a Grade II listed former dockside warehouse with brand-new glass and slate panelling. Once you’ve had your fill of fun facts and trivia, count the nearby sailing boats or tuck into an ice cream. You could also book a walking tour of the harbour, courtesy of Fogo’s Free Tours.
Free places to visit in South Wales off the beaten track
Brecon Beacons National Park
We can’t talk about free days out in South Wales without mentioning the world-famous Brecon Beacons National Park. This expansive open space invites you into a fairy-tale world. There are miles upon miles of walking trails, woodlands and reservoirs.
If you’re planning a romantic getaway, there’s nothing more mood-boosting than the park’s night skies. On a clear evening, you might see the Milky Way twinkling with millions of stars. Glowing meteor showers occasionally cut through the gloom, leaving a mesmerising snail trail of luminescence. The Brecon Beacons became the fifth destination in the world and the first in Wales to be recognised as an International Dark Sky Reserve.
Bringing your bike? Stick to the sunshine and scale the many cycling paths. There are multiple terrains to test your skills. Flat roads are great for beginners, while the winding lanes and hillside tracks challenge intermediate to advanced levels. Crychan Forest is especially enticing to off-road riders, thanks to the easy-to-read signposts.
Within the Brecon Beacons sits Ystradfellte – a small but magical village on the Afon Mellte. The tranquil area attracts thousands of tourists annually, which is surprising because the local pub is only open on the weekends! What makes it so appealing? Hidden in its lush copses are dozens of stunning waterfalls.
The Ystradfellte Four Waterfalls Walk is one of the best free places to visit in South Wales for intrepid explorers. The moderately challenging route takes you through the forest, passing by four waterfalls: Sgwd Clun-Gwyn, Sgwd Isaf Clun-Gwyn, Sgwd y Pannwr, and Sgwd yr Eira. There are some rocky paths to tackle, but the course is accessible to beginner ramblers. Did we mention you can bring your dog too?
Each waterfall has a unique charm. You’ll reach the Sgwd Clun-Gwyn and Sgwd Isaf Clun-Gwyn waterfalls first. Next, is Sgwd y Pannwr. Although it’s the smallest, it provides the perfect spot for a refreshing wild swim. The final descent to Sgwd yr Eira is the most strenuous. Expect to scramble over loose rocks before walking behind the cascading water.
Neath Abbey and Gatehouse
Last but not least is the Neath Abbey and Gatehouse. This impressive feat of architecture was founded in 1130 by Norman knight Sir Richard de Granville. In the late 13th century, it was the country’s wealthiest abbey, providing a home to around 50 monks.
The building has a unique history. It started as a place of religious worship. Then, it became a copper smelting plant with furnaces, workshops and dwellings. It was lucky to have survived the brutality of the Industrial Revolution. The battered but reasonably complete remains now stand proud on the aptly named Monastery Road.
Uncover more about Neath Abbey’s history by booking a free guided tour. Your knowledgeable and friendly guide will explain how the site played a pivotal role in the Norman advance.
Find more free days out in South Wales
Inexpensive trips can be exciting and adventurous. You just need to know where to look! This list of free days out in South Wales is perfect for budget-conscious families and cash-strapped travellers.
The great outdoors doesn’t cost a penny and is jam-packed with things to do. The South Wales Valleys are a must-see for ramblers, with awe-inspiring scenery. Similarly, the Wye Valley and Vale of Usk is a brilliant destination that combines green spaces with towns and villages.
Even cities like Newport, Swansea and Cardiff offer fun and free places to visit in South Wales. There are bucket loads of museums, galleries and parks to peruse.
Are you ready for the trip of a lifetime? Browse our website today for more holiday inspiration and travel advice. We also provide accommodation guides and campsite reviews to help make your stay extra comfortable.
Nick, your trusted guide to Wales travel and exploration, shares a deep passion for this enchanting land. With years of exploration, Nick offers expert insights into the best of Wales. Join him on a journey through its captivating history, culture, and hidden gems, as he inspires you to create unforgettable Wales travel experiences.