Share on Pinterest
Share with your friends


Tucked quietly into the eastern edge of Great Britain is the tiny, unassuming country of Wales. Overshadowed by the much larger England to the west, Wales gets much less fanfare from international visitors yet its a place that’s just waiting to be discovered.  To help inspire your next trip, here are 10 things you likely didn’t know about Wales but should.

RELATED: 10 things you absolutely must do in Scotland

1. It’s a booming film location

Tintern Abbey | PHOTO: Kate Robertson

Tintern Abbey | Photo: Kate Robertson

Due to having stunning mountains, rolling green hills and wild Atlantic coastline within close proximity, Wales is quickly being discovered by film location scouts. For example, most of Dr. Who was filmed in Cardiff, as is the new hit series A Discovery of Witches. There are several set locations outside of Cardiff like Tintern Abbey in Wye Valley (Sex Education buffs will recognize this spot) and Freshwater West beach where parts of Harry Potter were filmed (this is, sadly, where Dobby the House Elf died and is buried) and Russell Crowe’s Robin Hood. While in Cardiff, check out the Cardiff Castle Film Location Tour—numerous flicks have been filmed in this well-preserved 11th-century castle.

2. Sports are life in Wales

Principality Stadium Cardiff | PHOTO: Tom Martin & Wales News Service

Principality Stadium Cardiff | Photo: Tom Martin & Wales News Service

Cardiff has been awarded “Europe’s City of Sport” award more than once, because of its role in hosting major international sporting events, and have their own top teams in rugby, soccer and ice hockey (you read that correctly). The Principality Stadium, a 74,000 seat building, is located in downtown Cardiff, and when there’s an event, the whole city rocks. They’re even hosting the Nitro World Games in spring of 2020—the first time this event will be held outside the US.

3. It boasts stunning historic shopping arcades

Castle Arcade | PHOTO: Kate Robertson

Castle Arcade | Photo: Kate Robertson

Cardiff is also called the “City of Arcades” because in downtown Cardiff there are seven luxurious glass-roofed Edwardian and Victorian arcade structures which house hundreds of individual (not chain) cafes, bars and shops. Cardiff Market arcade, the city’s local food market, has been open since the 1700s, but most others were a product of Cardiff’s coal-mining hey-day in the late 1800s.

4. Its culinary traditions are like no other

Welsh rarebit at Madame Fromage restaurant| PHOTO: Kate Robertson

Welsh rarebit at Madame Fromage restaurant| Photo: Kate Robertson

That brings us to traditional Welsh foods, of which there are many: the lovely Welsh cakes (thin scone-like pastries with raisins—at Cardiff Market, they make them right in front of you and serve them warm), locally caught seafood, like cockles, and world-famous Welsh cheeses.  Then, of course there’s Welsh rarebit dating from the 18th century and consisting of gooey-melted cheese cooked with special seasonings and Welsh beer and served on toast. Best place in Cardiff to try rarebit and sample more than 150 varieties of cheese is at Madame Fromage in the Castle Arcade.

5. The Welsh like to party

St. Mary's Street at night | PHOTO: Kate Robertson

St. Mary’s Street at night | Photo: Kate Robertson

Cardiff is a very cosmopolitan city, and with more than 50,000 students attending post-secondary institutions here, the energy is electric. St. Mary’s street is filled with pubs and club hot-spots, and things get so busy on Saturday nights and Sunday that they close off the whole street to traffic. Around the corner on Mill Lane, outdoor lounges are packed with partiers. For the late-night munchies, next-door is Chippy Lane (the name locals give to Caroline Street), a pedestrian street filled with 24/7 fast food and chip shops.

6. It’s home to the longest place name in Europe

Train station at Llanfair | PHOTO: Kate Robertson

Train station at Llanfair PG | Photo: Kate Robertson

It might look like someone fell asleep on their keyword but Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch is an actual town on the island of Anglesey. We dare you to say that quickly three times (or at all). The 58 letters mean “St. Mary’s Church in the hollow of the white hazel near a rapid whirlpool and church of St. Tysilio of the red cave” and this small village, (Llanfair PG for short) has a sign at the train station that shows you how to pronounce the name phonetically. When it comes to the Welsh language it’s on all the signs, and there are still many people, in the countryside especially, that you will hear speaking it.

7. Accommodations are literally fit for a king

Conwy Castle | PHOTO: Kate Robertson

Conwy Castle | Photo: Kate Robertson

Home to more than 600 of Europe’s finest surviving examples of medieval castles, including Edward I’s Conwy Castle, Wales has been called the “Land of Castles.” To fulfill your fantasy of staying in one of these royal abodes, book Roch Castle Hotel at St. David’s in Pembrokeshire (Britain’s smallest city), originally built in 1195. Another unique accommodation just outside of St. David’s is Twr-y-Felin Hotel, a luxurious contemporary art boutique hotel designed around an old 1806 windmill (the Blas restaurant here is one of the best places to experience traditional Welsh dishes with an upscale twist). Then there’s Nanteos Mansion, a luxurious 18th-century Georgian country mansion just outside of Aberystwyth, that’s rumored to be haunted. (We dare you to wait until dark, then fire up your flashlight to explore the pet cemetery in front of the mansion).

8. They have their own creative takes on gin

Seaweed Gin | PHOTO: Kate Robertson

Seaweed Gin | Photo: Kate Robertson

That the Welsh love gin may not be such a big secret. But what you might not know is that the Welsh also like to infuse their gins. Take for example the Da Mhile distillery’s small-batch seaweed gin, infused with algae gathered from the Cornish Coast, or the rhubarb and ginger crumble infused gin at Aber Falls. Best place to try a gin cocktail? Head to the Dead Canary cocktail bar in Cardiff, inspired by the great Welsh poet Dylan Thomas’ Deaths and Entrances. The drink menu is a book full of businesscards of famous Welsh people and a corresponding drink—like the Christian Bale (Bombay gin, absinthe vermouth, blood orange liqueur and Peychaud’s bitters).

9. It’s home to the largest collection of Impressionist and post-Impressionist paintings outside of Paris

National Museum Wales | PHOTO: National Museum Wales

National Museum Wales | Photo: National Museum Wales

The large collections of Impressionism and post-Impressionism (think greats like Monet, Renoir and Cezanne) are housed at the National Museum Wales in Cardiff. This concentration of art comes mostly thanks to the Davies sisters, Welsh siblings who inherited their father’s fortune and amassed one of the most influential art collections in Britain. Something else you likely didn’t know: Entrance to the museum is free!

10. Wales has amazing National Parks and hiking trails

Wales Coast Path in Pembrokeshire | PHOTO: Kate Robertson

Wales Coast Path in Pembrokeshire | Photo: Kate Robertson

Wales has 1,368 miles of the finest national walking trails in the world. The longest is the Wales Coast Path, an 870-mile uninterrupted route along the country’s coastline, offering stunning Atlantic seascape views as you wind through small villages and along rugged clifftops, sheltered coves and long sandy beaches. In the northwest corner of the country is Snowdonia National Park, where a mountain range of 13 peaks topping out at more than 3,000 feet, including Mount Snowdon, the tallest in Wales, makes it one of the most popular places in the U.K. to hike and climb.

Where to stay in Cardiff

Jury’s Inn, a lovely hotel housed in a grand Victorian building in the heart of the city, is within walking distance to most downtown attractions and nightlife.

Orbitz, app, iPhone, travel, deals

Tagged: Europe

Note: Orbitz compensates authors for their writings appearing on this site.

Kate Robertson

Kate Robertson

Kate Robertson

Latest posts by Kate Robertson (see all)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *