Top Things to Do in Swansea

Top Things to Do in Swansea

One of the most popular cities in Wales with its fascinating history and buzzing atmosphere, Swansea appeals to everyone from boutique browsers to culture connoisseurs. Needless to say, if you’re heading to Swansea this year and can’t wait to delve beneath its surface to enjoy its many family-friendly attractions, you’re in for a treat.

With all kinds of things to discover, from exotic gardens to waterfront museums to incredible coastal landscapes, day-trippers and sojourners are spoilt for choice with places to see in and around the city. To help you fill your days with the most magical experiences, we’ve put together a list of some of our favourite things to do in Swansea.

Swansea Market

Flowers at Swansea Indoor Market | Allan Lee, Flickr

The coastal city of Swansea has roots dating back hundreds of years, establishing itself centuries ago as one of the country’s leading port and market towns. Providing a thriving centre for trade for everything from coal and iron to pottery and wool, the city’s original Swansea Indoor Market was built in the 1890s to accommodate demand. Sadly though, like much of Swansea city centre, it was destroyed during World War Two, and the building you see today was constructed in its place in 1959.

Still one of the largest of its kind in the country, Swansea’s indoor market now features over 100 stalls and is a brilliant place to go to browse, sample and buy a wide range of local delicacies. Of the traditional foods you can try here, cockles and Welsh cakes are highly recommended, as is laverbread. Also called Black Gold and Welshman's Caviar, laverbread isn’t actually bread, but a traditional dish made from laver seaweed collected along the shores of the Welsh coastline.

Gower Peninsula

Overlooking Three Cliffs Bay golden sand beach on the Gower Peninsula

One of the most jaw-dropping places to visit near Swansea, the Gower Peninsula should be on everyone’s list of things to do during a holiday in the area. A stunning realm, this rugged peninsula was the UK’s first AONB (now known as National Landscape) and is somewhere that has been drawing admirers for thousands of years. 30,000 years, in fact, if the UK’s oldest human remains found here are anything to go by.

Stunning visitors with its incredible coastal landscapes, the Gower’s unsheathed cliffs and ancient woodlands are encompassed by some of the world’s most beautiful beaches – little wonder, then, why the Gower attracts everyone from walkers and wildlife watchers to beach bathers and surfers from near and far. Just some of the Gower’s highlights include the Gower Heritage Centre, Three Cliffs Bay, Oxwich Bay, Caswell Bay, Llangennith Beach, Langland Bay and, of course, the world-famous Rhossili Beach.

National Waterfront Museum

A view of Swansea Marina with the National Waterfront Museum set next to the water

Within striking distance of Swansea city centre, the National Waterfront Museum overlooks Swansea Marina at the mouth of the River Tawe and Swansea Bay. A striking glass-fronted building, this wonderful family-friendly attraction was opened in 2005 to celebrate the city’s and the country’s industrial and maritime history over the last 300 years.

Using all sorts of interactive technology to accompany its fascinating exhibitions and displays, the museum invites all generations to step back in time. See real planes suspended from the ceiling and original steam locomotives rooted to the spot and discover historic toys and old technology for a fun and eye-opening insight into the evolution of Welsh industry.

Clyne Gardens

Autumn trees at Clyne Gardens near Swansea

Originally part of the Clyne Castle estate, the 19th Century Clyne Gardens sit between Swansea and the Mumbles and promise a peaceful haven perfect for long, leisurely walks. The vision of millionaire William Graham Vivian, they were first planted in 1860 and three original trees can still be seen in front of the castle today: a Wellingtonia and two Monterey Cypress trees.

Visiting the dog-friendly gardens today, you will find 50 acres woven with over 2,000 different plants from all over the world including varied National Collections. Particularly popular are the bluebells woods which come alive in spring, shortly followed by the garden’s rhododendrons and azaleas which bloom throughout late spring and early summer. Other highlights include the remnants of an 11th Century oak forest and the tallest white-flowered Campbell's magnolia in Britain.

Swansea Castle

A view of the remains of the 12th Century Swansea Castle with modern high-rises in the background

Swansea Castle is situated in the middle of Swansea and is one of the city’s most iconic sites. First built in the 12th Century, little of the original castle remains today, with only two skeletal blocks left hanging onto time. Though it seems hard to imagine, this castle was actually once situated atop a cliff above where the River Tawe once flowed, and was an important strategic base for controlling the area’s waterways.

You can’t actually explore inside the castle today, but you can stroll around the outside and take a seat on its lawns to lap up the history and the sunshine. With its troubled past full of marriages, double-crossings, rebellion and murders (order variable) long lost to the annals of time, it provides one of the most enigmatic settings in the whole of the city to pass the time.

The Mumbles

A view of the famous Victorian Pier at the Mumbles on the Gower Peninsula near Swansea

Dubbed the Gateway to the Gower, the Mumbles sits between Swansea and the Gower Peninsula and marks the start of one of Wales’ most incredible stretches of coastline. Not only well-placed for exploration, but the Mumbles boasts a huge array of fantastic attractions, including the 12th Century Oystermouth Castle, an 18th Century lighthouse, famous Victorian pier, independent shops, and foodie outlets serving all kinds of local delights.

For the best views of Swansea Bay, take a ride on the Swansea Bay Land Rider Train in the summer months, trundling along Swansea Prom from Blackpill Lido to Southend Gardens in the Mumbles. If you’re feeling romantic upon your arrival in Mumbles, you can follow in tradition and pay a visit to the Lovespoon Gallery, ready to peruse one of the country’s largest collections of lovespoons. Celebrating the romance of Welsh culture, these intricate, handcarved spoons are traditionally given as a token of love and affection – perfect for gifting to your favourite person.

Penllergare Valley Woods

A tumbling waterfall at Penllergare Valley Woods near Swansea

A secret world of verdant woodland and tangled paths, Penllergare Valley Woods offers a wonderful escape from the activity of the city. Only a few miles from Swansea, this Victorian estate was once the home of the eminent horticulturist, photographer and astronomer John Dillwyn Llewelyn and covers around 250 acres of land.

Daubed with mixed woodland, two lakes, a beautiful waterfall, streams and more, Penllergare has something to see at every turn. Visit the Penllergare Visitor Centre upon arrival, before picking up one of the four colour-coded paths which together afford over 7 miles of woodland walks. Once you’re ready to return, you can also stop off at the woodland’s dog-friendly coffee shop, open 364 days a year, for a spot of their own unique blend of coffee and local cakes and treats.

The Glynn Vivian Art Gallery

Inside the Glynn Vivian Art Gallery in Swansea with various portraits on display

Swansea is a thriving cultural hub and the Glynn Vivian Art Gallery is recognised as one of the best places in the city to enjoy visual arts. Founded in 1911, the art gallery was first opened thanks to considerable donations made by the British art collector and philanthropist Richard Glynn Vivian. Today, it houses a broad collection of works from local and national artists from the last century and the present day.  

Heading over to the gallery, you can let your eyes pour over a superb collection of artworks and ceramics, all forming an integral part of Swansea’s cultural memory. Along with permanent exhibitions, the gallery also hosts seasonal and special displays to create a year-round catalogue full of intrigue and inspiration. Talks, tours and workshops are also held from time-to-time, affording a novel way to learn more about the Welsh arts scene.

The Dylan Thomas Centre

Inside the Dylan Thomas Centre, one of the top things to do in Swansea

The Dylan Thomas Centre is a permanent exhibition showcasing the life and times of Dylan Thomas, from his birth in October 1914 to his death in November 1953. A world-renowned poet and writer, Thomas was born and raised in Swansea and his connection with the area is deeply felt, with much of his work having been influenced by the areas around Swansea Bay, the Mumbles and the Gower.

To find out more about this literary giant, head over to Swansea’s Maritime Quarter and visit the centre, profiting from a variety of tours, talks and displays to uncover more about the man and the legend himself. If you’d like to take your discovery even further, you can also branch out and follow one of the museum’s guided Dylan Thomas Trails which lead you around some of the region’s most famous landmarks associated with the poet.

LC Waterpark

Armbands on the side of the swimming pool | LC Waterpark is a top family-friendly attraction in Swansea

LC Waterpark and Leisure Complex in Swansea is one of the most popular family-friendly attractions in South Wales. The perfect outlet for entertaining youngsters and a fun-filled rainy-day destination, the LC boasts the country’s biggest indoor water park, as well as a huge array of indoor activities for all generations to enjoy.

Take a splash on the waterpark’s network of pools, rides and slides, including the MasterBlaster (which is every bit as thrilling as it sounds), wave pool and lazy river ride, or test your skills on the indoor board-rider surf experience. Found in the heart of the park, this never-ending wave allows you to body board or surf to your heart’s content in the safety of the park.

Swansea Grand Theatre

Inside the Swansea Grand Theatre auditorium

First opening its doors in 1897, the Swansea Grand Theatre has been entertaining the public with the best live performances for over 120 years. From the golden greats of Jessie Mathews, Ivor Novello, Forbes Robertson and the first knight of theatre, Sir Henry Irving, to the stars of today such as Catherine Zeta Jones, some of the most famous names in film and theatre have performed on the Grand’s stage.

If you are staying in Swansea, keep an eye on the theatre’s line up of events, from thought-provoking dramas to side-splitting comedies. With everything from professional productions to youth groups set to take the stage, the wide range of acts mean that there is always something for everyone to look forward to.

Swansea Museum

The facade of Swansea Museum at night-time, illuminated by warm spotlights

The oldest museum in Wales, Swansea Museum beckons for a captivating journey of discovery. A real treasure trove filled to the rafters with local and world history, its collections contain an assortment of historic wonders from Swansea, Wales and across the world. Whether you’re visiting for the first time or the fifteenth, you are sure to find all sorts of incredible relics and artefacts to capture your imagination.

Upon entering the museum, you’ll find six galleries in the main building housing both permanent and temporary exhibitions. Amongst the curiosities on display is everything from a Roman bone comb found in nearby Pennard to a 19th Century postcard painted onto a feather by Captain Will Nelson. There is even a real Egyptian mummy which was gifted to the museum in 1888. Known as Hor, the mummy is believed to have lived in Akhmim in Upper Egypt between 250-200 B.C.

Plantasia Swansea

A beautiful exotic bird at Plantasia Zoo in Swansea

Wander through a giant tree and step into a real rainforest zoo in the heart of Swansea at Plantasia. A firm family favourite, Plantasia is home to 40 different species of animals, including many vulnerable and endangered species. Learn all about the zoo’s conservation efforts and discover a fantastical world as you walk around the park and see all the feathered, furred and scaled faces peering back at you.

Among some of the many incredible species, you can expect to see brightly-coloured macaws, tufty-eared marmosets, fairy tale-esque axolotl, gorgeous leopard cats and regal caiman crocodiles. Well, that’s when they’re not snoozing somewhere out of sight, of course. You can also take part in VIP experiences, like zoo keeping and crocodile feeding, for an unforgettable addition to your day.

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