How many landmarks in Wales can you name? A few Welsh castles, maybe? The rugby stadium in Cardiff that used to be called Cardiff Arms Park?
Not an easy one, admittedly. We’ll open it up to include the natural landmarks of Wales. A bit easier now – there are the Snowdonia mountains, some of the Gower beaches, the Pembrokeshire coast.
Alright, we’ll make it a whole lot easier for you. We’ve compiled a selection of Welsh landmarks for you to peruse at leisure.
These include the most famous landmarks in Wales, and a good less known sights in Wales every bit as worthy of your attention. We’ll start with the man-made Wales landmarks before moving on to the natural ones.
- 1 Man-Made Landmarks In Wales
- 1.1 Tenby Harbour
- 1.2 Pierhead Building, Cardiff Bay
- 1.3 Principality Stadium
- 1.4 Wales Millennium Centre
- 1.5 Cardiff Castle
- 1.6 Cardiff City Hall
- 1.7 Caerphilly Castle
- 1.8 Castell Coch
- 1.9 Pontcysyllte Aqueduct
- 1.10 South Stack Lighthouse, Anglesey
- 1.11 Menai Suspension Bridge
- 1.12 Tre’r Ceiri
- 1.13 Conwy Castle
- 1.14 Caernarfon Castle
- 1.15 Harlech Castle
- 1.16 Beaumaris Castle
- 1.17 Portmeirion Village
- 1.18 Criccieth Castle
- 1.19 St David’s Cathedral
- 1.20 Tintern Abbey
- 1.21 Powis Castle
- 1.22 Offa’sDyke
- 1.23 Paxton’sTower
- 1.24 Devil’s Bridge
- 1.25 Flint Castle
- 1.26 StGilesChurch, Wrexham
- 1.27 Pentre Ifan Burial Chamber
- 1.28 Newport Transporter Bridge
- 2 Natural Landmarks Of Wales
Man-Made Landmarks In Wales
Tenby is the most beautiful of the many seaside resorts in Wales, with its three superb beaches, medieval walled town and narrow, atmospheric lanes and streets.
But its crowning glory is the Harbour, a row of gorgeous Georgian houses above a tiny beach and the many boats below, with a hill and the ruins of a Castle behind.
It’s one of the most beautiful places in Europe, and several Tenby hotels have prime views of it
And now for a run of Cardiff landmarks. The first is the Pierhead Building, easily the most attractive of the buildings around Cardiff Bay waterfront.
This handsome red-brick Victorian building is one of the few features of the original Tiger Bay to have survived the redevelopment of the area.
It now houses a small museum, part of which focuses on the history of Cardiff Bay.
Originally known as the Millennium Stadium, this huge arena is right in the middle of Cardiff, which is very unusual for a city in Europe (think London, Paris, Berlin, Milan – all with great venues – way out in the suburbs).
It’s a fantastic venue, one we’ve experienced many times. The atmosphere in the streets around the stadium before rugby internationals is brilliant, even to a non-rugby person like me.
The Wales Millennium Centre was much mocked before its grand opening in November 2004, almost five years later than originally planned.
It’s one of the most distinctive UK landmarks, with its façade adorned by an inscription in Welsh and English.
It’s one of the best arts centres you will see anywhere, with great programmes and outstanding acoustics in the various venues within, especially the Donald Gordon Theatre.
Cardiff Castle is the first – and sometimes only – Welsh castle many visitors see.
It’s unlike most castles in Wales, which tend to be medieval ruins, as much of it was added in the 19th century by the Third Marquess of Bute an extraordinarily wealthy industrialist with the budget to build one of the finest Gothic Revival buildings in the world.
The medieval keep is a great viewpoint over Cardiff, and the Clock Tower its most recognizable feature.
Yet another Cardiff landmark, but it’s one of the most famous Wales landmarks and deserves the mention. Cardiff City Hall and the surrounding buildings – including the National Museum Wales – on Cathays Park were built in the Edwardian period (early 1900s) and the City Hall is a wonderfully florid, almost Baroque building, unlike anything else in the city, and indeed Wales.
The gardens at the front and back are a lovely spot to linger awhile in the warmer weather.
One of the most formidable castles in South Wales, this 13th century brute of a castle was built by Norman lord Gilbert de Clare to keep local Welsh forces in. check.
It’s the largest castle in Wales, surrounded by lakes and widely recognized for its leaning tower, which out-leans the Leaning Tower of Pisa.
Castell Coch is a fairytale Gothic Revival castle on a forested hillside on the outskirts of Cardiff.
It’s one of the easiest day trips from Cardiff, and one of the most rewarding.
It was designed by Victorian architect William Burges for the super-rich Third Marquess of Bute, a seasonal retreat decorated sumptuously but rarely used.
It has been voted the most popular landmark in Wales, and is easily visible as you drive north out of Cardiff on the main A470 road.
The Pontcysyllte Aqueduct is the third place in Wales to be named a UNESCO World Heritage Site, along with parts of the Llangollen Canal which flows over it.
The Aqueduct is one of the best things to do in Llangollen, a gorgeous town on the Dee Valley in North East Wales.
The Aqueduct, designed by civil engineer Thomas Telford, carries the Canal 38 metres above the River ±Dee, and you can either walk across it or take a boat ride across.
If you’re doing the latter, it’s perfectly safe as you’re sitting in a boat, but the drop down to the river isn’t protected by railings – not one for vertigo sufferers.
Most people pass through Holy Island – the island off north-west Anglesey – to catch the Holyhead to Dun Laoighaire ferry.
Holyhead is a workaday ferry port town without much to detain you long, but the coastline just a few miles away is sublime.
The highlight is South Stack lighthouse, which sits on an islet below vast, sheer, towering cliffs.
You can see it from the ferry as it approaches Holyhead from Ireland – it looks a whole lot better from the clifftop, so take a look.
The Menai Bridge, as it is widely known, was built by Thomas Telford to link the island of Anglesey to the Welsh mainland.
The nearby Britannia Bridge carries most of the traffic load nowadays, whereas the Menai Bridge stands serene across the Strait in the shadow of the Carneddau range of Snowdonia, some of the highest peaks in Wales.
It’s an unforgettable sight, and one of the most beautiful bridges in Europe.
Tre’r Ceiri – the Town of Giants – is one of the last known landmarks of Wales on our list, but it sits on one of the summits of one of the most picturesque Welsh mountains, Yr Eifl, on the Llŷn Peninsula.
There are only four car parking spaces at the start of the path up, which climbs to an Iron Age hillfort with the remains of a fortified village full of hut circles, and some of the most stupendous views in Wales.
One for your Wales bucket list.
Conwy Castle is one of the most beautiful castles in Europe, a magnificent medieval fortress bult by the invading English King Edward I.
It overlooks the River Conwy and sits within sight of the foothills of Snowdonia.
There are plenty of other things to do in Conwy besides – including a walk along the adjacent Conwy Town Walls and, in the summer, take a boat trip along the river from Conwy Quay.
Caernarfon Castle is one of the most famous places in Wales. This daunting castle – along with Conwy, Harlech and Beaumaris, Wales’ first UNESCO World Heritage Site – was built to guard the Menai Strait, the body of water separating mainland Wales from the isle of Anglesey.
It was partly modelled on the walls of Constantinople, an intimidating fortress that is probably the most famous Welsh castle around the world.
Harlech is undoubtedly one of the best Welsh castles, and it enjoys one of the most dramatic settings of any of our landmarks in Wales.
It sits on a high outcrop of rock with the highest mountains in Wales behind it and Harlech beach, one of the best beaches in North Wales, just to the left.
Not as impregnable as its counterpart in Caernarfon, it changed hands several times in the 15th century, eventually falling to a long siege in the Wars of the Roses that inspired the famous Welsh song Men of Harlech.
There aren’t many Anglesey castles to discover, but one of them just happens to be one of the finest medieval castles in Europe.
This castle – considered by castle connoisseurs to be close to technical perfection – was never finished, as Edward I had over-reached himself financially with all his other castles in North Wales.
A fascinating castle, which looks its best from the fields behind with the peaks of Snowdonia a forbidding backdrop.
Portmeirion is one of the best places to visit in Wales, a quirky fantasy village full of pasteltwo beaches and the cottages, rescued architectural wonders and an Italianate campanile, or belltower, overlooking the estuary of the Dwyryd, one of the loveliest rivers in Wales.
One of the best things to do in Portmeirion is to stay there overnight, either in one of the the colourful cottages or one of the two hotels in the village.
Criccieth Castle is one of the most picturesque North Wales castles, presiding over two fine Llŷn Peninsula beaches from a promontory that also looks out over Cardigan Bay towards nearby Harlech Castle.
It was one of the castles of the Welsh princes, a sturdy fortress that eventually fell into English hands when Edward I invaded.
St David’s, in the far western corner of Wales is a city break with a difference. Apart from the Vatican City it’s the smallest city in Europe, with a couple of pubs to choose from for your nightlife.
Yet there are a great many things to do in St Davids, and perhaps the most compelling of all is St David’s Cathedral, the largest and finest church in Wales, its ancient tower only visible from close by as it was built in a low location out of sight of passing marauding Vikings and the like.
The ruined medieval church of Tintern Abbey, in the splendid Wye Valley in south east Wales, can stake a very strong claim to being the birthplace of tourism in Britain.
The Wye Valley was opened up to small groups in the late 18th century to visitors attracted to the Picturesque, stopping along the way to paint river scenes.
Tintern Abbey was the highlight of this two-day mini-tour, and it’s a wondrous sight at any time of year, but especially in autumn when it’s surrounded by the morning mists.
Mighty Powis Castle in Mid Wales is one of a small number of Welsh castles to have survived intact since medieval times.
It’s one of the finest historical places in Wales, one of several such sites around Wales owned and operated by the National Trust.
It’s one of the most splendid stately homes in Wales, and its formal Garden is stunning. It’s just outside Welshpool, close to the English border.
There’s no doubt which is the longest landmark Wales has. Offa’s Dyke was built by the 8th century king of Mercia to keep out the troublesome Welsh.
Much remains of this 177-mile-long earthwork, which ran from the Bristol Channel in the south to Liverpool Bay in the north.
The best-preserved section we’ve encountered is on Hawthorn Hill, just to the south of the border town of Knighton in Powys.
Paxton’s Tower overlooks the beautiful Tywi valley from a hilltop site just above Dryslwyn Castle.
It was built by wealthy businessman Sir William Paxton. The view from the tower is awesome, but the jury is out on why it was built.
One school of thought is that it was a tribute to British naval leader Lord Nelson. Another is that Paxton built it as a folly to spite locals who narrowly failed to elect him as MP despite him spending vast amounts of money buying them off, rather than the bridge over the river he had promised during his campaign.
The Devil’s Bridge is a remarkable series of three bridges built on top of each other over the Afon Mynach. It is one of the most popular attractions in Mid Wales, with day trippers taking the lovely Vale of Rheidol Railway up from Aberystwyth.
The whole village, with its Hafod Arms Hotel, feels like a step back to a bygone era. JMW Turner sketched the three bridges when he visited. – you can see the result in Tate Britain in London.
Flint doesn’t seem the most auspicious of places to seek out famous Welsh landmarks, the Dee estuary skyline dominated by the pylons of industrial Deeside and a 1950s housing estate concealing it until the very last moment.
But persevere, and there it is, Flint Castle, one of the most historically significant castles in Wales.
This is where English King Edward I established his first foothold in Wales, the first of his Iron Ring of castles built to subjugate the Welsh.
‘Wrexham steeple’ is one of the traditional Seven Wonders of Wales, named in an oft-quoted rhyme probably written by a visitor to Wales around 200 years ago.
Six of the seven happen to be in North East Wales, a region that always tends to get overlooked in favour of Snowdonia or the beaches of north Wales to the west.
St Giles’ Church is one of the most impressive churches in Wales, built in the late Gothic Perpendicular style.
The tomb of Elihu Yale, founder of one of the most prestigious universities in the US, can be found next to the base of the tower.
Pentre Ifan is one of the outstanding ancient monuments of Wales. It’s a Neolithic-era burial chamber, roughly 5,000 years old, and what remains is but only a small part of what would have been there in the Stone Age.
Its location is incredibly evocative, looking towards the north Pembrokeshire coast and the outline of Carn Ingli, the most dramatic of the nearby Preseli Hills.
Newport, Wales’ third city, has some pockets of true beauty, but they do require a little seeking out if you’re unfamiliar with the area.
The 1906 Newport Transporter Bridge is one of around ten left in the world, its main feature is that it carries a section of road back and forth across the river, carrying vehicles and pedestrians.
It spans the river Usk in the Docks area of the city, and is one of the most remarkable bridges in Europe.
Natural Landmarks Of Wales
Climbing Mount Snowdon is one of the best things to do in Wales. It’s the highest peak in Wales and England, at 1,085 metres (3,560 feet) above sea level.
Many thousands climb it each year, some on the rack-and-pinion Snowdon Mountain Railway, but if you’re able the walk up is more rewarding.
You never quite know what you’re going to get at the Snowdon summit – one moment the mist is so thick you can’t see your own feet, the next you can see Ireland to the west and the Isle of Man to the north.
Tryfan is a strong contender for the toughest Welsh mountain to climb, possibly surpassed by the Crib Goch ridge leading to Snowdon.
Tryfan is one of the most iconic peaks in Wales, dominating the southern side of the awesome Ogwen Valley. From directly below, it’s a massive wall of rock, and it’s a steep scramble all the way up.
There are two rocks at the summit, Adam and Eve, and some intrepid – or possibly insane – climbers jump from one to the other. Not I, with a drop like that if you overshoot.
Cwm Idwal is one of the most spectacular places in Snowdonia, a hanging valley high above the Ogwen Valley and its continuation, Nant Ffrancon.
Llyn Idwal is a classic glacial lake, surrounded by the behemoth rock walls of Tryfan and the Glyderau range on three sides.
The Devil’s Kitchen is a narrow defile leading towards the ice-shattered rocky summits of Glyder Fawr and Glyder Fach, and it’s one of the best mountain walks in Wales.
An article on landmarks in Wales wouldn’t be complete without at least one waterfall. Wales has an abundance of them due to the abundance of rainfall in some areas, and the river that hurtles down Swallow Falls – the Afon Llugwy – comes from a rainfall chart-topping area nearby.
Visiting this magnificent frothing mass of water became popular in Victorian times, and it’s still one of the best things to do in Betws-y-Coed and the surrounding area.
The Snowdonia National Park has many of the most scenic drives in Wales, and the most- frequented of these is the Llanberis Pass, also known as the A4086. Visit Dolbadarn Castle, a Welsh-built castle guarding the bottom of the Pass, next to Llanberis village for a view up before heading to the top, through the sheer walls of rock, to see the view back down this superb stretch of road.
It’s a sublime place, a tidal island accessible via Newborough Beach, one of the finest Anglesey beaches.
It’s named after Santes Dwynwen, the Welsh patron saint of lovers, who founded a monastic retreat there.
Walk an hour from the car park to the end of the island, where you’ll find two stunning beaches and two lighthouses with astounding views across Caernarfon Bay to the mountains of Snowdonia and the Llŷn Peninsula.
Bird Rock – Craig yr Aderyn – rises abruptly out of the flat floodplain of the Dysynni valley in the shadow of Cadair Idris.
This virtually vertical rock was once a sea cliff, but as the sea receded over thousands of years it is now four miles inland.
Amazingly it is still used as a nesting site by cormorants and choughs, the furthest inland site in Wales. The steep walk up is well worth it for the views, and for the Iron Age hillfort near the summit.
Cadair Idris – often anglicized to Cader Idris – is one of the great mountains of Wales. It veers up high behind the handsome old town of Dolgellau, overlooking the river Mawddach and its glorious estuary.
There is no quick way up to the summit of Cadair Idris, Penygadair, as the routes all start close to sea level, so it’s a good four-to-five-hour hike up there.
I consider it a real monster of a mountain, and its august presence dominates the whole of the southern Snowdonia landscape
The Cregennan Lakes – Llynnau Cregennen in Welsh – are two of the most delightful lakes in Wales.
You’ll need a little patience and perseverance to find them, and will need to open several farm gates on the way up and down the minor road that leads there. Its isolation has always meant it’s a bit of a secret spot, far from the crowds.
It’s one of the most beautiful places in Wales, and indeed Britain, with some of the best walks in Snowdonia to be discovered.
One of the best viewpoints of the Mawddach estuary and Barmouth is from the hillock behind the car park at Llynnau Cregennen.
It’s the most beautiful of rivers in North Wales, transforming from a classic fast-running mountain. River to the luxuriating in one of the most magnificent wide estuaries you could ever see, enhanced by the sands that appear at low tide.
One of the best things to do in Barmouth is to cross the old wooden bridge over the river, taking in the view upstream to Cadair Idris.
Bardsey – Ynys Enlli in Welsh – can be seen from as far away as Pembrokeshire on a clear day, and it’s also often visible from the coast around Barmouth.
It’s an ancient pilgrimage destination, reputedly the burial place of 20.000 Saints. It’s also rather difficult to reach, with fierce tidal currents often impeding progress from departure points on the Llŷn Peninsula.
Ironically you only get to see Bardsey from the very tip of the Llŷn. It now attracts a mixture of pilgrims, wildlife lovers and people looking to get right away from it all.
Pen y Fan – whose name translates as ‘top of the beacon’ – is the highest of the Brecon Beacons mountains, and indeed the highest peak in southern Britain.
It – and the neighbouring summit, Corn Du – can be seen from many a hilltop in South Wales, and the view from the summit is one of the Brecon Beacons highlights.
The most impressive views are from the north, where it appears as a devilishly steep peak rather than the culmination of a long, slowly rising ridge which is what you see from the south.
Plynlimon is the highest point in the Cambrian Mountains, the upland spine of Mid Wales that stretches across much of the country.
The highest summit, Pen Pumlumon Fawr, is 752 metres (2,467 feet) above sea level, and the 2-hour-plus hike (the best starting point is at Eisteddfa Gurig on the A44 Aberystwyth road) rewards with you with astonishing views across Mid Wales.
When it rains, it really rains, and the bogs below its northern slopes give rise to both the Wye and Severn rivers, the latter being the longest river in the UK.
Ynyslas Dunes are just to the south of the Dyfi estuary, looking across the river mouth to the pretty seaside town of Aberdyfi. Ynyslas is a remarkable spot, the vast dune system home to a huge range of flora and birdlife.
The broad Ynyslas beach merges into Borth beach, a mile or so to the south. In summer it’s usually busy with holidaymakers, but in winter it’s a different proposition, a place of almost desolate beauty.
Extreme low tides reveal the remains of a petrified forest, one of the most surprising and compelling sights in Wales.
We’ve saved one of the best until last. Rhossili Bay is one of the most beautiful beaches in Europe, even the world. Don’t just ask us, check out countless ‘best beaches’ polls over the last 15-20 years, it’s perennially one of the top few. Rhossili beach is three miles (5 km) on the western tip of the Gower peninsula, with the eye-catching tidal island of Worm’s Head just offshore.
If you are planning a trip to Wales you may find like to read about the most beautiful landscapes in Wales here or our Wales bucket list here. All the articles we have written about Wales can be found on on our Wales travel guide page here.