Things to do in St Davids Wales Image of St Davids Cathedral Tower

15 Best things to do in St David’s Wales

About the author: David Angel, is a Welsh photographer, writer, and historian with 30+ years of experience, and previously Art Director for Visit Wales. His work is regularly featured in the BBC, the Guardian, and Condé Nast Traveler. He is fluent in English and Welsh.

Are you looking for the best things to do in St Davids Wales? St Davids is the smallest city in the UK with an amazing cathedral and some of the best coastal scenery in Europe.

St David’s is one of the most unusual city break destinations in Europe, and the size of a large village. Most people come to visit St Davids Cathedral, the most impressive church in Wales.

It’s also on the famous Pembrokeshire Coast, with some of the best beaches in Wales and best coastal walks in UK.

I’ve been visiting St David’s since the mid-1980s, and been there a great many times. In this guide, I’ll show you what to see in St Davids and along the coastline around the city.

I’ll also suggest St Davids accommodation, tell you the best places to eat, and show you some of the best places to visit nearby, including Solva and Abereiddy.

If you were ever to compile a Wales bucket list, put this tiny city right at the top of it.

Image of a sunset from Newgale near St Davids Wales
A magical sunset looking towards St Davids from Newgale

Why visit st David’s

Image of St Non's Bay St David's Pembrokeshire Wales UK
One mile from downtown St Davids, Wales – ESCAPE

St David’s is the UK’s smallest city, located in the scenic county of Pembrokeshire, Wales. Its magnificent 12th-century cathedral is the reason for its city status.

The coastal national park and Pembrokeshire Coast Path in the county are some of the UK’s most beautiful natural attractions.

The area around St David’s has breathtaking scenery, making it a popular destination for visitors to Wales.

Despite its remote location, it’s not too difficult to reach, with Cardiff 112 miles away and London 256 miles away.

15 Best Things to do in St Davids

1. Visit St Davids Cathedral

Image of St Davids Cathedral in Pembrokeshire Wales UK
St David’s Cathedral in springtime with daffodils in bloom
Image of St David's Cathedral Wales
St David’s Cathedral in the smallest city in the UK

Visiting St David’s Cathedral is one of the top things to do in Pembrokeshire. For that matter, it’s one of the best things to see in Wales, a magnificent medieval church every bit as impressive as the best of the mighty Welsh castles.

Yet when you enter St Davids city for the first time, you could be forgiven for wondering where it is.  St Davids Cathedral is hidden away in a hollow, in the lowest point in the area, and you only glimpse it briefly when passing the roundabout with the cross in the middle of the village – sorry, city.

Most European cities – the likes of Prague, Santiago de Compostela, Chartres, Toledo and Evora – had their cathedrals built on hilltops, in the most visible place possible. St Davids Cathedral was built in the valley of the tiny Alun stream to remain invisible to passing maritime invaders, the Vikings included.

The exterior is beautiful in its simplicity, much of it purple sandstone from nearby Caerbwdi Bay. A flight of 39 steps leads down from the gatehouse to the churchyard proper.

The interior is no less impressive, the nave dominated by the ornate carved oak roof. Continue from there to the choir and look up to the stunning tower vault. It’s as impressive as any church architecture Wales has.

St David himself was long believed to have been kept in a casket behind the high altar. Carbon dating tests revealed the bones to belong to someone who had died centuries after St David. Nonetheless it has always been considered the most important of all pilgrimages in Wales.

In early medieval times a Pope declared that two pilgrimages to St David’s brought the same spiritual benefits as one to Rome (three pilgrimages to Bardsey Island in North Wales were believed to be worth the same).   

2. Explore St Davids Bishop Palace

Image of St Davids Bishops Palace and Cathedral
St David’s BIshops Palace: a mid-period Gothic des res just a short walk from the office

The ruined Bishops Palace next to the Cathedral is the other attraction most likely to detain you in the centre of St David’s. The Bishop’s Palace dates from the 13th and 14th centuries, evidently a time of great prosperity for the church in the area.

It fell into disrepair in the 16th century when one of the bishops stripped the lead from the roof and sold it on! It’s well worth a look around for half an hour or so. The Great Hall, with its rose window, is the most impressive. You can also climb stairs to a viewpoint over the Cathedral from the far end of the Hall.

3. Oriel Y Parc

Oriel y Parc – ‘the Park Gallery’ – is the first thing many visitors to St Davids UK see. It’s part art gallery, part tourist information centre – one of the best in Wales at that. The exhibitions tend to run for a few weeks or months at a time – last time I visited, they had a contemporary exhibition on loan from the National Museum of Wales in Cardiff.

The information centre is a great place to get your bearings, both for the city and surrounding St Davids peninsula.

4. Explore Whitesands Bay

Image of Whitesands Bay beach near St Davids Pembrokeshire
Whitesands Bay, a great scenic, family and surfing Pembrokeshire beach
Image of Ramsey Island near St Davids Wales
Ramsey Island from Carn Llidi, above Whitesands Bay

Whitesands Beach is one of the best Wales beaches, a sweep of superb golden sand two miles (3 km) or so down a country lane from St David’s.   It’s undoubtedly the most popular St Davids beach.

It’s one of the best beaches for families in Wales, with great rock pools galore to explore. If you’re in search of great scenery, it’s outstanding, with great views in all directions. And Whitesands is also one of the better surfing beaches in Pembrokeshire.

See Also: Tenby Beaches – 4 Of The Most Beautiful Beaches In Wales

5. Walk the Pembrokeshire Coast Path

Image of Pembrokeshire Coast Path sign near St Davids
An old wooden Pembrokeshire Coast Path sign near St Davids

Along with the Gower Peninsula, the Llyn Peninsula and Anglesey, Pembrokeshire has some of the best coastal walking in Wales, and indeed in the UK. How much you attempt depends on how long you spend in St Davids, and of course your fitness levels and conditions while you’re there.

One of the best things to do in St Davids is to enjoy even a brief walk on the Coast Path. The scenery along the St Davids coastal path is breathtaking. The walking, while invigorating, isn’t as challenging as, say, the North Pembrokeshire Coast from Newport Pembrokeshire to St Dogmaels.

If you have very little time, just do the short walk from Caerfai Bay to St Non’s Bay and back, The walk from Whitesands which I’ve described below is probably the most strenuous in the area. I also recommend the walk from Caerfai Bay to either Porth Clais or St Justinians, which takes you through some incredible coastal scenery.

6. St Davids Head

Image of Carreg Coetan Arthur ancient burial chamber on St David's Head, Wales
Carreg Coetan Arthur, an ancient burial chamber on St David’s Head

The headland immediately to the north-west of Whitesands is St David’s Head, Penmaen Dewi in Welsh. The circuit of St David’s Head is one of the best Pembrokeshire coast path walks. It takes in a lovely hidden beach at Porthmelgan, before climbing up to the headland proper.

It’s a magnificently wild spot where you’ll have seabirds and the occasional walker for company. Look out for the Carreg Coetan Arthur Neolithic burial chamber near the end of the headland.

Image of Porthmelgan beach St David's Head Wales
Lovely Porthmelgan beach, which you pass on the way from Whitesands to St David’s Head

An optional return route to Whitesands takes you up to the summit of Carn Llidi, the knobbly rocky volcanic outcrop you can see from just about everywhere on the St David’s peninsula.

It’s a bit of a scramble towards the top, but you’re rewarded with unforgettable views over Whitesands and nearby Ramsey Island.

7. Visit Caerfai Bay

Image of Caerfai beach near St David's, Wales
Caerfai Bay, just to the south of St David’s centre

Caerfai Beach is the closest beach to St Davids itself, and it has always been one of the more popular St Davids beaches. It’s a pristine sandy Pembrokeshire bay with some striking outcrops of rock on the beach and on the cliffs. Caerfai is also popular as it’s one of the main St Davids camping destinations, with a large site close to the beach.

Another of the best Pembrokeshire coastal path walks starts here, continuing around the headland to St Non’s Bay and west to Porth Clais, Porth Lysgi or St Justinians.

8. Explore St Non’s Bay

Image of St Non's Bay St Davids Wales UK
Gorgeous St Non’s Bay in spring
Image of the 20th century St Non's Chapel near St Davids
The modern St Non’s Chapel, a short walk up the hill from its ruined medieval predecessor

The St Davids area was also home to several other Welsh saints, including St David’s mother, St Non. A mile (1.5 km ) south of St Davids, via a winding lane, you reach this magical spot.

This is where St David is said to have been born during a fierce thunderstorm in 500 AD. I’m not a religious person, but this is one of the most spiritually moving places I have ever visited.

The coastline is a series of rugged cliffs, and there are two chapels dedicated to St Non and a retreat house. The ruined chapel, dating back to the 13th century, is in a field a short walk downhill from the modern stone chapel and retreat house. There’s also a small holy well dedicated to Non and a white statue of her close by.

St Non’s is a place of blissful peace, far removed from the hubbub of modern life. Explore it as part of one of the St Davids walks I’ve suggested, or just head down there and wander short sections of the Coast Path on either side of the bay.

St Nons Bay is also known as one of the best coasteering locations in Wales. This involves traversing the coastline, climbing and moving along cliffs, and making the odd spectacular jump into the water for the cameras.

9. Visit Porth Clais

Image of Porth Clais Harbour near St David's Wales
Porth Clais Harbour

Porth Clais (sometimes written Porthclais) is another pleasant stop on the Pembrokeshire coastal path to the south of St Davids. Back in the Middle Ages it was the port for St Davids. Now it’s a picturesque small harbour full of pleasure boats, and it’s used by some of the local activity providers to take you out to the cliffs.

It’s also the starting point for some great sea kayaking and canoeing around the St Davids coast.

10. St Davids Boat Trips to Ramsey Island

Image of the old lifeboat station at St Justinians
Now there are two: the old lifeboat station at St Justinians has been joined by a new one next door
Image of Ramsey Island off the coast of St Davids Wales
Sunset over Ramsey Island near St Davids
Image of the Bitches Rocks between Ramsey Island and St Davids Wales
The Bitches, a favourite place to speed through on St Davids boat trips

Ramsey Island (Ynys Dewi in Welsh) lies a mile or so west of the two lifeboat stations at St Justinian’s (Porth Stinian in Welsh). One of the most popular things to do in St Davids is to join one of the boat trips departing from there.

These vary from speeding through the Bitches, a series of rocks which cause white water waves, even on relatively calm days, to full Ramsey Island boat trips exploring the caves and coves all around its coast.

This is a great place to come to spot Welsh wildlife, whether it’s the popular nesting puffins, guillemots and kittiwakes in spring and early summer, or the Atlantic grey seals

Top Things To Do near St Davids – The North Pembrokeshire Coast

1. Porthgain

Image of coastline at Porthgain near ST DAvids Pembrokeshire Wales UK
The rocky coast near Porthgain harbour

Porthgain (pronounced Porth-gine) is a village to the north of St Davids, close to the main A487 road to Fishguard and beyond. It’s an old industrial village with extensive ruins of a brickworks on one side of the harbour.

These days it’s a small fishing port with a couple of seafood restaurants and one of the best pubs in Wales, the Sloop Inn, which dates back to 1743.

2. Abereiddy

Image of the coast, beaches and Blue Lagoon at Abereiddy, Pembrokeshire, Wales
The dramatic coastline at Abereiddy
Image of a sunset at Abereiddy Pembrokeshire Wales UK
Sunset at Abereiddy

The tiny Pembrokeshire village, 3 miles (5 km) from Porthgain, became known worldwide as one of the venues for the Red Bull Cliff Diving World Series back in the early and mid-20-teens. Competitors would dive into the Blue Lagoon, the mineral-enhanced azure water of a former slate mine. With the stunning Pembrokeshire coast as a backdrop.

The Blue Lagoon Abereiddy is a very popular snorkelling spot, and Abereiddy also has two beaches, one on either side of the Lagoon. Abereiddy beach has the darkest sand of any beach I’ve seen in Wales (and I have literally seen all of them), close to that of Perissa or Black Beach Santorini in Greece. The sand is so dark because of particles of slate from the Lagoon a short distance away.

I also recommend a short hike over the hilltop to the next beach along the coast, Traeth Llyfn. It’s one of my favourite West Wales beaches, a stretch of golden sand backed by imposing cliffs.

3. Abercastle

Image of the harbour in Abercastle, Pembrokeshire, Wales
The harbour in tiny Abercastle

Abercastle – Abercastell in Welsh – is a tiny village around a narrow steep harbour a few miles beyond Abereiddy. There’s a small shingle beach, but the coast scenery is the star here. The harbour is ideal for sailing, and the coastal walk is a joy indeed.

It’s about a mile from the harbour to the cromlech, or ancient burial chamber, of Carreg Samson – one of the most impressive ancient sites in Wales.

4. Newgale Beach

Image of a road leading to Newgale beach in Pembrokeshire Wales UK
The minor road to stunning Newgale beach

You’ll probably first encounter Newgale beach on your way to St Davids. The main A487 Haverfordwest to St Davids road passes over the crest of a hill, revealing the Pembrokeshire Coastline in all its glory.

Beyond the vast beach, a line of jagged cliffs, coves and inlets stretches away towards St Davids and Ramsey Island. Newgale beach is magnificent. Cross over the bank of pebbles and you’ll reach a fantastic sandy beach with amazing views across St Bride’s Bay.

It’s one of the best beaches Wales has, 3 km of sand with great surf and that astounding view towards St Davids. No exaggeration, it’s one of the most beautiful places in Europe, and one of the places in Wales I miss most. The Wales Coast Path walk from Newgale to St Davids via Solva is also exhilarating.

5. Solva

Image of the harbour at Solva Pembrokeshire Wales UK
Solva Harbour on a beautiful calm. morning
Image of boats in Solva Harbour in Pembrokeshire Wales UK
Boats in Solva Harbour

Tiny Solva has always been one of the best places to visit in Pembrokeshire. The old village is huddled along the floor of a steep valley, culminating in gorgeous Solva harbour. It’s a lovely inlet, or ria, that’s wonderful whether at high tide, full of bobbing boats, or low tide, when it’s a rockpooler’s paradise, and for a few hours, one of the best beaches in South Wales until the water returns.

There are plenty of things to do in Solva, and Lower Solva has several enticing places to eat, including the Old Pharmacy and the Ship Inn. Solva. There are also a couple of art galleries to explore, and Window on Wales, one of the best places in the country to buy Wales souvenirs and crafts.

The coastal walks either side of Solva harbour are fantastic. The path from Newgale (to the east) passes Gwadn, a wonderful pebbly cove that’s one of the most enjoyable beaches near St Davids.

Best places to stay in St Davids Wales

In terms of accommodation, St Davids options have improved immeasurably in recent years. The old mill tower behind the Oriel y Parc Gallery has been converted into the luxury 4-star Twr y Felin Hotel St Davids.

This is owned by Retreats Group, who also run the 5-star Penrhiw Hotel just to the north of the city (in St Davids terms that’s a ten-minute walk from the centre).

Image of rioch CAstle Pembrokeshire Wales UK
Roch Castle Crown copyright Visit Wales 2022
Image of the Ap Gruffydd room in Roch Castle Pembrokeshire Wales UK
The Ap Gruffydd room in Roch Castle

If you’ve ever wanted to stay in a castle, this could be for you. One of the oldest Pembrokeshire castles, the 12th century Roch Castle Hotel overlooks St Bride’s Bay, and is just off the A487 road from Haverfordwest.

I haven’t stayed there but was given a guided tour just after it opened. Wow. One of the best castles to stay in Wales, and an amazing experience if you ever get the chance.

There is also a growing selection of mid-range hotels in St Davids Pembrokeshire.

The best of these is the St Davids Cross Hotel, which is at the epicentre of everything in St Davids, opposite the traffic island with the memorial cross that is the city’s traffic hub.

Another good choice is the Warpool Court Hotel, which is just off the minor road down to St Non’s Bay.

If you love staying at a bed and breakfast St Davids has a great range to choose from, including The Waterings, close to Oriel y Parc gallery.

What to do in St Davids at night?

There are just two pubs in St Davids, the Farmers Arms and The Bishops, and these are just a few doors apart.

Both serve good food and are great places to hang out. I’ve spent many a balmy summer’s evening in the beer garden at the Farmers Arms.

image of farmers arms pub sign in st davids pembrokeshire wales uk
The Farmers Arms

There are also several restaurants in St Davids. Blas at Twr y Felin is our fine dining recommendation.  Otherwise, St Davids Gin & Kitchen is a gin bar and restaurant with rooms on Nun Street.

What to do in St David’s Wales map

To help you plan your trip I’ve created this map indicating all the main sights in St David’s or close by mentioned in this guide.

This is an image of a google map showing the locations of the best things to do in St David's Pembrokeshire Wales UK
click on this map and it will take you to google maps where you can get directions for all the best things to do in St David’s listed in this guide.

Things To Do In St Davids – Final Words

There’s a quote by Spanish scholar Miguel de Unamuno that if a traveller should spend one day in Spain, he or she should spend it in Toledo.

I’m almost inclined to say that if you only had one day in Wales, you should spend it in St David’s. It’s like nowhere else I’ve ever visited. If you have time to head this far west – perhaps on a Pembrokeshire road trip – try to spend at least a weekend there.

Check out more of my articles on West Wales for further trip ideas. If you’re travelling as a family, there are enough things to do in Tenby to keep you busy for a week or more. The four Tenby beaches are among the best in Wales – I can’t recommend them enough.

There are also some fantastic Pembrokeshire Castles to explore. And Roch Castle, just off the road to St David’s, is one of the best castles to stay in Wales.

St David’s is also close to the southernmost Cardigan Bay beaches, barely half an hour’s drive away. If you’re looking for a base further up the coast, check out my Things To Do In New Quay Wales article.

Image of David Angel found of Delve into Europe Travel Blog / Website

David Angel is a British photographer, writer and historian. He is a European travel expert with over 30 years’ experience exploring Europe. He has a degree in History from Manchester University, and his work is regularly featured in global media including the BBC, Condé Nast Traveler, The Guardian, The Times, and The Sunday Times.  David is fluent in French and Welsh, and can also converse in Italian, German, Portuguese, Spanish, Czech and Polish.

See Also: Fun facts about Wales