“An ugly, lovely town…crawling, sprawling…by the side of a long and splendid curving shore. This sea-side town was my world.” The famous words of Dylan Thomas.
In the southwest corner of Wales lies the coastal city of Swansea. Rich in history with a diverse cosmopolitan culture, it has easy rail links to London and the rest of Wales and makes a great base for exploring South and West Wales.
1. The Waterfront Museum
If history is your thing, then this museum will fascinate you and it’s just a 10 minute walk from Swansea railway station. With exhibits spanning that span centuries, the Waterfront Museum tells the story of Wales and its industry, all housed in a contemporary glass and slate building.
From archaeological finds, such as mammoth bones and teeth and golden artefacts dug from the Welsh soil, art dating back to the 16th century, right up until the Industrial Revolution, and the innovative ideas that helped to shape manufacturing in the UK, there’s plenty to keep everyone interested.
2. LC Swansea
The LC Swansea is Wales’ premier waterpark and leisure complex. You can swim, play, surf, climb or go to the Spa. The four-storey aquatic themed interactive play area will keep children entertained for hours.
- Best for children
- Fun for the entire family
- 5 min walk from Swansea station
3. Clyne Gardens
Containing many plant species from the National Collection, Clyne Gardens offers peaceful tranquillity and is the perfect place to while away some time. Set in glorious parklands, the Gardens were the brainchild of local millionaire William Graham Vivian in 1860. They were passed down the line to his nephew who looked after them until his death in the early 1950s.
Featuring gorgeously scented bluebell woods and wildflower meadows, bridges over meandering waterways, and a charming chapel, the gardens are free to enter anytime you wish. The Gardens are also free to open.
- Fun for all the family
- Free entry
- Clyne Gardens Website
4. Plantasia Tropical Zoo
Located at the Parc Tawe retail park, Plantasia Tropical Zoo delivers a fully immersive adventure, allowing visitors to get up close and personal with a wide variety of animals and plants.
Comprising of two climate-controlled zones - tropical rainforest and arid, approximately 5000 plants grow in conditions that promote optimal health. These include palms, bromeliads, orchids and giant bamboos, allowing any visitors to easily imagine themselves in the real rainforest. Within the regions of lush growth are water features containing fearsome red-bellied piranha, and colourful koi, and basking around the pools are crocodiles, caimans and pythons. The trees are full of vibrant macaws, while meerkats, marmosets and graceful leopard cats can be spotted through the foliage.
The zoo has a number of activities for visitors to take part in, including helping out at crocodile feeding time, checking on the tarantulas, or supervising the meerkats at mealtime, and many of the animals can be adopted.
- Fun for all the family
- Tickets from just £3
- Plantasia Tropical Zoo Website
5. Swansea Indoor Market
Whatever you’re after, you’ll find it at Swansea’s Indoor Market.
Establishing itself as a market town in the 1100s, Swansea’s traders owned the streets. Spreading out as the centuries continued, taking over the curiously named Frog and Goat Streets, and eventually filling Castle Square and Wind Street, in the 17th century, a dedicated hall was built, and this is where the largest market in Wales is still held.
Stalls selling fine foods, locally reared meats and handmade cheeses, artisan bread and cakes, vie with colourful crafts and designer jewellery. A studio pottery on a stall next to tooled leatherwork and boho clothing, it’s all here. It will take you just five minutes to walk to the market and once you’re there you can spend hours browsing the stalls.
- Local meats and cheeses
- Ideal for retail therapy
- Largest market in Wales
6. The Gower Peninsula
Attracting visitors from around the world, the Gower Peninsula offers a rare chance to experience nature in the raw, unspoiled and beautiful.
Covering an area of around 70 square miles, many come for the glorious beaches, such as Llangennith, Oxwich Bay and Rhossili, which are especially popular with surfers and families. An Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, the Gower’s landscape is vastly diverse and ranges from peat bogs and salt marsh to limestone cliffs and short cropped grassland. No less than six castles are also situated around the peninsula, along with numerous cairns and standing stones, some dating back to at least the Upper Paleolithic era.
The wildlife, too, is impressive, with marine mammals, including seals, dolphins and porpoises, frequently visible around the coastline, while snowy feathered kittiwakes, razorbills and cormorants’ nest on the rugged cliff faces. Everywhere you look on the Gower, there is something to surprise and inspire.
- An Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty
- Enjoy the great outdoors
- Perfect for watching the local marine wildlife
7. Mumbles pier
Mumbles is full of character and charm. Independent boutiques, restaurants and bars line the streets where you’ll also find the world famous Joe’s – an ice cream parlour that is as popular with the locals as tourists.
Stretching out over the waves for 835 feet (255 m), Mumbles Pier, a Grade II listed building was opened in 1898, and offers fabulous views across Swansea Bay.
Home to the traditional attractions you’d expect to enjoy on a trip to the beach, the pier has a thriving amusement arcade, and the Gamez Room, offering bowling, pool, free juke box and lots more. At the end of the pier is the new RNLI Lifeboat station. With restaurants and cafes serving delicious snacks, relaxing on Mumbles Pier as the sun sets, is a wonderful end to the day.
- Relax and watch the sunset over the bay
- Fun for all the family
- Mumbles Pier Website
8. Walk the coast path
The coastal path from Swansea to the Gower along the fabulous coastline takes in wide golden beaches, dramatic cliffs and a whole host of different wildlife. Some sections of the path are accessible to bicycles, pushchairs and wheelchairs so plan your route carefully and the whole family can enjoy the beautiful views. Visit Swansea Bay has all the information you need.
- Visit Swansea Bay website
- Beautiful beaches, cliffs & meadows
- Great for pets
9. Swansea Castle
In Swansea city centre you can easily find the remains of the imposing castle that guarded Swansea since the 1100s. Founded by Henry de Beaumont, the I Earl of Warwick and Lord of Gower, the castle covered a vast 4.6 acres and over the centuries has seen many conflicts. It has also experienced a range of uses, including a bottle factory in 1670, a post office, workhouse and a military Drill Room. It was even the home of the South Wales Daily Post - the early employer of the famous Welsh poet Dylan Thomas.
For any history buff, Swansea Castle must be on your bucket list.
10. Swansea Arena
Last but not least on our list of the top ten attractions in Swansea is the new Swansea Arena. As South Wales’ newest multi-purpose entertainment and event space, the arena has a capacity of 3,500 and hosts some of the biggest stars, world-class performances and major events right in the heart of the Copr Bay coastal park. Getting there couldn’t be easier as it is just a ten minute walk from Swansea railway station.
- Landmark attraction
- Various events for everyone
- Swansea Arena website