Heading to South Wales? Check out the best things to do in Swansea and the Gower Peninsula. You’ll find beautiful beaches, castles, and charming villages…
I must admit that my knowledge of the UK is pretty poor. I know London well, in fact, I’ve lived there for a few months, and I’ve visited a few other destinations in England, but apart from that, I didn’t really know much about it.
When I found out that my friend Tianna from New York was coming to London as well on the occasion of a big travel fair, we decided to extend the trip and go on a little trip for a couple of days. None of us had been to Wales before, and South Wales seemed close enough to London to be heading there for just a few days.
That’s how we ended up in Swansea, Wales!
A SHORT INTRO TO SWANSEA
Have you heard of it? Famously dubbed by poet Dylan Thomas as an “ugly, lovely town”, Swansea is the second-largest city in Wales. The city suffered tons of destruction during the Second World War, but now it makes for the perfect base to explore the region of Swansea Bay and the Gower Peninsula.
Swansea City is also one of the largest university cities in Wales, so the population is young and lively. I found Swansea to be more hipster than I was expecting, with cute boutiques and barbershops. It’s nice to walk around explore its streets.
HOW TO GET TO SWANSEA
Swansea is approximately 41 miles (or 65 km) from Cardiff, the capital of Wales. You can take the train from Cardiff Central to Swansea starting at $8 for a standard train when you book in advance. The average journey time from Cardiff to Swansea is 52 minutes.
In alternative, you can also take the bus which is slightly cheaper and takes 1 hour and 15 minutes on average.
If you are coming from London, you can reach Swansea via train, bus, or car. Known as a gateway to Gower, many of those who visit Swansea from London do so on a short break – not just a day trip. I’d recommend you to spend at least the weekend here.
▶ You can drive to Swansea from London. The city of Swansea is about 87 miles to the west of London via the M4 and A483 roads. This is about 3 hours and 40 minutes’ drive, depending on the traffic situation.
▶ Another cool idea is to rent a motorhome from a local owner and make it a road trip! There are so many beautiful places to explore in the area (and to stop at for the night), and this way you can be more flexible with your itinerary.
▶ To get to Swansea by train from London, you can hop on a train from Great Western at the London Paddington Station. There are hourly direct trains that travel between these two destinations on a daily basis. The trip takes about 3 hours. The cheapest train ticket you can get during the off-peak services is £50 or 65 USD (only when you purchase the tickets in advance as two single one-way tickets).
▶ To get to Swansea from London via bus, you can book a ticket with the National Express Coaches. The bus ride can take anywhere from 4 hours and 30 minutes to 5 hours and 30 minutes. There are a few bus trips to Swansea during the day, and they start from Victoria Coach Station in London. A round-trip bus ticket starts at $40.
I usually use Omio (formerly GoEuro) to book my transportation in Europe. ➤ BOOK YOUR TICKET TO SWANSEA HERE
THINGS TO DO IN SWANSEA AND THE GOWER PENINSULA (WALES)
Wondering what to do in Swansea? Don’t worry, you won’t get bored. There are enough fun things to do around Swansea and the Gower Peninsula to keep you occupied for a while. From beautiful beaches (you didn’t know, did you?) to castles, in this article I cover what to do in Swansea on a weekend break.
Check out the best places to visit in Swansea and the best things to do in the Gower.
Learn All About Dylan Thomas
Dylan Thomas is a famous poet and author, and the most famous person from Swansea. In fact, Dylan Thomas used Swansea as inspiration for many of his works. There are a few attractions in Swansea that were built to honor his life and works. Check them out.
Dylan Thomas Birthplace – 5 Cwmdonkin Drive
5 Cwmdonkin Drive is the birthplace of Dylan Thomas. He was born in a lovely Georgian house within the uplands of Swansea.
Half of the poems that were written by Dylan Thomas, he wrote them while he was in this house – from 1930 to 1934. A century later, the house fell in despair until 2003 when it was restored by a Swansea local, Geoff Haden.
Stepping into the house is like stepping back in time. The home, now beautifully restored and furnished, was recreated to look exactly like the childhood home of Dylan Thomas. It really feels homey, rather than sterile like most museums.
We were lucky enough to meet Geoff, who’s a passionate storyteller. He sat us down in the living room and told us all about the private life of Dylan. He was quite the character! Then we proceeded to have a wonderful homemade meal right there in Dylan Thomas’ former kitchen.
In fact, the house is open for tours, but guests can also have meals like the one we had, and can sleep in the house as if it were a guesthouse. How cool is that?
Since the house is privately owned, you need to call in advance to book a visit.
Opening Hours: Daily from 10.30 AM to 4.30 PM.
Entrance Fee: £8.00 for adults or £6.00 for students or children below 16.
Dylan Thomas Centre
The Dylan Thomas Centre can be found in the former Guildhall of Swansea, which has been transformed to celebrate the life and works of the famed poet and author. There is an exhibition on the site that provides an interactive timeline of Thomas Dylan’s life, where you can even listen to audio recordings of the writer himself.
You’ll also get the chance to learn more about his works, including one of his most famous poems, “Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night”.
There are events taking place in this center weekly, so definitely add it to your list of things to do in Swansea when it’s raining!
Opening Hours: Tuesday to Sunday from 10 AM to 4.30 PM
Entrance Fee: Admission to this attraction in Swansea is free.
Find the Dylan Thomas Mural
Right outside the Quadrant Shopping Mall you can find a pretty cool mural inspired by Dylan Thomas. Simply head to the end of the mall towards the bus station, and get out on the left from the bus station. Keep following the walls of the shopping center and you’ll find the mural in the parking lot.
Go on a Tour of the Gower Peninsula
The Gower Peninsula is only a short drive from Swansea. It’s known as Britain’s first Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty since 1956, and it’s easy to see why. The peninsula boasts a variety of landscape formations such as sandy beaches, rugged cliffs, wild moors, and more. It’s nature at its best.
You can visit the area by yourself by driving around, or you can join a Gower Coastal Tour like we did for a great day trip from Swansea. Steve is a local who founded Gower Tours a couple of years ago, and now leads tourists to visit both the most famous spots in the peninsula and some more off-the-beaten path locations.
Unfortunately, this tour isn’t offered anymore.
During this tour, you will get the chance to walk up the beach, see wild horses in the vast moors, and visit the Gower Coast villages. We also stopped at a cute village cafe (the Lookout at Rhossili) for brownies and coffee, and Steve made it feel like a trip with friends rather than an organized tour.
The full-day tour includes pick up and drop off and is only available in the summer and spring. ➥ BOOK IT HERE
When you visit the Gower Peninsula there are two places you can’t miss: Three Cliffs Bay and Rhossili Bay.
Three Cliffs Bay
The Three Cliffs Bay is one of the most beautiful beaches in Gower Peninsula, I might even like it more than the more famous Rhossili Bay. I had no idea before visiting that Wales offered such wild beaches. The shoreline consists of spectacular sand dunes, three limestone cliffs, and a salt marsh.
The beach is sandy and wide, and the fact that you can’t get here by car contributes to its charm. You’ll have to go down a coastal path from the parking lot to get to the beach, but it’s totally worth it.
While this is a beautiful beach, please stay safe at all times because the tides can get strong without warning. There are lifeguards on duty from 10 AM to 6 PM during the summer. Dogs are also allowed on this beach. Toilet and parking facilities are available. If you want to try camping in Swansea Bay, here it’s a great camping site with incredible views over the bay.
The weather unfortunately wasn’t great the day we went on our Gower Peninsula tour. By the time we got to Rhossili Bay, in fact, the fog was so bad that the beach was totally invisible. Bummer! The pictures that I’m showing you here are from sunny days, because otherwise, all you’d see would be a white canva lol!
Rhossili Bay offers 3 miles of gorgeous golden sand beach with an equally stunning coastline. It’s the perfect place to go on a coastal walk and soak in the views!
In 2018, Rhossili Bay was named as the Best Beach in Wales. It also ranked third in the TripAdvisor UK’s Traveller’s Choice Award. This maybe didn’t come as a surprise, as for years, Rhossili Bay has had the nickname “The supermodel of British beaches.”
It’s also a favorite destination for pet lovers as it has consistently been named as the no.1 dog-friendly beach in the UK. This beach is open all days of the week and all year round.
Visit the Gower Brewery
During our Gower tour we went on a detour to the Gower Brewery as it was raining and it didn’t make much sense for us to be outdoors. The Welsh know one thing or two about beer, and here they produce a few types of craft beers. We had a chance of doing a tasting after touring the brewery. Worth adding it to your itinerary as it’s one of the most unusual things to do in Gower.
Discover the Best Places to Eat in Swansea
The foodie scene in Swansea is more vibrant than I was expecting. During our weekend in Swansea, we managed to try quite a few different food scenes, for different flavors and experiences.
The Swigg Swansea is a can’t-miss restaurant when you want to experience the foodie landscape of Swansea. This restaurant offers a casual dining experience consisting of small plates that are similar to tapas, cocktails, and live music.
On the menu, you’ll find dishes like crab cakes, calamari, smoked duck croquettes, pizza flatbreads, and more. We also loved our lavender gin cocktails – to be real honest, we loved the whole experience, from the presentation of the plates to the atmosphere of the place.
The Langland Brasserie is an award-winning restaurant known for serving the best food in Swansea Bay. It’s known for its great food that utilizes local produce and is recognized as one of the UK’s best. We had a reservation at Langland Brasserie but unfortunately, it started raining like crazy, and being without a car we decided to cancel the reservation… next time!
If you are looking for great homemade food and Italian coffee while relishing panoramic views of Rhossili Bay, head to The Bay Bistro & Coffee House. Other ideas for eating out in Swansea are Cast Iron Grill & Bar, Bistrot Pierre, Mumtaz, and Beaufort Arms.
Stroll Down the Mumbles Pier
Picture it. It’s a warm sunny day, and you and the family are strolling down the pier, stopping at one of the ice cream parlors, enjoying the sun and the views… isn’t it the perfect summer day?
A visit to Mumbles Pier is a great idea for a family day out in Swansea. The pier was built in 1898, it’s one of Swansea peninsula’s most defining landmarks and it retains a lovely vintage vibe. I loved seeing all the vintage signs!
On the pier you can find an amusement arcade, restaurants, a mini bowling alley, and more bizarre attractions… plus of course ice cream!
You can also sit by the beach next to the pier and enjoy the view of the Mumbles Lighthouse. I definitely recommend passing through here, it’s one of the best things to do near Swansea and you can easily reach Mumbles by bus if you don’t have a car. It’s just a 20-minute ride from the bus station in Swansea.
Visit Oystermouth Castle
When we visited Oystermouth Castle in Mumbles, there were all the conditions for a truly spooky experience. It was raining, the wind was blowing, and Halloween decorations were still scattered around the castle.
This for me only added to the magic. Oystermouth Castle is run by volunteers, and Dai brought us around defeating the rain to tell us all about the castle’s history. A long one, since the castle has been around since the 12th century and it been recently partially restored.
Despite the fact that Wales has over 600 castles, Oystermouth Castle stands out from them because of its spectacular views. The castle is located on a hill, so on a sunny day you have great views all over Swansea Bay.
Some of the other outstanding features of this castle include the 14th-century ancient graffiti art, a maze of deep vaults, secret staircases, and a 30-foot high glass bridge.
Opening Hours: Tuesday to Sunday from 11 AM to 5 PM from April 2nd to September 30th, and during the weekends of October. It’s closed during the winter months.
Entrance Fee: £5 for adults.
Enjoy the Swansea Nightlife
When you’re done exploring the attractions of Swansea, it’s time to chill for the night and enjoy a cocktail or two at some of the local pubs and bars. There is a good variety of live music, chill-out bars, and clubs in Swansea, mainly because Swansea is a university city full of students.
Slug & Lettuce is one of the best spots to start a fun night in Swansea. They have an extensive food menu and all kinds of cocktails. It’s particularly fun if you come with a group as they sell cocktail trees that look super cool.
On the same street where Slug & Lettuce is located, you’ll find tons of other bars and pubs to keep going. Come out on a Saturday night and the street is packed with people.
The Uplands Tavern is one of the old-time favorites in Swansea, and it’s recommended for music lovers and those who love to listen to live acts. Brewstone offers an extensive selection of craft beer, while if you are looking for a place with an eclectic character, there’s Noah’s Yard for that.
Visit the Swansea Market
Next on your itinerary, hit the Swansea Market, one of the oldest Swansea attractions. The market dates back to the Middle Age when it was held in the streets of Swansea, and then it was moved to an indoor market in the 1700s. You can’t say this market doesn’t have some history! Since the market is indoors, you have no excuse to skip a visit even on a rainy day.
The market is home to over 100 shopping stalls where you can find anything from fresh flowers, jewelry to fresh produce. There are also a few stalls that sell local delicacies such as Welsh pies, so a fun idea is to come here and go on a DIY food tour from stall to stall.
Check Out the Best Beaches in Swansea
A visit to Swansea won’t be complete without a trip to the beach. I’ve already told you about some of the best beaches near Swansea but there are more to be discovered.
Langland Bay is a family-friendly beach super popular in the summer months and won both the Blue Flag and Seaside Awards. The beach is open daily and all year round but lifeguards are on duty only from May to September. You can also try some water sports activities when here.
Pwll Du Bay Beach is a wilder type of beach. It sits at the bottom of a valley and it’s harder to reach by a trail, but the adventure is worthwhile as this is a pretty and pebbly beach. Don’t expect lifeguards, refreshments, or toilet facilities here, but you can take your dog for a walk and it’s also open all year round.
Finally, you can also add Caswell Bay to your list of beaches to explore in Swansea. It’s a favorite spot for both families and avid surfers, and offers spectacular views and modern amenities, unlike Pwll Du. You can also bring your dog here at certain times of the year (there is a dog ban from May to September).
Walk Around Mumbles, Swansea Bay
I’ve already mentioned the Mumbles Pier, but there’s more to visit in its surroundings. Mumbles is a charming village in Wales, rich in historical and cultural heritage. I’d say that if you’re seeking a unique Welsh experience, you should spend some time in Mumbles and explore its streets and shops.
One of the best things to do in Mumbles is visiting the Lovespoon Gallery, a gallery filled with hand-carved Welsh lovespoons, some of them from the 17th century. These are are spoons made of wood that were traditionally gifted as romantic gestures.
Looking to grab lunch or enjoy authentic Italian coffee in Mumbles? Head to Verdi’s, located not far away from the pier. This is a very popular café in Mumbles and when we visited it was pretty full even if it’s a pretty big place. Try their pasta dishes, and don’t leave without sharing one of their huge ice cream cups.
WHERE TO STAY IN SWANSEA: MORGANS
Swansea is ideal for a short break or a weekend away. During our time in Swansea we were lucky enough to stay at Morgans Hotel, the most luxurious hotel in the city.
This boutique hotel is located at the heart of Swansea, just a few minutes away from both the maritime quarter and the city center and the street with all the bars.
With 42 rooms to choose from, you have an eclectic array of options in terms of room size and amenities. We stayed in one of the Superior Deluxe Rooms, the Benjamin Boyd one. Each room comes with its own unique style, and our room had all the amenities we needed including bathrobes and a tea/coffee machine.
The food at Morgans is also very good. Breakfast is a mix of buffet and made-to-order. There are quite a few options you can choose from like a traditional Welsh breakfast, avocado toast, eggs, and more. On the buffet table, you’ll find juice, yogurt and cereals, fruit, and fresh croissants.
We also had the chance to have lunch at Morgans restaurant one day. We opted for the halloumi burger which was so so good! So if you’re lazy and you just want to stay in, the restaurant is definitely one of the best places in Swansea.
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I hope this post is useful to plan your trip to Swansea. Being so close to London, it’s a great destination for a weekend break!
Many thanks to the Swansea Tourism Office for organizing my weekend in Swansea Bay. Although the activities and accommodation were comped, all opinions are exclusively my own.
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