Strategically important to the Romans and the medieval English king, Edward I, Caernarfon is steeped in history and a must-see if you’re planning to visit Snowdonia. Here’s our guide to things to do in Caernarfon.
There are many excellent things to see and do around Caernarfon; here are ten of our favourites.
1. Caernarfon Castle and the Royal Welch Fusiliers Museum
It may seem like the obvious place to start, but you can’t really visit Caernarfon without seeing the castle. Well, not that you’ll have much choice; its imposing structure is hard to miss, so you’ll see it whether you want to or not! It’s worth paying to go inside though; as well as having an opportunity to explore the castle’s towers and battlements, you’ll also be able to visit the Royal Welch Fusiliers Museum, housed inside the Queen’s Tower and Chamberlain Tower.
2. Maritime Museum
The little Maritime Museum on Caernarfon’s Victoria Dock was once the town’s mortuary, oddly enough. The building is small and unimposing; blink and you might miss it. But inside, there are plenty of interesting things to see, including exhibitions about the Menai Strait ferries, Caernarfon’s maritime history and the story of Ellen Edwards, who ran a maritime school in the town in the 19th century.
The Roman fort Segontium was so big, Caernarfon Castle would fit quite comfortably inside it. Segontium was built in 77AD, when the Romans, led by Agricola, conquered the Ordovices. There’s a visitor centre and museum on-site, as well as the remains of the fort, and as admission is free it’s a great place to visit if you’re going to be in the Caernarfon area on a tight budget.
4. Caernarfon Town Walls
Unlike at Conwy, you can’t climb the towers of Caernarfon’s town walls for an overhead walk around the town. But you can still walk around the walls at ground level, and enjoy the medieval architecture. For some of the best views of the town walls and the castle – and for some of the best photographic opportunities – cross the bridge to the opposite bank of the Seiont. The view of the castle from this position is fantastic.
Galeri Caernarfon is the cultural hub of the town, hosting a fantastic mix of musical, film and theatrical events as well as art exhibitions and workshops. There’s an excellent coffee shop on the ground floor, leading out to a dockside seating area where you can enjoy great views of Caernarfon marina and the Menai Strait while you drink your coffee.
6. Redline Karting
Redline Karting is one of those fantastic attractions you can enjoy all year round, whatever the weather – because it’s indoors. There are a number of driving options, including arrive and drive and grand prix, and there’s a cafe where you can refuel between races.
7. Menai Strait Pleasure Cruises
From May to October – and sometimes at Easter, weather permitting – you can get a really unique view of Caernarfon and the surrounding areas by taking a cruise on Queen of the Sea, a pleasure cruiser operated by Menai Strait Pleasure Cruises. The 40-minute trips run from the harbour, and from Victoria Dock at low water, and there are also occasional evening trips and 2-hour cruises.
8. Welsh Highland Railway
A trip on the Welsh Highland Railway is one of the best ways to see the countryside around Caernarfon. Starting a stone’s throw from Caernarfon Castle, the trains wind their way around tight bends, up steep gradients and through some of Snowdonia’s most spectacular scenery. The first trains on the newly extended route to Porthmadog run from 19th February 2011.
9. Yr Hwylfan/The Fun Centre
From the outside, Yr Hwylfan (the Fun Centre) looks like any other church. Step inside and you (well your children, anyway) will get a lovely surprise… the 14,000 square feet of space is packed with giant slides, climbing frames, ball pools and more to keep your youngsters entertained for hours. There’s a gentler play area for toddlers, and a fully licensed restaurant for the adults – so the whole family will be happy.
There are a few high street names on Caernarfon’s main shopping street, but it’s in Caernarfon’s narrow medieval backstreets that you’ll find Caernarfon’s real shopping gems. Caernarfon has a wonderful selection of charming little independent shops selling local arts and crafts, local food and drink, Welsh language books and music, and beautiful (and unusual) gifts to take home with you. Even if you’re not in the mood for buying, browsing Caernarfon’s backstreet shops is a great way to discover the town’s lovely little nooks and crannies, and an excellent excuse for exploring this delightful and historic town.