14 Top-Rated Things to Do in Aberystwyth, Wales

Written by Anietra Hamper
Oct 11, 2022

The seaside town of Aberystwyth has a mix of historic relics, stunning beaches, and a Victorian flare that makes vacationers feel as welcome as it did in the 19th century. It is easy to get lost in the town's winding streets, lined with shops and cafés that have kept their classic beauty with historic architecture and character.

Aberystwyth, Wales
Aberystwyth, Wales | Photo Copyright: Ian Henderson

One of the top things to do in Aberystwyth is take the Aberystwyth Cliff Railway to the top of the towering cliffs that surround the town to see hundreds of miles into the distance, soaking in the views the same way visitors did in the late 1800s. Aberystwyth is the largest town in Ceredigion, with an important history, as evidenced by the relics left behind from the Aberystwyth Castle.

Aberystwyth is an easy town to park and walk to most of the shops and attractions, and with two main rail lines, you can easily plan a scenic day trip away from the city. As you begin to plan your trip, see our list of the top things to do in Aberystwyth.

1. Take a Trip on the Vale of Rheidol Railway

Vale of Rheidol Railway
Vale of Rheidol Railway | David Hughes / Shutterstock.com

One of the best things to do in Aberystwyth is go for a scenic ride on board the Vale of Rheidol Railway through the Rheidol Valley. The curvy tracks lead you through the rugged mountains, farm fields, and hillsides as you climb 200 meters (700 feet) to Devil's Bridge.

Devil's Bridge is home to one of the best waterfalls in Wales, with a lot to see and do, like hiking the waterfall loop and seeing the three bridges that gave the area its name. There are small eateries and ice-cream shops close to the falls to enjoy before your return back to Aberystwyth.

Vale of Rheidol Railway sign
Vale of Rheidol Railway sign | Photo Copyright: Anietra Hamper

The Vale of Rheidol Railway was built in 1902 through the heart of the Rheidol Valley by Sir James Szlumper to serve as a tourist attraction, but also to give people in the remote valley access to Aberystwyth.

Over time, the railway was used in the mining trade to transport items like minerals and timber into Aberystwyth. The railway has now returned to serve visitors once again as an educational way to learn about the town and history of the surrounding area.

You can catch one of several departures a day, but in the busy summer season, you will want to book tickets in advance.

Address: Park Ave, Aberystwyth SY23 1PG, Wales

Official site: https://www.rheidolrailway.co.uk

2. Ride a Funicular Railway to See a Vintage Camera Obscura

Aberystwyth Cliff Railway
Aberystwyth Cliff Railway | Photo Copyright: Ian Henderson

A vertical 430-foot trip up the cliffside to Constitution Hill on the Aberystwyth Cliff Railway is a memory in the making that takes you to one of the best spots for views of the entire area. This is known as a Funicular Railway, using a counterbalance system to transport the cars up and down the side of the cliff.

The cliff railway opened in 1896 as an entertainment option for people on holiday. Visitors in the 19th century ventured up to Luna Park on the peak of the cliff to enjoy the bandstand, ballroom, and a tearoom.

Also at the top is the largest Camera Obscura in the world. Its 14-inch lens and 1,000-square-mile view is exciting to experience, especially for kids. The original Camera Obscura disappeared in the 1920s, when visitors lost interest, but the replica is just as impressive.

Stay to enjoy the views and the café at the top. When you are ready to head back down, no problem – the cars switch from top to bottom every 10 minutes.

The cliff railway is open seven days a week from April to October and weekends other times of the year.

Official site: https://www.aberystwythcliffrailway.co.uk/things-to-do

3. Crawl through the Ruins at Aberystwyth Castle

Aberystwyth Castle
Aberystwyth Castle | Photo Copyright: Ian Henderson

When it comes to exploring castle ruins Aberystwyth Castle is a gem. This is a fantastic, free place to visit for the day and take the kids to crawl around 13th-century ruins. This is a unique experience from other castles that you might visit because you can walk on the rugged castle remnants versus only viewing from around it.

Aberystwyth Castle was considered one of the best and most famous castles in Wales in part because it was one of the first of a series built under King Edward I. The construction for the defense system that it provided was considered cutting edge in the 13th century with features like walls within walls. Though very little of it is left to see you can still get up close to examine the construction details of this once revered fortress in Aberystwyth.

Surrounding the castle is greenspace on the hill. Take advantage of the high vantage point to sit on the benches overlooking the ocean, peer through the public telescopes, or get fish n' chips to go and enjoy a seaside picnic.

Address: Aberystwyth, SY23 2AU

4. Visit Bwlch Nant yr Arian Forest Visitor Centre

Bwlch Nant yr Arian Forest Visitor Centre
Bwlch Nant yr Arian Forest Visitor Centre | Photo Copyright: Anietra Hamper

The Bwlch Nant yr Arian Forest Visitor Centre is not your average tourist visitor center. In fact, it's worthy of a destination stop on its own. There are quite a few things to do around the center, and it is a great place to start your trip by picking up tips and information for the rest of your stay.

The visitor center separates the boundary between lowlands and uplands with equally beautiful views of Cardigan Bay and the Cambrian Mountains.

The center is well known for its red kites on some of the trails and the daily feedings, which are a popular time to visit. You will find signs along the trails and designated viewing areas with information about the habits and habitats of these magnificent birds.

This is a family-friendly stop with many things to do. Walk on some of the trails in the park, including the kite discovery trail, animal discovery trail, and Elenydd stories discovery trail. There is a skills park, playground, and an animal puzzle trail for children.

Walk by the lake, enjoy lunch at the café or enjoy an afternoon of mountain biking or horseback riding.

Address: Ponterwyd, Aberystwyth SY23 3AB

Official site: https://naturalresources.wales/bwlchnantyrarian?lang=en

5. Become a Miner for the Day at the Silver Mountain Experience

Silver Mountain Experience
Silver Mountain Experience | Photo Copyright: Anietra Hamper

Just a 10-minute drive from Aberystwyth is another great family outing at the Silver Mountain Experience that gives insight into the silver mining industry that was prevalent in the region from the 1800s through the early 1970s.

Get a first-hand experience of what life was like more than 250 years ago for miners at the Silver-Lead Mine in the Cambrian Mountains. Learn about the Welsh mining heritage, the life of miners, and the difficult working conditions as you experience the underground tunnels that have been carefully restored. The site also has original buildings that were used when the mine was in operation, and artifacts and photographs in a museum.

Also fun for young children are the performance experiences that showcase Welsh myths and folklore. These positive and engaging experiences let kids follow clues to find a friendly dragon while enjoying a story and performance.

Address: Llywernog, Ponterwyd, Aberystwyth SY23 3AB

Official site: https://www.silvermountainexperience.co.uk

6. Immerse Yourself in the Magic of Life Butterfly House

Magic of Life Butterfly House
Magic of Life Butterfly House | Photo Copyright: Anietra Hamper

The Rheidol Valley surrounding Aberystwyth is teeming with ways to get up close to nature, including the Magic of Life Butterfly House, where the colorful winged insects fly freely around you.

Take the walkway back to the small butterfly house, where you can enjoy seeing butterflies of all sizes along with other plants and insects.

Outside the butterfly house, you can walk through the native butterfly garden and learn about butterfly-attracting plants. If you are driving, you can even buy a few to take home from the greenhouse.

After your visit, enjoy a nice walk along the nearby Cwm Rheidol Reservoir, or bring a picnic lunch and enjoy it under one of the large shade trees on the property.

Official site: https://www.magicoflife.org

7. Explore Welsh History at the Amgueddfa Ceredigion Museum

Amgueddfa Ceredigion Museum
Amgueddfa Ceredigion Museum | Photo Copyright: Ian Henderson

If you begin your Aberystwyth visit in the heart of town, it makes sense to start your day at the Amgueddfa Ceredigion Museum, which is free to visit. The museum features displays that offer a nice snapshot into the heritage and history of Ceredigion, from its culture and arts to traditions.

Inside you will find collections of Welsh regalia, artwork, and artifacts collected from the region throughout its existence.

The museum is housed in a renovated Edwardian theater, which is also a storefront to buy unique Welsh gifts. The museum serves as a tourist information center and a public space for events like music concerts.

Address: Coliseum, Terrace Road, Aberystwyth, Ceredigion, SY23 2AQ

Official site: https://ceredigionmuseum.wales

8. Browse the Books at the National Library of Wales

National Library of Wales
National Library of Wales | Photo Copyright: Anietra Hamper

It is evident from the position of the National Library of Wales, sitting high on the hillside, that it is something special. The grand building is the biggest library in Wales and holds some of the most important official documents and government archives. With more than 6.5 million books on its shelves, you can plan to spend a lot of time inside.

True bibliophiles might even take the time to search for the smallest book in the world, which is housed in the National Library.

The library is a treasure trove of historic books, Welsh manuscripts, historical maps, prints, and portraits. It is also the repository for the National Screen and Sound Archive of Wales.

While it is a great building for visitors, the National Library is one of the largest research libraries in the UK. This grand building is the backdrop for events like film exhibitions throughout the year and is a nice addition to the itinerary.

Address: Penglais Rd, Aberystwyth SY23 3BU

Official site: https://www.library.wales

9. Take a Stroll along the Seafront Promenade

Aberystwyth Promenade
Aberystwyth Promenade | Photo Copyright: Ian Henderson

You are likely to end up on the busy Aberystwyth Promenade whether you plan to or not. The excitement and energy along the mile-long waterfront walkway is where a lot of social activity takes place. Go out for a morning run or a sunset stroll or just sit and watch the activity from a sidewalk café or pop-up food stand.

The centerpiece of the Victorian promenade is the grand bandstand, where free public activities are held, with things like music and Welsh folk dancing. There is even a small sandcastle building pit for children along the promenade.

Make your way to the Royal Pier, which is the oldest pier in Wales, built in 1864, with great views of the town and an old Victorian charm.

10. Spend a Day at the Beach

Beach in Aberystwyth
Beach in Aberystwyth | Photo Copyright: Anietra Hamper

There are several beaches to check out in Aberystwyth for a dedicated day by the water or for mixing in some relaxation between other activities. The water around Aberystwyth is great for swimming, stand up paddleboarding, and relaxing in the sand.

The North Beach is probably the most popular because it is so easily accessible from the promenade. If you park yourself on the dark sand pebbles just in front of the bandstand, you will be in the center of the action and might even be able to watch lifeguard drills taking place.

South Beach is set away from the promenade and therefore a little quieter. It's a nice beach for swimming and sitting by the water if you want to be away from the crowds. You can sometimes also spot dolphins in this area, which is always a bonus to a beach day.

11. See a Performance at the Aberystwyth Arts Centre

Aberystwyth Arts Centre
Aberystwyth Arts Centre | Photo Copyright: Anietra Hamper

The Aberystwyth Arts Centre is a large central performing arts center for drama, music, and film. It is the largest performing arts center in Wales, so if you are an arts patron, you will want to experience this award-winning venue.

As a hub for the arts, it is the backdrop for important events in Wales like the storytelling festival. The large plaza outside the arts center is a great gathering place for students and patrons. If you arrive early to your show, take a walk around the paved pathways of the campus. You can grab a bite to eat at the center's café.

Address: Aberystwyth University, Penglais Campus, Aberystwyth SY23 3DE

Official site: https://www.aberystwythartscentre.co.uk

12. Hafod Uchtryd (Hafod Estate)

Waterfall at Hafod Uchtryd
Waterfall at Hafod Uchtryd

Anyone interested in gardens and historic estates will want to plan a half or full day at Hafod Uchtryd. The 18th-century estate is located about 12 miles outside of Aberystwyth. It represents iconic European landscapes with views into the countryside and of sheep grazing in the fields, lush forests, and steep gorges.

It is also the location of the Hafod Uchtryd waterfalls, which are a must-see on the property and some of the best waterfalls in Wales. Trails around the estate immerse you in the natural beauty at the base of the Cambrian Mountains. Enjoy the gardens, historic buildings, and monuments at your own pace.

The biodiversity of the area makes it possible to see wildlife that call the estate home, like buzzards and otters. In the mid 1700 to 1800s, Thomas Johnes, who owned the property, was known for experimenting with methods of gardening and farming that make the gardens of the estate such a treasure in Wales.

Address: Pont-rhyd-y-groes, Cwmystwyth, Ystrad Meurig SY25 6DX, United Kingdom

13. Play a Round of Golf at the Aberystwyth Golf Club

Aberystwyth Golf Club
Aberystwyth Golf Club | Photo Copyright: Ian Henderson

Anyone looking for unique golf opportunities in Wales should take in a round at the Aberystwyth Golf Club, which plays out along the rolling hills of the town. The course was designed in the early 1900s by renowned golf champion Harry Vardon.

The 18-hole golf course overlooks Cardigan Bay, so you will have stunning views of the Welsh coastline as you play your round. It will be difficult to stay focused on the ball with the Snowdonia Mountains off in the distance and wildlife like bottlenose dolphins in the bay or red kites flying overhead.

The course is challenging for all levels of golfers, and the club welcomes both members and visitors. Golf carts are available to rent. The course is popular, so book ahead if you want a spot while on vacation.

Official site: https://www.aberystwythgolfclub.com

14. Walk up Pen Dinas Hill

Author, Anietra Hamper, climbing Pen Dinas Hill
Author, Anietra Hamper, climbing Pen Dinas Hill | Photo Copyright: Ian Henderson

One of the most significant local landmarks in Aberystwyth, Pen Dinas Hill is also one suited for those looking for a little exercise. A 15- to 20-minute walk up a moderately steep hill will get you to the base of the hill fort and monument. Your reward is a spectacular viewpoint over the ocean and hilly landscape, where you can see cows grazing in farm fields, Aberystwyth Castle, the harbor, and the town.

The monument was built in 1852 in memory of the first Duke of Wellington. You can access footpaths to the monument from several locations, so you can either drive and park near a path or take one from the harbor, which will add distance to your walk.

Address: Hillfort, Pen Dinas, Penparcau, Aberystwyth

Map of Things to Do in Aberystwyth, Wales