You’ve decided to take a trip to North Wales, a region of natural beauty in the UK. While the stunning mountains and coastline are obvious attractions, as a visitor you want to experience the area like a local. Forget the tourist traps – the real magic lies off the beaten path. The locals know all the hidden gems, the secret spots that showcase the charm and wonder of North Wales. In this article, we’re sharing some of our favorite under-the-radar things to do that will give you an authentic taste of North Wales life. From historic pubs to scenic hikes, secluded beaches to underground trampolines, get ready to discover the North Wales that we know and love. By the end of your trip, you’ll feel like an honorary Welsh resident. There’s so much more to this place than meets the eye. Let the adventure begin!
Hidden Gems: Things to Do in North Wales That Locals Love
Explore the Picturesque Towns and Villages
Some of the best parts of North Wales are the charming towns and villages. Get off the beaten path and explore some of the area’s hidden gems.
The picturesque village of Betws-y-Coed is a perfect place to start. Surrounded by mountains and waterfalls, it’s filled with outdoor activities. Go for a hike in Gwydyr Forest, take a guided canoe trip down the River Conwy, or just grab a pint at one of the cozy pubs.
Head to Bala and fall in love with its fairytale-like charm. Nestled between mountains and Bala Lake, it’s ideal for watersports, walking, and cycling. Take a boat tour of the lake, then refuel at Plas-yn-Dre, a 17th-century manor house turned cafe.
In Ruthin, wander the historic streets lined with Tudor buildings and pay a visit to Ruthin Castle, a medieval fortress. Be sure to stop by Pwllglas, a popular spot for afternoon tea. Or go a bit further to Denbigh, home to Denbigh Castle, an impressive fortress ruin atop a hill with panoramic views.
The Conwy Valley is filled with little gems like Betws-y-Coed. Llanrwst has riverside walks, an old stone bridge, and the smallest house in Britain. Trefriw offers scenic trails to fairytale waterfalls like Llyn Geirionydd and Llyn Crafnant. Capel Curig, set in the Glyder mountain range, is a hiker’s paradise.
With winding country lanes, historic architecture, mountains and lakes around every turn, North Wales’ towns and villages are well worth exploring. Take a drive and discover the quiet, scenic beauty of this region for yourself.
Hike Snowdonia National Park
If you want to experience the raw, rugged beauty of North Wales, you have to hike Snowdonia National Park. Home to spellbinding mountains, lush forests and stunning coastlines, Snowdonia offers some of the best hiking in the UK.
Start with Mount Snowdon, the highest peak in Wales. There are several trails to the top, from the easy Llanberis Path to the more challenging Snowdon Ranger and Watkin Paths. Once at the summit, you’ll be rewarded with panoramic views of the park.
For a less strenuous hike, check out the Mawddach Trail, a 9-mile track along an estuary that passes quaint villages and seaside towns. Or tackle a section of the Offa’s Dyke Path, an 8th century earthwork that roughly follows the English-Welsh border.
If you prefer coastline vistas, hike the Llŷn Coastal Path with sea cliffs, secluded coves and sweeping beaches. Or take on the Welsh Coast Path, an 870-mile national trail hugging Wales’ entire coast with some of the best sections in Snowdonia.
With over 2,000 miles of trails, Snowdonia offers hikes for all skill levels. Lace up your boots, pack a rain jacket and get out there. The rugged peaks, sheep-dotted meadows and storybook villages will work their magic, leaving you enchanted with the wild soul of North Wales.
Visit Conwy Castle
3. Visit Conwy Castle
A trip to North Wales isn’t complete without exploring one of its magnificent castles. Conwy Castle is one of the finest examples of medieval military architecture in the world. Built in the 13th century, the castle has eight massive towers and two barbicans that were used to protect the entrances. When you visit, there are loads of things you can do:
- Take a guided tour to learn all about the history of the castle. The tours provide insight into what life was like in the medieval era and share stories of important historical figures who lived there.
- Climb to the top of towers to get panoramic views of the sea, mountains and countryside. The views from the Eagle Tower and the Chapel Tower are particularly stunning.
- See the royal chambers where King Edward I stayed during his visits. Some of the original decor and architecture remain intact, transporting you back in time.
- Check out the battering rams, trebuchets and other medieval weaponry on display. Kids will love learning how these massive weapons of war were used to attack enemy fortifications.
- Walk or bike the 1.5 mile long Conwy Castle walls. The walls surround the entire town of Conwy and offer a unique way to see the castle from different vantage points.
Whether you’re interested in medieval architecture, history or just want to experience the grandeur of castle life, Conwy Castle is a must-see when visiting North Wales. The massive stone walls and towers have stood the test of time, giving you a glimpse into an important era in Welsh heritage. Take your time exploring all it has to offer—you’ll come away with an new appreciation for the ingenuity and craftsmanship of the 13th century. Discovering the hidden gems within the walls of Conwy Castle is an adventure you won’t soon forget.
Take a Stroll on Llandudno Pier
Take a Stroll on Llandudno Pier
No trip to North Wales is complete without visiting the iconic Llandudno Pier. At over 700 feet long, it’s the largest pier in Wales and a designated Grade II listed structure. Take a leisurely stroll down the pier to soak in the sea views and relish the fresh salty air.
You’ll find plenty of amusements and attractions along the pier to keep you entertained. Test your skills in the traditional 2p machines, ride the carousel, or try your luck grabbing a prize in the amusement arcade. Stop for fish and chips or an ice cream at one of the food kiosks, then find a bench to do some people watching.
- See if you can spot the colony of kittiwakes nesting under the pier. These small gulls return each year to raise their young.
- Look out for dolphins and seals swimming in the waters below. Gray seals are commonly seen bobbing in the waves or sunbathing on the rocky shore.
When you reach the pier pavilion at the end, climb the steps to the first floor observatory deck for panoramic views of the Great Orme, Conwy Castle and Snowdonia mountains. This is the perfect spot to watch the sunset over the sea.
As night falls, the pier truly comes to life with the dazzling lights sparkling on the water. Stroll back along the illuminated pier, taking in the peaceful atmosphere. Stop for a drink at the pier bar or catch some live music and entertainment on weekend evenings.
A visit to Llandudno Pier offers a nostalgic glimpse into the Victorian seaside holiday, with its old-fashioned charm and family-friendly fun. Take your time exploring everything it has to offer—you’re sure to make many magical memories on this historic pier.
Discover Portmeirion Village
Explore the Picturesque Village
One of the hidden gems of North Wales that locals love is Portmeirion Village. This whimsical tourist village was designed in the style of an Italian village and is set on its own peninsula on Snowdonia’s southern coast. Walking around the village, you’ll discover colorful buildings, gardens, a village square, and a church. It’s a photographer’s dream, with picturesque views around every corner.
Originally built by Sir Clough Williams-Ellis between 1925 and 1975, Portmeirion is now a heritage site and popular tourist attraction. The architecture and decor give off a distinctly Mediterranean feel, even though it’s located in a Welsh coastal forest. This incongruous setting is part of what makes Portmeirion so enchanting.
Explore the Gardens
The village is home to exotic gardens featuring plants from around the world. Stroll through the gardens to see blue Atlas cedars, New Zealand ferns, Chilean wine palms, and more. The gardens contain over 7,000 species of plants and are especially stunning in spring when the rhododendrons and azaleas are in bloom.
Visit the Castle and Other Attractions
While in Portmeirion, you can also tour Castell Deudraeth, a castle that was once owned by the Williams-Ellis family and is now a hotel. Other spots worth checking out are the Church of St. Deiniol, the Town Hall, and the Portmeirion Pottery which produces the famous Portmeirion pottery and homewares.
Where to Stay and Dine
If you fall in love with Portmeirion like many visitors do, consider staying overnight at one of the village’s hotels, like the historic Castell Deudraeth or the Portmeirion Hotel. Dine at one of the onsite restaurants like the Castle Deudraeth Brasserie or Portmeirion Hotel Dining Room. A few nights here will allow you to fully explore this hidden gem and magical place at your leisure.
Portmeirion is a little slice of paradise that offers a perfect escape from everyday life. Discovering this secret village in the Welsh countryside is sure to enchant you and create cherished memories. No trip to North Wales is complete without visiting this hidden gem.
See Puffins on South Stack Cliffs
One of the best ways to experience the natural beauty of North Wales is to see its wildlife in its natural habitat. Puffins are adorable seabirds that nest on the steep sea cliffs of South Stack Cliffs near Holyhead. Every spring and summer, thousands of puffins return to these cliffs to breed and raise their pufflings.
The Best Time to See Puffins
The puffin breeding season runs from April through July. This is when adult puffins return from the sea with fish for their pufflings, so your chances of spotting these charming birds are highest. Head to South Stack Cliffs in May or June for the best views.
Where to Get the Best Views
Two locations provide prime puffin viewing. The first is the South Stack Lighthouse, reached by a long flight of stone steps winding down the cliffs. At the bottom, you’ll find a seabird observatory with telescopes trained on the cliffs. The second spot is Ellin’s Tower, an old military lookout at the top of the cliffs. It provides panoramic views of the Irish Sea and the puffin nesting sites below.
What to Bring
Be sure to pack binoculars or a zoom lens for your camera, as the puffins nest in hard to reach places. Dress for changeable weather and wear sturdy shoes, as the path can be uneven. Bring snacks, water, and rain gear. The cliffs see high winds, so hold onto your hat!
A few tips for responsible wildlife viewing:
•Keep your distance and don’t disturb the nesting puffins.
•Avoid using flash photography which can frighten the birds.
•Dispose of any litter properly to keep the cliffs pristine.
•Follow any signs or instructions from wildlife officials.
Seeing puffins in their cliffside kingdom is a magical experience. By timing your visit right and being respectful observers, you’ll have the chance to witness these whimsical seabirds in their natural element. Discovering hidden gems like South Stack Cliffs is what makes exploring North Wales so rewarding.
Go Star Gazing at Brecon Beacons National Park
Dark Sky Reserve
Brecon Beacons National Park was designated as an International Dark Sky Reserve in 2013, recognizing it as one of the best stargazing destinations in the world. The remote location, minimal light pollution, and natural terrain create ideal conditions for astronomy. On a clear night, you can see up to 2,000 stars, the Milky Way galaxy, and even meteor showers.
Find the Perfect Spot
Head to one of the park’s stargazing hotspots for the best views. Pen y Fan, the highest peak in South Wales, offers 360-degree panoramas. The Storey Arms Visitor Center has telescopes and hosts astro-events. Or set up wherever you find an open field—just be sure to dress warmly, bring a flashlight with a red light to protect your night vision, and pack a camp chair, snacks, and drinks.
Spot Constellations and Planets
You may be able to spot major constellations like Orion the Hunter, Ursa Major (the Big Dipper), and Cassiopeia the Queen. Look for the red tint of Mars, the golden hues of Saturn and its rings, or the blue glow of Uranus. With some luck, you could even catch a glimpse of the elusive Mercury. Download a night sky app to help identify what you’re seeing and enhance your experience.
To capture celestial scenes, use a digital camera with manual mode, a wide-angle lens, and a slow shutter speed (at least 30 seconds). Increase your ISO to at least 800 for decent brightness. A tripod is essential to keep the camera still. Take several shots at different exposures and see which you like best. You can also try stacking multiple long-exposure images using post-processing software for stunning results.
Stargazing at Brecon Beacons National Park is a magical experience, allowing you to reconnect with nature and ponder your place in the universe. Make a night of it, then in the morning explore all the other natural wonders this hidden gem of a destination has to offer. The night skies will leave you in awe, evoking inspiration and igniting your sense of adventure.
Sample Award-Winning Welsh Food at Food Festivals
If you want to sample the best of Welsh cuisine, head to one of the many food festivals held around North Wales each year. These festivals celebrate the region’s abundant locally-sourced produce, artisanal goods, and award-winning fare.
Abergavenny Food Festival
Held each September, the Abergavenny Food Festival is one of the largest food festivals in Wales. You’ll find over 200 stalls featuring everything from Welsh lamb, beef, and seafood to Welsh cakes, cheese, and gin. Don’t miss the chance to catch cooking demos from renowned British chefs. The festival also hosts an annual Welsh Food Awards to recognize the country’s outstanding food and drink.
For a taste of medieval revelry, check out Conwy Feast. This annual festival held within the walls of historic Conwy Castle features cooking demos, food stalls, and entertainment in a recreated medieval village. You can sample homemade mead, purchase regional specialties like Snowdonia cheese and Conwy mussels, or grab lunch from one of the many street food vendors.
Mold Food Festival
If you’re after farm-fresh produce, crafts, and street food, Mold Food Festival in Flintshire is a must. Held on the grounds of Mold’s historic Bailey Hill, the festival showcases the best of Welsh and British cooking with cooking lessons, tasting sessions, live music, and children’s activities. Entry to the festival is free, so you can easily pop by for a quick bite or make a day of it.
Attending one of North Wales’ food festivals is a delicious way to immerse yourself in the region’s food culture. You’ll go home with a taste of Wales you won’t soon forget, as well as inspiration to try cooking some traditional Welsh recipes yourself!
Things to Do in North Wales FAQs: Questions From Visitors Answered
One of the best things about visiting North Wales is experiencing it like a local. While tourist hotspots are great to see, getting off the beaten path often leads to the most memorable moments. Here are some of the hidden gems and frequently asked questions from visitors to help you discover North Wales like an insider.
What are some lesser-known natural attractions?
North Wales is filled with stunning scenery beyond Snowdonia and the Great Orme. Try Coed y Brenin forest park for mountain biking and hiking trails through ancient woodlands. Pistyll Rhaeadr, the tallest waterfall in Wales, is a gorgeous sight in the Berwyn Mountains. For coastal scenery, head to Harlech beach or Barmouth beach—miles of sand and surf with not a tourist in sight.
Where can I find the best local food?
North Wales has a thriving food scene. In Caernarfon, try ZerDôl for artisan ice cream made from locally sourced ingredients. For the freshest seafood, visit The Lobster Pot in Conwy or The White Eagle in Rhoscolyn. Stock up on award-winning cheeses at Llysiau Lleol Farm Shop or Pant Du Cider and Perry. On Anglesey, Halen Môn is the home of flaky sea salt, used by top chefs worldwide. Stop by for a factory tour and shop for niche food products.
What events do locals love?
North Wales hosts many annual events where you can soak in the local culture. Gypsy Wood Park’s Steampunk festival in August features all things retro-futuristic. The Llangollen International Musical Eisteddfod in July showcases music, dance, costumes and traditions from around the world. For outdoor adventures, the Dragon Rally in May is a popular motorcycle festival winding through the Welsh countryside. On summer solstice, druids and pagans gather at Stonehenge-like Bryn Celli Ddu for a sunrise ceremony.
Where can I hear Welsh spoken?
The Welsh language is an important part of local identity. Many North Walians are bilingual, speaking both English and Welsh. Head to Caernarfon, Bangor or Porthmadog where Welsh is commonly heard on the streets and in shops. Stop by a local pub like Y Ffarmers or Y Pengwern on quiz night—many questions and conversations will be in Welsh, giving you a taste of the melodic tones and rhythms of the language in an authentic setting.
You’ve now discovered some of the best-kept secrets in North Wales, straight from the locals themselves. From stunning beaches and scenic hikes to historic castles and underground thrills, this region has so much to offer beyond the typical tourist traps. The next time you visit North Wales, get off the beaten path and immerse yourself in the culture. Try some authentic Welsh fare, chat with friendly locals in a cozy pub, and create memories that will last far beyond any souvenir. While North Wales’ natural beauty and charm may be hidden in plain sight, its welcoming spirit and authentic experiences are something you’ll always remember. Now go enjoy this slice of Welsh paradise for yourself!