Caernarfon is a place of contrast; bringing the rich history of a grand medieval castle, tactile stone town walls, cobbled lanes and ancient port to the modern, living Welsh town complete with great shopping, proper pubs and its fair share of adrenaline activities to boot.
This is a beautiful market town which is bursting with culture; a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the remains of a Roman fort, quirky eateries and, of course, the Welsh language. In fact, Caernarfon is proudly home to one of the highest percentages of Welsh speakers in the country!
And we can’t talk about bustling Caernarfon without mentioning its superb setting – perched on the North Wales Coast with beautiful views of the Menai Straits, encompassed by the dramatic mountains of Snowdonia and dominated by a majestic castle. It’s pretty spectacular, to say the least!
Today, Caernarfon remains a fantastic location for history-buffs, culture lovers and adventurous families alike – let’s dive a little deeper and discover all it has to offer.
Things to do
1. Caernarfon Castle
It’s arguably the most famous of all Welsh castles (and we’ve got many), and for good reason, too! There’s no denying the incredible scale and imposing presence of Edward I’s Roman-inspired Caernarfon Castle.
This magnificent fortress, along with its robust town walls, was ordered by Edward back in 1283 to, basically, show the Welsh who was boss. And, he really did mean business – along with castles at Harlech and Conwy, his ‘iron ring’ cost a mighty 90% of the national English income.
It might seem like an obvious choice, but you absolutely can’t miss a trip to Caernarfon Castle. While you’ll see it whether you like it or not (it’s pretty hard to miss), it’s worth actually heading inside and having a proper explore of the impressive towers, battlements and insightful Royal Welsh Fusiliers Museum.
2. Segontium Roman Fort
Many people assume Caernarfon’s roots lie in its famous castle, but in reality, the town’s history stretches far further back than Medieval times. A few minutes outside of the town centre is Segontium, the remains of the largest excavated Roman fort in Wales.
This jaw-dropping Roman military and administrative centre survived until the fourth century. Now in the safe hands of the National Trust, a visit to the remains and on-site museum are an absolute must – if you’re lucky, you’ll be in town on the day of one of their amazing Roman reenactments.
3. Beacon Climbing Centre
You might feel that you’ve had your fair share of adventure sports for the trip after go-karting, but this is North Wales – there’s always more adrenaline activities coming your way! Beacon Climbing Centre is the largest indoor climbing centre in the area and is a great way to spend a rainy Caernarfon afternoon.
If you’re new to climbing, we’d recommend booking onto CrazyClimb – a fun and chilled-out introduction to climbing for the whole family.
4. Menai Strait Pleasure Cruises
Visiting between May and October? Don’t miss out on a trip across the beautiful Menai Strait. This family-run business (currently on the 6th generation of ship pilots) offer 40-minute boat trips on the legendary ‘Queen of the Sea’, complete with full commentary and stunning views across the Snowdonia mountain range.
Where to eat
Tuscan food in North Wales? Why not! Osteria has taken Caernarfon by storm since it opened its doors just a few years ago, offering a taste of traditional Tuscany, nestled within the 13th-century town walls. The prices are reasonable, the food authentic and the staff always smiling – a great place for a laid-back evening meal.
2. Y Gegin Fach
We are in North Wales, so as well as indulging in some delicious Italian, it’d make sense to try out the local cuisine as well! Y Gegin Fach, which translates to ‘The Little Kitchen’ is definitely the place to do so. Here, you’ll find the classic Welsh rarebit, faggots and, of course, Welsh cakes, paired with the most charming atmosphere.
3. Black Boy Inn
For another taste of Wales, you have to head to the Black Boy Inn, which was awarded the ‘Welshest Restaurant and Pub in the World’ back in 2016 (yes, really!). This place dates way back to the 16th-century and is what we’d call a ‘proper’ pub – open fires, oak beams, Welsh charm, real ales and hearty dishes.
Where to shop
1. Inigo Jones Slate Works
Dating back to 1861, this historic Slate Works originally produced school writing slates. Today, however, they offer an amazing selection of domestic, craft and gift items made from 500-year-old Welsh slate. This is a great place for a wander and souvenir shopping – plus, you can even take a self-guided tour and engrave a piece of slate to take home!
2. Ty Siocled
Visitors with a sweet tooth should put this gorgeous, artisan chocolate shop is on their must-visit list! Creating seasonal sweet treats – from Valentine’s Day choccie boxes to Christmas stocking fillers – and delicious pastries and cookies, you’ll be spoilt for choice. Find it in the shadow of the castle on Palace Street.
3. Craft Cymru
Take home a memento of your visit to North Wales at this Welsh craft and souvenir shop. Inside you’ll find all sorts of gifts, ranging from handmade textiles to biscuits and even books, all produced or manufactured in Wales, naturally! This is one of five Craft Cymru stores in North Wales; you’ll find other outlets in Porthmadog, Betws-y-Coed, Conwy and Bala too.
There are few places in North Wales with a prouder heritage and richer history than Caernarfon. Whether you fancy trying out your fledgling Welsh or just want to learn more about our nation’s history, this is a great place to start and you will be warmly welcomed by locals who are keen to share their majestic hometown.
If we had to pick a place in North Wales with a truly authentic Welsh vibe, it’d probably be here! Located less than half an hour from the Royal Victoria Hotel, why not visit Caernarfon during your next stay with us?