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10 Great Reasons to Visit St Davids – The Smallest City in the UK

St Davids in the county of Pembrokeshire is one of the most interesting places to visit in West Wales and has a great claim to fame – it is the United Kingdom’s smallest city.

St Davids was awarded city status in 1994 as part of Royal commemorations for the Queen’s 40th anniversary of her accession to the throne. The award marked the role the city played in the history of Christianity throughout the centuries.

At the heart of the city is St David’s Cathedral, the resting place of the patron saint of Wales – Saint David. He lived in the area in the 6th century and preached to his dedicated followers until his death on 1st March 589 AD – now celebrated each year in Wales as St David’s Day. St David’s symbol, the leek, is now the national symbol of Wales.

Pembrokeshire is full of ancient myths and legends and has a diverse ecology with the migratory presence of seals, puffins and whales in the coastal areas surrounding St Davids.

Even though the city is small, there are great tourist attractions in St David’s that make it the perfect place to explore. From the Welsh national museum, Bishops Palace, and independent shops that line its cobbled streets to local Welsh beaches and stunning walks along Pembrokeshire’s coast path.

Pembrokeshire coastal path looking out to sea
Pembrokeshire Coastal Path by St David’s City

10 of the best reasons to visit St Davids

Oriel Y Parc #1

At the head of the city is Oriel Y Parc, located in the Pembrokeshire National Park Information Centre. It showcases displays of art and crafts from Welsh national collections alongside the work of local artists.

It can also supply visitors with maps of the local area, recommendations of places to visit and places to stay in St Davids. The Pilgrims Cafe at Oriel Y Parc is a good place to grab a coffee and a slice of homemade cake.

If you are feeling energetic and want to explore the surrounding countryside, St David’s Peninsula 20km circular walk starts behind Oriel Y Parc.

Oriel Y Parc is free to enter and can be found as you approach from Haverfordwest on the A487. 

St Davids High Street #2

The steep and narrow high street in St Davids is a great place to wander. Lined with antique shops, local delicatessens, boutiques, galleries, coffee shops and ice-cream parlours.

Chocolate lovers will want to visit Chapel Chocolates selling handmade welsh chocolates in various flavours. If you are a gelato fan, then join the queue of visitors at Gianni’s Ice Cream Shop for some mouthwatering flavours – anyone for Bakewell Tart ice cream!

When it is time for lunch, The Bishops Pub in the city square or the Gin and Kitchen are great places to eat in St Davids.

St David’s Visitor Centre and Shop is at the heart of the city’s High Street, opposite the iconic medieval cross and sells various authentic Welsh, local products – a reminder of your trip to Wales.

And finally, if you are looking for the best place to stay in St Davids, a good suggestion would be Penrhiw Hotel, a stone’s throw from the historic Cathedral and located in the world-renowned Pembrokeshire Coast National Park. If you would prefer to stay in the high street, then The Grove Hotel by the Oriel Y Parc might be a better choice for you.

Parking in St Davids can be found at three locations in the city. Oriel Y Parc, Quickwell Hill and Merrivale. Payment fees for parking can be found here.

St Davids Cathedral #3

St. David’s Cathedral is among Britain’s most ancient cathedrals. Its splendour and size seem almost out of place in such a small city, but it is a true delight to visit.

The cathedral library houses some of the oldest books on Welsh history and the the city of St. Davids.

Constructed in the 12th-century on the site of a 6th-century monastery, it is the final resting place of Saint David, the patron saint of Wales. Two visits to St David’s shrine was once considered equal to one pilgrimage to Rome, and three visits equivalent to a pilgrimage to Jerusalem!

After looking around the cathedral head to the The Refectory at St Davids and enjoy a spot of tea and a piece of Welsh Cake or Bara Brith.

The Bishops Palace #4

Ruins of the magnificent medieval Bishops Palace stand beside St Davids Cathedral. The palace was the home to Henry de Gower, the Bishop of St Davids, in the 14th century.

Henry de Gower decided that he should have a palace to match the cathedral’s splendour following the announcement by the 12th-century Roman pope of the importance of the shrine of St David.

The bishop went about transforming the previously humble building into the vast structure we can see today, and although parts of the walls are in ruins, it is an enchanting place to visit.

St Davids Flint Cottages #5

As you wander around St Davids, you will notice that the chocolate-box cottages are made from flint. This was a material widely used for building houses and churches in the 16th and 17th centuries, and the evidence can be seen all around the city.

St Non’s Chapel and Well #6

A 20-minute walk from St Davids will take you to St Non’s Chapel ruins – the site said to be where St Non gave birth to St David. The ruins sit above the scenic coastline of St Non’s Bay. The Pembrokeshire coastal path runs along the cliff edge and is a beautiful place for a walk after visiting the chapel.

Legend tells of a water well by the chapel appearing at the moment of David’s birth. Whatever the truth is, this is one of several healing holy wells in Wales used throughout the centuries.

Today you can enter a replica chapel near to the ruins known as the Chapel of Our Lady and St Non.

A car park is 100 metres from the chapel.

Porth Clais Harbour #7

Head to Porth Clais harbour and take in the stunning views as you hike the circular route around the Treginnis Peninsula, just one of many beautiful coastal walks you can enjoy in the UK.

After your walk, enjoy some refreshments at the National Trust’s Porth Clais Kiosk located in a red-brick building by the car park (SA62 6RR) – once the pump room for St David’s gasworks!

Best Beaches in St Davids #8

Caerfai – a beautiful beach within 20 minutes walking distance of St Davids town centre. A car park is available if driving.

Whitesands – a 5-minute drive from St Davids and with easy parking. This is St Davids’ local surf beach and has a great beach cafe.

Porthseleu – a walk along the coastal path from Whitesands, and you will arrive at this small cove – a great place for sunbathing or rock pooling.

These are the three closest beaches to St Davids’ centre; however, if you are holidaying in Wales for longer, you will soon discover there are even more beautiful beaches in Pembrokeshire for you to explore.

Boat Trips from St Davids #9

If you are looking for the best outdoor activities to try near St Davids, you must head out on the water for a marine adventure to Ramsey Island, an RSPB Reserve or Skomer Island. The islands are a haven for shearwaters and puffins, which you will see from the comfort of your boat. Don’t forget to keep an eye out for grey seals and porpoises during the boat trip.

Voyages of Discovery Boat Trips depart from St Justinians, a 10-minute drive from St Davids.

At St Justinians you can also visit the volunteer-run St Davids RNLI Lifeboat Station, they have been rescuing seafarers since 1867.

Best Outdoor Activities in St Davids #10

It goes without saying that with all the amazing open spaces and coastal areas around St Davids, there will be lots of opportunities to experience some of Pembrokeshire’s best outdoor activities. From kayaking and coasteering to surfing and climbing, the team at Dragon Activity Guides in St Davids will be able to find an activity that you will love to try.

If you have enjoyed reading about the smallest city in the UK you will enjoy my post:

The 10 smallest countries in the world

About Author

Angela Price

Angie is a full-time travel writer with over 30 years of travel experience. She has always had a passion for travel, and after a 3-month world trip with her 18-year-old son, she created her popular travel blog to share her adventures with a wider audience. When Angie is at home in the UK, she enjoys exploring the English countryside, visiting castles and gardens and planning her next big adventure. Her motto is "Live Life Wandering not Wondering".

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Nicole Booth
Nicole Booth
4 months ago

St David’s is so underrated I love visiting here.

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