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

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

St Davids Pembrokeshire is one of the most interesting historical places to visit in West Wales and has an extraordinary claim to fame – it is the United Kingdom’s smallest city, which, by default, also makes it the smallest city in Wales.

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 city’s role in the history of Christianity throughout the centuries.

Even though the city is small, the great tourist attractions in St. Davids make it the perfect place to explore in Wales.

From the Welsh National Museum, the Bishops Palace, and independent shops that line its cobbled streets to local Welsh beaches and stunning walks along Pembrokeshire’s coast path, St Davids has plenty of attractions that will please all visitors.

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

Best Things to Do in St Davids

#1 Learn about the area at Oriel Y Parc

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 and recommendations for places to visit and where to stay. The Pilgrims Cafe at Oriel Y Parc is an excellent place to grab a coffee and a slice of homemade cake.

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

If you feel energetic and want to explore the countryside, the 20-km circular walk on St David’s Pembrokeshire Peninsula starts behind Oriel Y Parc.

Another fabulous walk from St Davids is to the beautiful fishing village of Solva.

fishing boats on sand in Solva.

#2 Explore St. Davids High Street

The steep and narrow high street is a great place to wander. It has antique shops, local delicatessens, boutiques, galleries, coffee shops, and ice-cream parlours.

Chocolate lovers will want to visit Chapel Chocolates, which sells handmade Welsh chocolates in various flavours. If you are a gelato fan, join the queue outside Gianni’s Ice Cream Shop for some mouthwatering flavours. There’s even 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.

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 Priory, a ten-minute walk from the historic Cathedral and located in the world-renowned Pembrokeshire Coast National Park. The Grove Hotel by the Oriel Y Parc might be a better choice if you want to stay close to the high street.

Visitors can find parking at three locations in the city. Oriel Y Parc, Quickwell Hill and Merrivale. Check out paying fees for parking.

#3 Step inside the medieval St. Davids Cathedral

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 1 March 589 AD, which is now celebrated yearly in Wales as St David’s Day. St David’s symbol, the leek, is now the national symbol of Wales.

St. Davids 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 delight to visit.

The cathedral library houses some of the oldest books on Welsh history and 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 the shrine were once considered equal to one pilgrimage to Rome, and three trips were equivalent to a pilgrimage to Jerusalem!

After looking around the Cathedral, head to The Refectory at St David’s and enjoy a spot of tea and a piece of Welsh Cake or Bara Brith.

St Davids stone Cathedral in Pembrokeshire.
Ornate Interior of St Davids Cathedral with patterned red and yellow ceiling.
High Altar in St Davids Cathedral with angel statues and a tomb with figure on the top of it.

#4 The Bishops Palace

Ruins of the magnificent medieval Bishops Palace stand beside the medieval 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 transformed 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.

Ancient and crumbling ruins of the Bishops Palace in St Davids Wales.

#5 See the unique flint cottages

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

#6 Visit the site of St Non’s Chapel and Well

Pembrokeshire is full of ancient myths and legends. A 20-minute walk from the city centre will take you to the ruins of St. Non’s Chapel, which is 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 to 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, this is one of several healing holy wells in Wales that have been used throughout the centuries.

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

A car park is 100 metres from the chapel.

St Non Chapel in St Davids.
Interior of St Nons Chapel with small altar and statue of Mary and Child.

#7 Hike around Porth Clais Harbour

Head to Porth Clais Harbour and take in the stunning views as you hike the circular route around the Treginnis Peninsula. This is one of many beautiful coastal walks in the UK.

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

Rows of fishing boats tethered in the harbour of Porth Clais.

#8 Surf, swim or relax on a Pembrokeshire beach

Caerfai is a beautiful beach and a 20-minute walk from the city centre. A car park is available if you are driving.

Whitesands is a 5-minute drive away and with easy parking. This local surf beach has a great beach cafe where you can grab refreshments before going in the water.

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 David’s; however, if you are holidaying in Wales for longer, you will soon discover even more beautiful beaches in Pembrokeshire to explore.

people walking along the beach on an overcast day.

#9 Cruise along on a boat trip from St Davids

To experience the best outdoor activities near St Davids, you must head out on the water for a marine adventure to Ramsey Island, an RSPB Reserve or Skomer Island.

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

The islands are a haven for shearwaters and puffins, which you can see from the comfort of your boat. Remember to watch 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 RNLI Lifeboat Station, which has been rescuing seafarers since 1867.

#10 Discover great water activities in St Davids

It goes without saying that with all the amazing open spaces and coastal areas around St Davids, there will be many opportunities to experience some of Pembrokeshire’s best outdoor activities.

From kayaking and coasteering to surfing and climbing, the team at TYF in St. Davids Wales can find an activity you will love to try.

Please Pin for Future Travel to Wales

HEADING TO WALES IN THE FUTURE? PLEASE CHECK OUT MY TRAVEL GUIDES ↓

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Things To Do in The Brecon Beacons On A Short Break + (maps and driving times)

How to See Puffins in Wales on Skomer Island, Pembrokeshire

8 Interesting Things to Do in Laugharne Wales (plus Dylan Thomas’ Boathouse)

12 Great Reasons to Visit Solva, Wales

How To Visit Bosherston Lily Ponds And Walk To The Beach

Do you need to arrange travel insurance, car hire or accommodation? Please check out my resources page to help you plan your trip.

Chris

Thursday 13th of July 2023

Visiting St Davids shortly and found your article very useful. I hope the real thing is as good as your description.

WhereAngieWanders

Saturday 15th of July 2023

It is a small, compact and beautiful place to visit and I am sure you will love its historic value and quaintness.

Francia Henriquez Benson

Wednesday 22nd of December 2021

It seems that this place has it all: exquisite architecture, ocean, history, wildlife, outdoor activities, a National Park, boating...I am in love with it already. I am definitely showing this post to my husband. I am trying to convince him to travel more and he does like history and architecture. Your post is well-crafted. It does have good information and goes to the point.

WhereAngieWanders

Thursday 23rd of December 2021

Hi Francia. I'm so glad you enjoyed my post and that it highlighted the beautiful city of St David's. I would definitely recommend a trip to Wales in the Uk for a wonderful holiday.

Agnes

Tuesday 21st of December 2021

I had no idea that St Davids is the smallest city in the UK but I would love to visit it, as it so charming! The scenery looks fantastic. What's more, St Davids Cathedral is so impressive and important, as is among Britain’s most ancient cathedrals. It's so a photogenic and mysterious place. I would also love to see the ruins of the Bishops Palace and Flint Cottages. It's a very inspiring article!

WhereAngieWanders

Wednesday 22nd of December 2021

I am so pleased you enjoyed reading about St Davids and that you found it an inspiring read.

Trisha Velarmino

Tuesday 21st of December 2021

Wow, that St. David's Cathedral is something! It's as if it's speaking and telling the viewers to look at it and come inside. The interior is equally stunning!

Natascha

Monday 20th of December 2021

I visited St Davids years ago while walking the Pembrokeshire Coastal Path and have very fond memories of the place. I loved the historical sites and we also did an evening boat tour to see the shearwater birds. I also remember a car stopping and the driver asked where St Davids is. They had just driven straight throught it!