Formerly called the ‘Museum of Welsh Life’, the St Fagans Museum in Cardiff, Wales is a great open air museum showing the historical lifestyle, culture and architecture of the Welsh people. And it’s an active one, so you can really imagine you’re back in the days walking among more than 40 re-erected buildings from various locations in Wales.
Another great feature of the museum, is that it is set in the grounds of St Fagans Castle, a 16th-century Elizabethan manor house. Let us show you what this unique place has to offer you (even in Winter!).
Discovering Slow Life at St Fagans Museum of Wales in Cardiff
About St Fagans Museum
The St Fagans Museum Cardiff is no ordinary museum. Founded in 1946, following the donation of the castle and lands by the Earl of Plymouth, it opened its doors to the public in 1948. The museum was modelled on Skansen, the outdoor museum of Swedish architecture in Stockholm. But while in Sweden it was easy to move some structures over to the museum (as they were all made of wood), in Wales it proved a bit more of a challenge, as most building here were made of stone.
Besides various buildings (from a schoolhouse to a chapel, some shops and even a mill), during the year you can see traditional crafts from up close. Throughout the year, St Fagans also comes to life with traditional festivals, music and dance events.
Visiting the Open Air Museum
Because St Fagans is a working museum, everywhere in the houses you can see people at work and ask them questions. As we visited in low season in December, there were only a few people around, but I can imagine that in the high season this place really comes to life. You can watch the blacksmith, potter, farmer, baker, weaver, miller and clog maker show you their skills.
Let’s have a closer look at some of the buildings on site:
Pen Rhiw Unitarian chapel (1777, rebuilt in 1956)
Southgate tollhouse (1772, rebuilt in 1968)
Rural Life in Wales
Native breeds of livestock can be seen in the fields and farmyards, and demonstrations of farming tasks take place daily. Most of the produce from the workers is usually on sale as well.
Below, you can see the Kennixton 17th Century Farmhouse. The original pigment that creates the red colour of the walls included ox blood and lime and may have been intended as a kind of charm again witches, although it could also be red to show that the family was rich enough to afford this type of pigment. Interesting!
Let’s Go Shopping Like It’s 1880!
The Gwalia Stores were built in 1880. They were a family business, run by William Llewellyn and his family. By 1916 the departments included a bakery, ironmongery, grocery, men’s outfitters, pharmacy and animal feeds. It closed for business in 1973, but was re-erected at St. Fagans in 1991. You can go inside and even buy souvenirs from the shops!
For the fans, St. Fagans is also the place where scenes from the Doctor Who episodes “Human Nature” and “The Family of Blood” were filmed.
A Growing Museum
While the original museum was meant to only show the Welsh rural life, the museum has evolved a bit and is now also showing several buildings from the industrial era following.
I really enjoyed peeking inside the row of Rhyd-y-Car Ironworkers’ Houses, where you can see the interiors change from 1805–1985.
You can also walk through a post-war prefabricated bungalow where the Vintage goodness jumps right at you.
It was fun to hear my fellow travellers shout out that it looked just like their family homes when they were young. I guess in the Netherlands, we had a bit less pink/purple flowery decors, although the orange and brown kitchen appliances, I definitely recognized!
St Fagans Castle Grounds
The Museum stands in the grounds of the amazing St Fagans Castle and gardens, a late 16th-century manor house donated to the people of Wales by the Earl of Plymouth.
You can find a beautiful Italian Garden (laid out in 1902, restored in 2003) and Thyme garden, as well as fish ponds, fountains, a mulberry grove, vinery and an rosery surrounding the castle.
A medieval castle dating from the 13th century previously existed on the site, but by 1536 it lay in ruins and the site had been sold to a Dr John Gibbon. A new house was built on the site either by Gibbon or by Nicholas Herbert, who bought the site from Gibbon in 1586.
Sir Edward Lewis of The Van bought the house in 1616 and the interior dates partly from then and partly from after 1850, when it became the summer residence of Robert Windsor-Clive, 1st Earl of Plymouth and his family. The house became a hospital for soldiers during World War I, with the banqueting hall containing a ward of 40 beds.
It’s amazing to see all the rooms in their current state, so I would definitely recommend spending some time exploring here too!
Saint Fagans Cardiff is a one of its kind place and I can definitely recommend a visit. Take at least half a day to explore the grounds thoroughly! St Fagans explores all aspects of how people in Wales have lived, worked and spent their leisure time. The Open Air Museum really gives you a great insight into the rich heritage, language and culture of Wales. Don’t miss it when you’re here!
Are you a lover of Open-Air Museums? What part of St Fagans Cardiff would attract your the most?
Opening Hours: St. Fagans Cardiff is opened daily from 10AM to 5PM. Also open on Bank Holiday Mondays.
Entrance Fee: Admission is Free, Hurray!
Disclaimer: Nick and I visited St Fagans on invitation of Visit Wales, as part of the #xmasCardiff campaign. As always, all options are 100% our own.
How to Get There: The St Fagans National History Museum of Wales Cardiff can be found at postal code
CF5 6XB. You can get there by car (£3.50 per car, per day). There is also a bus (number 32, 32A and 320) connecting from the city center (Stand C5) with the museum. It takes about half an hour is only a couple of pounds.
All transport information here: museumwales.ac.uk/stfagans/visit/location
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