Visit the 10 best heritage sites in Swansea for a slice of Welsh history

Wales’ second largest city boasts countless visitor attractions that bring the past to life for today’s budding historian – here are some of our favourites

Swansea Museum

The oldest museum in Wales is home to a huge range of fascinating objects, from Egyptian artefacts to nautical paraphernalia and locally discovered treasures such as a Roman bone comb and a rare 14th century bronze ewer.

Spread across four distinct locations – including Swansea marina, where you can see three of the historic boats in the museum’s vast collection – it houses a number of temporary and ongoing exhibits, including ‘Swansea and the Great War’, a series of stories about the local men who went away to fight, the conscientious objectors who refused to do so, and the women left behind and their contributions to the war effort.

Oystermouth Castle

This Norman stone castle, which sits on a hilltop near Mumbles and looks out over Swansea Bay, dates back to the 12th century and has recently undergone a huge multi-million pound restoration project to stabilise parts of the building that were unsafe.

This means visitors can now visit rooms that have been hidden for hundreds of years, from deep vaults to secret staircases.

Check out the impressive 14th century graffiti art, and marvel at the views from the 30m high glass bridge. The castle is open from late March until the end of September, with exhibitions and events held throughout this period.

Dylan Thomas Centre

The Dylan Thomas Centre is a must-visit destination for those looking to find out more about the life and times of Wales’ most celebrated poet.

It houses a permanent exhibition, ‘Love the Words’, which was opened on 27 October 2014 – what would have been Thomas’ 100th birthday.

Hear lines from selected poems read out by well-known voices such as Prince Charles and Richard Burton, discover more about the poet’s writing techniques using interactive touch-screen displays, and take a look at the notebooks he wrote in as a teenager.

Dylan Thomas House

Number 5 Cwmdonkin Drive, otherwise known as Dylan Thomas House, is the former family home of Wales’ much loved poet, who was actually born in the front room in 1914.

An Edwardian house in Swansea’s Uplands suburb, it was restored by owner Geoff Haden, a chartered structural engineer, who now runs tours of the house – which is decorated in period style – and the local area, taking in a number of Dylan’s old haunts.

If you fancy making it a really special trip, book “Dinner at Dylan’s” – a private dinner party for groups of four to 10 people, including drinks in the lounge, traditional Welsh food and period music.

Swansea Castle

Surrounded by modern builds and 21st century roads, this ancient castle – first built by Henry de Beaumont in 1106 – stands out as a real slice of Welsh history.

Though only a small part of the once vast structure now remains, and can only be viewed from the outside, history and architecture lovers should nonetheless not miss the opportunity to visit.

The south face of the structure, which boasts a tall garderobe tower, bears a resemblance to the Bishop of Saint David’s palaces at Lamphey and St David’s, with its elegant arcades at the wall-head. As well as seeing numerous battles over the centuries, more recently the outer parts of the castle were used as a market, a town hall, a drill hall and a prison.

Hafod-Morfa Copperworks

Did you know that at one point, Swansea produced over half the world’s total output of smelted copper? In 1850 there were 11 major copper works along the banks of the River Tawe, including Hafod-Morfa, which is now open as a visitor attraction and education centre.

Visitors can take a tour of the site via a series of dedicated trails, which will take you past important structures including the chimney base, laboratory building, Hafod lime kiln and works’ office.

Once you’re done exploring, enjoy a packed lunch on one of the new picnic areas, one of which boasts views of the engine houses, while the other allows you to eat among the engine houses and chimneys themselves.

Mumbles Lighthouse

Standing proud on Mumbles Head, this 17m lighthouse has guided ships past the hazardous Mixon Shoal for over 200 years.

It originally used two open coal fires to signal passing vessels, then oil powered lamps, but today these have been replaced with solar powered lanterns.

Though visitors can’t actually venture inside the lighthouse, the site is still worth a visit – the island is accessible by foot at low tide, and the walk is a beautiful one, taking in impressive views of the coast. Don’t forget your camera!

Penllergare Valley Woods

Local horticulturalist, astronomer and pioneering photographer John Dillwyn Llewelyn created this beautiful 100 acre natural spot as part of his private estate in the 1800s.

Now protected as a Grade II listed landscape, it includes a wealth of trees, shrubs and exotic plants, as well as two lakes and a waterfall.

Don’t miss the historic Equatorial Observatory, built in 1851 and registered as a Scheduled Ancient Monument by Cadw, where one of the first pictures of the moon was taken by Llewelyn and his eldest daughter Thereza.

There’s also a terrace garden, picturesque carriage drive and bluebell woods to explore, not to mention 12km of woodland walks.

Gower Heritage Centre

Make sure to set aside plenty of time to visit this popular attraction, based around a working 12th century watermill.

There’s so much to see and do, with old fashioned arcade games, an adventure playground, soft play area, tractor play and an animal farm with chicks, ducks, rabbits, guinea pigs, goats, sheep and horses.

Visit the outdoor museum of antique farming and cultivation and watch a fascinating blacksmith demonstration, try your hand at puppet making, pottery or wooden mill crafts in the craft workshops, or check out La Charrette, Wales’ smallest cinema. The centre hosts a busy calendar of events, so don’t forget to visit the website for details.

Brangwyn Hall

Opened in 1934 by Prince George, Duke of Kent, the construction of the Brangwyn Hall brought much needed employment to the area during the great depression, when work was hard to come by.

Since then it has been altered and extended several times but remains an important part of the city’s civic life, with regular cultural events taking place throughout the year.

It is frequently used by the BBC National Orchestra of Wales and choirs from around the country, and is home to the Brangwyn Panels – or British Empire Panels – painted by renowned artist Sir Frank Brangwyn.