Cardiff Castle is a historic site in the center of Cardiff, Wales that hosts a variety of concerts and live music events throughout the year. With a backdrop of picturesque castle walls and grounds, it provides a unique atmosphere for concerts compared to traditional indoor venues. If you’re considering attending a gig at Cardiff Castle, here’s an overview of what you can expect.
Cardiff Castle dates back to the 11th century, with various sections added over the centuries. The interior castle buildings are not used for concerts. Instead, a temporary concert area is set up on the fields in front of the castle. The stage faces the Norman shell keep and clock tower, with the castle walls wrapped around behind. It creates a dramatic setting unlike any other concert venue.
The temporary concert arena can accommodate around 40,000 people. It’s a vast open air space with some seating in reserved areas, but most of the crowd stands. Giant video screens are placed on either side of the stage so you can see close-ups of the performers wherever you are. The sloped grounds provide decent views, although tall people or flags can sometimes block sight lines.
There are food stalls and bars selling beer, wine and soft drinks. Toilets are located in all corners. It’s less amenities than an indoor arena, but enough to keep you fed and watered during the show. A handful of vendors also sell band merchandise.
Cardiff Castle attracts a wide demographic to its concerts, from teenagers to pensioners. As an outdoor venue, it also draws more families compared to indoor arenas where children may not be permitted. The atmosphere is friendly and lively, especially in the hours before the main act comes on stage. Everyone is excited for the show.
Once the concert starts, be prepared for tens of thousands of people dancing, singing and waving their arms in the air. The ground shakes from the jumping up and down. You often get swept along in the enthusiasm, even if you’re not familiar with the songs. Singalongs to crowd favorite tracks are especially rousing.
In the reserved seating area, people tend to stay more reserved in their seats. But in general, wear comfy shoes and expect to be standing for long stretches of time. Be ready to have very little personal space.
An outdoor concert always comes with challenges for sound. Don’t expect the same pristine audio you get inside an arena. The sound projected over a large outdoor space can dissipate into the air or echo off the castle walls. However, Cardiff Castle makes efforts to provide decent sound quality.
Avoid standing directly in front of the stacked speakers on the left and right of the stage, as the volume may be overwhelming. The best sound is often found midway back in the standing area, or at the front of the reserved seating section.
The acoustics vary depending on the weather. On still, dry evenings, the sound quality is impressive considering its outdoor location. But on very windy, rainy or humid days, the audio can be muddled and muddy.
Cardiff Castle attracts some of the biggest names in music. Past concerts have included acts like Tom Jones, Stereophonics, Florence + The Machine, Kylie Minogue and Paul Weller. The vintage setting appeals to classic rock bands like Eric Clapton looking for something special.
The castle is also a drawcard for Welsh artists who relish playing on home turf. Local heroes usually elicit the best crowd singalongs when they break out hits familiar to the Welsh audience.
Artists generally need to tweak their normal arena show to suit the different scale and layout. It’s not a huge issue for seasoned performers used to playing a variety of venues. But bands reliant on theatrical staging may scale things back to fit the temporary nature of the concert site.
Transport and Parking
Cardiff Castle is located right in the heart of the city, just north of Cardiff Central train station. There are several other train stations nearby, making it easy to reach by public transport.
Driving and parking is trickier. There is extremely limited parking at the castle itself, reserved for accessibility parking only. Most concert goers park at the civic center parking lot east of the castle, which has over 2000 spaces. The walk from there to the castle takes about 15 minutes.
Allow plenty of time to park and get into the venue. The parking lot fills up quickly and roads around the castle become congested. Patience is key.
Tickets for concerts at Cardiff Castle are on the higher end, but comparable to other big outdoor venues.
Here are sample ticket costs:
- General admission standing: £60-£100
- Reserved seating: £80-£150
- VIP packages: £200+
Tickets usually go on sale 3-6 months in advance. They sell out fast, especially for popular acts. Sign up for pre-sales through the artist or venue mailing lists for the best chance to buy early.
Tickets are sold through Ticketmaster and SeeTickets. You can also find re-sale tickets on Twickets and GetMeIn, although prices are inflated.
Doors typically open 90 minutes to 2 hours before the advertised start time. Use this time to get a drink, find your spot and soak up the atmosphere. There are usually opening acts playing on stage by 30-60 minutes after doors open.
The main performer will hit the stage anywhere between 8:30 pm and 9:30 pm, depending on the number of support acts and their set lengths. Sets by headliners are usually 90 minutes or longer.
Cardiff Castle has an 11:00 pm curfew for concerts, meaning they must finish by then. Shows rarely run much past 10:30 pm, to give enough time for encores and orderly exiting of the crowds.
As an outdoor venue, Cardiff Castle concerts go ahead rain or shine. Pack clothing and footwear suitable for any weather condition.
Here are tips for different weather scenarios:
- Hot: Sunscreen, hat, breathable clothing, water.
- Rain: Poncho, umbrella (small handheld only), waterproof jacket/shoes.
- Cold: Layers, sweater, jacket, beanie.
Umbrellas are permitted if they are not blocking other people’s views. You can also rent plastic seat cushions if the ground is wet.
In extreme weather like electrical storms, concerts may be delayed or cancelled. Check the venue website and social media for any updates before heading down.
There is a security checkpoint as you enter the castle grounds. Guards will search bags and scan tickets.
Leave prohibited items at home, as they will be confiscated. Banned items include:
- Large bags and backpacks
- Glass containers or cans
- Flares, fireworks or smoke bombs
- Professional audio/video recording equipment
- Selfie sticks
- Umbrellas (large or golf-size)
- Tables, chairs, blankets or tents
Flags on flexible flagpoles are permitted, but anything rigid that can obstruct views may be disallowed at the guards discretion.
There is normally very little trouble thanks to the family-oriented audience the castle gigs attract. Security is focused more on crowd management than heavy policing.
There are rows of portable toilets spaced out evenly across the site, as well as disabled access facilities.
Queues build up during peak times like right before the main act or during changeovers. But in general they are kept clean and replenished throughout the night.
There are no dressing rooms for performers at the castle. Artists use temporary backstage areas or ready themselves offsite.
After the Show
Leaving the castle is slow due to the sheer number of people. Patience and politeness are vital. Generally fans are in high spirits after a good show.
The castle grounds empty out via a few designated exits. Follow signs and staff directions to find the most efficient route back to transport connections or parking lots.
Taxis quickly fill up near the venue. You may need to walk 10-15 minutes away to find a cab, so consider pre-booking if possible.
The city center continues buzzing with concertgoers filling up bars and restaurants after gigs finish. Enjoy the celebratory atmosphere before calling it a night.
Concerts at Cardiff Castle offer a completely unique live music experience. The backdrop of historical castle walls illuminated at night is something you won’t find anywhere else, creating an electric atmosphere. Mass singalongs reverberate off the medieval stone walls and towers.
While the temporary facilities have limitations, they are sufficient for one fabulous night of music. Getting in and out requires patience, but is manageable with preparation. And any audio issues are offset by the privilege of seeing world-class performers in such a special setting.
Attending a concert at Cardiff Castle should be on the bucket list of any music lover visiting Wales. The atmosphere and backdrop are impossible to replicate. When your favorite artist plays Cardiff Castle, expect an evening you will never forget.