St Fagans National Museum: An Open-Air, Living History Museum of Welsh Life
St. Fagans National Museum of History is a living history and open-air museum located outside the city of Cardiff, Wales. According to TripAdvisor, St. Fagans is one of the top ten free attractions in the entire United Kingdom, and in 2011, Which? Magazine named the museum as Favorite Visitor Attraction in the United Kingdom. What draws so many people to St. Fagans? In my opinion, there’s no better way to learn about the past than by going to a living history museum, and St Fagans is one of the best one that I’ve been to (and as a history buff and teacher, I’ve visited many!). At St. Fagans, you interact with historical interpreters, dressed in period costume, in order to experience how the Welsh lived, ate, dressed, worked, behaved, worshiped and played, from Celtic times to the present.
The museum is made up of more than 40 buildings, from throughout Wales, that have been moved to the site. You can definitely spend all day at the museum! Some of my favorites buildings are:
- St Teilo’s Church may seem plain from the outside, but once you step inside, you’ll be blown away! The church was built in the 12th or 13th century and shows off how religious structures were once elaborately decorated with brightly colored wall paintings all over. The church was taken apart, moved, and reconstructed at St. Fagans, piece by piece.
- The Abernodwydd Farmhouse is a timber and thatch farmhouse that shows how a relatively well-off Welsh family would have lived in the 17th century.
- The 1936 post office is made up of two adorable rooms and was originally run by a father, his daughter and her husband. Deliveries were made by bicycle, and the counter also served as a wireless (that’s radio) repair shop. The building was moved to St. Fagans in 1992.
- The row of houses for iron-ore miners allows visitors to marvel over how entire families lived in tiny homes consisting of only three rooms! Visiting each row house shows how living conditions and styles have changed over time, as the contents of each portray a different period of history: 1805, 1855, 1895, 1925, 1955, and 1985. These row houses will make you appreciate how lucky we are today to have as many things as we do.
- The tailor’s workshop, which was originally built in 1896, is stocked as it would have looked in the early 1950’s. I got a kick out of seeing the fashions of the time and how they were hand-made.
- The 1880 general store is divided into three sections over two floors. The store once served as a bakery, ironmongery (place to buy items made of iron), grocery, gentlemen’s outfitters, chemist, and animal feed retailer. Today it’s still stocked to the brim!
- The 1771 toll house represents a time when local landowners built private roads (also called turnpikes) and charged tolls for their usage. Sound familiar? Local riots caused the eventual banning of toll houses by Parliament in 1864.
- St Fagans Castle was built in the 16th century and later remodeled in the Victorian Era, as it became part of the Earls of Plymouth’s estate. Some of the mansion’s rooms contain original 16th century features, while others, such as the marvelous Victorian kitchen, contain furnishings from later time periods. In 1947, the family donated the mansion and its estate to the National Museum of Wales, who transformed the grounds into St. Fagans National Museum of History. Behind the castle are a reflecting pond and beautifully manicured gardens that would be perfect for a picnic.
Take a trip back in time to see these and over 30 other structures at St Fagans National Museum of History. Before going, check their website for special events and programs that are commonly held at the open air museum.
Location of St. Fagans
St. Fagans National Museum of History is located just four miles outside of Cardiff. For specific driving directions, please click on the map below. For satellite navigation purposes use the postcode CF5 6XB.
When I went to St. Fagans, I took the bus from Cardiff. You have 3 different bus options:
- Easyway 32A stops in the museum’s main car park
- Bus 320 stops in St. Fagans village
- Bus 321 also stops in St. Fagans village
You can obtain more specific bus information by vising the bus system’s website.
While in Cardiff, be sure to check out Cardiff Castle: Explore Ten Centuries of History in One Fascinating Destination.