7 things to do and see in and around Cardiff

Cardiff (Caerdydd in Welsh) is the capital city of beautiful Wales. It’s always ranked amongst the best cities to live in Europe, but often disregarded by travellers. Cardiff has a lot to offer, whether you are a sports enthusiast or a Doctor Who fan, a nature lover or a history nerd. This multicultural city has you covered.

After living here for almost 5 years, working with tourists and enjoying every corner of the city, I have made a compilation of the things I love the most about The ‘Diff. It’s a very personal list, not a generic one listing only the main attractions the city has to offer. These are things I absolutely adore about Cardiff and I hope visitors can discover and cherish.

1-Cardiff Castle

I know, I know, it’s a really obvious one but it is so obvious for a very good reason. Cardiff Castle is the heart of the city. It looks beautiful under any type of weather and gives the Welsh capital a magical ambience and a lot of character.

From the Romans to the Normans and the Bute family amongst others, the history of the castle is a fascinating one. You can literally see the layers from different times; a Roman wall, a Norman keep, Gothic towers, opulent interiors. This castle has it all!

Castle’s tickets are a little pricey (£12 for the adult one) so it really depends on your budget and your priorities. In my opinion it’s absolutely worth it, specially during the months of March and April when the grass gets covered in white and yellow daffodils. If you decide against visiting the Castle, I would recommend to walk around its walls. Go inside Bute Park and get a gorgeous view of it.

What brings me to…

2-Parks, Oh So Many Parks!


Cardiff has more green space per person than any other city in the UK. It’s an absolute delight to hop from one park to another on a (rare) sunny day. Thanks to the great amount of parks, you can enjoy the change of seasons fully. There are so many different types of trees, plants, and flowers!

The most iconic parks in the city:

  1. Bute Park: right in the heart of the city, surrounding the river Taff and part of Cardiff Castle. Plenty of events happen inside the park all year round. It looks specially beautiful in Autumn and Spring.
  2. Roath Park: beautiful Victorian park with a gorgeous lake full of ducks, swans, and other birds, where you can hire rowing boats and pedalos. My favourite season to come here is Summer.

    Roath Park Blues by Kim Mitchell

Top Tip: Follow the river up from Bute Park and hop from one park to another until you reach the beautiful Llandaff Cathedral.

*find out what my favourite park in Cardiff is at #6*

3-Arcades and Antique Shops

The Welsh capital is best defined by its labyrinth of Victorian and Edwardian arcades that connect every corner of the city centre. Here you can find all sorts of independent businesses like; a traditional second-hand bookstore, a coffee shop that roasts its own coffee, the oldest surviving record store in the world, and the cheese extravaganza that is Madame Fromage. Cardiff Arcades are beautiful to look at and exploring them, specially on a rainy day, is a must when visiting the city.

But not all the quirk in Cardiff is reserved to the Arcades, antique shops and markets can be found all over the city, although nothing compares to Jacobs Market. 4 floors of peculiar objects, e.g. military paraphernalia (way too much in my opinion), vintage clothes, and collector’s items. Make sure to check the website before you go since the opening times are as unusual as what they have in store.

4-Get Artsy

The National Museum of Cardiff has it all; geology, archaeology, natural history, and of course, art from famous European artists to Welsh painters less known to the general public. It is a really impressive museum, well kept, and most importantly when travelling on a budget: free. It’s a fantastic way to spend a few hours, or the whole day if you wish. If time is an issue for you, make sure you check a museum map at the entry and choose the areas you don’t want to miss before venturing in.

Chapter Arts Centre

Cardiff caters for the most alternative art lovers too, and has fantastic little art galleries and exhibitions all around the city. Chapter Arts Centre being the pinnacle of artsy venues in town. In there, you can find anything you need. The heart of the place is its café/bar/restaurant, a great open space perfect for socialising. But Chapter is so much more than that, it has a cinema, art exhibitions, and dance and yoga classes amongst many other activities.

5-Cardiff Market

Cardiff’s indoor market is probably the place from the list where I spend more time in. It has a very special feel to it that takes you back in time with its beautiful Victorian features and friendly and local vendors. It has everything you need and if like me, you don’t like to buy in big supermarket chains and prefer to support local businesses, Cardiff Market is a great place to go to.

Apart from great vegetable and fruit shops, fantastic butchers (A&S Griffiths being my favourite), you can find all sort of things there: textiles, souvenirs, vinyls, flowers, tools, etc. My favourite aspect being the food stalls on the first floor: delicious melt in your mouth Welsh cakes at Bakestone, the best vegetarian take-out and spice vendor Clancy’s, succulent pad thai at Thai Asian Delish, and so much more!

Top Tip: you can get very cheap and decent traditional Welsh breakfast and proper greasy British comfort food on the second floor with views over the whole market.

6-Canton/Pontcanna Area

Considered one of the hippest neighbourhoods to live in the UK, the Canton/Pontcanna area is a must for the hipster inside you (you know it’s there, don’t lie to yourself).

The neighbourhood is home to Chapter Arts Centre (expanded at #4)  but that is only the cherry on the top of the cake. From multicultural Canton to calm and green Pontcanna, this area has a lot to offer and is perfect for urban explorers who look for something off the radar that very few tourists get to enjoy.

Here are some of my favourite spots:

  • Craft Beer: Pipes is a small artisan brewery situated in the heart of Pontcanna. Some of their beers can be found on tap or bottle in selected places around the city. Every Saturday, they open a little stall in their HQ and sell their delicious craft beer by the bottle, and on the first Saturday of every month, together with the bottle sale, they also open a bar so you can enjoy them on site with a juicy burger.
  • Delicious Coffee: Next to Pipes, there is a little and very special coffee place called Lufkin. They roast their own coffee and are really passionate about the whole process. You can buy their 250g bags to enjoy at home or as a present for your favourite coffee lover friend. Have a coffee inside and experience a chilled and friendly atmosphere while drinking an honestly unbelievably tasty coffee.
  • Thompson’s Park: my favourite park in Cardiff. It feels a little bit like a secret garden since the pond and the bronze statue seem a bit forgotten and decadent. The flower beds are beautiful to look at and there is plenty of grass space to lay a blanket and enjoy a picnic, specially on the higher level of the park, where you get a stunning view in a peaceful and hidden corner of the city.
  • International Cuisines: the area is well known for its diversity and the food is a great example of it. Cowbridge Road East and its surroundings are full of tasty spots to eat like: Kimchi where you can experience a fun and delicious Korean evening, upscale Indian food at Purple Poppadom, Catalan cuisine at its finest in La Cuina, or Lebanese lunch paradise Falafel Wales.

7-Short Day Trips

Cardiff is a great city for The Base Camp style road trip. National parks, dramatic coastlines, sandy beaches, medieval castles, prehistoric monuments, and spectacular cathedrals are only a few hours by car from the city. However if your time is limited and you are not planning on driving, those trips can be a little too long and often expensive. But don’t worry, here I have 2 fantastic little short day trips for you.

Barry Island

Once the go-to destination for a Welsh summer holiday, it’s experiencing a resurgence in the last few years. The spotless clean sandy beach and its beautiful promenade make Barry Island one of the most attractive seaside little towns in the UK. Plenty of fish and chips shops, ice cream parlours, and arcades give an irresistible old-fashioned British charm to the place.

Barry Island is loved and enjoyed by Cardiffians all year round since it’s perfect for a calm and melancholic stroll on a winter morning, or for a fun-packed day with friends and family during the summer months.

Barry Island

How to get there: take the train from Cardiff Central station and get to Barry Island in exactly 30 minutes. Buy a same day return ticket for only £5.20 in the train station or go online.

Caerphilly Castle

Caerphilly is a town at the southern end of the Rhymney Valley, and in its centre lays the largest medieval castle in Wales and second biggest in Britain. It is one of the most formidable fortresses in the country and is said to have the most elaborate water defences in all Britain and a leaning tower locally known as the Pisa tower of Wales.

It is a very well maintained castle and the adult ticket price is £7.95. It looks gorgeous under any type of weather and comes to life once a year for The Big Cheese Festival, a great festival that celebrates the local culture and their famous cheese.

Caerphilly Castle

How to get there: take the train from Cardiff Central station and get to Caerphilly in exactly 19 minutes. Buy a same day return ticket for only £7 in the train station or go online.

I hope you come to visit soon and enjoy the area as much as I do!


5 Steps to Organise a Successful Road Trip Abroad

There are countless sites that will organise a road trip for you but there is nothing more rewarding and fun than doing it on your own.


Road trips are wonderful but they can also be disastrous if not planned properly. Of course it’s not about micromanaging every single step of the way, otherwise where are the element of surprise and the rush of adventure? But it’s always good to design the route beforehand and consider the budget, climate, distance between town A and town B, local culture, etc.

It might feel tedious to begin with but once you are caught in the rhythm you will realise that preparing for a road trip can be almost as exciting as the trip itself. OK, maybe that’s a bit of a stretch but bare with me, follow the steps, embrace your inner organiser, and enjoy the ride!

1- Pick a Country or Region

First, let’s choose a destination. Are you feeling in the mood for some Italian countryside? Maybe you would like to get to every corner of the Balkan Peninsula? Or explore the most beautiful coastal towns in northern Spain?

If you don’t really have any specific country or region in mind, a quick Google search on things that interest you could be a great inspiration. For example:

  1. Wine regions in Europe
  2. Roman Empire trade routes
  3. Game of Thrones locations

If you are like me, you would always have at least 3 destinations where you feel you HAVE to go next. If that is the case and can’t decide or you just did a quick search like I explained above but are still trying to make up your mind, check these 3 points to make your choice once and for all:

  1. time of the year
  2. length of holidays
  3. rental car/flights prices

Success! You have a country or region, now you can start planning the road trip of your dreams!

2- Legalities, License, and the Boring Bits

“Sorry..me…tourist…no speak English?”

Yes, playing the tourist card can sometimes get you out of sticky situations when abroad but you should always do some research on the important and more legal aspects of your trip abroad:

  1. traffic laws
  2. what kind of driver’s license you need
  3. car insurance differences or needs
  4. general procedures and adequate behaviour when police stops you while driving

It might be the least fun part of your road trip planning time but it’s essential to having an easy-going trouble-free journey.

3- Decide on a Road Trip Style

Now, you have a destination AND you know the law but what kind of road trip do you have in mind? Will you drive for long hours every day? Or do you prefer short distances from one place to another? Are you staying overnight in every town? Will you end your trip where you started it?

There are many ways to do it, here are my 3 favourite styles when hitting the road.

The Base Camp:

This one is the perfect compromise between a chilled holiday and a more adventurous one.

Discovering Wales and bits of England from Cardiff

With The Base Camp you get to drive and discover different parts of a region without having to worry about where to spend each night and without the (sometimes) hassle of packing and moving your belongings around every day. It is ideal for beginner roadtrippers.

It is also usually the cheapest option. By staying at the same accommodation for the whole trip, you can get better prices than if you would book each night in a different location. It is also more budget friendly to fly to and from the same airport and to collect and give a rental car back from the same spot.

The journeys to each destination shouldn’t be longer than 2 or 3 hours since you will need to come back to your starting point every evening. You can combine longer days with shorter ones and spend a couple of days in between in the city you are based on for a relaxed experience.

The Nomad:

This trip is perfect for discovering areas in a more intimate way or explore wider regions.

Iberia’s northern Atlantic Coast

The Nomad is the most flexible road trip option. It opens up a lot of possibilities to explore a region at will. You would start a point A and finish at point B, everything in between depends on how much freedom or comfort you wish for. You could plan every stop and book every accommodation in advance or go with the flow and see where the road takes you.

Since you are not attached to a main base, you can spend the night wherever you feel like you should visit in more depth. It is a more immersive way of travelling that allows you to interact with the locals from different towns more extensively. The journeys from one place to another become also more flexible compared to The Base Camp, allowing you to have long driving days often and cover a bigger scope.

If time is not an issue, it could also allow you to do the opposite and drive only for an hour each day and focus more on outdoors activities, getting to know the locals, or indulging in every town’s special culinary delight.

The Circle:

This one combines the best aspects of The Base Camp and The Nomad.

Munich to Munich via The Alps and The Adriatic Sea

As you would do with The Base Camp, you make the starting point also the finishing one. As explained there, is always cheaper to collect and drop the rental car (in case you are renting it) at the same location as well as flying to and from the same airport.

But that doesn’t mean that you need to stay in the same town every night of your journey. The great thing about designing your road trip as The Circle is that you can spend each night in a different location and discover new places in a more immersive level like with The Nomad.

In the example above, from Munich to Munich via The Alps and The Adriatic Sea, you can see how diverse this kind of route can be. Long drives some days, shorter others, covering a big or small area but never loosing focus on where the departure and arrival point is.

4- Research the area

Once you have all the points above covered, it’s time to do some research.

Google Maps will help you with this fun task greatly. Look around the starting point and whether you know anything about the area already or are new to it, pick town names around the map and search them (check pictures, tourist sites, Wikipedia, etc).


Nowadays, you can find any information you need and more online. However, I always like to buy a guide book from the place I’m visiting. This will not only help you trace the best route and learn about the culture and history but will also become very useful on site. Whether it is because is convenient when there is no Wi-Fi around and you don’t want to use the roaming data, or simply because you rather have a palpable book about the region you are in, a guide book is a must in such a journey.

5- Trace the Route

Now that you know the area, you can easily design the road trip of your dreams.

Depending on the road trip style you have chosen, your needs, and how you prefer to spend your time you can now decide the ideal length of everyday’s ride. Consider your companions (if any) when tracing the route or even do it together, it could be an interesting experience and everyone would feel involved.

It is sometimes very easy to underestimate the impact of having long rides every day, to the point that it can become more of a duty than a fun adventure. So allow yourself some rest and stay in the same place for a couple of nights every now and then and/or plan for a short ride the day after a long one.

If it’s your first time organising your own road trip, don’t panic if something goes wrong. It’s part of the learning process and every disastrous trip will become a fun anecdote in the future.

Don’t forget that the whole point of designing your own road trip is to have fun and learn new things about the places you are going. If you don’t find any joy by doing so, seek a professional travel agent or follow other people’s road trips from blogs, magazines, or somebody you know.