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!

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.

    received_10154620015059195
    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.

#barryisland
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
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!