Situated on the southern coast of Wales, one of the four nations that make up the United Kingdom, Cardiff is very much a capital city on the up-and-up.
Recently ranked the number one city in the U.K. to live in, based on quality of life vs. cost of living, the grandiose architecture of Tudor-era townhouses and castle walls are quite the spectacle. Combined with the luscious scenery, historical sites of interest, and vibrant nightlife, Cardiff is a thriving, energetic city, that offers something for everyone.
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Cardiff international airport is accessible from many mainland European cities. From there, you’re a twenty-minute bus ride, or fifteen-minute train ride, from the city center. You could also fly to neighboring Bristol or London, and take a bus or train, respectively. Dublin is also a short flight, or ferry to the west of Wales, away.
Situated in front of the Roald Dahl Plass, this uniquely designed center of arts and culture plays host to a wide range of exhibitions, cultural activity, and concerts. The likes of The Lion King and Grease have all played shows in the grand concert hall, and the ground floor regularly hosts live music and local art exhibitions.
The museum itself is an architectural sight to behold, and inside, you can stroll between two floors of largely free exhibitions, showcasing fine art, sculpture, and modern art, from all over the world. If you’re willing to pay a little extra, there’s often a resident artist’s work on show in the upstairs gallery.
Situated on the Hayes, the Museum of Cardiff is a quiet, well designed little museum, perfect for finding out about the history of the city, and its progression from a humble trading port, through to its emergence as one of the U.K.’s youngest, most vibrant cities.
Formerly part of the Castle grounds, Alexandra Gardens is a place you can stroll through, relax, and enjoy the beauty. At the center stands tall the Welsh National War Memorial, in honor of those who lost their lives during the World Wars.
If rugby is religion in Wales, then the Principality Stadium is its cathedral. Formerly the Millennium Stadium, the stadium plays host to all of Wales’ home games and holds a capacity of 74,500. Also, it has hosted a range of sporting events and concerts. The likes of Rihanna, Bruce Springstein, and Beyonce, have all played at the stadium.
Welsh international matches, however, only happen a handful of times a year, and getting tickets is notoriously difficult. The stadium tour, bookable online, is a wonderful way to see the awe of the stadium and learn about its colorful and grand history.
Few cities on the planet can claim a castle in amongst their hallmark features! Cardiff Castle, a medieval castle and Victorian Gothic revival mansion, watches on peacefully over the main pedestrianized area, St. Mary’s, of the city.
Inside, you can wander between the walls of a grand structure that dates back to the 11th century. The gardens, moat, and keep all provide excellent photography opportunities, while the mansion, elaborate in its decoration, gives plenty of insight into Britain during the Victorian era. The Arab Room, in particular, with its patterned golden ceiling, is a must-see.
A beautiful little slice of Norway in the middle of Cardiff Bay, the church was once a meeting place for Norwegians who settled in Cardiff during the industrial revolution; one of whom was Roald Dahl’s father.
Now, you can enjoy a variety of art exhibitions, book launches, and craft fayres in the church, as well as enjoying a soothing cup of coffee in the cafe on the ground floor.
This is a pleasant, vibrant walk from the now-closed Dr. Who Experience building, all the way to the retractable bridge at the other end of the marina. Along the way, you’ll see plenty of yachts on the water, as well as lots of pop-up events and activities during the summer. A children’s playground, summer water inflatables, skate park, and a cycle lane, all occupy the strip.
For a great place to stay in the Bay, we like St. David’s Hotel.
If you fancy heading out on to the water, be sure to book a trip from one of the boats off the jetty in front and to the left of the Roald Dahl Pass. From powerboating for the thrill-seekers to guided tours at a more leisurely pace, there’s plenty of choices.
The hop-on, hop-off bus tour, with 11 stops in total, will give you a great feel for the city and its most famous attractions. Translated into seven languages, the ticket, which costs around $20, is valid for 24 hours, and you can jump on and off as you please. Cardiff is a small city, so you’ll never find yourself wandering too far into the wilderness.
Some of the U.K.’s most successful comedians, including Eddie Izzard and Michael McIntyre, have all, earlier in their careers, spent their weekends entertaining an intimate and lively audience of around 400 at Cardiff’s Glee Club. If you enjoy comedy at the grassroots level, Friday nights, in particular, are a hoot and a half.
Named after the beloved children’s author of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, The BFG, and many other classics, Cardiff Bay’s Roald Dahl Plass plays host to a wide selection of festivals throughout summer. Cardiff Food Festival, a man-made beach, a Ferris wheel, and the circus, are just a few of the delights you’ll find occupying the space at different times.
One of the world’s leading open-air museums, St Fagan’s will make you feel as though you’ve traveled back in time. On the grounds of a beautiful 16th-century manor house, splendor at fifty buildings that have been rebuilt from different historical periods, all set amid the jaw-dropping beauty of a 100-acre parkland on the outskirts of Cardiff.
Whether you’re a lover a history, a keen nature enthusiast, or just looking for a fascinating day out, St Fagan’s will not disappoint.
A place for the senses, the bustle, and bartering of the central market is an unmissable experience. Some of the freshest, finest produce, meat, and fish, the city has to offer can be found here. The market also offers a range of other services, from phone repair to key cutting, at a fraction of the price you’d pay at large retailers.
Upstairs, you can enjoy watching the energy fizz below from the balcony of one of several local cafes. All of them serve a menu of hearty British food and classic Welsh dishes.
Weaving their way between the high streets of St. Mary’s and Hayes, are Cardiff’s eccentric Arcades (Royal, Morgan, High Street, and Castle). You’ll feel as though you’ve stepped through to Harry Potter’s Diagon Alley, with their narrow, cobbled streets, grand, overhanging Victorian architecture, and quirky shops.
Very few chain or corporate entities operate in the Arcades. Instead, you’ll find unique, local-based clothing, food, coffee, and services. Vegetarian cafe Crumbs and hot baguette shop Fresh are two of my personal favorites. Also, Christmas is a particularly wonderful time to walk through the Arcades, as the Christmas lights lining the beams and rafters sparkle and rain moody blue down on the cobbles. It’s truly a sight to behold.
Named after the wealthy Bute family, who inherited the land and developed it throughout the 1800s, Bute Park spreads far and wide behind the walls of the castle.
There are many trails that weave between the beautiful parkland and green fields. Whether you’re interested in the wildlife, the history, or just want to relax on the grass beneath the shade of the trees, you can spend hours amid the peace and tranquility of the beautiful gardens.
Located across from the Cardiff Bay Marina via the link road, the International White Water Centre is the perfect place to stoke the fire of the daredevil in you. In this state of the art center, you can try your hand, or entire body in this case, at both white water rafting and paddle-boarding.
At £40-55 per person for 2 hours, it’s a more than worthwhile way to spend a morning or afternoon; particularly if you’re with a party of multiple people.
If you’re a fan of fast-paced, full-throttle sport, then an evening watching the Devils will be right up your street. Take your seat amongst 3000 roaring fans at the Viola Centre in the Cardiff International Sports Village, and be sure to brace yourself for huge hits and goals galore.
As mentioned before, Cardiff’s obsession with rugby is deep-rooted in its proud history. Adjacent to the Principality Stadium you’ll find the Cardiff Arms Park, home to the Cardiff Blues, the city’s domestic rugby team. If you’re visiting between the months of September and May, there’s a fair chance you’ll be able to catch the team play on a Friday night, or the weekend.
Our activities continue through to football and the fiery passion inside the Cardiff City Stadium. Cardiff City, the domestic football team, play on weekends, and sometimes weeknights, from August through to May. This 33,000 seater stadium is often packed to the rafters, with Cardiffians supporting their beloved Bluebirds.
And our final stop on the sports tour takes us to the Sophia Gardens cricket ground, home of Glamorgan Cricket. If you’re visiting during the summer months, you’ll be able to catch the team play T20, one day, and country cricket on Friday evenings and weekends.
Cricket is always a fun day out, with plenty of drinking, cheering, and good-willed banter.
If you’re a self-confessed Whovian, then rejoice. Since the revival of the show in 2005 courtesy of the BBC, much of the filming of the show has taken place in Wales and, in particular, Cardiff.
One Cardiffian conducts his very own tour, taking fans of the show around all of the popular areas used for filming the series. He also offers plenty of insight about the show, and a few memorable stories along the way. Plus, it’s also a great way to see the city, as you go.
Behind the bustle and energy of Mermaid Quay, you’ll find a place full of fun, science-themed activities; a great day out for the whole family. Techniquest also hosts ‘after-hours’ parties, where under 30s can go enjoy the hall of mirrors, ball pits, and other activities, with their own drinks.
Over the years, plenty of bands and artists have cut their teeth on the street that was famously saved from redevelopment by a city-wide campaign in 2016. Full Moon, Fuel, Elevens, and the famous Clwb Ifor Bach, regularly host rock, acoustic, soul, and electronic themed nights and artists.
Penarth, one of the most affluent areas in South Wales, sits peacefully on the coast just over from Cardiff Bay. While the town itself is a cozy little settlement of local shops and bars, its promenade and pavilion are very much its defining feature.
Backdropped with glorious views of the Bristol Channel, there’s plenty of great bars, food, and events going on in the area. But if you’re keen just to enjoy the scenery, get yourself a creamy dollop of vanilla in a cone and plant yourself down on one of the benches.
Penarth is accessible via train from Cardiff Central, bus from the city center, or on foot from the end of the Cardiff Bay barrage, via Penarth Marina.
North of the city center, via bus or train, sits Roath, a quiet, residential area of Cardiff. Sitting gloriously at the center is the beautiful Roath Lake and its surrounding park.
You can spend a lovely afternoon wandering around the lake, feeding the ducks and swans, and enjoying the view. There’s also a boat hire center at the top of the lake. Just try not to recreate that famous moment from The Notebook!
Believe it or not, Cardiff’s number one ranked restaurant is based in its prison. Courtesy of an excellent rehabilitation program at the prison, convicts-turned-chefs will serve up a mouth-watering array of gourmet dishes.
The restaurant has won many awards, and the waiting list notoriously can run for months. If you have the chance to book in, this is a treat not to be missed.
Overlooking the train station and city center lays Brains Brewery, home of Wales’ most famous alcoholic brew. Established in 1882, the rich taste of this locally brewed beer has been filling the bellies and soothing the souls of Welshmen and women for over 130 years.
The tour of the brewery is a warm, enjoyable experience. From the process, through to the marketing, you’ll learn a great deal about how Wales’ most famous beer has stood the test of time.
From the streets of Tongwynlais, north of Cardiff, you can see the towers of Castle Coch, nestled snugly amid a sprawling green woodland. Its a picturesque setting straight out of a children’s book.
This Gothic Revival castle was the grand vision of famous architect William Burges and was completed in 1891. The setting is beautiful, and the castle itself is a joy to wander through and splendor at the glamorous interior.
And finally, no trip to a U.K. port city is complete without a trip to the beach! Around a twenty-minute drive or train, from Cardiff, you’ll find the lively, fun-filled Barry Island.
With its sandy beach, sweeping promenade, and entertainment by the bucket load, it’s a great place to be on a sunny day. Activities in the area include a theme park, laser tag, mini-golf, water sports, and an old school arcade. There’s plenty of places to get a cold pint and some classic British fish and chips, too, if you’re feeling parched or peckish.
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