For those of us who want the thrill of an escape and to experience a new culture without too much hassle, then a city break to the UKsounds like the thing for you. If that’s in your sights this year, then may I suggest you add Cardiff to your list? It’s a great choice for a weekend break or for a midweek escape from the office. If you’ve never been to the Welsh capital and you’re stuck for something to do, then why not check out my Cardiff City Guide for some of my personally chosen highlights of this beautiful city.
Cardiff has its own airport, which is about 10 miles south west of the city. There are direct flights to Cardiff daily from Dublin, and twice weekly from Cork. The flights take about an hour. You can then get the T9 Airport Express right into the city centre.
You simply can’t talk about Cardiff and not mention the Dragon’s Lair! The huge Principality Stadium, which was formerly the Millennium Stadium, is home to the Welsh Rugby Union, and it’s right in the centre of town. No, it’s right in the centre of the town. This stadium looms over St Mary’s Street, and the atmosphere in Cardiff city centre is something to behold as the rugby faithful stream out on the streets. But, if the streets are alive, then on match day this incredible stadium is surely the place to be. The stadium can hold 74,500 spectators, and when the rooftop is closed the atmosphere is absolutely electric. If you don’t get to come on a match day, then a tour of the stadium is still a must!
This beautiful castle, which celebrated its 125th birthday in 2015, is about a 20-minute drive north of Cardiff city centre. Don’t allow that to deter you though, as this gorgeous castle really is worth the drive. The castle takes its name from the Welsh for “red castle”, a nod to the red sandstone rock that makes up the area surrounding the castle, from which the castle was built. The castle that currently stands was built on the remains of the 13th-century castle that was once in its place. Its fairy-tale appearance makes Castell Coch a hugely romantic place to visit, and a walk in the beech-lined woods is a definite must.
Right in the centre of the shops and restaurants, standing tall above all the hubbub is a big reminder of Cardiff’s history. Cardiff Castle was originally built in the late 11th century, and stone was added to the walls to strengthen it roughly 100 years later. In its time, Cardiff Castle was home to the De Clare family, and by Richard de Beauchamp, before it was transferred to the Marquesses of Bute. Since WW2, the castle is owned by the city of Cardiff. A visit to the castle is worth it just for the views from the top of the keep. Watching the city stretch out in front of you is a breathtaking sight.
Just a short train ride from the city centre is the stunning area of Cardiff Bay. The Bay was once a tidal area, and it gave a huge boost to Cardiff’s economy as it was the area from which to export coal. These days, it has undergone a huge restoration and it’s now a majorly popular region of the city. It’s home to the Sennedd, where the Welsh Government meets, and to the Wales Millennium Centre, a large concert hall. There is also an open square to commemorate one of Cardiff’s most famous sons, Roald Dahl.
Once you’ve seen all the sights of the city, time to go and chill out for a little. Luckily, this city is packed with 16 lush green parks for you to relax in. One of the biggest of these parks is Bute Park, which is right in the centre of the city. There’s a very cute tea room where you can sit together for afternoon tea, or grab your book and just chill out by the lake. This natural beauty is so peaceful and calm, you’re bound to forget you are right in the centre of the city.
A slice of Manhattan right in the centre of Cardiff city centre. That’s what you get when you enjoy your lunch at the delightful New York Deli. It’s found in High Street Arcade, at the bottom of Queen Street and across from the castle. Now, the deli itself is quite small, but it’s the small and cosy atmosphere that really adds to it. It’s the kind of supersized and super tasty sandwiches you’ve come to associate with the states, and they’re so filling you might not even need dinner. I really recommend Cardiff’s very own hoagie – but let’s just see if you can finish this monster!
You will find The Potted Pig restaurant in a former bank vault under the city streets. This cosy and quirky location throws some of the best dinner parties in the city, and it’s a great spot for a romantic date or for a lavish dinner catch up with your mates. You can enjoy some delicious pork here, as you can guess from the name. There’s also some tasty British cuisines here with a French twist and New York grill inspiration.
Wok In Wok Out, to give it its full title, is consistently voted Cardiff’s Best Take Away. If you love noodles on the go, then you should definitely check out this delicious delicacy in its restaurants on Woodville Road and in Canton, both in the city centre. There’s options for lunch deals and evening meals alike, and everything is cooked to order in front of you with your choice of noodle, sauce, meat and veggie combinations. I’m sure this is exactly what you’ve been looking for when it comes to fast food that’s filling, healthy, and above all delicious.
Delicious food. Top quality service. Everything you’re looking for in a restaurant, right? Well this restaurant really is dining with a difference. The Clink, an award winning restaurant and one of the UK’s 10 best restaurants, is found in the grounds of Cardiff Prison. The restaurant is run entirely by prisoners who are currently serving time in this Category D prison as part of their rehabilitation programme. Please don’t let that put you off though, as the food really is top notch grub that you would expect to find in a Michelin starred restaurant. Think gourmet roast lamb, succulent chicken breast and decadent dark chocolate cheesecake, these are just some of the delights waiting for you here.
Clwb Ifor Bach, or Welsh Club if that’s a bit too much of a mouthful, is named after a 12th Century Welsh leader. The club, known just as Clwb among Welsh speakers, is used as a social centre for Welsh speakers in the city. It’s also a hugely popular music venue and nightclub for both Welsh and English speakers in the city. The staff in the club need to be bilingual and able to speak both Welsh and English, and both languages are spoken equally in the club.
Gwdihw (pronounced goody-who) is a fantastic live music venue with live performances almost every evening of the week. The outside is just as colourful and quirky as what’s inside, and inside there’s a cosy, friendly and relaxed area to catch up, have a few drinks, and check out some up and coming Welsh music artists. During the day Gwdihw doubles as a café, so if you’ve got an hour or two free in the afternoon then do make sure to come and check it out in daylight too. If you’re here on Monday you can also enjoy 50% off your drink. Score!
Looking for a night out where you can hear the Spice Girls and Oasis in one night? Then Live Lounge is for you. Live Lounge is on Greyfriars Road, right in the centre of the city, and it’s hugely popular with the city’s student population. The dance floor is always hopping, and with the DJ spinning tracks you love from days gone past combined with today’s best hits, you’re certain to find a tune you’ll love. During the day, Live Lounge serves up some delicious foods too, so this is one spot that’s worth a visit no matter what time you get there.
All good nights out end in the chippy, right? In Cardiff, they end on Chippy Lane. No Cardiff city guide would be complete without a nod to this famous fast food haven. As the name might suggest, it’s a street filled with chippies to keep you full and try to keep that dreaded hangover at bay the following day. Caroline Street in the city centre is home to fish and chip shops, kebab stops and chippies, so there really is no need to worry about you going home hungry.
So, there you have it. Everything to see and eat in Cardiff, and the best spots to party the night away in. Thanks to my super handy Cardiff City Guide, I’m sure you’ll be walking along by the River Taff in no time with so many ideas of what to see and do!
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