Despite living in the UK for the better part of 1.5 years, I never made it to Wales. It was on my list and I had always meant to go, it just never happened. However, earlier this year, my partner’s sister got married in Ireland and we had the chance to return across the pond once more. This was our chance! So, we flew into London a few days early, rented a vehicle and headed southwest to spend our weekend with the Welsh…
And boy, was a weekend totally not long enough. Between the stunning landscapes around Snowdonia, the friendly people in the villages that lined the country’s winding roads, and the fun coastal vibes of the Capital, Wales is already top of my list of places to return to!
However, as Cardiff itself is a more accessible weekend destination, this blog post will specifically focus on this particular area of Wales and the things I would recommend to you based on our brief time there!
Things to Do
As a university town, there is actually countless things to do in Cardiff – all while surrounded by a young, lively crowd of friendly individuals (at least during the school year, that is). That being said, my favourite area of the city had to be Cardiff Bay / Mermaid Quay. Less than a kilometre from the city centre, this area is filled with numerous places to wine and dine, grab a coffee or some famous Welsh cakes, or even just explore the quirky giftshops. Here, you can also find Aquabus waterbus services to take you on a trip around the Bay.
Located in the Mermaid Quay area, you will also find the Wales Millennium Centre — an arts centre home to the national orchestra and many opera, ballet, and dance performances. In addition to its large theatre, it is also home to shops, bars, and restaurants. It is here, that you will also find the Cardiff Bay Visitor Centre. With all this in mind, Cardiff Bay is a great place to start your time in this beautiful city!
When you’re, no doubt, wandering around the pedestrian shopping streets of Cardiff’s city centre, you’ll likely stumble upon Cardiff Castle, a medieval castle built in the late 11th century. If you’d like to actually go inside the castle walls, be sure to check the opening times, as last admission is usually around 4pm. You can check the full schedule availability here. Not keen on entering another castle during your time in Europe, or willing to pay the £11.30 entrance fee? No biggie. You can enjoy many different views of the castle from Cardiff’s city streets and the nearby Bute Park.
Bute Park is a stunning and spacious green area in the city centre of Cardiff, located beside Cardiff Castle. It is approximately 130 acres in size and is filled with beautiful gardens, an education centre, cafes, restroom facilities, and trails for walking and biking. This is a great spot to relax in the sun, enjoy a picnic, or just simply take in the Castle and imagine what it might have been like to reside in such a fairy tale-esque setting, way back when…
Food & Drink
As mentioned earlier, Mermaid Quay is a hot spot you shouldn’t miss when visiting the city of Cardiff. In addition to the relaxing vibes set by the Bay, there are many fine places to choose from when it comes to food and drink. In fact, if cocktails are your jam, we saw countless advertisements for “2 for 1” cocktails during Happy Hour, at just about every place we passed. And, how can you turn down a deal like that – especially since, once you head back toward the city centre, you won’t likely see such a treat.
In and around the Bay, you can also find the best place in Cardiff to enjoy traditional, award-winning Welsh cakes – “Fabulous Welsh Cakes”. When we popped in, they were serving three flavours: traditional (raisin & cinnamon), double chocolate, and orange & almond. We tried both the original and double chocolate and they were incredibly tasty! If you’re looking to try this traditional treat, this is the place to do it!
Looking for a unique and quirky (and also affordable) spot to eat, that’s also enjoyed by locals? Head to the “Cozy Club”. When we were taking a late morning break to enjoy some sunshine, we spent some time chatting up a few of the local students, asking them about their favourite parts of the city. They recommended the Cozy Club to us and shortly after, we enjoyed our next meal! With a cool atmosphere, great service, and tasty food at an affordable price, I’m happy to pass on this insider recommendation that we received locally!
If live entertainment is your thing, you’re really going to enjoy Cardiff. In addition to the amazingly talented performers we encountered, playing in the cobblestone streets around town, Cardiff was also host to a number of live music bands of all different genres! I promise, no matter your taste, you’ll likely find a bar or pub that caters to your musical interests. Another insider tip we received while talking to a few of the locals, was to head to “Womanby Street”. This area is known as the hotspot for music, entertainment, and an overall good time, particularly during the weekends.
As previously mentioned, if you’re more interested in the theatrical side of entertainment, be sure to check out the Wales Millennium Centre schedule for tickets to opera, ballet, dance and other highly regarded theatre performances.
And there you have it – some quick little tips and recommendations for a short stint visit to the beautiful city of Cardiff, Wales. I’ll quickly note that, during our time in the city, we stayed at an Airbnb and this is why I am not commenting on particular accommodation recommendations. While we enjoyed our stay in Cardiff, I would not recommend staying as far away from the city centre as we did (a 40 minute walk, more or less).
I’d love to know if any of you have ever been to Cardiff — Did I miss anything key? If so, please share in the comments below!