Water Bus at Cardiff Bay
Water Bus at Cardiff Bay
A UK City Tour | Cardiff
Castle in spring
Castle in spring
A UK City Tour | Cardiff
Bar 44 Westgate street final
Bar 44 Westgate street final
A UK City Tour | Cardiff
Animal Wall Visit Cardiff
Animal Wall Visit Cardiff
A UK City Tour | Cardiff
Depot
Depot
A UK City Tour | Cardiff
Cardiff Bay at night
Cardiff Bay at night
A UK City Tour | Cardiff
The Dead Canary
The Dead Canary
A UK City Tour | Cardiff
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UK City Tour | Cardiff

Author: Lauren Coleman

I’ve never had the pleasure of going to Cardiff but as usual, when I put together one of these guides I immediately want to plan a trip. Today I’ll hand over to Sarah for a tour of the tenth largest city in the UK and by golly there’s lots to see and do…

The capital of Wales, Cardiff is a unique small city with big city benefits and was even described as the ‘epitome of cool’ by Lonely Planet. But, as one of Cardiff’s biggest fans I’m all too aware that outside of the Welsh bubble our diverse, friendly and culture-packed little city is more famous for rugby, rain and raucous nightlife.
As we say in Cardiff, I’m not going to lie – there’s a big chance you’ll get caught in a shower or two, but come for the weekend and you’ll see the city’s sunnier side too!

Culture

Starting with the aforementioned rugby, it’s famous for a reason. If you’re here on an international weekend, as we call them, just embrace the daffodil outfits, impromptu street singing and the flowing drinks. With the (recently renamed), iconic Principality Stadium right at the heart of the city centre, Cardiff comes to life when there’s a big game being played. You won’t find a better atmosphere anywhere.
Other cities have cathedrals, but the jewel in the Cardiff crown is its castle. Again, it’s at the heart of the city and everything is within easy walking distance. Climb to the top of the keep for a great view of the city or stroll in via Bute Park’s riverside gardens if you’re here in spring or summer. Glance up at the outer wall on the approach from the west and you’ll see the quirky ‘Animal Wall’ with 100 year old statues of lynx and seals scrambling above you.
For more Welsh culture, the National Museum of Wales’ impressive building is always worth a visit, where you can see a £35m Rembrandt and some of Monet’s most famous paintings for free, or head to the new Yr Hen Lyfrgell (The Old Library) on the Hayes, which is also home to the Cardiff Story Museum and has a cool canteen-style café serving delicious hearty lunches by local hero chef Padrig Jones AND a bottle of prosecco is only £13.95! It’s a hub of Welsh language culture and welcoming to all, so a simple ‘Shwmae’ (hello) and ‘diolch’ (thank you) will be warmly received. There’s a tasteful little Welsh gift shop too with some nice homey bits and bobs. Next door is bar and restaurant Locke and Remedy – its industrial chic décor, dark paint palette and patterned tiles offering great interiors inspo.
Although Cardiff is great for walking around, it’s also very easy to get from A to B by water taxi. Catch it from the Bute Park stop next to the Castle, have a cuppa and a cake in the vintage-chic Pettigrew Tea Rooms while you wait and head down to Cardiff Bay, Europe’s biggest waterfront development. Check out the poetically beautiful architecture of the Wales Millennium Centre building – all Welsh slate and glinting copper and take your pick of waterfront bars and restaurants. The cute little Norwegian Church houses the Roald Dahl named gallery – Cardiff is the little-known home city of everyone’s favourite author.
If you are here with kids my recommendation would be to head over towards the Cardiff Bay Barrage, a flat waterside walk perfect for scooters and buggies, with a sandy wooden play park halfway, and stop off at the World of Boats museum, where the waterside café and bar offers the sunniest spot and the best panoramic views. On a rainy day (!) the Techniquest Science Centre is a great way to entertain kids of all ages for an hour or two. And if you’ve got time, the water taxi also goes from the Bay over to the Victorian seaside town of Penarth where the perfectly photogenic little pier includes a refurbished art deco era cinema and a café with beautiful sea views.

Food and Drink

You will not go hungry in Cardiff as it’s really become a foodie destination. Much like its shops it’s got quality chains to rival the biggest of the UK’s cities, but for a more local experience try the Potted Pig, a restaurant in an old bank vault with a well-stocked gin bar, or the Grazing Shed on St Mary’s street for some of the best burgers in town – (and there’s plenty of those.) Cafe Citta is the best place for pizza, but is tiny and cosy so book ahead. A favourite of mine is the Purple Poppadum in Canton; an incredible restaurant serving award-winning South Indian food that is absolutely a cut above the usual ‘half and half’ curry. Opposite the stadium, Bar 44 serves unbeatable, authentic Spanish tapas and the best rioja, with more lust-worthy tiled décor! For cocktails try the Dead Canary – a speakeasy inspired bar with a strong drinks menu (Welsh lamb infused Appleton VX, anyone?) If you can get in, the Pop-Ty Welsh supper club is a completely lovely way to spend an entire evening. For the best of Cardiff’s independent food scene under one roof, head to Depot, a warehouse filled with twinkly lights and amazing variety of street food and drinks. For a real taste of Cardiff’s multicultural food scene, City Road is the place to head. It’s not slick and shiny like the Bay, but you’ll find everything from Syrian to Thai and Turkish restaurants with a loyal local following. If you’ve still got the appetite for a night out, Clwb Ifor Bach and The Moon Club are the places to head for indie discos and new bands.
It’s not a weekend away if you don’t treat yourself to brunch in my opinion. Head out to leafy Pontcanna and have a full Welsh breakfast and a Bloody Mary at Café Brava, or have coffee and pastries at the new super-cool Danish bakery, Brød. If it’s the first Saturday of the month, stick around for craft ale at the Pipes Brewery event and head over to The Bone Yard for arty finds afterwards.

Shopping

You can browse vintage bargains galore at The Castle Emporium and the St Mary St weekend market, or unearth treasures at the four storey Jacobs Antiques, which also screens rooftop cinema events.

Away from the frankly brilliant range of big chains in St David’s 2 and the rest of the city centre (the John Lewis beauty hall, Jo Malone and new Michael Kors are particular treats) , Cardiff’s warren of stunning covered Victorian arcades are a wonderful way to while away a few hours. Don’t miss Home by Kirsty for scandi-inspired, Welsh-made interiors and gifts, and for vinyl fans, Spillers Records, the oldest record shop in the world. Pad Deco has high-end designer interior items and Wally’s Deli is a total treat for the foodie shopper. Madame Fromage, The Plan and Waterloo Tea are the best places in the arcades to stop for refreshments. In the suburb of Roath you’ll find loads of arty little shops and in Pontcanna, Kitki boutique has very stylish threads and unique brands.

Thanks Sarah for a smashing tour of Cardiff. Any other places you lovely lot want to suggest in the welsh capital?

{Contributors}

Images via Visit Cardiff

Author
Lauren likes Paris, Prosecco and Paint Charts
Follow Lauren on instagram @mrslaurencoleman

8 thoughts on “UK City Tour | Cardiff

  1. Awh this brings me back! I had theee best time at university in Cardiff, I finished my post grad in 2010 so am well overdue a visit. It sounds as though the city has plenty of new establishments that I need to visit, I only recognise Clwb Ifor Bach (The Welsh Club, where we spent many a drunken night dancing) from Sarah’s list so there’ll be plenty of new things to do!

  2. I’m lucky enough to call Cardiff home and this guide is spot on. Well done Sarah for capturing the best bits of Cardiff.. Of which there are many!

    One thing to add a visit to Cardiff bay would not be complete without popping into “fabulous welshcakes” shop to pick up some freshly made warm welshcakes to eat as you wander around the bay! Perfection

  3. I have only been back to Cardiff once for a short weekend since I graduated form university in 2006. I have the best memories of living in Cardiff. There was always so much to do. I think, a lot has changed in the last 10 years and I hope I can visit again soon to explore all the new shops and restaurants.

  4. I got very excited when I saw the picture of the Bay. I am a Cardiff girl (but haven’t lived there for over 15 years) and have learnt something from this post (actually planning a night out in the Diff when my bestie is back from Oz and was stuck on eatery knowledge, so this is perfect timing)

    I would also recommend the Welsh Cakes from the market and the Hayes Island Snack Bar – a Cardiff institution!

    Feeling homesick!

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