Home to historic landmarks, Viking-influenced street names, and modern museums, Cardiff has every right to be crowned the capital of Wales! What do I love most about the ‘City of Castles’? That might be a tie between the city’s craft breweries and the local music scene!
Your time in Cardiff won’t drag-on!
In 1081, after the Norman invasion, the first castle was built right next to the Roman site.
By 1839, Cardiff had developed into a busy port town ready to aid the industrial revolution. During this period, the Bute family (the ‘forefathers’ of Cardiff) propelled the city’s wealth by building docks on the port. Cardiff quickly enjoyed total dominance over the coal export business and by the 20th Century, the city was the biggest coal-exporting port in the world, with over 13 million tons of coal leaving the city at its peak. The Bute’s re-invested their profits in the city, and Cardiff Castle, Bute Park, Sophia Gardens, and Cathays Park were all renovated and opened to the public.
Today, Cardiff is a colourful city known less for its coal and more for its craft beer, live music venues, and sports teams. When the rugby’s in town, you can expect the city to be pumping as fans don green, red, and white attire and sing their way to Millennium Stadium.
International travellers arriving in Cardiff will touch down at either Bristol Airport or the smaller Cardiff Airport. From Bristol, the drive to Cardiff is about one hour. Alternatively, visitors can take a train from Birmingham New Street to Cardiff Central and arrive in good time.
From Cardiff Airport, travellers take a shuttle bus (which costs £1) to Cardiff International Airport Railway Station and then board a train to Cardiff Central. Trains depart every hour and cost around £5 one way. Those looking to reach central Cardiff quicker should consider taking a taxi from the airport terminal.
No Womanby, no cry!
Cardiff is a compact and flat city, which means walking is perfect! The city also has an extensive bus system (Stagecoach buses). To use, simply hop on board and pay using contactless payment.
Here’s Another Pro Tip: Visit in summer, from May to late August, if you want to enjoy open-air exhibits at Cardiff Castle and outdoor events at Cardiff Bay.
When you’re not admiring exhibits at a historical museum or marvelling at 11th-century castles, you’ll likely be visiting the oldest record shop in the world or exploring a city park. There’s a lot to do, so here are my favourite attractions:
You’ll enjoy Roman-about Cardiff Castle!
- Cardiff Castle – This medieval castle, and Gothic mansion, dates back to the 11th century and sits in the heart of the city centre. Over 2,00 years of history are on show inside!
- Celtic Manor Golf Club – For Golf lovers, a visit to the sight of the 2010 Ryder’s Cup is a must visit. This challenging course is a great way to test your skills while enjoying nature.
- National Museum – Culture vultures and historians alike will delight at the art and history museum. Inside you’ll find displays covering local botany, geology, zoology and fine art!
- Castle Coch – Rent a bicycle and cycle along the River Taff to this spectacular gothic castle which sits just north of the city. The journey takes roughly 30-minutes, and you’ll enjoy the lush countryside as you go!
- St. Fagans National Museum of History – This open-air museum sits just west of the city and explores the historical lifestyle, culture, and architecture of the Welsh people. An entire afternoon could be spent here as there are over 40 sites spread across woodland to explore!
- Spillers Records – The world’s oldest record shop is found in Cardiff’s Morgan Arcade. The shop dates back to 1894 and sells a vast array of vinyl and CDs in genres including hip hop, rock, jazz, and indie.
Cardiff makes use of the surrounding fertile countryside and sea, and you’ll find restaurant menus are bursting with local produce from Welsh lamb to Conwy mussels! Here are my three favourites:
- Society Standard – This chain restaurant takes abandoned buildings and transforms them into hipster restaurants. Innovative comfort food is Society Standard’s niche, but their Sunday roast is to die for!
- Park House – Fine dining in a Gothic Grade I mansion is on the cards at Park House. This award-winning restaurant blends traditional French cooking techniques with local Welsh produce to create delightfully crafted dishes. I recommend the Roast Butternut Squash with Black Truffle Gnocchi.
The Cardiff Food Festival is a tasty treat!
- The Potted Pig – This snug restaurant is housed inside a former bank vault beneath the city and is renowned for its seasonal menus and eclectic gin bar. Of course, pork is a big part of the menu, and you must order the Potted Pig starter.
Here are my three favourite bars:
One pint of ‘Hazy AF’ please!
- Brewdog Cardiff – Specialising in fine craft beers with funky names (including Zombie Cake and Trashie Blonde) this quirky chain bar and restaurant provides a lively night out. Grab a booth and a board game and settle in for the night.
- The Dead Canary – As one of the city’s best cocktail bars, this little establishment provides a lively night out on the town. The dark 1920’s decor creates a cosy environment to enjoy a carefully crafted cocktail or two.
- The Cambrian Tap – This rustic bar is well known for its craft beers and retro furniture and has more than 18 beers on draught. Check out the “Whose Beer” wall to see which local beverages have inspired the bar’s menu.
From contemporary hotels in the city centre to remote Georgian mansions in the countryside, here are my accommodations recommendations:
- New House Country Hotel – Soak up the welsh countryside at this regal hotel found just a 20-minute drive north of the city. Traditional rooms are spread across this Georgian manor house, and guests enjoy the use of the onsite restaurant and communal spaces (home to roaring fires).
- Hotel Indigo – Bordering on boutique, this modern hotel offers a contemporary stay in the heart of Cardiff. The onsite restaurant is the product of celebrated chef Marco Pierre White.
- Cardiff Marriott Hotel – Stay just a 10-minute walk away from some of the main attractions at this central chain hotel.
History museums, craft beer bars, and ancient castles all ensure that Cardiff is a capital city packed with character. Why not make a week of it and visit the nearby cities of Bristol and Bath?