If you want to experience real cosmopolitan Welsh life then a visit to the country’s vibrant capital city is a must. From partying to tonnes of Victoria history, castles, shopping and markets there’s something for everyone but the true jewels are the welsh people you will meet along the way. Some must-sees in Cardiff include:
St Fagan’s Castle and museum – located 20 minutes out of the city centre this 16th-century manor house and 100 acres of land is free to the public and welcomes visitors to stroll around its 40 re-erected historical buildings. Unusually this museum brings history to life through workshops and craftsmen carrying out various crafts and trades on site. An example of this includes seeing butter traditionally churned, salted, shaped and imprinted before being sold to the public!
Castell Coch – about 40 minutes from the centre of Cardiff is the romantic Castell Coch. A popular location for weddings this fairytale castle with its dramatic turrets is a Victorian gothic revival castle nestling sweetly surrounded by woodland. It has lost a little charm through renovation and some of the paintworks leaves a modern feel but still a special visit to a quite magic relic. Admission for adults is £5.50.
Cardiff Castle – the landmark castle of Cardiff is located in the centre of the city and makes an impressive welcome to newcomers. This Victorian castle was established on the grounds of a Roman fort, was used as a Norman keep and passed through many generations of the noble Bute family before being given to Cardiff as an attraction. Due to its extensive and mixed history and purpose, the castle offers a rich collection of visual beauty inside and out. It is a must when visiting the city and well worth the £13 admission charge. If you visit on a sunny day take a picnic and sit in the park which surrounds the castle to soak up the history and beauty of the buildings and grounds.
Cardiff became a shopping destination way back in the 1800s when they introduced Arcades to offer covered shopping to locals. Nowadays Cardiff is considered one of the main shopping destinations in the UK and it’s selection of stores rivals many of the other major cities. However, for all its development the original arcades that established Cardiff as a destination still remain and now house many boutique stores, local craft shops and interesting cafes. You can locate the Royal, Morgan, High Street, Duke Street and Castle arcades amongst others and wind yourself through a varied shopping experience and piece of history.
Indoor Market – another nod to Cardiff’s Victorian heritage is found in its indoor market. Established in the 1880s this market focused on local trade sales including local produce, meat, fish and crafts. Nowadays the offering is similar with the addition of clothes, pet shops, vintage music, sweet stores and rustic cafes. If you want to bag yourself a bargain or just have a look at the local offering, pop in.
If theatre is your thing then Cardiff’s New Theatre Royal may offer you musicals, plays and short dramas all played out in their red-brick Victorian coliseum-style theatre. If you are after something more individual then Sherman Theatre may be able to offer you local comedy, national theatre and national dance performances as well as youth theatre and small-scale artistic dramas and comedy shows. Well worth a look and only a 15-minute walk from the city centre.
Cardiff Bay holds the title of Europe’s largest waterfront development and in recent years has undertaken significant progress to become an entertainment hot spot. For one the Millennium Centre stands as a huge copper-clad shell with water features surrounding it and operates as an entertainment hub housing opera, musicals, comedy acts and other performing arts activities. Nearby the Bute family Pierhead building also known as Baby Big Ben was used as the company docking headquarters but now remains as a historical reference point. Moreover, the bay is open to many popular places to eat, drink and dance from high-end Indian food to tapas, Italian and more, the bay is a great place to let loose and have fun.
If partying is for you then head to St Mary Street to witness how the Welsh earned the reputation of being big drinkers. Lined with pubs, bars and clubs this pedestrianised street is not for the faint-hearted and one can witness anything from public copulation to vomiting, drunks dressed as superheroes sleeping on the sidewalk to party-goers sitting in the trash to eat their cheesy chips. It’s vibrant sometimes disgusting but still a whole lot of fun. The Welsh as very friendly so don’t be alarmed to be talked to all night and the streets are lined with police in case you feel at all nervous. A good place to drink fairly cheaply and have random fun.
After your escapades in St Mary Street, the number one drunk food destination is Caroline Street which is a side road away. This street offers a concentrated version of the chaos of St Mary Street with everyone clamouring to buy their drunken food of choice from kebabs, pizzas, and chips with gravy. Chips and gravy is the unofficial welsh piss-head national dish and must be tried. Enjoy.