Helo from Caerdydd!
Cardiff was the destination for our first Welsh experience this past weekend. When we mentioned to our British friends our decision, it was met with some meh-ness, “but Wales is known for it’s greenery! Not the capital!” We wanted a taste of Wales, but didn’t have enough time to do a proper stay throughout the countryside. Regardless, we had a stellar time filled with Welsh castles, Welsh art, Welsh pubs, and of course, Welsh rain! Have no fear, even if you don’t have an entire weekend, we’ve given you our favorites to do in a day.
You can certainly drive to Cardiff, but as with most UK cities, car parks can be spotty, distant, and expensive. Cardiff Central is a well-connected hub for the western UK rail. Direct trains from London Paddington take a little over 2 hours and don’t break the bank. The station is just south of the High Street (St. Mary’s Road)—start your journey strolling by the various pubs, shops, historic buildings, and maybe even some more pubs! The fact that it’s barely breakfast time didn’t seem to stop some people!
9am (or first thing!) // Coffee stop, of course
Reg tried out 2 coffee shops over the weekend. Both spots were tucked away in the Arcades, or covered avenues, of Cardiff. The Boardroom is a cozy spot with a skater/surfer vibe. Unsure whether you want to purchase a flat white or a skateboard? This place has got you covered for both! Another spot tucked away in the Royal Arcade is Uncommon Coffee. No skater vibe here but a great sandwich menu has you covered if you want some chow with your caffeine fix. Regardless of whichever you decide on, be sure to explore the rest of the mostly locally owned independent shops tucked away in the Arcades.
10am // Cardiff Market
Just remember these words–Bacon bap and Welsh cakes! Cardiff Market is a hub for the residents of Cardiff. Filled with everything from butchers to hat salesman, this is a funky place to browse and get yourself a quick bite. We grabbed a bacon and egg bap from one of the small cafes and then picked up some Welsh Cakes on the way out. Welsh cakes are simple pastries resembling something like a scone or a crumpet and cooked on a flat top until golden brown and topped with some sugar. The traditional ones come with raisins but a variety of flavors are generally available (we devoured the chocolate and the nutella.)
11am // You guessed it…Walking Tour!
Our tour guide, Ywen (the Welsh version of the name John) runs the company himself, so he shared plenty of fun stories, legends, and welsh cakes! Did you know why animal statues line the barrier of Cardiff Castle? Why does the Welsh flag have a Red Dragon? He gives an amazing overview of Cardiff, walking through most of the famous landmarks and leaves you off near Cardiff Bay with some beautiful Instagram-worthy views. It’s a little over 2 hours but it flies back! Afterward, stroll back to the High Street (about a mile) or take a bus (on land or sea) or uber. You can check out Ywen at http://www.freewalkingtourscardiff.com
2pm // Cardiff Castle
We guffawed a bit at the suggestion on the Cardiff Castle website that you put aside 3 hours for the Castle but that honestly seems about right. And we didn’t even do the optional add-on tours! We’re putting two hours here though because if you only have a day you might not be able to take quite as much of a leisurely stroll around the grounds as we did. With a free audio tour you learn the varied history of this castle complex from Roman times, to Norman stronghold to aristocratic residencies and renovations. This place was overflowing with history and it’s obvious the people of Cardiff are eager to tell it’s story.
4pm // National Museum Cardiff
You can nix this if you want to spend more time at the Castle but the National Museum is a nice (and free!) stop in the city. They have 2 parts to the museum: natural history downstairs and fine art upstairs. A fun, informative, quick, and if necessary, kid-friendly time.
5pm // Cardiff University Quad
The National Museum sits on the corner of the larger complex that houses Cardiff University and various other administrative and government buildings. It all surrounds a gorgeous quad with flowers and monuments worth a stroll through.
Once the evening comes, starting thinking about your eating and drinking before having to head home.
6pm // Pub stop
The people of Wales love their beer and it shows as there are plenty of taprooms, pubs and breweries for you to explore. Brains is the more prominent local brew but there are plenty more to choose from. We recommend staying away from the big chain places unless the wild clubbing type place is more your speed, and seeking out a smaller place like the Cambrian Tap.
7pm // Dinner time
So many great choices for dinner. We had a bit of trouble finding a booking as, unbeknownst to us it was quite a busy weekend in Cardiff but we had a great dinner at The Meating Place. We heard great things about both The Clink and The Potted Pig as well.
9pm // Good bye!
Pub crawl through the high street till you need to leave. Need a new reco? Tiny Rebel, another major local brew, also has an outpost just off the high street. Then head back to the train (luckily everything is within walking distance in Cardiff) and have a nice sleep!