In early June last year, I went to London for a week with a friend, and after a few days of sightseeing, she had a brilliant idea – let’s go to Cardiff! Neither of us had ever been to Wales before, plus the day trip would give us a chance to enjoy a wonderful train ride, about two and a half hours long. It turned out to be an excellent decision because Cardiff was really a place very much worth seeing. Its rich history and amazing culture will wow you, plus there are some great restaurants to enjoy, too. Here’s the itinerary we came up with.
What’s the best time to visit Cardiff, Wales?
If the weather is what interests you, be warned – Cardiff is a rainy city, and you can expect a week of rain on average even in the summer months. However, summer is still the best time of year to visit, and June is the dryest month of the year.
It should also be said that Cardiff can be visited all year round and that the winters over there are exceptionally mild – the temperature hovers around 8 degrees Celsius on average, which is quite warm for this time of year.
As far as events are concerned, summer is the busiest time in that respect as there are many food festivals, music events, and other interesting things during that time. However, autumn also has a lot to offer because of the numerous carnivals it brings. Therefore, coming here in September or even later could be a great move!
A few facts about Cardiff
Archaeological evidence shows that people lived in the area of what is now Cardiff (Caerdydd in Welsh) as early as 6000 BC, which is before Stonehenge was built! Later on, the Romans conquered the area and left quite a mark, with their fort serving as a foundation of the Cardiff Castle (more on that later).
Interestingly, Cardiff only became the capital of Wales in 1955, which makes it one of the newest capital cities in Europe. Furthermore, the city is also home to the oldest record shop in the world: Spiller’s Records is an establishment that was opened way back in 1894.
Doctor Who fans will be interested to know that this is where a lot of the show was filmed, and another interesting fact is that Captain Henry Morgan was born in Cardiff. So, when you pick up that famous rum again, remember where the man came from!
One day in Cardiff itinerary
Like I said, spending one day in Cardiff was a great decision, and I was lucky to have my Level8 luggage with me. It was easy to pack and light as a feather, so we were able to enjoy this wonderful city to the fullest. The suitcase’s large handle made it really easy for me to maneuver it around. Not to mention the fact that TSA-approved locks were also there. So, if you’re thinking of getting yourself some new luggage for your next trip, I sincerely recommend this piece.
But let’s get back to the issue at hand: this is what our itinerary looked like – follow it, and you won’t be sorry!
Head straight to Cardiff Castle
The first thing we did was to go and visit Cardiff Castle, a wonderful castle that is also one of the city’s main sights. But this is so much more than just an empty building. Inside, you will find State Apartments which are full of amazing artifacts. There are many works of art in the castle too, plus the Banqueting Hall is really something special.
It’s easy to lose a lot of time here, but if you’re spending just one day in Cardiff and want to save time, there are tours here that will show you the most important bits.
Explore the National Museum Cardiff
After the castle, we wanted to learn more about the history of Wales in general. Luckily, the National Museum Cardiff is fairly close, so you can easily hop over. The place has plenty to offer, with some of the items on display there going as far as the dinosaurs. There’s even a big art section with paintings by some of the most famous painters that ever lived.
Many archaeological finds are also present, and these show an intriguing story of what life was in this area thousands of years ago. In short, you will learn a lot in this place, and since it’s so close to the castle, it’d be a shame to miss out on it.
Have lunch on the shores of Cardiff Bay
After all that history, it was time for lunch. And the best way to combine food and the incredible vibe of the city is to head to Cardiff Bay. Now, this place is absolutely huge, so your best bet (if you’re looking for lunch) is to head to the area just northeast of Cardiff Bay Wetlands Reserve.
You will see how much the docks have managed to reinvent themselves, how modern and affluent they’ve become, and you will be able to choose between many excellent restaurants such as Las Iguanas, Yakitori1, Cote, and many others, each specializing in a different cuisine.
And after lunch, a walk through the wetlands reserve is a great idea if you’re feeling up for it.
Tour the Senedd
Another thing that was close to us and seemed like a place we really must visit while here is the Senedd, the Welsh parliament. Now, obviously, Wales is a part of the UK, but it does have its own representative body that has the power to make some decisions concerning life in Wales.
It’s interesting to note that this building was only opened in 2006 and is one of the most environmentally friendly parliaments in the world. Usually, it’s open until 16:30 every day, and you can sit in a cafe on the upper level and watch the debates.
Feel the White Water adrenaline
So, we’d had our fair share of history and we’d eaten well. We’d even dabbled in politics a bit. Now, it was time for some serious fun. Close to the place where all the restaurants mentioned above are is Cardiff International White Water, a place created for the 2012 Olympics held in London.
Everything here can be adjusted to your skill level, from the power of the water to the obstacles you encounter, so it doesn’t matter even if it’s your first time in a kayak. In fact, it can be loads of fun for the whole family. We bravely attempted to tackle a more demanding course and failed miserably, but let’s not get into that now.
Visit Wales Millenium Centre
Our one day in Cardiff was drawing to a close, but luckily, there was a wonderful place nearby we could enjoy. Wales Millenium Centre is a great place if you want to catch a show or dress up for an opera, but you can also enjoy shopping and good food. It’s everything a modern arts centre should be and more, so coming here will vividly show you how vibrant the city is.
Once again, there are many different restaurants to choose from, and we were very happy to choose a Greek place and enjoy some excellent Mediterranean food. But all of the establishments seemed pretty good, and judging from the comments online, you can’t go wrong with any of them
Where to stay in Cardiff?
voco – St David’s Cardiff
Havannah Street, Cardiff Bay, Cardiff, CF10 5SD, United Kingdom
If you want the ultimate luxury this city can provide, voco – St David’s Cardiff is the hotel for you. Not only does it have a fantastic spa and luxurious rooms, but the view across Cardiff Bay is nothing short of stunning. Even pets are allowed! I could go on enumerating the amazing features this hotel has, but let’s just say that you’ll be getting your money’s worth here. If you book a room here, you are in for quite a treat.
Clayton Hotel Cardiff
St Mary Street, Cardiff, CF10 1GD, United Kingdom
Another great place to stay here is Clayton Hotel Cardiff. It’s an extremely popular place among people who come to Wales’ capital, for several very good reasons. It’s very conveniently located, near the main train station and very close to Cardiff Castle. The rooms are bright and comfortable, and the staff will make sure you feel right at home. Many guests gladly return here if they’re often in the city, so go and find out why.
Lincoln House Private Hotel
118 – 120 Cathedral Road, Cardiff, CF11 9LQ, United Kingdom
Now, this one is a real beauty. Lincoln House Private Hotel is a meticulously restored Victorian house situated just outside the city centre and right next to the beach. Therefore, you can bet you will enjoy this location very much. Both interior and exterior are absolutely amazing, plus you will be served an amazing breakfast. Honestly, it’s like you’ve escaped into a Charles Dickens novel.
The Coal Exchange Hotel
4-5 Mount Stuart Square 4-5 Mount Stuart Square, Cardiff Bay, Cardiff, CF10 5FQ, United Kingdom
Don’t let the name of this hotel fool you, The Coal Exchange Hotel has a lot to offer. For one thing, its building is absolutely beautiful and is situated very close to Cardiff Bay. That’s a bit plus. But there are many other advantages here – great staff, great restaurant, great room service… Everything you need for a nice stay is readily available. Book a room and enjoy it because the heart of Cardiff will be so close to you.
Day trips from Cardiff
Should you have a few days to spare in Wales, do try and set up a day trip from Cardiff. This country is immensely beautiful, and you have so many places to choose from if you want to see something amazing. Here’s what you should definitely take into consideration.
For nature lovers, there are two amazing options because two stunning national parks can be reached in a very reasonable amount of time. Brecon Beacons National Park is just an hour away bar car and is a great place for a bike ride. Stunning waterfalls and lovely sights abound. The same can be said for Snowdonia National Park, which is about two and a half hours away. There, you can hop on the Snowdon Mountain Railway and marvel at the view of numerous majestic peaks.
Not only is Carmathen the oldest town in Wales, which is a good enough reason to visit it in and of itself, but the town is also extremely important in the legend of King Arthur. You see, according to the legend, Merlin, the great wizard and the king’s mentor, was born in his very town. You can see plenty of references to that fact throughout the city, and this will make the whole visit so much more interesting and exciting.
If you haven’t heard of Tenby, prepare yourself to be utterly amazed. This picture-perfect little town is a bit less than two hours from Cardiff by car and an ideal day trip if you’re looking for a place where you can relax completely. Colorful houses, a wonderful sandy beach, and the vicinity of Pembroke, where you can see an amazing castle (among other things), all make this place a perfect town to just get away from it all.
Extra tips for visiting Cardiff
– The weather here changes a lot, but the temperatures never go too high or too low. Because of this, take a moment to plan out what you’re going to pack (I didn’t, but was fortunate enough to have good weather).
– If you find yourself looking for a place where you can leave your luggage for a few hours, keep in mind that hotels will allow you to do that even after you check out. Alternatively, you can find and rent some lockers in shopping centers, primarily in St. David’s.
– “Diolch” (“Thank you”), Iechyd Da (“Cheers”), and “Esgusodwch fi” (“Excuse me”) are a few phrases in Welsh that will immediately bring you closer to the locals who appreciate very much when someone takes the time to learn a bit of their language.
– Cardiff VIsitor Card can save you money on tours and attractions, as well as some restaurants. Therefore, it can be a great investment.
Make sure you have everything you need
What to pack for your next trip?
Make your next trip as simple and as enjoyable as possible by packing smart. It’s amazing how much stress top travel items can save you, so choose carefully.
Things like lightweight travel backpacks, for example, are ideal for short trips and allow you to move around with ease, and a passport holder will make sure you keep your documents safe at all times.
Check our travel checklist guide for 2021 to make sure you haven’t missed anything, and travel to your next destination in style and with maximum comfort.