Cardiff (Welsh: Caerdydd) is the capital of Wales in the United Kingdom and is on the south coast of the country. Though it had a reputation of being an industrial city, Cardiff has changed dramatically in recent decades. It is now a lively and modern capital city, gaining popularity with tourists interested in its history and Welsh culture. It is quickly becoming one of the United Kingdom's tourism hot spots. Summer is by far the best time to visit as the city hosts large festivals with al fresco dining and drinking becoming ever more popular due to large areas of pedestrianisation. The city centre has seen huge development over the last decade and is now considered to be one of the top ten shopping destinations in the United Kingdom. Cardiff is a very green city, having the most green space per person in the UK, and this is complimented by Bute Park which sits in the heart of the city. It has a reputation as a city of castles, having 5 different castles within its surroundings. The city's core population stands at roughly 341,000, with 861,000 living in the larger urban area.
Cardiff is on the south coast of the south Wales plain, with a shoreline on the Bristol Channel. It lies at the mouth of three rivers: the Taff, the Ely and the Rhymney, with the Taff flowing through the city centre and all three reaching the sea at Cardiff Bay. Cardiff is quite a flat city, a characteristic that helped it become one of the world's leading ports for the transport of coal from the rugged south Wales Valleys.
Around 12% of the residents of Cardiff speak Welsh, and all public signs in the city are in both Welsh and English. However, as elsewhere in Wales, English is universally understood.
Cardiff's city centre is in the southern portion of the city just north of Cardiff Bay. It is traditionally centred at the castle, bounded to the north by the historic civic centre, large Bute park arboretum and university buildings, by the River Taff to the west, and by the Valleys and National rail lines to the east and south respectively. Growth in recent years, however, is pushing the city centre beyond these boundaries, especially in regards to commercial office and residential provision. In particular, the area south of the original city centre towards and including Cardiff Bay has been almost completely redeveloped.
Cardiff's history follows its castle which has been occupied for over 2,000 years when the Romans created a fort on the river Taff (where the name may have come from 'Caer' = fort, on the 'Taff'); the fort's original walls can still be seen highlighted around the base of Cardiff Castle's walls. In Medieval times the castle grew, and a small town spread from its south gate, the medieval street pattern can still be seen around High Street. In the 15th century the town was destroyed by the last great Welsh Prince Owain Glyndwr. Successive owners fortified the castle and the town timidly grew, until the industrial revolution when the 2nd Marquess of Bute built the Glamorganshire canal to transport coal from the Welsh valleys through Cardiff's docks. Combined with the later arrival of the railways, Cardiff's population exploded and the docks grew to become the largest coal exporting port in the world. At its peak, the price of the world's coal was determined at Cardiff's Coal Exchange and the first ever £1,000,000 cheque was written here in 1901 (equivalent to £77,837,000 today). Cardiff was the 3rd largest port of the British Empire resulting in Edward VII granting Cardiff city status in 1905. With the rise of the city's fortunes the Marquis of Bute transformed Cardiff castle into a fairytale gothic palace, donating land to build the truly impressive civic centre which contains the City Hall, National Museum, university and government buildings, all built in elaborate neo-classical Baroque styles out of expensive white Portland stone. The Marquis also commissioned the architect William Burges to design very many public and residential buildings in a distinctive Gothic style - many are still visible in the city centre and the inner suburbs. Cardiff was lucky not to have its city centre heavily bombed like other industrial cities during WWII, and was spared the worst excesses of the post war rebuilding, so a stroll around throws up many contrasts in eras and designs. It may surprise people that Wales (Cymru) did not have a de jure capital until 1955, when Cardiff was chosen as the outstanding candidate as largest city. However, with the post-War decline of coal, the city's docks became increasingly abandoned, and in the 90's the citys transformation began with the building of a barrage to stop the worlds second largest tidal range from revealing dirty mud flats, and creating what is today Europe's largest waterfront regeneration project. The Bay today is a mixture of apartments, sport, leisure and culture and its success has also seen a rejuvenation of the city centre, where large scale pedestrianisation and the recent massive St David's redevelopment have created a vibrant city, combining the best of the old, sitting close to modern architecture and amenities. As for the Castle, it was handed over to the people of Cardiff, and is now a major tourist, corporate and cultural attraction, an indication of where the city's future lies.
Cardiff has a strong sporting and cultural presence given that it is the capital city, and therefore plays host to most Welsh sporting events, especially since the opening of the Millennium Stadium in the city centre. In fact one of the city's charms is when it plays host to matches, the city centre atmosphere can be extraordinary, being swelled by 75,000 attendees and thousands of revellers.
In the past it was quite a gritty city with the port and industry playing a huge role, Cardiff's ports were once among the most important in the world. Notable milestones were when Cardiff Bay (sometimes called Tiger Bay) was the first area of modern Britain to be thought of as a multicultural area given the huge part immigrants played in the city's ports. The area is still home to one of the oldest and largest expatriate Somali communities in the world. The world's first 'million pound' deal was also signed at the Bay's own Coal Exchange building.
In the past few decades however, the city has moved away from its industrial past and has been transformed by developments such as Cardiff Bay, which now hosts famous and striking landmarks such as the National Assembly for Wales and the spectacular Wales Millennium Centre. Massive investments have also been made throughout other parts of the city, such as the opening of the Millennium Stadium and massive Saint David's shopping centre.
When to go
Cardiff is best to visit during late spring to early autumn as the warm weather adds to the city's pleasures and allows maximum experience of all the sites and areas of the city, although the city usually benefits from mild weather all year round, with notable exceptions.
The main airport is Cardiff International Airport. This is the only major airport in Wales and is situated some 12 miles to the south-west of the city in the Vale of Glamorgan. The airport is served by a number of airlines including Flybe , KLM , Thomsonfly and Skybus . KLM provide worldwide links to Cardiff via Schiphol (Amsterdam, NL). Domestic services operate daily to Anglesey, Belfast, Newcastle, Newquay, Jersey, Glasgow and Edinburgh. As for European routes, Amsterdam, Paris, Madrid, Dublin, and many other holiday routes such as Faro, Palma de Mallorca and Alicante, operate daily.
Car parks serving Cardiff Airport
|Address||On/Off Airport||Distance / Transfer Time||Security|| Park Mark
|Additional Information||Clients Retain Car Keys|
|Airparks||Days Inn Cardiff, Port Road, Rhoose, Vale of Glamorgan, CF62 3BT||Off||1 mile / 5 minutes||CCTV, security fencing, floodlighting and 24-hour security patrols.||Yes||No minibuses or high-sided vehicles are accepted.||No|
|Highwayman Parking||Highwayman Security Park, Fonman Rhoose, Barry, South Glamorgan, CF62 3BH||Off||0.3 miles / 7 minutes||24-hour CCTV coverage, floodlighting, razor-wire security fencing, guard dogs and airport security patrols every 15 minutes.||Yes||Trailers are permitted, but will be charged for an extra space.||No|
|NCP Long Stay Car Park||Cardiff International Airport, Cardiff, CF62 3BD||On||0.4 miles / walking distance||CCTV, perimeter fencing, automated entry/exit barriers and security patrols.||No||Trailers are not permitted.||Yes|
|Cardiff Short Stay||Cardiff International Airport, Cardiff, CF62 3BD||On||N/A||CCTV, perimeter fencing, automated entry/exit barriers and security patrols and disabled access||No||Trailers are not permitted.||Yes|
|Cardiff Long Stay||Cardiff International Airport, Cardiff, CF62 3BD||On||N/A||CCTV, perimeter fencing, automated entry/exit barriers and security patrols and disabled access||No||Trailers are not permitted.||Yes|
Increasingly, Bristol International Airport is used as well by residents and visitors of Cardiff. Prices can be lower, and it can be easily reached by car or public transport.
Wikivoyage has a guide to Rail travel in the United Kingdom.
Cardiff Central railway station is a major hub for many services and is in an ideal location being very close to the main city centre attractions and is in close proximity to Cardiff Bay. Arriva Trains Wales operate the vast majority of intra-Wales services with regular departures from Cardiff Central to the South Wales Valleys, Swansea, and a frequent service to North Wales. They also operate regularly to Manchester and Birmingham making Cardiff ideal to visit via rail. All inter-city travel is via Cardiff Central while Cardiff Queen Street station near the eastern end of the city centre is the hub for Cardiff's Valley Lines services, connecting the centre of the city with the suburbs and commuter towns. Both stations are controlled by ticket barriers, so you will need a ticket to enter or leave the platforms. Ticket machines are in the entrance of both stations and in Central station there are many maps that will help you plan your journey.
Cardiff Central is two hours from London Paddington by train, however some may take longer with more stops. Trains depart half hourly during the day and are operated by First Great Western . These services also continue hourly to Swansea. First Great Western run a service from Cardiff to Portsmouth Harbour via Newport, Bristol, Bath and Southampton.
Rail service provides quick and easy links to other interesting areas (such as the Vale of Glamorgan and West Wales), making Cardiff a pleasant and cheaper place to use as a home base while exploring the surrounding areas.
The city itself has around 22 train stations within its boundaries, with travel to North Cardiff especially accessible, Travel to tourist attractions such as Cardiff Bay, Castell Coch and Barry Island can be easily and cost effectively reached by train or bus.
From London and the South East of England, Cardiff is most swiftly reached by taking the M4 motorway west across the Severn Bridge and into Wales. Journey times from Central London to Cardiff are usually 3 hours, although visitors from Heathrow could shave up to an hour off this time. Don't forget the bridge charges a toll to cross, although after years of accepting cash only, the bridge operators now accept major credit and debit cards. See for up-to-date information on toll charges. The M4 is also the main artery linking Cardiff with West Wales including Swansea, while the A470 road mainly links Cardiff with the South Wales Valleys, Mid Wales and North Wales. Travelling from North or Central England and Scotland the M50 links the M5 motorway with Wales and continues down to south Wales eventually linking with the M4. Cardiff's junctions are 29 - 34 inclusive.
Within Cardiff, it is cheaper to find a train station and continue onto the city centre via train, as car parking within the city although plentiful, can be expensive. Getting around the city by car is straightforward, even within the city centre, it is quite easy moving around; although, it's best to restrict entering the city centre area during off-peak times as congestion can occur at rush hour like any city. Generally though, the city centre is pretty compact and its much easier and cheaper to move around on foot. Note that when major events (in particular international rugby matches) take place at the Millennium Stadium, most streets in the city centre are closed to vehicles.
National Express operate regular services to and from most other major cities in Britain with Cardiff Central bus station, which is in the forecourt of Central railway station, making it quite easy to switch between train and bus. In addition, MegaBus offer a regular and very cheap service to London and departs from near Cardiff Castle. Cardiff is about 3 hours, depending on traffic, from London.
Cardiff, especially the central area, is pretty compact with the main attractions being quite close to each other making getting around on foot quite easy. Most sights are signposted to help you guide your way around the city centre and the bay.
The city's flatness makes cycling fairly painless, especially around the Bay and City Centre (including Bute Park). The Taff Trail and Ely Trail provide mainly off-road paths through the city and beyond, although on days with good weather these paths can be almost inaccessible for cyclists due to inconsiderate pedestrians filling up the paths. Most parts of the city provide pleasant cycling, although some areas are more difficult due to heavy traffic or no-cycling pedestrianised roads (such as Queen Street). The 'Oy Bike' scheme has now been cancelled but bike hire is available from 'Pedal Power' in the Pontcanna Fields Campsite and from 'Cardiff Cycle Tours' at NosDa backpackers hostel.
Cardiff Bus offer a comprehensive network of services across the city, to the nearby City of Newport and to destinations in the Vale of Glamorgan. Fares are a straightforward £1.70 for any adult journey across the city, whereas £3.40 buys an all day 'Day to Go' pass to travel across the network (including Penarth, Dinas Powys, Llandough, Sully and Wenvoe) all. Another option is the 'Network Dayrider' ticket. This costs £7.00 for an adult ticket, but gives unlimited access to any bus travel in South East Wales.
The central bus station is in Central Square, in the forecourt of Central railway station, and maps are readily available that will help you plan your journey.
If you are sightseeing in Cardiff during the day and then going to Caerphilly and onto Newport, for example, this one ticket will cover all that travel.
Cardiff Bus also operate a frequent 'Baycar' service between the city centre and Cardiff Bay, which makes it easy to get between the main attractions and is good value if you don't want to walk. Stagecoach in South Wales, Veolia Transport Cymru and First Cymru also offer regular routes in and around Cardiff and South East Wales.
Open top sightseeing buses operate regularly during the summer season at a price of approximately £8.00/person.
It can be quite cost-effective, quick, and easy to visit areas with a local train station, such as Llandaff Cathedral or Penarth Pier as services leave from both Cardiff Central or Queen St stations so check on maps for train services, if you'd rather this than the bus. The wider Cardiff metropolitan area (including Penarth, Taffs Well, Pontypridd and Dinas Powys) contains 26 stations, making train travel a viable alternative in many cases.
Cardiff is not short of taxis. They can be flagged down on the street or booked in advance:
- Capital, ☎ +44 29 2077-7777
- Delta, ☎ +44 29 2020-2020
- Celtic, ☎ +44 29 2045-2045
- Dragon Metro, ☎ +44 29 2033-3333
Although a lot of taxis in the city centre are black, they have no set colour. Licensed taxis have a yellow plate on the rear bumper of the vehicle.
For a different experience, the River Taff Waterbus runs regularly during the summer season between the Millennium Stadium, Cardiff Bay and Penarth. Tickets cost around £4 and are available to buy online.
- Cardiff Castle, ☎ +44 29 2087-8100, fax: +44 29 2023-1417. Castle St. Cardiff Castle is a large castle whose foundations are based upon a Roman fort. In the nineteenth century, it was the one of the homes of the Marquis of Bute. The Norman fort in the centre, the Welsh regimental museum and excavated Roman ruins are open, and tours of the Bute household are available. The Bute part of the castle is quite amazing. The interior was all done in the early 1900s in a very idiosyncratic and interesting style. There is barely an inch that is not adorned with some sort of artistic work. Yet, it is not overwhelming. The craftsmanship is well worth a look. Admission is £8.95 for adults, £6.35 for children and £7.50 for students and seniors. Admission with a tour is £11.95 for adults, £8.50 for children, and £9.95 for students and seniors. There are family group discounts.
- The Millennium Stadium (Principality stadium). 74,200-seater stadium, opened for the 1999 Rugby World Cup, and now host to the Wales national rugby and football teams. It hosted the FA Cup Final for some years during the redevelopment of Wembley Stadium in London and is still the largest stadium in Europe with a completely retractable roof (good for those rainy days). A must see for any sport lover, tours are available online or at the ticket desk. Tours cost £6.50 for adults.
- The Wales Millennium Centre. An outstanding piece of modern architecture, opened in 2004 by the Queen, the futuristic Wales Millennium Centre is host to opera, dance and West End musicals throughout the year, making it a must see for those who like theatre. Entry is free throughout the year. While entrance to the theatre is charged, free live performances take place in the foyer every lunchtime at 13:00 and before shows in the evening. It currently hosts the exhibition about Cardiff Bays development that used to be house in 'The Tube'
- The National Assembly for Wales or the Senedd. Cardiff Bay. The seat of Wales' national government and was opened on St David's Day, 1 March 2006 by the Queen. Visitors have a chance to see public debates from the viewing gallery or a free tour around the building, which is made out of purely Welsh materials, and was designed by star architect Richard Rogers to be eco-friendly and as open as possible. Entry is free though expect security checks on entrance.
- The Norwegian Church, Cardiff Bay (next to the Assembly). First established in Cardiff Bay to serve the large community of Norwegian sailors working in the docks. Originally elswhere in the bay its main claim to fame is as the place where the author Roald Dahl was christened, but today it is a cafe and art gallery.
- Cardiff Bay Visitor Centre, (also known as the Tube). Home to displays and exhibitions on the development of Cardiff Bay as the world's largest port. Entry is free. Closed for work on the BBC drama studios, exhibition in the Millennium Centre.
- Llandaff Cathedral. In the ancient 'city of Llandaff', now incorporated into the north west of the city, and is one of the oldest religious sites in Europe. The cathedral dates from 1107 and features some spectacular architecture. After bomb damage in World War II it was very boldly restored; the huge statue of Christ in Majesty by Jacob Epstein tends to divide opinion, but is well worth a look. The surrounding village is an interesting place to explore with a local coal magnate's house (Insole Court) donated to the people of Cardiff and open for visitors. The Ghost tour has really become the thing to do in the area, making it into the Guardian's top 10 list of things to do in the UK.
- Castell Coch (meaning the 'Red Castle' in Welsh). A fairytale castle nestled on a hill overlooking the main gateway into the valleys from Cardiff in the outskirts of the city. Imaginatively reconstruted from ruins for the 3rd Marquis of Bute, its interiors follow the same elaborate designs as Cardiff castle except on a more intimate scale and would not look out of place in Germany. Entry costs £3.60 for adults.
- City Hall, the domed roof of City Hall topped by a Dragon is one of the landmarks of Cardiff city centre. Dating from the start of the 20th century, it is built of beautiful white Portland stone and surmounted by many statues. Inside, the marble hall is dominated by statues of Welsh heroes, the main hall has large bronze chandeliers and the main debating chamber sits under the dome. Open to visitors, events may prevent you from seeing all the rooms but a must-see.
- Cathays Park (pronounced "kut-AYS") is arguably the worlds most beautiful civic centre, comprising expensive white Portland stone buildings in a range of classical styles, all surrounding the formal gardens of Alexandra Gardens whose centre contains the beautiful national war memorial of Wales. Most people stop at the first 3 buildings facing the city centre (City Hall, National Museum and Law courts) and fail to experience the architectural beauty and tranquility of the park and surrounding buildings. Most beautiful with the spring blossom.
- Bute Park, more a collection of different parks that stretch continuously to the city's edge from the rear of the castle. Bute Park proper is an arboretum and former private grounds of the Bute family who owned the castle.
- Pierhead building, (former headquarters of the railway and port authority). Sits between the ultra modern Millennium centre and Senedd as a strong contrast and link to Cardiff's glorious past. A beautiful building covered in dragons and heraldry used for permanent and temporary exhibitions about Cardiff's development, and that of the docks.
- Caerau Castle Ringwork - A Norman ringwork castle within an older Iron Age hillfort (as at Caer Penrhos). Much of the site has been overgrown with vegetation.
- Beaupre Castle - late 13th century building with Tudor additions that make it appear more manor than castle. It is in village of St. Hilary, which lies just south of the A48, a few miles west of Cardiff
- Penarth - a Victorian seaside resort, now a suburb south of Cardiff. Known as "the Garden by the Sea”, it has a beautiful, historic pier
- Cosmeston Medieval Village is a "living history" medieval village near Lavernock, just outside Cardiff
- Penmark Castle - once belonging to the Umfravilles family. Nowadays a part of a 13th-century stone curtain wall survives along with a semi-circular tower.
- The Point was a church-turned-popular music venue in Cardiff Bay. The Point is situated in the old merchant's quarter of Mount Stuart Square. The square was named after Lord Mount Stuart, who represented Wales in Parliament during the Napoleonic period. The focal point of the square was St. Stephens, constructed around 1900, that would later be turned into The Point.
Museums and galleries
- St Fagans National History Museum, ☎ +44 29 2057-3500. Free admission (£3.50 car park charge). Known universally as St Fagans (pronounced "FAG-uns") after the village in which it is located, this was named the UK's favourite visitor attraction by Which? magazine in 2011, and is easily Wales's most popular. An open-air museum of buildings rebuilt, stone by stone, from all parts of Wales, built in the grounds of St Fagans Castle, an Elizabethan manor house which is also free to wander around. The Castle gardens, dating from the 19th century, are especially beautiful. You may not be able to see everything in a single visit due to the size of the grounds. Great for kids, the bus ride from/to central Cardiff is very pretty.
- National Museum Cardiff, ☎ +44 29 2039-7951. Free admission. Cathays Park. An excellent collection of paintings, archaeological finds and geological exhibits charting the history of Wales. The art collection is particularly noted for the collection of 19th-century French works assembled by Gwendoline and Margaret Davies, heiresses to a fortune made in exporting coal. This is of international importance and includes works by Rodin, Monet, Renoir and Van Gogh. Children love the dinosaurs and mammoths in the Evolution of Wales section. There is also archaeology from prehistory to the Middle Ages in the Origins section; there are daily volunteer-led tours of this and the art galleries. Buy parking vouchers here if needed. £4.00 charge for the museum car park.
- Techniquest, ☎ +44 29 2047-5475. Cardiff Bay, (near the Millennium Centre), Over 160 science and technology exhibits to entertain the whole family. There is also a Science Theatre and tours of the Universe in the Planetarium. A good opportunity for adults to be big kids. Entry: £7 Adults, £5 children with concessions available for groups.
- The Cardiff Story, ☎ +44 29 2078-8334. Free admission. The Hayes. This is the museum of Cardiff's history, located in the Old Library building, which it shares with the tourist information centre.
- Third Floor Gallery. Free admission. Bute Street. Third Floor Gallery is an independent charitable gallery established in January 2010. The gallery occupies two floors in a period building located a stone's throw away from Cardiff's bustling waterfront and the Millennium Centre. Run on a shoestring budget Third Floor Gallery shows the most exciting national and international contemporary photography and has a reputation of being the most daring and innovative photographic gallery in the UK.
- Relax in Bute Park or in the grounds of the castle, for a break from the hustle of the city centre.
- Visit Cardiff Bay a truly cosmopolitan experience full of restaurants, bars and cafes. A really good place for a 'passeggiata' on a Sunday afternoon. Boat rides in the Bay (permanently water-filled since the barrage was built), a few shops, and a children's playground at the far end (near the historic Norwegian church) along with beautiful views across to Penarth.
- Take a speed boat ride with thrills and screams as it makes 360 degree turns in the water at 70 mph.
- Walk along the bay from Mermaid quay to the barrage (near Penarth) to see for yourself how the water comes into the harbour from the sea. It is a lovely 2 km walk with the harbour on one side of the path and the sea on the other. Some stunning views, not to be missed. If you don't feel like walking you can hire a bicycle (you will come across the rental company on the way) or take a ride on the road train.
- At near-by Penarth, cruise the Bristol channel during summer months to the likes of North Devon, Gower Peninsula and even occasionally Pembrokeshire on the paddle steamers Balmoral and Waverly. Penarth to Ilfracombe is particularly spectacular, taking in the massive cliffs of North Devon.
- Next to Cardiff Airport, Barry is a port-town, which has a theme park, casino and heritage railway. With the closure of the docks, it has seen a renewed interest of recent times, thanks to a beautiful beach and a popular BBC series, called Gavin & Stacey. The amusement park on Barry Island contains several funrides, and is in fact the birthplace of Julia Gillard, Australian PM.
- Go on the Taff Trail, some of the sights close to the city centre are breathtaking and the tranquility offers a great contrast to the busy city centre.
- Go to the Brecon Beacons. Just 40 minutes from Cardiff, this Welsh National Park is a scenic retreat from the hustle and bustle of the city, offering activities such as climbing, paragliding, sailing and many more.
- Go for a pint of Cardiff made Brains beer in one of the city centre pubs on a match day at the Millennium Stadium.
- Canyoning Wales, Cardiff (Via A470), ☎ +44 845 0573588. 9AM-9PM. Blue Ocean Activities & Adventure offer fantastic trips around Wales, whether up the mountains canyoning or gorge walking. Blue Ocean Adventure offer full safety gear, training and support.
- Cardiff Cycle Tours, NosDa backpackers Hostel (Opposite the Wales Millennium Stadium in the centre of Cardiff.), ☎ +44 7500 564389, e-mail: email@example.com. 8h30 am to 6h30 pm. Bike hire and guided tours available. From £10 for bike rental.
Festivals and events
Cardiff's festivals are increasingly contributing to its development as a major tourist attraction. As most of them are concentrated in the summer months, it is ideal to visit then to make sure that you experience all the attractions and the festivals as an added bonus. Unlike Edinburgh, Cardiff is still pretty cost effective during the summer months so its ideal for those who don't want to go all out!
- Cardiff Children's Festival, held in the grounds of Cardiff Castle each year, and hosts a number of events, exhibitions and play areas for children. Entry is usually free.
- Cardiff Mela, annual event usually held in Roald Dahl Plas, Cardiff Bay.
- St David's Day Parade, a parade held on St David's Day the patron saint of Wales (March 1), every year. Something different so it's worth a look.
- Six Nations Rugby, the highlight of the international rugby season in which Wales, England, Scotland, Ireland, France and Italy compete in February and March each year. Wales play either two or three home matches in each tournament at the Millennium Stadium; the team has done well in recent years, winning the Grand Slam (i.e. beating all other teams) in 2005, 2008 and 2012, and attracts fanatical support. Tickets often sell out well in advance, but the atmosphere in the city centre is worth sampling even without a ticket.
- The Big Weekend, probably the most participated of Cardiff's festivals as hundreds of thousands of people dawn the city hall area to witness the carnival theme events and fun fair atmosphere. Usually on last weekend of July. Billed as the UK’s biggest free outdoor music festival, it offers three days of quality live music and entertainment. Each night comes to a close with a firework finale. There is always an eclectic line of up and coming artists, world music and established artists, and traditionally the Friday night has always had a strong presence of Welsh bands, such as Lostprophets, Sterophonics and Feeder. 2012 event is cancelled controversially due to Olympic football matches.
- Cardiff Mardi Gras, one of the UK's biggest gay and lesbian festivals, held every year in the grounds of Cardiff Castle. The 2011 event will take place on 4 September.
- The Welsh Proms, series of classical concerts takes place at St David's Hall each July. The festival now includes 'Fringe' events, with genres of music from jazz and country to chamber music, folk and jazz.
- Winter Wonderland, in Dec-Jan sees an outdoor ice-rink and funfair set up in front of City Hall, open early 'til late to the public.
- The Welsh Boat Race, the highlight of the Welsh Universities Rowing Calendar, although far from as established as the long running Oxbridge equivalent. Usually held in late April, the race between Cardiff and Swansea Universities alternates between the River Taff in Cardiff, and River Tawe in Swansea. The current holders of the Blue Ribband mens event are Swansea University.
Cinemas and theatres
Cardiff has some of the best theatre and cinema in Wales and even across the UK, covering huge range including mainstream films, foreign and theatre.
- St. David's Hall, City centre. Symphony hall used for orchestral concerts, recitals and other live music and comedy, host the Cardiff singer of the world competition, the world's premier singing competition.
- The Coal Exchange - exceptionally important building in Cardiff's history, it once saw 10,000 men scurrying around trading, dictating the world's coal prices. It almost become home to the Welsh Assembly, it is converted to host mainly music gigs but drama and art shows too.
- Chapter Arts Centre, Canton. Arthouse and alternative cinema.
- Wales Millennium Centre, Cardiff Bay. Opera and ballet, West End Shows and musicals.
- New Theatre. West end shows.
- Sherman Theatre. Independent theatre.
- Odeon, Cardiff Bay. Mainstream multiplex cinema.
- 'Vue,' Central Square, (inside Millennium Plaza and next to Millennium Stadium)
- Cineworld. Mainstream multiplex cinema, across the road fromMotorpoint Arena Cardiff.
Look out for events at the Millennium Stadium too.
Smaller gigs can be seen at many venues across the city including Callaghans, Clwb Ifor Bach, Cardiff Students Union, and Buffalo Bar.
More 'sedate' concerts are frequently held at St Davids Hall and The Welsh Millennium Centre.
Nicknamed the City of Arcades, Cardiff is great place for shopping in style and the Victorian arcades are worth a visit in themselves. They have lots of little shops, food markets, etc. Up-market home stores include Melin Tregwynt (now closed), and Banana Custard (for kids).
Queen St, St Marys Street and The Hayes are the major pedestrianised shopping streets which all branch off the castle, so it is easy to walk from shop to shop without fear of traffic. Queen street has most of the usual lineup of Marks and Spencer, Top Shop and River Island. The Hayes has recently been refurbished along with the massive St Davids shopping centre that has drawn in a few big names such as Hugo Boss and the biggest John Lewis outside of London. St Marys street, the original shopping street of Cardiff has gradually declined, firstly after Queen street was pedestrianised when the street saw a shift towards restaurants, bars and clubs, and then during the councils year long trial of closing the street to traffic. Thankfully St Marys street is now pedestrianised for most of its length, with work still ongoing but its worth a look as most of the citys grandest buildings are along its length with the large and oldest department store in Wales (Howells by House of Frasier), imposing entrance to the Central Market and elaborate entrances to the arcades particular high points.
The Hayes has recently undergone a massive transformation, seeing the construction of the £675 million St Davids shopping centre extension, along with the largest John Lewis department store outsie of London and a new public library well situated at the opposite end of the street to the original Library, now known as the 'old library', soon to open as the Cardiff museum. Here modern architecture contrasts beautifully with the historic shops and arcades on the opposite side of the street, which has quickly become the cities higher end of the market shopping street.
The Central market is a must for anyone looking for a find whether it be arts, crafts, food, souvenirs or even pets.
- Queen Street, St. Mary's Street and The Hayesare the main shopping streets in Cardiff city centre. Queen Street houses the likes of Marks and Spencer, Boots and many other stores with entrances to the modern St Davids and Queens Arcade shopping centres, which also have entrances on the Hayes. Combine the old St Davids shopping centre, larger modern extension, John Lewis and Queens arcade and they make up one of the largest indoor shopping centres in the UK. St. Marys Street is home to a large 'Howells' or House of Fraser store, numerous arcades that house one-off shops with many of the arcades having entrances on the Hayes.
- There are many tourist oriented shops in front of the Castle and inside the Arcades so have a look around where you can find many Welsh souvenirs and gifts there.
- Fish from Ashton's stall in the atmospheric indoor market, off the Hayes, Church Street or St Mary St.
- Or...fish from Canale's (now closed) on Llandaf Road in Canton.
- Cheese from Madame Fromage in the Castle Arcade.
- Music from Spillers Records, the oldest record shop in the world, is in the Morgan Arcade. In addition to selling music, it is the city's main location for buying tickets for alternative music concerts. Spillers was founded in 1894 by Henry Spiller at its original location in Queen’s Arcade.
Things are getting better in Cardiff for eating. It can be very difficult to book a table in the better restaurants on a Friday or Saturday evening. As a rule of thumb Mermaid Quay and the city centre are jam packed full with a varied contrast of eateries allowing you to experience many different tastes within a small area.
In the centre see Cafe Minuet (Marcello's) in Castle Arcade, The Potted Pig on High Street. In Riverside try Madhav's for unusual vegetarian Indian food. In the Bay avoid all the chains at Mermaid Quay and look at Mr G's Soul Kitchen for Caribbean. In Canton try La Cuina (Catalan food) on Kings Road. Head to City Road for a massive variety of world cuisines and don't miss .cn - an authentic Chinese restaurant very popular with the local Chinese community and Chinese students.
There are lots of little Mom and Pop eateries with reasonable, plentiful and quite tasty takes on the Full English breakfast, sandwiches, fish and chips, etc.
Also, there is the Brewery Quarter, which contains a few well known and different restaurants.
Vegetarians and vegans should head to Crumbs in Morgan Arcade for a great range of veggie and vegan food.
- The Prince of Wales - a great city centre location offering great food all day at some good prices considering its very central location. This is a typical Wetherspoon pub. However less central Wetherspoons outlets are cheaper.
- Canteen on Clifton Street has built up a reputation for excellent vegetarian and vegan food at very reasonable prices. Their evening menu changes every two weeks, with regular 'best of' menus chosen by their customers. A good selection of vegan wines are available. Only 10 minutes walk from the city centre. The No.12 Cardiff Bus passes their door. Closed Sunday and Monday.Tel: +44 29 2045-4999.
- Garland's Eatery and Coffee House, 4 Duke Street, ☎ +44 29 2066-6914. Arcade. This nice little restaurant has good prices for authentic Welsh fare and other sandwiches and cheap eats. The Cardiff native I stayed with recommended it.
Also there are small cafes in the Indoor Market offering typical cafe food from toast to full roast dinners. prices typically range from .50p to £4.00. good deal for a quick fix.
- ffresh, Bute Pl, ☎ +44 29 2063-6465. (Cardiff Bay). Restaurant and bar serves great locally sourced food, stylish surroundings offering a range of drinks.
- Cibo Italian Café, 83 Pontcanna Street (at the non-city-centre end of Cathedral Road), ☎ +44 29 2023-2226. Great little café-restaurant with superb food. Can get busy, booking strongly recommended. Expect to spend about £8-12 for a main course.
- Ichiban, 201 Cowbridge Rd E, ☎ +44 29 2066-8833. T. This is a wonderful Japanese restaurant offering excellent value noodle, curry and sushi dishes. There is one on Cowbridge Road, Canton and another on Albany Road, Roath. Both are a short bus or taxi ride from the city centre, or a 20-30 minute walk.
- Tenkaichi, 236 City Rd, ☎ +44 78 3142-1199. T. Tenkaichi offers authentic Japanese food with a British flare. It is a great restaurant if you want fresh noodles and sushi. It also provides an extensive wine list.
- Mina, 43 Crwys Road, ☎ +44 7763 491937. T. Highly-regarded and very good-value Lebanese restaurant in the Cathays area; small, family-run and very friendly. Can get busy, especially at weekends: booking recommended. About 25 minutes' walk from city centre, or take Cardiff Bus number 38 or 39, which stop outside the door.
- The Goat Major, 33 High Street, ☎ +44 29 2033-7161. This pub has some very good bar style food in an authentic Welsh atmosphere. Try the Welsh faggots (a type of meat ball) in peppercorn gravy.
- Red Hot World Buffet, 3-6 Hills Street, St David's Dewi Sant, Cardiff, CF10 2LE, ☎ +44 29 2034 2499. All-you-can-eat buffet-style restaurant serving food from all around the world.
- Castell Restaurant, The Angel Hotel, Castle St, ☎ +44 29 2064-9200. Amazing views of the castle grounds, and serves traditional Welsh cuisine. Also caters for private parties.
- Tempus Restaurant, ☎ +44 29 2045-4045. The luxury restaurant at the St David Hotel and Spa. Amazing views all around Cardiff Bay, and serves a traditional freshly caught seafood. With drinks expect to pay between £40-60 per person.
- City Canteen & Bar, 1-2 Mount Stuart Square, ☎ +44 29 2033-1020. City Canteen & Bar is a trendy bar. One can order a light lunch from the bar menu while listening to local DJs play music.
Cardiff is one of top nights out in Britain having the most pubs per square foot than anywhere else in Britain it has many late night pubs, bars, clubs and restaurants. In the city centre, St Mary street, Greyfriars road and Mill Lane are especially lively and offer a variety of establishments to suit all tastes. Mermaid Quay is a lively, albeit smaller option to spend a warm summer night.
Cardiff is a place to drink, favoured by Stag and Hen Parties from all over the UK. St Mary St contains many pubs and clubs and becomes wild and exciting on Friday and Saturday nights. There are numerous clubs only a block short walk from Central Station that are bumping into the wee hours. An extensive venue and events list, including gigs and live bands can be found at What's on in Cardiff guide.
For a quieter drink, seek out:
- Cardiff Cottage, 25 St. Mary St, ☎ +44 29 2033-7195. (except weekends and matchdays).
- The Old Arcade, 14 Church St, ☎ +44 29 2021-7999. Drinks in these venues, and other traditional pubs may vary from around £1.50-3.50 for a beer.
- Zero Degrees, 27 Westgate St, ☎ +44 29 2022-9494. Microbrewery has a utilitarian feel but fantastic beer brewed onsite, TV's with sport and excellent pizzas.
- Y Mochyn Du, Sophia Close CF11, ☎ +44 29 2037-1599. Y Mochyn Du is in Sophia Gardens, Pontcanna, by the Institute of Sport and Glamorgan's county cricket ground. One half is a traditional pub which has a good range of real ales, and the other side is mainly for bar food during the day. Due to it's location near the city centre, it's very busy during rugby and football internationals. The pub is also popular among the capital's sizable Welsh speaking community and all the bar staff are bilingual. On Monday nights, there is usually a group of around 10 session musicians jamming with traditional instruments. On the last Sunday night of every month, there is a Welsh language pub quiz in association with Menter Caerdydd.
- A Shot in the Dark, 12 City Rd, ☎ +44 29 2047-2300. Somewhere between a dimly lit bar and a chilled-out café, Has a certain joie de vivre in its unique atmosphere.
- Cadwaladers, St Davids 2, Red Dragon and Mermaid Quay. Wales' best kept secret is this companies slogan but not for long as they serve some of the best coffee you will find and Ice Cream which has to be tasted to be believed, all of which is made in Wales. All other food is made by them or especially for them. It is worth checking their website for printable vouchers.
Bear in mind it can be very difficult to find rooms available or within a sensible price when the Millennium Stadium is hosting events, especially when Wales play in rugby or football, so plan around the dates or plan early as it will be much cheaper.
- Cardiff Caravan Park, Cardiff Caravan Park, Pontcanna Fields, Cardiff CF11 9XR, ☎ +44 29 2039-8362, fax: +44 29 2039-8362. Centrally located camp site on the opposite bank of the Taff from Bute Park. Friendly staff. Bike hire on site, also very limited family room, but wide choice of food & drink within walking distance.
- Wedal Road Youth Hostel, 2 Wedal Road, ☎ +44 845 371-9311. Roath Park, - for £19 (adult without YHA membership) it's the cheapest place to stay and really quite funky (for a Youth Hostel): no curfew, modern, clean, friendly personnel, and a sumptuous breakfast is included; it's about a 20 minute walk from the city centre, or 10 minutes by bus.
- The River House Backpackers, 59 Fitzhamon Embankment, Riverside, Cardiff, Wales, CF11 6AN, ☎ +44 29 2039-9810. Excellent boutique hostel in central Cardiff just opposite Millenium Stadium. The dorms are neat and simple, bathrooms are nice and always kept clean. There is a common kitchen and eating area, as well as a TV and reading room. Free breakfast and wifi internet is included. The atmosphere is social but not too rowdy. Very hospitable owners and staff. Dorm beds around £18 per night.
- There are three other hostels in the city including Nos Da, Cardiff Backpackers and Nomad.
- 'A Space in the City Serviced Apartments, Cardiff City Centre and Bay locations, Tel: +44 29 2166 0303, Affordable alternative to a hotel, perfect for families.
- Cardiff Marriott Hotel, Mill Ln, ☎ +44 29 2039-9944. Is within a block of the train station, right across from at least ten clubs. It has reasonably comfortable rooms (not yet with the Marriott upgraded beds). They have high speed internet connections in the rooms, but the fee is £15/day for the service. The staff is friendly and helpful. Also, they have a small multi-storey car park for the hotels guest.
- Express By Holiday Inn Cardiff Bay, Longuiel Close, ☎ +44 29 2044-9000. Clean hotel in Cardiff Bay, 15 min walk from the centre.
- Holiday Inn Cardiff Central, Castle St, ☎ +44 870 400-8140. Just minutes from most attractions in the city centre.
- Lincoln House Hotel, Cathedral Rd, ☎ +44 29 2039-5558. Traditional converted townhouse on the outskirts of Cardiff city centre.
- Austins Guesthouse - Cardiff, 11 Coldstream Terrace, ☎ +44 29 2037-7148, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Small friendly B&B in the city centre, 300 yards from the Castle and overlooking the River Taff.
- The Angel, The Angel Hotel, Cardiff, CF10 1S2, ☎ +44 29 2064-9200.
- Cardiff Hilton, 1 Kingsway, ☎ +44 29 2064-6300. This is the place for more upmarket stays. Situated right in front of the castle and offers nice views of the civic centre.
- St. David's Hotel and Spa (The St. David's Hotel & Spa), Havannah Street, ☎ +44 29 2045-4045, e-mail: email@example.com. Check-in: 3PM, check-out: 11AM. A really great stay for those who want that little bit extra. Fronting the bay it offers spectacular scenery and is little more than 5 minutes away from the cosmopolitan bay area. Built and originally operated by the Rocco Forte Group, it was sold in 2006 to the Principal Hayley Group. Rooms from £99.
- Park Inn Cardiff North, Circle Way East Llanedeyrn, ☎ +44 29 2058-9988. A quiet location with easy access to the lively city centre and prime attractions, such as Cardiff Bay, Cardiff Castle and the Millennium Stadium.
- Radisson Blu Hotel Cardiff, Meridian Gate, Bute Terrace CF10 2FL, ☎ +44 29 2045-4777. Centre of the city, 5 min walk from both the train and bus stations.
- Gelynis Farm B&B, Morganstown, Cardiff., Morganstown (5 miles north of Cariff center), ☎ +44 29 2084-4440, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. 4 * Farm and Guest House £45-75 per room, per night.
Cardiff is home to around 30,000 students studying in various colleges and universities across the city.
- University of South Wales, . Wales' second largest university has a large new campus in Cardiff city centre focusing on the media, broadcasting and the creative industries.
Cardiff is quite a safe city, and certainly safer than most other major cities in the UK, with the centre having less overall crime than much smaller cities like Gloucester, Northampton and Derby, and far less than in the centre of London, Birmingham, Liverpool or Leeds. However, Cardiff has a relatively high rate of car theft crime rates . Make sure you remove all valuables from your vehicle, especially from show; and don't park at night in badly-lit streets in inner-city neighbourhoods such as Adamsdown, Splott, Riverside or Butetown. If you do need to leave a car overnight, several of the city-centre car parks offer cheap rates for all-night parking and are completely safe. Cardiff seems not to be plagued with a prominent red light district akin to many of the similarly-sized cities in England. However, areas such as Ocean Way in Adamsdown may be wise to avoid in the nights and early evenings in winter, as the area is known for prostitution. Anyone caught curb crawling is likely to be stopped and questioned by police, although more often than not, you will just be told to move on.
Alcohol-related violence is common in parts of Cardiff, especially on the weekends in the clubs and bars concentrated around St Mary Street and Greyfriars Road, so take extra caution to avoid offending anyone. (Cardiff Bay is usually less raucous at these times and attracts much less trouble.) In addition, as in any city, there are areas to avoid after dark: again, these include Adamsdown, Splott, Butetown, and Riverside. Bute Park is largely unlit at night so also best avoided.
- The Vale of Glamorgan, to the southwest of Cardiff contains the Victorian seaside towns of Penarth and Barry. Cowbridge is a picturesque town to the west. St Donat's Castle is one such attraction, a well-preserved 15th C. fortified house, with additions over the centuries. Fonmon Castle is also impressive, while ruined Ogmore has a lovely setting. Comeston Lakes is another beautiful place, with a well maintained country park.
- The superb Glamorgan Heritage Coast, around 10 mi west of Cardiff, stretching from Llantwit Major to Ogmore-by-Sea, the majestic liassic/carboniferous cliffs provide sparkling views across the Bristol channel, and the small little back roads (particularly the road to ogmore-by-sea) provide some of the most spectacular driving routes in Wales.
- Try taking the train to Newport, and then a bus to Caerleon and visiting the Roman amphitheatre there. It is quite well preserved and gives a real feel for how the Romans would have used the space.
- It is possible to visit Hereford as a day trip, using either train or auto.
- The Western Mail, based in Cardiff, and distributed throughout Wales.
- South Wales Echo is the newspaper from and for Cardiff.
- Capital FM The main local radio station for Cardiff and surrounding areas, providing listeners with up-to-date news, local information, as well as chart and contemporary music. Based in the Red Dragon Centre.
- Nation Radio 106.8 & 107.3 FM. Local Rock radio station, with news and weather a nice refreshing change from the main stream stations.
- Gold. Aims at an older audience than Red Dragon FM and also covers the same area.
- ITV Wales News. Broadcast from Cardiff Bay.
- What's on in Cardiff?. Online blog style magazine focusing on music and current events within the city centre.