Itchy feet but empty pockets? Trust our list of Cardiff highlights and discover some amazing places in and around the Welsh capital.
With 2000 years of history, Cardiff Castle is one of Wales’ most popular visitor attractions. Located at the heart of the city, within beautiful parklands, it encompasses a Roman fort, Norman traces, lavish Victorian apartments and wartime tunnels from the Second World War. In 1766 it became Bute family’s property who transformed the castle into a Welsh Victorian Camelot. However, after the death of the 4th Marquess of Bute, the family decided to give the castle and most of its parklands – Bute Park – to the city of Cardiff. Nowadays, visitors have access to all this history. An introductory film show is followed by a walk with a personal audio guide telling the story of the Welsh soldier over the last 300 years. Guided tours of the apartments’ opulent interiors are also available and there are special events throughout the year. The best thing is that as a resident of the city you can have a castle key that gives you free access to all the castle, plus discounts for your friends and on souvenirs at the gift shop. (All you have to do is to show a proof of your Cardiff address in the ticket office)
Perfect for: Getting some fresh air on a hangover.
Fancy it? Go to www.cardiffcastle.com
Before known as Tiger Bay, Cardiff dockland district is Wales’ oldest multi-ethnic community. It has also been the cradle of famous individuals such as the former rugby star Billy Boston and singer Shirley Bassey. After a period of destruction and displacement of the area’s community, the Bay was regenerated as a leisure and business hot-spot. Nowadays, visitors can stroll around the fresh-water lake derived from the Cardiff Barrage which connects to both the Taff and Ely Rivers or even do a boat tour from Mermaid Quay. Cardiff Bay is also the location of the prestigious Wales Millenium Centre, a stunning international arts center. Other attractions in the area innumerous water activities, Skate Plaza, the Techniquest Science Discovery Centre, the Welsh Assembly, the Butetown History and Arts Centre, the Golelong 2000 Lightship, the Norwegian Church Arts Centre, as well as a fantastic range of bars and restaurants in a gorgeous waterside location. (30 minutes walk from the city centre or 10 minutes by bus. There is also a water taxi from the Bute Park.)
Perfect for: A romantic meal with the flatmate you want to sleep with.
Fancy it? Go to www.cardiffbay.co.uk & www.wmc.org.uk
Being smaller and less central, Roath Park often finds itself in Bute Park’s shadow. However, this cultivated Victorian park has a very different flavour from its bigger sister and deserves to be appreciated independently. The park is thoughtfully put together with different sections creating a different character: there is a Wild Garden full of winding paths and wildflowers; a Botanic Garden; Pleasure Gardens where you can play basketball and tennis; Roath Recreation Ground with rugby and football pitches; all of which centres around the park’s picturesque lake and its iconic Lighthouse. When the sun is out, pick a seat on the lakeside and you can sit back and watch the world go by all day long.
Perfect for: A sunny picnic.
Fancy it? Go to the ‘Roath Park’ page, www.cardiff.gov.uk
Cycling City Tour
A great introduction to the city of Cardiff, its history and its culture, is the Cardiff Cycle Tour. With a maximum price of £15 for a whole day’s ride (including entrance into Cardiff Castle), these beautiful and interesting tours are a cheap and fun way of getting to your new home. The friendly tour guide will provide you with a bike, so you all you need to bring is yourself. Cardiff Cycle Tours run two routes: The Bute Tour, a beautiful winding route from the Bay to the Castle, and The Bay Tour which explores the areas around Cardiff Bay.
Perfect for: An adventure with the flatmates.
Fancy it? Go to www.cardiffcycletours.com
The Llandaff Ghost Walk
“One of the top 10 things to do in the UK for under a tenner!” – Essential Travel magazine, March 2011. For the more adventurous ones here is a suggestion: a two hour night walk in one of Britain’s oldest Christian sites while listening to ancient and modern ghost tales. A mournful white lady, seen for generations near the river; a sinister, hooded and faceless man in black who watches and follows visitors; a hideously ugly witch-like demon, a portent of death, haunting the lanes and woodlands; and curious ghostly children, seen, heard and felt throughout the route are some of the stories that you will hear whilst walking near the banks of the river Taff and across an old graveyard. The village of Llandalf is just a 15 minute bus ride from the city centre and if, at the end, it was too much to handle, you can always relax in one of the village’s pubs.
Perfect for: Thrill-seekers and horror fans.
Fancy it? Go to www.cardiffhistory.co.uk
As you approach Castle Coch (translated as ‘Red Castle’) you will meet the fairytale sight of its beautiful gothic towers poking up through the trees of the forest. This enchanted environment grows stronger as you walk up the winding woodland road to the castles moat and draw bridge. The castle’s interior is equally impressive: highlights include a nature room with a stunningly painted mural over the ceiling and walls, and fabulous views from the top towers. Unfortunately, the entrance fee is unavoidable and you don’t get a huge amount for your money; but the castle grounds are magnificent to explore, so go on a sunny day, take a few beers, and sit back and enjoy the fabled lands. (Get the 132 stagecoach bus from Cardiff to Tongwynlais. From there it’s about a 1km walk to the castle grounds.)
Perfect for: An escape from the city.
Fancy it? Go to www.castlewales.com/coch
Known as Cardiff’s “Garden by the sea”, Penarth is a small seaside town just outside the city. It’s a pretty place to walk around, especially with its Victorian pier, and it has some great attractions too. There is the Turner House Gallery which features changing exhibitions of photography, video and new media art; right now they’re showing a display by Ffotogallery, the national photography development agency for Wales. Penarth also contains an old Victorian park named Alexandra Gardens and some striking cliff top walks nearby. (Catch a bus or a train from the city centre, or for something a bit more special grab the Aquabus from either Mermaid Quay or Bute Park for £3 one way.)
Perfect for: Arty types.
Fancy it? Go to www.visitcardiff.net/penarth
For breathtaking views of both the Bristol Channel and the Somerset Coast, head to cliff tops of Lavernock Point. To get there, an easy, scenic walk from Penarth takes you along multi-coloured cliffs and a popular fossil hunting trail. Lavernock Point also holds its own piece of history, as it is the spot where the first radio message was ever transmitted over open sea in 1897. It was in May of that year that inventor Guglilmo Marconi transmitted and received the wireless signals in morse code: the message, which can be read in the National Museum of Wales, read “Are you ready?”.
Perfect for: Photo opportunities.
Fancy it? Go to www.lavernock.ukfossils.co.uk