Charlotte Wace gives you the low-down on what Cardiff and its surroundings have to offer. Tick these off and experience your city…
Probably the most pressing issue currently at the forefront of your mind is whether you have enough alcohol for tonight’s pre-drinks, or how to remember so many names. But when everything settles, remember that Cardiff has been recognised by the British Tourist Authority as the most affordable capital city, with numerous things to do and see. So much, in fact, that it is difficult to know where to start. So regardless of how you normally spend your time – from white water rafting to all-day PlayStation marathons – be sure to slot these few must-dos into your schedule.
Cycle the Taff Trail: If you’ve been at university longer than a day, you are probably familiar with Cardiff’s clubbing scene already. But when everything has calmed down a bit, perhaps think about slotting this into your schedule: cycling the epic Taff trail. At 55 miles, I wouldn’t recommend hitting the jaegerbombs too hard the night before; but it’s worth the sweat, I promise.
Visit Cardiff Market: Think Hogsmeade (for all the Harry Potter fans out there) combined with the vibrancy of a modern fashion bazaar, with one-of-a-kind quirky little shops. Whether it’s a fireman costume, a present for a fussy friend, a new saucepan or a vintage handbag you’re after, chances are you’ll find it.
Swim in the river at Bute Park: Edge through the glass-strewn maze of the Talybont complex, and you will find one of Cardiff’s gems. Get a group of you together, and chill by the river; jump in if the sun’s out. Enhance the process by making a cider stop at Tesco and dragging someone who can play guitar along with you.
Embrace fancy dress: Cardiff clubs are particularly hot for this. Preferably, go to ‘The Lash’ at the union, famous for their enthusiasm for themed nights where fancy dress is obligatory. Combined with tequila shots as cheap as a pound, you know you’re onto a winner. The concept of fancy dress is a fantastic icebreaker: the more outrageous the better.
Drop by the Millennium Centre: This arts centre situated in Cardiff Bay is prerequisite for those with a passion for drama and classical music. The venue satisfies a vast array of tastes, encompassing Jimmy Carr, Dirty Dancing and the Welsh National Opera. Most famous for celebrating Celtic culture, the Centre gives you an opportunity to get some Welsh into your vocab whilst being thoroughly entertained. With frequent free performances and workshops, you have no excuse not to drop by.
Watch a rugby match at the Millennium Stadium: Although a famous venue for music concerts, football, motorsports and boxing, it is a pivotal experience to watch a Welsh rugby match here. Seating over 74,500, the atmosphere in the stadium is electric and cannot be matched elsewhere. If you don’t understand why the Welsh regard rugby with the utmost importance, here is the place to learn!
Take a trip to Barry Island: If it was good enough for filming ‘Being Human’ and ‘Gavin and Stacey’, then it’s good enough for students too, and only 35 minutes away by train. Forget deadlines and responsibility; waste your money on chips, candy floss and pleasure park tokens and take lots of pictures of your friends getting soaked by unexpected waves.
Eat a Welsh Cake: If you’re not man enough to stomach other famous Welsh dishes like faggots (meatballs made from lamb or pigs liver) or laver bread (a sort of seaweed pancake), then this is for you. Nearer to a scone than cake, these buttery babies are fried on a griddle, and then doused in sugar. For best results, eat fresh and warm from the popty (Welsh for oven. You’re welcome).
Indulge in a Sunday Roast at The Taf: Chatting over a lovely meal is a great opportunity for bonding. However, tired, over-partied students combined with a hot stuffy kitchen is a far from ideal match. Setting fire to your new flatmate’s jumper probably won’t win their friendship, so head to The Taf, where for a very reasonable outlay, you get a break from frozen pizzas and washing up, and can chat without the distractions of loud music and alcohol.