Cardiff’s Best Hidden Secrets

Image by Krisztina Papp

Llandaff Cathedral

Words by Francesca Ionescu

Image by Xiaoxia Xu

As Wales going into lockdown confined me to a two-person top floor flat with everything you need BUT a garden, I started looking for places I could go to and get my daily walk in. Coming from a town surrounded by fields and nature the one thing I found Cardiff seemed to lack was non-urban areas. Bute park and Roath were great to go for a walk, but both still didn’t satisfy the need to walk for hours and end up in a quiet spot. I found Llandaff to be an amazing spot and surprisingly not known by my friends and classmates. The walk to Llandaff puts together the best of Cardiff, as while you get deeper into Bute and become more surrounded by trees and fields you can still see the city’s skyline. If you don’t choose to go down the Taf trail you can even see a little equitation school, striking compared to the Cardiff Met campus just 2 minutes up the alleyway. What really fascinated me about Llandaff was that once you crossed the busy road that passed Big Tesco and went around the back of the rugby club you entered a picture of the past, and you’d find it hard to believe you were still in the city. The Cathedral seems untouched, surrounded by moss covered stone graves, and up the steep stairs you enter a village square that even when full of people is still quiet and peaceful. Llandaff Cathedral became my favourite weekend destination, as the walk in itself is so beautiful you don’t even realise how long it takes, and you get to step out of the crazy student life for a second of peaceful “rural” life.

FinCo Coffee, The Castle Emporium

Words and image by Chahat Gandhi

I’m neither a teetotaller nor a coffee addict, so a cup of hot chocolate has always been my go-to beverage for those blue days. I still remember the day two of my very close friends discovered this little shop that sold what they claimed to be “Cardiff’s best hot chocolate”. They couldn’t stop talking about it, so one usual UK windy, rainy evening we made an impromptu plan to go there and finally have “the cup of dreams.”

This was my first time visiting The Castle Emporium, and I loved the vibe of the place as soon as we stepped in. The owner was super warm and welcoming and the whole place was small, cosy, and aesthetically pleasing. It simply felt like a safe space, a comfort zone. Just the type of place you need when you are so far away from home. 

This cute little shop just sells a few beverages and of course, the best hot chocolate in the world. The first sip felt like a hug from the inside and I knew I was in love. 

So, to all my fellow hot cocoa lovers, ditch your regular Tim Horton’s cup and please go try this magical drink. 

13/10 recommend FinCo’s hot chocolate, maybe it won’t be my secret place anymore, but the world deserves to know about my favourite cup of hot chocolate!

The Arcades

Words by Clara Boon

I often lose myself within the labyrinth of quaint arcades located in and around Cardiff’s city centre. My Nana, Gwenllian, was born and raised in Penarth. When I first arrived at Cardiff Uni in 2017, she told me that I must visit the arcades as they’re truly unique. Tucked away from the hustle and bustle of the highstreets, the arcades host the most diverse, and wonderful individual shops and cafes.

As an avid cheese lover, I stumbled across Madame Fromage when a friend took me there for lunch one day.

Word of warning: This cafe is brie-ly not for those of you who are dairy-free.

All of the dishes on the menu feature cheese as the main component, such as: Welsh Rarebit, Croque Monsieur and Baked Raclette. This cafe boasts an extensive range of 150 different award winning and artisan cheeses which are available to buy from their in-store deli section.

If you leisurely meander your way down to the Castle arcade you will find yourself at the Fabulous Welshcakes shop. It is practically a sin to not have tried a Welsh cake before entering the country of their origin. I was overjoyed to discover that alongside the traditional filling of sultanas, this tiny shop also has a range of flavours including chocolate, cinnamon, or even cranberry. Priced at 50p each, these patriotic biscuits are a quick fix if you are in a rush on your post-lockdown shopping spree. They are baked fresh on the premise and are normally served to you warm to eat on-the-go. Although…nothing truly beats your homemade Welsh cakes Nana!

Not only do I admire the elegant architectural design, but I also enjoy perusing the unusual stores within the arcades. From specialist gaming shops to vintage clothing and quirky book stores, the tranquillity of the arcades transports you away from the busy streets into (what seems like) its very own time zone. Finding a seat at a table during a match day may be a challenge and an extreme sport, as the city becomes swollen with Welsh rugby fans. However, there’s no better way to sit back and truly soak up Cardiff’s wholesome and charming atmosphere.

The arcades offer an eclectic mix of cafes, and boutiques, and even have their own annual inaugural City of Arcades Day. This day showcases what the arcades have to offer with live music, and in their most recent celebration in 2019, I modelled in a fashion show right down the centre of Duke Street Arcade’s bustling pre-covid runway.

So remember to take some time out from your normal route down the highstreet and take a detour down to the arcades. Just like Alice’s Wonderland – you never know what you might find!