"Cardiff - the friendly capital" Top 5 Page for this destination Cardiff by ettiewyn

Cardiff Travel Guide: 1,031 reviews and 2,996 photos

Picture: Millennium Stadium and the River Taff

When I decided that I wanted to include Wales into my big UK trip, I quickly chose to make a base in Cardiff and see this city thoroughly, but also to explore more of southern Wales from there. As it was my first visit to Wales, I wanted to get a first impression like this, to then visit the north on a later trip! I just like to make a base somewhere and to explore from there instead of changing my accommodation every night, and so staying in Cardiff with its big bus and train station was perfect.

I titled this page "The friendly capital", and this is what Cardiff was to me. I must admit that I did not expect too much of the city - most people told me that it was not really nice or interesting there and that it was a city like any other. But my philosophy is to explore the unknown, even places that are not as popular or not the top place with first-rate sightseeing. This is what I did in Cardiff, and it was much better than I had expected from what people had described to me before. As I did not have any previous conceptions of Wales (apart from some of the pictures I had seen on VT), it really was like virgin territory to me, and so everything I did and saw held a nice surprise and new insights.

I liked the atmosphere in Cardiff a lot. Even if its history is not as rich as the history of other capitals and it does not have a big share of historical buildings, I enjoyed it very much. The people were so nice and welcoming, I had perfect sunshine nearly all the time, my first day in the city was St David's Day, right away showing me the self-awareness of the Welsh nation, and I enjoyed Cardiff's great sights like its castle, the Bay, its nice parks and gardens, and of course the possibility to do day trips to other interesting destinations in the south of Wales. It was easy to find my way around the city and although I had some problems with the tour company with which I had booked my day trips, it was a very relaxing stay where I could unwind and simply enjoy.


Update June 2012: Links to pages I have built in the meantime

Cardiff itself can roughly be divided into three different parts: The city centre around Queen Street and the Millennium Stadium, the Civic Centre just north of this (in fact only two minutes walk away from Queen Street, but still with a very different atmosphere and architecture), and Cardiff Bay, about two miles to the south.

I have organized the Things To Do tips according to these three parts, and also added some of the things that you can do outside of Cardiff. That means that the tips are in this order:

1. Sights in the city centre (tips 1 - 13)
2. Sights in the Civic Centre (tips 14 - 19)
3. Sights in Cardiff Bay (tips 20 - 25)
4. Small and bigger day trips out of Cardiff (26 - 31)

I stayed here for seven days and I really enjoyed every day. It is easy to explore places out of Cardiff by train and bus and I also did two guided tours. I found the atmosphere in this part of Wales just very pleasant, and the sights so interesting and of amazing variety - fantastic beaches and cliff tops, Roman ruins, prehistoric tombs, industrial heritage, great hiking, and of course many castles! I really can't wait to return to Wales and to see this area again, and even more to go north and see a different part of the country!

Pros and Cons
  • Pros:Great base for day trips around the south of Wales, pleasant atmosphere and friendly people, some beautiful and interesting things to see
  • Cons:City centre is dominated by chain stores, not a lot of historical buildings
  • In a nutshell:If you just want to come here to tick the country Wales off your list - you miss something! Cardiff deserves to be explored!
  • Last visit to Cardiff: Mar 2012
  • Intro Updated Jun 24, 2012
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Reviews (62)

Comments (12)

  • taigaa001's Profile Photo
    Oct 5, 2012 at 1:47 AM

    Good luck with your Barney Awards.

  • aaaarrgh's Profile Photo
    Aug 3, 2012 at 1:23 PM

    Amazing! Where did this page spring from?!! Altogether an excellent guide from the point of view of an inquisitive tourist. And thanks for the mention. It was great to meet you!!

  • uglyscot's Profile Photo
    Jun 17, 2012 at 2:40 AM

    You have covered so much in your brief stay in Cardiff. My daughter has lived there for several years and so I have visited for long periods, but unfortunately find the weather stops me from roaming around as much as I would like. There are so many castles and interesting places nearby as you mentioned. Luckily we have a car so can follow the brown signs indicating places of interest.
    You must visit north Wales too one day.

  • Britannia2's Profile Photo
    May 25, 2012 at 3:16 PM

    I haven't been to Cardiff since 1978 and it looks to have changed so much for the better. Wonderful pages - so interesting.

  • HORSCHECK's Profile Photo
    Apr 19, 2012 at 1:46 PM

    Mirjam, absolutely outstanding page about Cardiff here. It reminds me a lot on my 5 days in the Welsh capital. I also only used public transport and my own feet. Interesting to read that you decided for the Lonely Planet Guide instead of the Rough Guide. I usually go for the latter one. I especially like your practical tips about buses (note the spelling *winkygrin*). I can't believe that you met VT member Aaaarrgh, but didn't have a Brains beer at the Goat Mayor with him. After having read your fabulous page I think it is about time to return for another trip to the Wales. Oh, and yes I watched the language video. :-)

  • slothtraveller's Profile Photo
    Apr 15, 2012 at 2:34 PM

    You definitely kept yourself busy in Cardiff, Mirjam! :) I didn't realise quite how much the Cardiff area has to offer- all my trips to Wales have been to Snowdonia and other parts of North Wales. I really like the Animal Wall with the various stone animals perched on top! Castell Coch also looks like a nice place to spend a morning and you were fortunate to visit the city during the St David's Day celebrations- especially as it was an unplanned surprise! Looking forward to reading more of your UK tips as I am always looking into resarching trips close to home. :)

  • Trekki's Profile Photo
    Apr 15, 2012 at 11:25 AM

    Oh wow, you are quick!! Fascinating guide through Cardiff and very very well written, Mirjam :-)) I love the two castles and yes, Coch appeals more to me than Cardiff Castle :-) I like the tower of Cardiff Castle and the figures near the clock. And the animal wall. It must be difficult for a newcomer in a car to pass this wall. Tintern Abbey looks also gorgeous, but then I like these ruins anywhere. Hey, good videos, they bring the spirit across :-)
    I look forward to more :-)

  • Redang's Profile Photo
    Apr 15, 2012 at 12:13 AM

    Great page indeed! Thanks to your tips, I look forward to going there one day!

  • Nemorino's Profile Photo
    Apr 14, 2012 at 3:51 PM

    I’ve never been to Cardiff, but I’m curious about it because my younger son’s girlfriend comes from there. You certainly make it sound like a worthwhile place to visit. I never knew anything about the Bute family, but they must have been amazingly well off (like the 1 % today). I learned from your travelogue that Lady Bute even had a wash basin in the form of a castle! Good that you did so many day trips out of Cardiff without a car.

    That’s a funny video in Welsh. I used to hear a bit of Welsh in Birmingham, because an English colleague of mine was married to a Welsh woman and they were raising their children bilingually, so she spoke Welsh to them and they also had children’s videos in Welsh.
    (Also I once saw a performance by the Welsh National Opera in Birmingham, with Susan Graham before she was even famous.)

  • toonsarah's Profile Photo
    Apr 13, 2012 at 11:52 AM

    Wow, you have certainly done Cardiff justice! I am one of those who tends to dismiss it and hurry through to the more scenic parts of Wales in the west, centre and north, but you have shown me lots to hang around for next time I come this way! For instance, I never knew about the tunnels beneath the castle - the visit experience sounds similar to one you can do at the Imperial War Museum in London, but in genuine tunnels rather than mocked-up shelters :-) I really like the statue of Scott too, and share your fascination with Antarctic exploration

    St Fagans I have visited, but many years ago as a child. It really seems to have grown and to have developed well. I like the idea of having quite modern houses as well as the old cottages.

ettiewyn

“Happy as a frog on a tap :-)”

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