Spend a weekend in our amazing home city - you won't be short of things to do
To celebrate our quarter-century anniversary, we’ve put together 25 of the best things to do in our hometown – The ‘Diff!
Watch a rugby match
Ok, so this is a pretty obvious one. But there’s something extra special about watching a match in the Mill... Sorry, Principality Stadium – the spiritual home of Wales. Gwlad... GWLAD! The stadium also organises tours, for your rugby history fix.
Stay at St David’s Hotel
If you’re feeling swish, you could stay at this luxury 5-star hotel. The rooms have massive windows overlooking Cardiff Bay. Plus there’s an excellent restaurant, delicious cocktails, and an indulgent spa. If this isn’t within your budget (or even if it is), you can win two nights in the St David’s Hotel (among other great prizes) in our awesome Admiral at 25 competition.
Go to a building full of art and dinosaurs
The National Museum in Cardiff is a must-visit. It’s choc-full of wonderful art and natural history exhibits. There’s a bountiful carousel of exhibitions that display at the museum, so be sure to check out what’s on. Although you have to pay for access to some, entrance to the rest of the museum is the best possible price – free!
Stuff your face
Take a tasting tour Loving Welsh Food can take you round the city centre, sampling the culinary marvels that the capital has to offer. They also organise a more indulgent ‘food safari’, which takes in three courses in three different venues – including a whirl down to Cardiff Bay. If you’ve never tried cockles and laverbread, now’s the perfect opportunity.
Voted this year’s best park in Wales in the Fields in Trust Awards, Roath Park is undeniably lush. Make your way up to the lake, where you can marvel at the lighthouse, which is a memorial of Captain Scott’s doomed trip to the Antarctic. Once you’ve eaten an ice cream with reflective solemnity, you can hop on a pedalo and traverse the lake. Or you can row, if you have the chops. It’s not as easy as it looks, mind.
Go back in time to St Fagans
The village of St Fagans hosts the National Museum of History. This collection of lovely old preserved buildings showcases the lifestyle, architecture and culture of the Welsh people of yesteryear. Most of the buildings that comprise the museum have been relocated brick by brick from their original locations. They include an array of mills, cottages, a tannery, a smithy and... er... a pigsty. The much-missed Vulcan pub is due to be relocated there, which was Cardiff’s oldest surviving original pub until its demolition in 2012. They also host ghost tours, if you like your history with a pinch of the supernatural.
Pay homage to Billy the Seal
Billy the Seal was a resident of Canton from 1912 to 1939. Legend has it that Billy was caught in trawler nets of the Irish coast, and rehoused in Victoria Park. There’s now a commemorative monument by the paddling pool in which she used to live. That’s right – Billy the Seal was a she. Her misgendering was only discovered upon her death.
Visit Chapter Arts
Chapter is a theatre, gallery, cinema, gig venue, creative hangout, café and bar all rolled into one. It’s also one of the venues hosting the Artes Mundi exhibition, the prize for which is the biggest art prize in the UK. Plus it’s a nice place to relax, and the food’s delightful.
Wander round Cardiff market
The market, with entrances on St Mary Street and Trinity Street, is a proper Cardiff institution. Treat yourself to some freshly-made Welsh cakes from Bakestones. And if your accommodation is self-catering, get some freshly-caught fish from Ashton’s on the Trinity Street entrance. The range is phenomenal, and if you’re not too confident, they’ll happily fillet any fish for you.
Shop in the arcades
The capital is known as the ‘City of Arcades’, and with good reason. A veritable labyrinth of Victorian, Edwardian and contemporary arcades, you can find anything you want here – and probably a few things you didn’t realise you wanted. There’s a wealth of vintage shops, great places to eat, delis... And Spillers, the oldest record shop in the world! Also, did someone say cheese?
Go crackers for Madame Fromage
Found in the Castle Arcade, this café and deli is pure bliss for cheese lovers. If you’re interested in one of their cheese and wine taster evenings (and you should be), check out their events page. There’s even a cheesy quiz.
Bute-iful Bute Park
Bute-iful Bute Park Bute Park is lovely. It’s also massive. Named after John Crichton-Stuart, the 3rd Marquess of Bute (more on him in a moment), the park and arboretum is 130 acres of achingly gorgeous. For our money, it’s the best picnic spot in Cardiff.
Coo at Cardiff Castle
While the central motte and bailey of the castle dates back to the 11th century (itself built on a 1st-century Roman fort), it was completely remodelled in the latter half of the 19th century by the 3rd Marquess of Bute and flamboyant architect William Burgess. They were also responsible for Castell Coch, just north of junction 32 of the M4. Each castle’s fairytale charm is testament to what you can achieve with an inspired imagination and an absurd mountain of money. You can see Cardiff Castle ticket and tour prices here. Or you can get in free if you blag a utility bill off a Cardiff resident. Insider tip: Seek out the rooftop garden.
Take an open-topped bus trip around the city
Although a shamelessly touristy activity, this is one which even locals should do at least once. If for no other reason, it’s the best way to acquaint yourself with the castle-wall gargoyles.
Take tea at Pettigrew’s
Just inside the Castle Street entrance to Bute Park is Pettigrew Tea Rooms, one of the most chill café spots in the capital. The produce is locally-sourced, including tea from the nearby Canton Tea Co. If you love an old-school afternoon tea with scones and clotted cream, this is your spot.
Hop on a water taxi to Cardiff Bay
A short staggering distance from Pettigrew’s is a jetty from with the Aquabus departs for the bay. It’s a relaxed and inexpensive pootle down the Taff, and you’ll get to take in the centre of town and the bay from a completely new vantage point.
Take in a show at the Wales Millennium Centre
The Wales Millennium Centre (WMC) is an impressive building both inside and out. Although its initial opening was as recent as 2004, it’s already cemented itself as an iconic landmark of the Cardiff cityscape. And its theatre is truly something to behold. Which you may well do by entering our Admiral at 25 competiton. One of our great prizes is taking in a show for two at the WMC.
Get blinded by science! (Not literally)
Located in Cardiff Bay, Techniquest is the longest-established science centre in the UK. With a huge assortment of interactive experiments, it’s both educational and great fun for all ages. It also organises adult-only After Hours evenings, where the grown-ups can monopolise the workshops and experiments with a few glasses of wine, with little-to-no background screaming.
Stroll across the barrage
Stretching across Cardiff Bay, the barrage connects the dock area to Penarth. It’s an impressive engineering feat, and an important catalyst in the regeneration of the bay. It’s also a nice leisurely walk of about half an hour, with splendid views.
Dine at a Michelin-star restaurant
After working up an appetite walking the barrage, you can indulge in a sumptuous meal at Restaurant James Sommerin in Penarth – the only restaurant in the area featured in the 2018 Michelin Guide. It features a panoramic view of the Severn Estuary, and food to die for. And this is one of the great prizes in our Admiral at 25 competition. Make sure you enter for a chance to be royally spoilt.
Watch an ice-hockey match
A bit of a change of pace this... If watching a group of people knocking seven bells out of each other is your thing, you should certainly go to see the Cardiff Devils play. Even if you’re not into ice hockey, it’s an exciting spectacle. You’ll definitely end up belting out ‘Don’t Stop Me Now’ at the top of your voice with a beer in one hand and a hot dog in the other (vegetarian options are available).
Check out NoFit State Circus
If you want to be wowed, catching one of this community circus’s shows is a safe bet. And if you want to take things further and tool yourself up for the big top, they offer all sorts of classes and workshops. Who wouldn’t want to come to Cardiff to learn how to trapeze?
Go to prison
The Clink restaurant at Cardiff prison is an innovative charity which helps rehabilitate prisoners, reduce reoffending – and all through them cooking you delicious meals.
Go on a cocktail crawl
There are some really ace cocktail bars in the middle of town. Lab 22, Bar 44 and 10 Feet Tall are all good bets for swanky swigs. One of our favourites is the Dead Canary – a cocktail bar that looks and feels like a speakeasy. Even its entrance is secret (Pssst... It’s on Barrack Lane. You have to ring a bell to enter).
Caroline Street/Chip Alley/Chippy Lane
At the end of a hard day’s traipsing around, sightseeing, drinking in the culture and perhaps a surplus of cocktails, there’s only one place to end up... Caroline Street is the ultimate end-of-evening chow spot. Treat yourself to chips with curry sauce from Dorothy’s, and congratulate yourself on a job well done. Two words of caution. One is that if you go late on a Friday or Saturday night, you will see some sights. Secondly, if you get into a debate over what the locals call it, you’re opening a can of worms. There’s no consensus over what true Cardiffians call it, but we recommend you stick to Caroline Street.
Cardiffian: A resident of Cardiff.
Half ‘n’ half: Half rice and half chips, usually accompanying a curry.
Oh!: Standard greeting.