A weekend break in Cardiff

My approach to choosing a location and date (macro-planning) for a holiday is to get into a foetal position on the floor and hope it goes away. Without my girlfriend organising holidays, I’d definitely end up spending weekends alphabetising Lego instructions. Once she’s told me where and when, I’m not bad at planning an itinerary and packing list (micro-planning).

It’s always useful to check out other people’s itineraries before setting off, but for a recent break to Cardiff there weren’t many to choose from. So I thought I’d share our itinerary to help out other micro-planning travellers.

Where we stayed

After a few year’s of AirBnB always being a cheaper accommodation option, it’s not always the case any more. For Cardiff we did go with AirBnB, staying at Double bedroom in Canton, Cardiff. The house was ~30 min walk from the castle, had good bus links, and the AirBnB reviews speak for themselves — the house and hostess were wonderful.

Our itinerary

  • Thompson’s Park A cute small park near the AirBnB, perfectly suited to morning exercises if you’ve forgotten your running gear.
  • Llandaff and Pontcanna Fields Large adjoining parks allowing you to soak up the summer sun as you work your way from the AirBnB towards Cardiff Castle.
  • Cardiff Castle As you come from the west along Cowbridge Road East/Castle Street, the castle wall has some very cool stone animals leering over the parapets. A £12 (adult) ticket gets you into the Castle Apartments, Wartime Shelter, and Norman Keep, and an extra £3 will get you a 50 min tour of the house too. It’s a bit pricey for the contents, but it is the main attraction of Cardiff and gives a good overview of the city’s history.
  • Millennium Centre Making your way from the city centre to the Bay area requires a walk along Stryd Bute or Lloyd George Avenue, it’s not particularly interesting or nice, but it’s only about ~20 min. For those left trying to work out what it says on the front of the Millenium Centre, to save you time, it’s Welsh on the left, Creating truth like glass from the furnace of inspiration, and English on the right, In these stones horizons sing. It’s worth a visit to the outside, and when we went there was a cool temporary exhibition inside of landscape photographs printed on 3D spheres — Relics by Matt Wright.
  • Senedd This is the main building of the National Assembly and is where Wales-specific laws are made, so quite an important and interesting building. As it was a sunny Saturday when we went, the Senedd was pretty quiet and we got a tour on our own down to the floor of the debating chamber (the staff were awesome).
  • The Arcades There is a mix of cute historical arcades and refurbished modern shopping arcades, the historical ones have lots of independent shops. It’s worth noting they close at 5 pm on a Saturday and many shops are closed on a Sunday. You could almost do with a mini map of a route to do all the arcades, but make sure you tick off Castle Arcade, Duke Street Arcade, Royal Arcade and High Street Arcade. One awesome shop I’d recommend (if you’re into that sort of thing) is Rules Of Play in Castle Arcade — lots of card and boardgames!
  • National Museum Cardiff Excellent artwork (Monet and Rodin) and a very good natural history floor with some good geology/dinosaurs. Everyone loves a dinosaur exhibit! Entry is free and you can easily spend 2 hrs culturally/scientifically levelling up.

Snacks, nibbles and bigger portions

  • Fabulous Welshcakes Located in the shopping area at the Bay, you can buy some damn good warm Welsh Cakes.
  • Madame Fromage A cafe, cheese and cake shop in the arcades, cakes were very good.
  • Purple Poppadom We went here for dinner on the Saturday night, the food is very good and really interesting to see Indian food done with such care and attention. I’d recommend it if you’re going for a special occasion, or if you don’t mind paying London prices in Cardiff.
  • Wally’s Deli Located in the Royal Arcade, it’s a cute deli, definitely worth a visit if you’re planning a posh picnic.
  • Coffee Barker Has a limited menu, but we did have a nice small lunch here (in Castle Arcade), probably better for a coffee and cake. We actually meant to go to Barkers Tea Rooms (High Street Arcade) for an afternoon tea, make sure you get the right one for the right meal!

Other itinerary considerations

We didn’t get chance to do the following, but they would definitely be worth considering from what other people told us.

  • Dr Who Experience Tickets are a whopping £16 per person and we couldn’t justify it as we’re not massive Whovians. Luckily, you can still visit the gift shop (mediocre), which also happens to be near the exit to the tour… There are a few figures in the entrance foyer, so maybe worth a visit for a token photo with a Dalek/Weeping Angel.
  • The Clink Restaurant A restaurant inside Cardiff prison with the food prepared by in-training inmates, apparently the (posh) food is very good and reasonably priced.
  • St Fagans An outdoor museum where historical buildings have been taken down from their original location, moved and re-built here.
  • Walking tour I really like walking tours for finding out the history of a city and this company got good reviews online.
  • Caerphilly Castle Located between Newport and Cardiff, it would be a train or a bus ride away. If you’re going for serious castle hunting it might be a better option than Cardiff castle.
  • Castell Coch From the photos it looks like a Disney castle, maybe if you’re a keen photographer it would be worth a visit.
  • Millennium Stadium We walked past, it’s a big building. Others might want to spend more time there…
  • Pettigrew Tearooms A cafe near the entrance to Bute Park from Castle Road, our AirBnB hostess recommended it.

A cute city for a weekend

Cardiff was a great city to visit for a weekend and it could have easily been extended another day by visiting further afield.