While Cardiff used to be noted for its production and exporting of coal, it is now vibrant with art, design, and culture. This city is rooted in history and the community is filled with the kindness and warmth of the Welsh people. The city is noted for its castles, history, retail hotspots, and food. Cardiff makes sure to remember its origins with Victorian buildings that line the streets, but are completely contemporary when you step inside. Sometimes, the structure of the building is modern, but you’re transported to another time and place when you enter! The food has been made for generations by local Welsh families that give you a taste of comfort and home. With a population of around 485,000, Cardiff is rapidly growing.
Explore castles, national museums, the seafront, and more in two days in the capital of Wales. Don’t forget to sample all of the delicious food Cardiff has to offer! Homemade Welsh Cakes are simply divine, Glamorgan sausage is a traditional vegetarian sausage made from cheese, leeks, and breadcrumbs, and Welsh rarebit is popular throughout the UK, but having it with local Welsh cheese is to die for! It is extremely easy to navigate your way through the city via public transport, driving, or walking! Experience the best of Cardiff in 48 hours.
Know Before You Go
Cardiff Airport (CWL) is easily reached from the rest of the UK, Ireland, and continental Europe. It’s located 16km outside of the city centre, and is the only airport in Wales. It is easy to get to the city thanks to the airport’s own railway station and shuttle buses. Alternatively, you can fly into London and continue your journey by road or rail. London Heathrow Airport and London Gatwick Airport are less than three hours from Cardiff by car, coach, or train.
If driving from mainland Europe, the Channel Tunnel is the best way to get to the UK.
Cardiff Bus travels throughout Cardiff and the local area, including Penarth and Barry.
There are 20 railway stations in Cardiff, with Cardiff Central and Cardiff Queen Street being the main hubs of the city.
Cardiff is flat and compact, making it easy to get around by foot. The city has also become a popular cycling spot. You’ll find plenty of bike racks, dedicated lanes, and cycling trails like Lloyd George Avenue and Taff Trail, around the city centre. Didn’t bring your bike with you? Don’t worry! With bike hires all around the city, it has never been easier to cycle your way around town.
Travelling Cardiff by boat, like the Aquabus, is a fun and exciting way to get between the City Centre and Cardiff Bay, not to mention that you’ll be riding in style.
Driving or Taxis
Driving in Cardiff is very straightforward, and the roads are easy to navigate. However, newcomers might want to think carefully about whether they require a car. Traffic is never fun, but if you get caught in rush hour or during a major sporting event while you’re in Cardiff you might not be able to find parking and what should take ten minutes takes over an hour. Nevertheless, a car can be convenient for those with kids.
The two most popular taxis in Cardiff are Premier Taxis and Dragon Taxis, with Uber also operating within the city.
The city has warm rather than hot summers and cool to cold winters due to its maritime climate. Cardiff rarely experiences extreme weather, making this city visitable all year round.
Of course, be sure to come prepared with rain jackets and umbrellas, as Cardiff has an average of 96mm of rain per month, but it’s a good thing a little rain never hurt anyone.
Day 1: The City Centre
Spend your first day in the very heart of Cardiff, exploring the City Centre. The hustle and bustle of the locals and tourists will have you buzzing with excitement. The hospitality, humour, and charm that radiates from the City Centre have tourists and locals alike coming to visit. When I say Cardiff’s City Centre is a mix of the old and new, I mean it. While there are big brand shops and restaurants to visit, Cardiff is known for its local food and independent retail hotspots that go back to the 1800s, and the Victorian and Edwardian buildings represent that history! However, if the crowds become overwhelming, there are plenty of parks, cafes and restaurants to pop into to slow down and watch the world go by.
Cardiff is great for nature-lovers. Cardiff Bay is to the south, there are mountains to the north, and parks and castles everywhere. The City Centre has an exhilarating mix of culture, art, and regeneration. Cardiff is a chic, cosmopolitan city that keeps up with the times, but always pays respect for each building and street’s history and origin. Cardiff is not a city that forgets where it came from. The Welsh capital knows its roots and then builds and adapts to make it even better.
The city always sounds like it’s singing. With sporting events, people, and music pouring from stadiums, shops, and the seagulls that are constantly around, it sounds like everyone is singing a harmony to the same song.
Local Places to Eat:
- The Ivy Cardiff has something for everyone with a menu that ranges from British classics to Asian-inspired cuisine for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
- Pitch Bar and Eatery gives you a chance to savour the flavour of Wales, using locally sourced produce to enhance the experience.
- Pasture Restaurant Cardiff will provide you with a steak meal you will never forget. A celebration of local ingredients and fire-based cooking, Pasture has in-house butchers that pick the very best meat to prepare and serve.
Start your day by stepping back in time at Cardiff Castle and discover 2,000 years of history in the heart of the city. Cardiff Castle is one of Wales’ most significant heritage attractions and is surrounded by beautiful parklands.
While the castle is originally Roman in style, it also has Norman and Gothic-Victorian parts. Cardiff Castle is thought to have been originally built as a fort in 55AD and used as a defensive location for the Romans. Then, after the Norman Conquest, the castle was rebuilt, but the Normans still kept some of the Roman aspects. However, it was the third Marquess of Bute who truly transformed the castle by having his renovators remodel the castle in a Gothic style in the 19th-century.
Interestingly, after the death of the fourth Marquess of Bute, the family decided to gift the castle to the city of Cardiff, and for 25 years, the castle was home to the National College of Music and Drama.
Opening times vary depending on whether you go in the summer or winter months. Perfect for people of all ages, there are tickets for adults, children, seniors, and more! While you can book your ticket in advance, you don’t have to.
St. David’s Dewi Sant
With over 150 places to shop, dine, and experience, St. David’s is one of the best retail hotspots in the UK. With so many places to explore, you can entertain the family, treat yourself to lunch or dinner, and get a fab new look!
St David’s has a contemporary structure, bringing the new into Cardiff while still respecting the history. St David’s occupies over 1.4 million square feet of retail space and has made Cardiff one of the UK’s top retail destinations. Along with restaurants, retail stores, and more, St. David’s also has a community of over 300 residential apartments that sit above the centre surrounded by rooftop gardens.
You can find pretty much anything at St. David’s: a life-size Great White Shark? Yup. A library that has a sedum grass roof? St. David’s is your place. 60,000 bees that live on top of the main centre and produce honey and teach local children about biodiversity? Now that’s something I never knew I needed until now.
Open 7 days a week with free Wi-Fi and a cinema, you might not want to leave!
Also known as the Cardiff Central Market, it is a unique experience right in the heart of the city. The building holds an impressive Victorian structure with a big glass roof and walls to let the sun brighten the whole market. The Market opened in 1891, and initially, stallholders were only allowed to sell eggs on the first floor to inspire the shoppers to go visit the stalls upstairs.
The blend of ancient and modern Welsh culture makes this Market a must-see place in Cardiff. You get to see the warmth and charm of local traders and the amazing fresh quality produce. This market brings together the older and younger generations and there’s nothing quite like wandering past the stalls and taking in the delicious sights and smells.
You will find a wealth of products from Tea Pot Cafe to Hatts Emporium Vintage Clothing, so not only will you savour local food, you will be able to bring a part of Cardiff back home with you!
National Museum Cardiff
Explore natural history and world-class art. The art collection houses over 500 years of magnificent art of all kinds: painting, sculpting, drawing, you name it! Take the time to go through The Evolution of Wales and find yourself face-to-face with dinosaurs and woolly mammoths!
The Natural History galleries provide an opportunity to see all the different environments that make Wales home to some of the coolest creatures. Admission is free to National Museum Cardiff, but you can save time by pre-booking your visit as well. The museum is open 6 days a week, Tuesday-Sunday, from 10:00am-5:00pm. If you plan on driving, the visitor’s parking fee is £6.50.
The Arcade Vaults
Did you know Cardiff was also called the City of Arcades? Neither did I! The classic Edwardian and Victorian arcades were opened during a period of extreme wealth in Cardiff. The coal industry in the city was booming, causing a huge influx of money. The arcades were built to provide a shopping experience for the upper class and to show off to the rest of the UK and the world what was happening in Cardiff.
Today, a total of seven arcades remain and Cardiff has more arcades than any other British city! The Arcade Vaults are located on High Street and are split between two floors, the Lower and Upper Arcade.
Get ready to have an amazing experience in gaming paradise! Perfect for adults and children of all ages, the Arcade Vaults offer people a chance to learn and play video games spanning 5 decades! During the day, prices for adults are £8, students/concessions are £7, and children under 12 costs £6. However, if you want to have fun with the squad or show your partner that you are the ultimate game master, visit the arcade after 5pm where the Lower Arcade is free and the Upper Arcade only costs £6! There’s even a bar open on some evenings to give the grown-ups a little more fun.
Bar Crawl down St. Mary Street and Mill Lane
As the hub of nightlife in the city, immerse yourself in bars, clubs, and restaurants that will fit any vibe down St. Mary Street and Mill Lane. While St. Mary Street may be the liveliest street in Wales, lined with Gothic-Victorian buildings, the street doesn’t seem like much on the outside. But step inside and find your evening filled with fabulous cocktails, fun, and a devilish dash of debauchery.
Visit The Cocktail Club that has three floors, each with a separate theme! Even better, happy hour runs until 8pm every day, and the whole menu is included!
Kongs has live music, a photo booth, vintage arcade games, and of course, craft beer. Take a blast to the past with Retro Cardiff. Spread over three floors, Retro Cardiff has the total 90’s feel. Indulge your inner youth and party like it’s 1999! The Soda Bar is one of Cardiff’s hidden gems. Transport yourself into another world with stylish Middle-Eastern décor.
However, Soda Bar is keeping another secret: The Attic. The Attic is an incredible VIP experience complete with plush vintage furniture, bubbly, and an exclusive dance floor. Drink and dance your way down St. Mary’s Street and Mill Lane to uncover a whole new side of Cardiff.
Tour the Principality Stadium and walk where rugby legends have! Start in the home changing room and then feel like a real rugby player as you walk through the players tunnel and make your way onto the field!
The stadium was originally built to house the 1999 Rugby World Cup. It was first named ‘Millennium Stadium’, but was changed to the Principality Stadium in 2016. It’s home to the Welsh Rugby Union. Rugby is popular in Wales because it helped create Welsh nationhood and gave Wales the chance to be on top of the world. The stadium also hosts football matches and concerts.
Principality Stadium has many unique design features, but the coolest by far is the retractable roof, which was the first and largest fully-retractable roof in the UK. The wall cladding of the stadium is coloured similar to the British national flag, in red, blue, and white.
Adult prices are £16.50 while children under 16 get in for £12. Open 7 days a week until 4pm, this is a sport fanatic’s dream.
Where to Stay:
Cardiff Central Rail Station is a five minute walk from Cardiff Sandringham Hotel, and St. David’s Shopping Centre can be reached on foot in only a minute.
This comfy hotel is just a five minute walk from Cardiff Castle and has free Wi-Fi, an indoor pool, and a gym.
The Parkgate Hotel is located 100 yards from the Principality Stadium, is less than ten miles from the airport and features a bar, restaurant, and fitness centre.
Day 2: Cardiff Bay
On your second day in Cardiff, make your way down to the freshwater lake that is Cardiff Bay, which was originally known as Tiger Bay. Cardiff Bay is the coastal corner of Wales’ capital and is Wales’ oldest multi-ethnic community. There were sailors and workers from over 50 countries that settled in Cardiff!
Cardiff Bay used to be a tidal dockland famous for exporting Welsh coal to other countries, but now it is a gorgeous waterfront and popular for both visitors and locals! Cardiff Bay is only a short bus or train ride from the City Centre. Today, the Cardiff Bay area has been transformed by the Cardiff Barrage that encloses the River Taff and the Ely in order to create a huge freshwater lake.
There are many sights and activities for all ages, including some of the city’s most famous landmarks and a place where you can learn all about science in the most immersive way possible!
Visiting Cardiff without going to Cardiff Bay is like going to a restaurant and not ordering food — it’s impossible! Wind down from the excitement of the City Centre and enjoy the smell of the Bay’s freshwater lake.
Local Places to Eat:
- Culley’s Kitchen and Bar is named after the 19th-century entrepreneur and philanthropist Richard Palethorp Culley. Located inside the Coal Exchange Hotel, enjoy a meal with local and seasonal food.
- Cadwaladers is usually noted for its delectable ice cream, but it also offers brunch and lunch options! Want to go crazy? Order the ice cream burger, trust me, you will not be sorry.
- Fabulous Welshcakes Cardiff Bay is not something you want to miss. While Welshcakes may be the only thing they make, they certainly do not disappoint. These Welshcakes are handmade and live up to their title of ‘Fabulous’.
Wales Millennium Centre and the Senedd
The Wales Millennium Centre is the place to go for opera, the arts, and different events and productions. Sometimes, they have free shows in their lobby! Be sure to go for inspiration and excellence.
The Centre was built to reflect many different parts of Wales, and used local Welsh materials such as slate, metal, wood, and glass. The roof of the Centre is a nod to the history of Tiger Bay. The hull-shaped copper-tiled design of the roof gave way to the building being known locally as ‘the armadillo’.
The inscription on the front of the building is actually a poem written in both Welsh and English and created by poet Gwyneth Lewis. The words in English say ‘In these stones, horizons sing’ and the words in Welsh translate to ‘Creating truth like glass from inspiration’s furnace.’ The lettering represents the ancient tradition of stone carving.
The Senedd is right next door where you can see a live debate for free in the National Assembly of Wales. Welsh slate steps bring you up and under the steel roof and have you looking through the glass walls that represent the transparent nature of work that the people undertake in the building.
Open Mondays-Saturdays, the Senedd also provides a self-guided audio tour for free and a play area for children.
Freeze your shadow, launch a rocket, and tame a tornado!
A science centre with over 100 interactive exhibits that relate to world issues, chemistry, space, biomedical science, and the environment. Some exhibits include To Infinity and Beyond, Light Harp, and Roll Uphill! Sometimes, Techniquest has Toddler Days and special activities like Star Tours and Bubble and Blast.
Make sure to take around three hours or more to experience the thrill of science! Tickets for adults cost £10.90, while children aged 3-15 are priced at £9.05, so you won’t break the bank, and you will have the time of your life!
Originally built for Norwegian sailors, the Norwegian Church is now an arts centre and cafe. Open Wednesday-Sunday, the venue is free to visit and has panoramic views over the waterfront.
During the Victorian period, Cardiff became a massive port due to the expansive development of the coal industry. Norwegian ships would transport Scandinavian timber to Cardiff and then export coal back to Norway. This Gothic-style church served as a meeting place for Norwegian seafarers. Not only did this church provide the sailors with a place for worship, it also served as a home away from home. In fact, in the 19th-century, the church welcomed up to 70,000 seafarers annually.
This is the church that Roald Dahl was christened in, and his parents regularly worshipped in this very church. Pretty cool if you ask me! Roald Dahl is a famous British novelist, and he has written over 20 books for children. Many of them have been turned into films, like Matilda, The BFG, and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Roald Dahl was born to Norwegian parents in Cardiff, so he grew up going to the Norwegian Church.
Roald Dahl - The Enormous Crocodile
Look out for the enormous crocodile!! Just kidding, it won’t actually eat you…well at least not this sculpture that is a tribute to Roald Dahl’s book of the same name.
The Enormous Crocodile is a children’s book written by Roald Dahl and is the story of a very hungry crocodile who devises cunning plots to get his favourite snacks…CHILDREN! But as there always is with Roald Dahl’s stories, there is a big lesson involved. Greed is never good, and so the good and kind animals of the jungle join forces to stop the enormous crocodile.
The popular children’s character can now be found on the Barrage embankment near the large white sails! The Crocodile even has his own hashtag: #crocinthedock. This crocodile sculpture was installed in 2016 to mark the 100-year celebration of the beloved children’s author’s birth.
Children can sit, laugh, and play with the Enormous Crocodile while adults sit on a bench featuring the cover of Roald Dahl’s book and take in the beautiful view of the water.
Walk Around the Bay
Go for a 2km walk from Mermaid Quay to the seaside town of Penarth, which offers views of the sea and the harbour. You can also cycle around the Bay as well. Depending on how much you like walking or biking, there is also a 10km circular trail that runs around the Bay and across to Penarth via Pont Y Werin. There is nothing better than the smell of a freshwater lake on a sunny day with an ice cream in hand.
Where to Stay:
Future Inn Cardiff Bay is 450 yards away from the Wales Millennium Centre and within walking distance of Mermaid Quay. It also includes free parking and a restaurant.
With 24-hour reception available to all guests and staff speaking English, Spanish, Latvian, and Polish, Staybridges Suites are happy to provide guests with practical information about Cardiff and nearby points of interest.
This luxury apartment has a beautiful location in Cardiff with a balcony, indoor pool, and hot tub. A terrace is available on site and guests can enjoy fishing as well.