I’ve been wanting to go to Wales for some time but had no plans in the immediate future. Then our Belgium trip fell through and having already taken time off work we looked for an alternative. Suddenly D had our coach tickets and a hotel sorted to Cardiff.
I have to be honest, I was a little disappointed with the choice. But only because I wanted to go further afield since getting my passport back and not to Cardiff which we could have done months ago. Nevertheless I was happy to be exploring somewhere new. I just didn’t know if it would be ‘new’ or different enough to satisfy my wanderlust.
Cardiff or in Welsh Caerdydd only became the capital of Wales in 1955. It has a very compact city centre and can be explored easily in a few days or less even. Our trip lasted 3 days which I think it more than enough time unless you have a car to explore further.
The castle is the main attraction and we spent a good 4+ hours exploring the grounds. My suggestion is to upgrade to the premium ticket and go on the 50 minutes guided tour. It is definitely worth it and you get to see areas of the castle residence that is not offered on the standard ticket.
On this tour you learn about the 3rd Marquess of Bute who inhabited the castle and his love of travel, languages and slightly garish decoration. The library in the castle has also been seen by those who watch Doctor Who*.
The highlights by the bay for me: the stark white of the Norwegian church and the deep terracotta red-orange of the Pierhead building. The Pierhead building opened in 1896 as the head office of the Bute Dock Company but these days acts as an events and conference centre. Author Roald Dahl was christened at this cute church which is now an arts centre and cafe.
I didn’t know what to expect in Cardiff but mostly it was not that dissimilar to English cities of the same size. Except of course the signs displayed English and Welsh. It turned out it didn’t matter as I was pleasantly surprised with the vibrancy of the city, the diversity and the quality vs cost of dining out and the choice of things to see/do. We used Trip advisor to assist with food options and ended up dining at some great places.
D and I tried to eat ‘local’ but there weren’t many options to have strictly Welsh dishes. We had Welsh Cream Tea at the Pettigrew Tea Room which is close to the castle and looks out into Bute Park. The main difference is the addition of Bara Brith which is Welsh fruit cake. I paired this with an aromatic peach and green tea and I have to say this was one of my best cream tea experiences yet.
A wonder through Bute Park is a must and we were thankful the weather cooperated and the sun paid us a visit for more than a few hours. The park was gifted to the people of Wales as well as the castle so residents can go for free. This gift is also the reason why Cardiff has one of the highest concentrations of green space.
For a short break Cardiff is ideal, you can walk everywhere and get in a lot of sight seeing. Or you can take it easy and enjoy a lazy picnic in the park and float down the river on the aquabus. If you are a Doctor Who fan this city seems to be a hotbed of sites for you with the Doctor Who experience near the bay.
I enjoyed myself and D did as well. However when I do return to Wales I will try a smaller town to get a bit more of an authentic Welsh feel. Jen from She Went Away has said that she tries to avoid main cities and I think there is something to that. Speaking of Jen, she has moved from London and now lives in a little paradise called Guernsey. That is my next trip destination in a few weeks time to visit her and her new life, can’t wait.
*I do not watch Doctor Who