Croeso i Gymru — Welcome to Wales!
Earlier this year, I spent 5 months studying abroad at Cardiff University in Cardiff, Wales. I can honestly say that Cardiff is now my favorite city of any I have ever been: it is welcoming, friendly, lively, and somewhere where I feel totally at home. I think it’s a shame, really, that Cardiff tends not to rank too high up on most people’s lists of places they really want to visit (unless they’re massive Doctor Who and Torchwood fans, as I am: both shows are filmed in and around Cardiff), so I hope this post might inspire someone to give Wales a go—and that it will help you out when you get there!
I should note that Cardiff has the lowest prices overall of all the UK’s major cities
Let me start by suggesting a few highlights of Cardiff itself. For one thing, there’s Cardiff Bay, which is absolutely gorgeous and offers more restaurants, pubs, and cafes than you’ll quite know what to do with. Even just sitting in the Roald Dahl Plass enjoying the scenery is a great way to enjoy Cardiff Bay. Cardiff’s City Centre is lovely, too; like the Bay, there’s plenty of places to eat, but here there’s also great shopping. Actually, Cardiff is known for its shopping arcades: covered streets essentially (though Queens Arcade is almost more like an American mall), are lined with unique shops selling everything from souvenirs to vintage clothes to home decor. St. Mary Street also has quite a variety of unique shops to explore, while Queen Street has more of the chain shops. (While we’re on the subject of food and shopping, I should note that Cardiff has the lowest prices overall of all the UK’s major cities!)
The City Centre is also home to Cardiff Castle, which is very cool to see, although be aware that it isn’t an ancient castle; it was built in the 1700s, if I remember correctly. Also, while you’re in the City Centre, be sure to visit Caroline Street, or as the locals call it, Chippy Lane—so named because almost the entire street is made up of fish and chips shops! (And if you’re visiting the UK, you really can’t go without having fish and chips.) My advice would be to take your fish and chips and sit outside Cardiff Central Library on the Hayes to eat—it’s very pretty, and just at the end of Caroline Street. There are also a lot of stunning parks throughout Cardiff, but one of the most impressive is Bute Park, right behind the Castle. Take a walk through there, especially the part that’s near the River Taff: it’s beautiful! Roath Park, which is a bit north of the City Centre in the Roath section of town, is also nice.
Another great thing about Cardiff is that it’s pretty easy to get to other interesting places from there. My favorite location outside of Cardiff was Southerndown Beach, part of Dunraven Bay outside of Brigend, Wales (a few towns west of Cardiff). It’s a beautiful beach that’s surrounded by sheer cliffs, and at high tide, it looks like the entire beach is made of massive rocks instead of sand – it was one of the most striking views I’ve ever seen. Caerphilly Castle, in Caerphilly (just outside of Cardiff), is also a fantastic place to visit—especially if you want to see an ancient castle, as opposed to Cardiff’s more modern one.
I could go on for ages about how wonderful Cardiff is! But before I end this, I’ll share some of my tips for making the most of your time in Wales. The first thing has to be, talk to people! I have honestly never been to a friendlier place than Wales, so don’t be afraid to stop people on the street to ask for directions, advice on things to do or see, etc. Also, even though everyone there speaks English, learn some Cymraeg! (That’s “Welsh” in Welsh.) It looks intense, but it’s actually a very pretty language.
Having been to the capitals of both Scotland and Northern Ireland, I can say from experience that Wales is unique in the strong presence of its language. Welcome to Wales.
Having been to the capitals of both Scotland and Northern Ireland, I can say from experience that Wales is unique in the strong presence of its language. Mind you, in the south of Wales, you won’t often hear people speaking Welsh on the street (you will in the north, though), but it’s definitely there on street signs, billboards, etc. (If you want to hear Welsh being spoken in Cardiff, stop by a pub called Y Mochyn Du.) And definitely check out the clubs and bars at night: I would suggest Oceana for dance clubs, and Lloyd’s for a bar (they’re just a few doors down from each other, too!), but there’s really no shortage of options in Cardiff. And be on the lookout for people in fancy dress – costuming is really popular for nights out!
And that is Cardiff, Wales in a nutshell. There is truly so much more I could say about Wales, but I’ll leave off here before I accidentally write a novel. Diolch yn fawr – thank you very much – for reading! (If you want more information about Cardiff and the rest of Wales, feel free to visit my blog about my time studying abroad.)
Croeso i Gymru — Welcome to Wales!