Wales is famed for its two loves: rugby and singing, and is nicknamed the “Land of Song,” a moniker it gained after an influx of migrants in the 18th century came to work in the mines and would sing to keep morale high.
Cardiff presides as its bustling capital and is brimming with ancient castles, bolthole acoustic live music venues and an impressive 75,000-seat sports stadium. There’s nothing quite like being in Cardiff when the beloved Welsh rugby team plays their adversaries. The stadium comes alive with fans singing rousing hymns such as Calon Lân.
Not a sports fan? No bother. There’s plenty else to enjoy in the city, and since its millennium makeover, Cardiff is now a hub for chic eateries, suburban markets and cosy quays offering boutiques at every corner. Let’s get into the best things to see and do in Cardiff.
Wales’ capital is a major foodie destination from fine dining restaurants in Cardiff city centre to the buzzy Cardiff Market, a traditional Victorian market hall that sells local specialities such as bara lawr (laverbread). This delicacy is a fine seaweed taken right from the Welsh coastline and served with shellfish or hot buttered toast. Its unique taste is definitely worth savouring.
When you’re sauntering through the streets and pondering where to eat in Cardiff, stop by the Society Standard in Gabalfa. Designed for young professionals, the retro eatery has an industrial feel with exposed brick walls and designer graffiti. Dive into small plates of sauteed chorizo, baba ganoush and calamari fresh from nearby shores. Wash it all down with a pint of local craft ale.
Elsewhere in the city, French-style bistro Bully’s uses traditional Welsh ingredients to give fresh spins on French classics, such as dry-aged Welsh filet with French beans and an earthy wild mushroom sauce. This eclectically decorated restaurant also boasts a scrupulously curated list of wines from appellations all over France.
If your tastebuds want to travel beyond the Welsh border, Syrian restaurant Shaam Nights lures in patrons thanks to Damascene bronze lanterns and a spiralling Byzantine mosaic. The halal eatery doesn’t serve alcohol but a strong Syrian coffee is a perfect finish to dishes such as fattoush, a leaf salad marinated with pomegranate syrup, and kubba labaniya, deep-fried minced lamb served in a herb yoghurt sauce.
Cardiff Castle sits in the capital’s heart, where enchanting fairytale towers enshroud a history spanning over 2,000 years from Roman soldiers to noble knights. With enormous wealth, the third Marquess of Bute, alongside eccentric architect William Burges, transformed Cardiff Castle in the 19th century.
Expect opulent interiors rich with murals, wood carvings, and stained glass windows. Saunter through the lavish Cardiff Castle apartments and visit wartime shelters in the castle’s tunnels that were used as a refuge during WWII air raids. You can also book a traditional banquet with Welsh food, wine, and music held in the 15th-century Undercroft.
In Cardiff Bay, make a stop at the famed Wales Millennium Centre, the nation’s palace of the arts offering the finest theatre in the country. Here you can catch West End musicals, operas and art exhibitions. Stroll along the Cardiff Bay Barrage with stunning views over the Severn Estuary, before heading onto Mermaid Quay for myriad fun things to do in Cardiff. It’s a waterfront district home to more than 30 restaurants, cafes, and bars plus gorgeous boutiques selling handmade Welsh gifts. If being surrounded by maritime towers, colonnades, and bridges isn’t enough, adrenaline junkies can take a Berry Boat ride through the bay.
Elsewhere, if you’re looking for what to do in Cardiff, take a 30-minute bus from the city centre and you’ll find the hidden treasure that is Dyffryn Gardens, 55 acres of Edwardian gardens that encompass a grand Victorian mansion. In the early 20th century, landscape architect Thomas Mawson designed intimate garden rooms such as the Paved Court, the Mediterranean Garden, and the Pompeian garden, all of which deserve to be discovered.
On the east side of the garden sits Dyffryn’s arboretum, set across 22 acres with 17 Champion Trees, the largest of their kind in the British Isles.
voco St. David’s Cardiff
Situated on Cardiff Bay’s waterfront, five-star St. David’s Cardiff is a boutique bolthole serving up Welsh cakes on arrival. Expect Scandi style at voco St. David’s Cardiff, with rooms boasting floor-to-ceiling windows and balconies offering sumptuous views across Cardiff Bay. Wander the 20-acre wetlands reserve just next door or head to their onsite Marine Spa. The latter affords guests two hydrotherapy pools, a sauna, and a modern fitness studio.
New House Country Hotel Cardiff
Hidden in the Welsh Hills, New House Country Hotel Cardiff boasts a Georgian exterior and breathtaking views of the Vale of Glamorgan and Cardiff’s city skyline. Less than three miles from the 13th-century Caerphilly Castle, New House dates back to the 1700s and is soaked in period features from a three-tiered stone fountain to a suit of armour and ceremonious fireplaces with roaring open log fires. Rooms feature traditional details such as long drapes, murals, shield-backed wooden chairs and freestanding baths.