Day 1 in Cardiff
Welcome to Cardiff, the beautiful capital of Wales. Some of you will be arriving by air at Cardiff Airport; if you have ordered a transfer, please meet them as you exit the airport. For those who are self-driving, pick up your car at the airport and head to the city center. For those arriving by train, you will be stopping at Cardiff Central train station, located at the very southern end of the city center. If you would like to explore the city center for a few hours before going to your hotel, there are paid lockers available to rent from convenience stores close to the station.
Cardiff is well-known for its shopping so the sights you should experience on the first day are everything shopping-related. Cardiff is called the `City of Arcades` because, before the Victorian era, Cardiff didn`t have many shops at all, with the average person buying what they needed for the home from market stalls. The advent of the arcades in the 1850s and 1860s, through to the 1910s, changed shopping in Cardiff forever, and the Victorian and Edwardian-era shopping arcades (eight in total: Central Market, Castle Arcade, Dominions Arcade, Duke Street Arcade, High Street Arcade, Morgan Arcade, Royal Arcade, and Wyndham Arcade) are accessible from a number of streets in the city center, most notably St. Mary Street, High Street, Queen Street, Duke Street, and The Hayes. Today the arcades are home to hundreds of shops, most of which are locally-owned small businesses and restaurants.
Many of these arcades are connected to the three major modern-day shopping centers in the city center: St. David`s (Dewi Sant) Shopping Centre, Queens Arcade, and The Capitol Shopping Centre. These shopping centers have national and international chain store brands and restaurants, much like U.S. shopping malls. All three modern shopping centers can be accessed from Queen Street, which is also home to Cardiff`s second-busiest train station.
If you have time in the late afternoon or early evening after you've checked in to your hotel, visit the self-explanatorily-titled Cardiff Story Museum on the northern end of The Hayes near St. John the Baptist Parish Church and Cardiff Central Market. In order to learn about the heart and soul of Cardiff, this is definitely a must-see museum. Head south down The Hayes to check out all of the great food and drink that central Cardiff has to offer. St. Mary Street, one street over, also has a noteworthy selection of bars, pubs, and restaurants. Return to your accommodations at the end of the evening.
Day 2 in Cardiff
Start the morning by touring the grounds of Llandaff Cathedral, the enduring 12th-century cathedral that was rebuilt promptly following destruction throughout the centuries, such as during the English Civil War and the Blitz of World War II. It is also home to the only religious choir school in Wales. Stroll through the Pontcanna Fields and Blackweir Fields along the River Taff and make your way to Bute Park, the public park which was once the sprawling grounds of nearby Cardiff Castle. (You can enter the castle from Castle Street along the southern portion of the park.) Cardiff Castle dates from the 11th century but was built on the site of the site of a Roman fort from the 3rd century CE, which was either called Tamium or Bovium. The Roman fort`s remains are featured inside the castle, which is considered one of the best Gothic revival castles in Britain. Also inside the castle is Firing Line: The Cardiff Castle Museum of the Welsh Soldier, featuring exhibits on the Royal Welsh Infantry and 1st The Queen`s Dragoon Guards.
In the afternoon, head down to Cardiff Bay, an industrial marvel which turned dilapidated docklands into a vibrant seat of government, culture, arts, and entertainment in the span of just two decades. Cardiff Bay is centered around the Mermaid Quay development, which stretches around a man-made bay situated between the Cardiff Bay Wetlands Reserve and Queen Alexandra Dock. Tackle all the sights in Cardiff Bay from east to west and start at the beautiful and picturesque wetlands reserve. To the north and east, the hands-on Techniquest science museum sits just behind the Mount Stuart Graving Docks. Mermaid Quay, with its numerous shops, restaurants, a movie theater, and even a ferris wheel, all sit on the northwestern corner of the bay just east of the Mount Stuart Graving Docks.
Sitting in the center of Cardiff Bay is Roald Dahl Plass, named for the famous writer who was born here and grew up here. (The Norwegian Church, on the eastern side of the bay, is where Dahl went to church with his family and where he was baptized.) On the eastern side of the plaza you will find the Wales Millennium Centre, a state-of-the-art performing arts center that took over £100 million to build in the 2000s. It is home to the Welsh National Opera as well as the BBC National Orchestra of Wales and BBC National Chorus of Wales. South of the Millennium Centre you will see the iconic red-brick Pierhead Building, with a clock tower nicknamed `the Welsh Big Ben`. It is a museum and information center for The Senedd, the Welsh parliament, whose headquarters are located in the modern, energy-efficient building, constructed in part using Welsh slate, situated right next door. East of Cardiff Bay, between Roath Dock and Queen Alexandra Dock, is the brand-new BBC Roath Lock Drama Village, where such popular television series as Doctor Who, Casualty, and the Welsh-language Pobol y Cwm are recorded. The studios are sometimes open to ticket-holding members of the public. At the end of the day, have dinner at Mermaid Quay and don`t forget to take a ride on the ferris wheel! Return to your accommodations at the end of the evening.
Day 3 in Cardiff
Return to Bute Park and now that you've explored the area to the south (Cardiff Castle), explore the area to the east, the campus of Cardiff University. It is the largest university in Wales and one of the top ten largest in the United Kingdom, with over 33,000 students. Sitting on the southern edge of Cardiff University is Cathays Park, considered the civil center of the city, featuring a number of noteworthy sights that may take a good part of the day to explore and experience.
Cathays Park is centered around Alexandra Gardens, with six acres of beautifully-curated greenery and the beautiful and poignant Welsh National War Memorial in the middle. Cardiff University buildings surround the western and eastern sides of Cathays Park, with Cardiff City Hall sitting on its southern edge and the former Senedd building sitting on the northern end. Sitting in between Cardiff City Hall is the Cardiff Crown Court building, the highest judicial building in Wales, and the National Museum Cardiff, which is both a natural history museum and an art gallery. The striking Art Deco Welsh National Temple of Peace and Health is situated on the opposite side of Alexandra Gardens (with the National Museum on its southeastern end and the Temple of Peace on its northwestern end).
If you have time in the afternoon, head west about five miles outside of town to St Fagans National Museum of History, an open-air museum featuring 40 buildings illustrating different periods and places in Welsh history, set on the grounds of the Elizabethan St Fagans Castle manor house. Head back to Cardiff and choose either The Hayes in the city center or Cardiff Bay to get dinner or to visit a pub. Return to your accommodations at the end of the evening.
Additional Days in Cardiff
For those who are interested in seeing more sights related to the author Roald Dahl, we recommend visiting the following places in the Llandaff neighborhood. Perhaps you can combine them while you visit Llandaff Cathedral. These sights are Ty Gwyn (formerly the Villa Marie), the place where he was born in 1916, located at 32 Fairwater Road; and Mrs. Pratchett`s Sweet Shop, which in its heyday in the 1920s was home to the `Everlasting Gobstopper` referenced in Dahl`s writings, located at 11 High Street. When Dahl was a boy he also lived in Ty Mynydd; the lodge house is the only building that still stands today at the estate, and it is located at Heol Isaf between Park Road and Maes Yr Awel in Radyr.
If you have an extra day, head about 20 minutes north of Cardiff to the town of Caerphilly, located in the Rhymney Valley. Caerphilly Mountain (889 feet above sea level) overlooks the town. The most noteworthy point of interest in Caerphilly is Caerphilly Castle. Built in the 13th century from sandstone, it is considered a prototype for later castles that were built in Wales, and is considered the gold standard for castles utilizing water as a defense. It is the second-largest castle in the United Kingdom, after Windsor Castle, and it is one of the top tourist sites in Wales.
Your Last Day in Cardiff
Depart your hotel and head to the train station for your next destination, or to the airport for your return home. If you have purchased a private transfer, a representative will meet you at the hotel in time to take you to the airport for your flight out. We hope you enjoyed your stay in Cardiff!