One of my resolutions of 2014 was to see more of the UK and to spend more time doing so with Nick, so when we both got invited to visit Wales to explore things to do in Cardiff, I was excited right away.
Cardiff is a city we both hadn’t visited before, my friend Lisa from high school lives there, it’s full of stunning architecture (Nick will tell you all about that soon!), good food and plenty to see and do and over the Christmas period the streets are covered in festive decorations and Christmas lights, so let’s get started and show you what to do in Cardiff:
- Things to do in Cardiff in Winter
- 1. Get Active at Cardiff Winter Wonderland
- 2. Go Shopping at the Cardiff Christmas Market
- 3. Even more Shopping at the Cardiff Market
- 4. Soak up the Atmosphere at the Cardiff Arcades
- 5. Dive into History at the Cardiff Castle
- 6. Explore Welsh Life at the St Fagans Museum
- 7. Walk around Lively Cardiff Bay
- 8. Taste the Local Delicacies of Wales
- What is your favourite Winter Activity? Would you Visit Cardiff?
Things to do in Cardiff in Winter
First of all, we were very lucky with the weather. Great start!
1. Get Active at Cardiff Winter Wonderland
It makes sense to start your Christmas in Cardiff experience at the Cardiff Winter Wonderland, right? There are plenty of attractions here. How about the “Star Ride”, a 60m high chair ride, the only one of its kind in the United Kingdom? Or maybe you prefer the massive slide where you go down in the inner tube of a car tire (like I did in Canada at the beginning of this year).
Being Dutchies, we chose to go for one Winter activity that we both hadn’t done in a while… Ice Skating! While I skated the last time in January (also in Canada), Nick’s last time was a couple of years ago on that very special ice rink in Sydney… on the beach!
Together with bloggers Dylan and Amanda, we conquered the massive que, fitted our blue skates and successfully avoided full-frontal crashes, skating over little kids’ hands and wild penguins. A lot of fun!
Stars Dancing on the Ice :)
See, told you there were penguins!
Like a fish in the… eh… ice. Ahw, nevermind.
Look at Nick go! Swoosh!
2. Go Shopping at the Cardiff Christmas Market
The main Christmas Market in Cardiff can be found in the city center, around St John’s church.
You can shop for Christmas decorations, find the most ugly Christmas Jumpers, taste all of the good Winter food, grab a mullet wine and browse through all sorts of handmade crafts. Great atmosphere!
Christmas Jumpers – So ridiculous they become fantastic. Well, a bit. Didn’t manage to get Nick to wear one.
The markets are best visited from 4PM onward, as it gets dark and the lights go on!
3. Even more Shopping at the Cardiff Market
Besides the Christmas Market, it’s also great to visit the old Cardiff Market on Saint Mary Street, full of fresh produce and other great products. Look for the stall with all the spices, or the vintage clothing shop for example!
Cardiff Market started as a farmer’s market trading in livestock and farm produce in the 1700s, but has evolved over the centuries to suit the needs of traders and customers. It has been on this place for the last 100 years and many of the old features still can be seen today.
Jane from Visit Wales tries on a funky hat… looks great!
4. Soak up the Atmosphere at the Cardiff Arcades
In Cardiff, you can find a maze of Victorian and Edwardian Arcades that house many individual and unique designer shops.
Up until the 1790s there were only 25 retail shops in Cardiff, most of them market stalls. The Royal Arcade opened in 1858 and that significantly increased the number of shops in Cardiff.
So romantic, right? The hugging couple wasn’t even staged!!
If you still haven’t done enough shopping by now, Cardiff also has the 6th biggest Shopping Center in the UK (The St David’s Shopping Mall), so no worries. Enough places to spend your cash, for example at the John Lewis Department store, which is the biggest one outside London. It hasn’t been there for long and everyone is still very, very excited about this.
5. Dive into History at the Cardiff Castle
One thing you absolutely cannot miss is a visit to Cardiff Castle. Especially around Christmas, the castle is spectacular as it’s been decorated and lights on the outside of the building will light up at night.
Originally a Roman Fort, Cardiff Castle is now a mixture of buildings from all era. But Nick will tell you much more about that in the next post, because when you have an architect as boyfriend, you should use him a bit in case like this, not?
There is also a Norman Keep in between the Walls of the Castle!
The ‘Animal Wall’ around the castle, with a different animal sculpture at every section
The interior of the castle is decorated beautifully during the Winter months.
6. Explore Welsh Life at the St Fagans Museum
If are interested to find out a bit more how the people traditionally lived in Wales, I can recommend a visit to the St Fagans open-air museum. You will find lots of original buildings that you can go into and where you’ll find yourself back in time.
While there is much more activity in the Summer (you can see the people at work in the craft workshops or on the farm), in Winter it’s still worth to visit.
First of all the museum is free, so you can always come back to see more and the fire is burning in most houses where staff can tell you more about life back in the days. And there are definitely no crowds in Winter, so great if you’re not a fan of that and would like some quiet wandering.
OMG, we totally had those brown appliances at home. WHO ever came up with that colour?
We spotted many Red Robins at St Fagans. Thanks for posing for me Robbie :)
7. Walk around Lively Cardiff Bay
Cardiff Bay is the former docks area of the city and it used to be the largest port in the world. Over the last 10 years it has been transformed into a lively place that’s perfect for shopping, eating out and entertainment.
The Mermaid Quay is the part right next to Cardiff Bay and it’s full of stylish restaurants, fun bars and cafes with cuisines from all around the world.
Santa’s Grotto in Cardiff Bay.
The Wales Millennium Centre is home to seven of Wales’ major cultural institutions, including the Welsh National Opera. You can enjoy many free performances here, that vary from day to day.
The Norwegian Church is an old seaman’s mission in which the Cardiff born author, Road Dahl was christened. You can find a nice bar overlooking the bay and an art gallery in the church today.
8. Taste the Local Delicacies of Wales
If you’re looking to indulge on food a bit while you visit wales, Cardiff is a great place for you. There are bars, pubs, food shops, markets and restaurants everywhere you look!
I’ve tasted some of the best food during my stay in Cardiff and I will tell you more about it soon, but here are some of my top suggestions for places to eat in Cardiff:
Start the day with Tasty Scones (with jam and butter), for example from the bakery at St. Fagans Museum
As a Snack:
Go wild in Joanna Joys Chocolate Imporium – Cardiff Bay
Taste the experimental Liquid Nitrogen Ice-cream at Science Cream – Castle Arcade
Pork Belly at Mimosa – Mermaid Quay
For High Tea:
‘Festive Spice’ Welshcakes at Fabulous Welshcakes – Cardiff Bay
Incredible Cawl (traditional Welsh stew) at Madame Fromage – Castle Arcade
Feast on the best cheeses at Madame Fromage – Castle Arcade
Red-Leg Partridge with seasonal vegetables at The Potted Pig – City Center
Pecan Tart with Maple Syrup Ice-Cream at Ffresh – Cardiff Millennium Center
As this post is currently over 2400 words (!) I will leave this Guide with Things to do in Cardiff for what it is now, but fear not: There will be many more posts on some of the highlights of this delightful city. We’ve got a guide to the best architecture and the best restaurants in Cardiff waiting for you, so check back soon!
Psst. Don’t forget to open your Christmas Cracker!
Where to Stay:
If you’re tired from walking around Cardiff, I suggest to do what we did and rest at Cathedral 73, a great hotel in the city center. Nick and I had the Suite on the top floor, that not only had a massive living room, but even a loft for the bedroom. Su-weet! So fancy, but still cosy. And as it was almost bigger than our entire apartment, we could only love it. And cry a little when we had to leave again.
Visit Cardiff, Wales:
What to do in Cardiff?
Restaurants in Cardiff
Wales Lonely Planet [KINDLE / EBOOK]
Loqi Foldable Bag (for all that Christmas shopping)
North Face Touch Screen Gloves (no more tweeting & freezing!)
For more tips on things to do in Cardiff, check out my Pinterest board. It will be updated with short video clips as well soon, so make sure to check back for my best tips!
What is your favourite Winter Activity? Would you Visit Cardiff?
Best Rail Pass to Travel Around Wales:
Best Attraction Pass for Wales:
Best Accommodation Pass for Wales:
Best Tours Around Wales:
- Tour of the Wye Valley (Roam Wales)
- Sightseeing tour of the Gower Peninsula Wales
- Tour of Tintern Abbey Caerleon Raglan Castle and the Welsh countryside
- Welsh Castles and Brecon Beacons Day Tour (Roam Wales)
- Coasteering Adventure
Best Single Activities in Wales:
- Llancaiach Fawr Tudor Manor House
- Llechwedd Slate Caverns – Guided tour
- Surf Snowdonia Adventure Park
- The Royal Mint Experience
- Zip World Caverns
- Zip World – Bounce Below
- Zip World – Titan Zip Line Adventure
- Zip World – Velocity Zip Line Adventure
- Zip World – Safari Zip Line and High Ropes
- King Arthur’s Labyrinth Adventure
Best Single Activities in Cardiff, Wales:
More things to see and do in Wales:
- Big Pit Blaenavon National Coal Museum: Get Under The Skin (And Underground) Of Wales’ Rich History
- Brecon Beacons National Park: Ice Age Beauty In South Wales (Great Day Trip From Cardiff)
- Discovering Slow Life At St Fagans Museum Of Wales In Cardiff
- Airstream Glamping Experience in North Wales: Discovering a Whole New Side to Camping!
More things to see and do in Cardiff, Wales:
- 12 Bars, Cafes And Restaurants In Cardiff You Don’t Want To Miss
- A Walking Tour Of Cardiff Bay Architecture
- Adventure At Cardiff International White Water: Indoor Surfing!
- Discover Cardiff Castle: A Piece Of History Of Wales
More things to see and do in Great-Britain:
- Great Britain Bucket List: 40 Places Not To Miss In England, Scotland And Wales