After roaming around on the awesome Welsh countryside on the motorcycle, we spent a day in the capital of Wales. Although Cardiff was previously an industrial city mostly exporting coals, it has transformed itself into a bustling city of rich Welsh culture and history. We spent the day walking around Mermaid Quay and explored the castles grounds in Bute Park and of course ended the day with more real ales.
See & Do
- Mermaid Quay: Mermaid Quay is a small little shopping and entertainment area that is near Cardiff Bay. It’s separated a bit from the center of the city so you’ll either need to walk down Bute St to get there (about 20 mins) or take a bus/train down to Cardiff Bay. Once you’re there, you can walk along the bay and admire a few significant landmarks such as the National Assembly and the Norwegian Church. There are also plenty of tourist shops and restaurants in the area — make sure you try out the famous Welshcakes while you’re here.
- National Assembly for Wales: The seat of the Welsh government – this modern looking building was built entirely with materials sourced from Wales. It’s free to go inside and have a look around (after a basic security check). If there is currently a public debate going on, you can go view it.
- Norwegian Church: Brings back memories of our recent Norway trip! Historically, there were a lot of Norwegian sailors who worked in the docks nearby, so they built their own wooden church in 1868. Free to enter – there was a small exhibit on the top floor when we visited dedicated to Roald Dahl’s books (he was baptised here).
- Cardiff Bay: Stopped by the gift shop in Doctor Who Experience. We are not huge Doctor Who fans, but for those who are, then you definitely won’t want to miss this. We just stopped by the gift shop to buy a few gifts for our Whovian friends.
- Bute Park: Well tended park in the Cardiff City Center that contains the Cardiff Castle. Very pleasant stroll if the weather happens to cooperate. The River Taff flows through here (the very same river leads all the way to the Brecon Beacons).
- Cardiff City Centre: A mostly pedestrianized city center where you can walk around and get a taste of Welsh culture. The Cardiff castle is just to the north, and in the center you’ll find the usual assortment of restaurants/pubs/shops. We walked through the Castle Arcade and also stopped by the Cardiff Story museum which exhibits the history of the city. On the south end you will find the Cardiff Central Library, which has a huge sculpture of an arrow and circle out front, which rises and falls along with the tides.
- Castle Arcade (bought disposable heat packs): In our search for warmth, we walked through the Castle Arcade, which is a semi-covered mall with a bunch of shops and restaurants in the center of Cardiff. We stopped by Baileys – The Army Store and grabbed a heat pack to help keep our hands warm on the last leg of the journey (which fortunately was not as cold as the previous few days!). There are also a bunch of different restaurants here–we tried out Madame Fromage and Science Cream
Eat & Drink
- Duke of Wellington: Nice little pub that was not too far from our hotel. The beer was nice and we had a rarebit for dinner. A Welsh rarebit is just a Welsh interpretation of a grilled cheese sandwich with slightly different spices. This is a nice place to stop in if you’re out front and need to warm up with a drink. Most of the usual Welsh beer available on tap here, like Brains.
- The Deck Coffee House and Cakery: We stopped here on our way down from the Centre to the Docks. It’s tucked away among a few residential buildings – nice place to stop by in the morning and grab some coffee and pastries. Looks small but there is an entire second floor where you can sit, which gives you the feeling of enjoying coffee in someone’s living room. We had to get the obligatory Welsh omelette after watching the popular UK sitcom ‘Gavin and Stacey’.
- Fabulous Welshcakes: A welshcake is a tiny little sweet pancake that melts in your mouth. Supposedly this place on Mermaid Quay is the best in town – they were certainly delicious and melt in your mouth when you eat them. Around 5 quid for 12 of them, pick and choose your flavors (plain, chocolate, cinnamon) – we had a few of each.
- Madame Fromage: Cheese! A whole store dedicated to fine cheese products. The name sounds French, but it’s definitely more Welsh-oriented. We got the Welsh Rarebit here, and this was probably the best one that we had on our trip. There is a wide variety of local Welsh cheese-based products here.
- Science Cream: Ice cream and a chemistry lesson all at once. This ice cream is made with liquid cream mixed with liquid nitrogen, which makes it freeze within just a few seconds. It also gives it a richer, creamier texture than plan old ice cream.
- City Arms: Although it’s right outside the Millenium Stadium, it feels like a quaint neighborhood pub. We got there around 5pm and caught the post-work crowd coming in for a quick pint before they headed home. Plenty of real ale on draft here from all over the UK, more than just the usual Brains that you’ll find at most Cardiff pubs. Supposedly gets packed on weekend nights, but there were plenty of seats on this weekday evening.
- Cafe Citta: Decided to take a break from fine British cuisine and indulge in some Italian food at Cafe Citta. We got a pasta dish and a 12” pizza to share.
- Cardiff Marriott Hotel: Every hotel we’ve been to on this trip has been like a little slice of heaven due to its warmth. This hotel was no exception. While not as exceptional as the Liverpool Hotel, this hotel was very comfortable. The location is great as it’s right by the Cardiff Central Library. This place has a very “classic American” vibe to it (to put it diplomatically), i.e. the fixtures seemed a bit dated, but that didn’t detract from the experience at all. That may or may not be everyone’s thing, but overall I’d say it’s a good place to spend your nights.
- Arrived on the night of 4/27/2016 and left in the morning of 4/29/2016