4 Days of Capital Experience, Nerdgasms and Beautiful Landscapes
When I was a child, I was never quite sure whether Wales was an actual country or just an English region. A few years later, someone (let‘s call her a shocked English teacher) taught me better. Nevertheless, the only picture of Wales that I had in my mind was a simple representation of how I imagined Scotland to be – only smaller. Until Doctor Who and Torchwood won over my heart and the blank spaces filled with architecture, adventure and aliens.
Truth be told, when my sister and I decided to visit Cardiff, we definitely got inspired to do so by the above mentioned series. Media induced tourism, so to say. Whatever reason you may have to visit the Welsh capital, here is a list of what we did on our 4 day trip:
Flybe offers cheap flights from Dusseldorf International to Cardiff Airport. We booked 3 months in advance and paid 50 EUR p.P. in total. The flight takes approximately 1h45mins. Cardiff is a destination that is definitely not even remotely as filled with tourists as London or Dublin. Therefor, the plane was one of the smallest I had ever seen, so that was an interesting experience.
Like all countries in the UK, Wales offers beautiful BnB‘s. For those who travel on a budget, like we did, I can most definitely recommend the YHA Cardiff Central, Wales‘ youngest hostel. I have never experienced a YHA with such awesome rooms. If you book a room for two, you will be given a quality that resembles hotel quality for a hostel price. Newly renovated bathroom, desk, television, hair dryer, shampoo, air conditioning – we were completely blown off our feet. Staff was amazing, breakfast British as well as continental and they even have a restaurant and a bar with great quality food.
The only downside: Its location. The YHA Cardiff Central is not located particularly central, so walking to the city centre will take you approximately 10 – 15 minutes. The good thing is though that getting to the other side of Cardiff, the Marina, takes you much less than it would when staying in the heart of the city. And you definitely want to check out that area as well.
When you arrive at Cardiff airport, you don‘t have to prebook anything in advance. Simply catch the Bus No. T9, which conveniently leaves and arrives every 20 minutes. A single ticket costs 5£ and is purchased right from the bus driver. Of course, you can also buy a return ticket, but it will cost 10£, so you won‘t necessarily save money doing so.
Note: In GB it is a custom to thank the driver when you exit the bus. Not doing so is considered very rude.
Day 1 – Arrival:
Arrival: We arrived at the airport in the afternoon. The T9 brought us straight into the city centre (the ride takes approx. 30 Minutes), where we officially wasted a whole hour trying to find our hostel. Truth be told, we made some of the most unnecessary detours in history into some areas of Cardiff we would have preferred not to see, but, in the end, we finally found our accommodation and were happy to perform a little breakdown in the room.
City Centre: After recovering, we decided to hop back into the city centre. It was getting dark already, which only made the beautiful scenery and architecture look even more stunning. After checking out several bars, pubs and restaurants, we decided to go to Jaimies Italian, a beautiful restaurant right at St. David‘s Shopping Centre. I‘m a big fan of Jaimie Oliver‘s cuisine, and we both very much enjoyed our fried olive starters, Spaghetti Bolognese and steak with fries.
After dinner, we walked around the city centre a little longer. I definitely recommend doing that in the twilight of sunset, which emphasizes the shadows and contrasts in the beautiful old buildings even more.
Day 2: Cardiff City Centre
The second day was the only day we had to fully focus on the City of Cardiff. Therefor, we got up early in the morning to be able to check out as much as possible.
Cardiff Castle: Our way brought us straight back to the city centre, where we decided to check out Cardiff Castle first. It is a medieval castle and Victorian Gothic mansion right in the heart of the city. It opens at 9am, the castle apartments open at 9.30am and the first house tour starts at 10am. You don’t just get to see the architecture above ground, but you also get to check out the bunkerish tunnels, which were used during WWII to protect the people of Cardiff from dropping bombs. I do not recommend doing this in case you‘re claustrophobic – the tunnels are narrow and wet, and speakers recreate the sound of exploding bombs and 1940 radio stations in the background. Which very thoroughly recreates the feeling of hiding there, so if you‘re interested in that: go for it.
Lunch: After Cardiff Castle, it was already lunch time for us, so we decided to check out Crepe Affaire right at St David’s Dewi Sant. The crepes were good, but not overwhelming and the price-quality ratio was okay. If you are really into crepes, you will enjoy it. If you‘re really hungry, I would not suggest going there for a real meal.
Cardiff National Museum: Our next stop was Cardiff National Museum, and, like most National Museums, the entrance is free (however, they do ask for donations). It has collections of archaeology, botany, fine and applied art, geology and zoology. If you like dinosaurs, you will love it! Especially will your kids, because the museum is beautifully made up to teach children as well as adults.
Click here to find the Museum‘s location.
Arcades: After the National Museum, we were both quite tired. Nevertheless, I granted myself a minor shopping tour around the city centre. Whether you really want to buy something or are just curious – Cardiff has the most beautiful Edwardian and Victorian Arcades which are filled with local shops and stores and offer great food, designer clothes, as well as haircuts, books and much more. The most popular Arcade is the Queens Arcade. However, I can also recommend the much older Royal, Castle, High Street or Morgan Arcade. Here are some more tips on where to find the most outstanding shops in Cardiff: http://www.visitcardiff.com/shopping/
Dinner: Since we were starving, we decided to check out Pie Minister, 35 St Mary St. And Hallelujah!, that was the right decision. Pie Minister offers the best pies I have ever eaten, plus a great selection of ales, starters, sides, salads and deserts. I had shamrock pie with sweet potato fries, and I still dream of it at nights. Click here for the menu.
Day 3: Nerd Day
Cardiff Market: Cardiff Central Market is a beautiful Victorian indoor market in the Castle Quarter.Traders in the market offer a variety of fresh produce, cooked food, various delicacies and more durable goods. It is not a wawaoom-experience, but nevertheless a nice stroll in the market is definitely recommendable.
Doctor Who: Our third day was also Nerd-Day: the day we had reserved to visit the Doctor Who Experience Centre. I thought you only get to see props and sets when you‘re there. But: I could not have been more wrong! The Experience in Experience Centre really stands for: Experience. With a group of approximately 20 people you get to participate in an interactive story within original sets. Pre-recorded videos with Peter Capaldi and a great staff member give you the feeling of actually talking to The Doctor during an adventure you are all part of. The whole group has to help out and you get to see all your worst nightmares in action: Daleks, Weeping Angels. You even get to fly the T.A.R.D.I.S. yourself!
The Experience itself took approximately 20 minutes, and it was absolutely worth it. After that, you enter the area which is more arranged like a museum. You get to see all the famous monsters and aliens, learn how to walk like a proper Scarecrow and get to check out props and costumes of the original actors.
Ianto Jones Memorial & Aqua Bus: If, after that, you still haven‘t given enough love to your inner geek: go check out the Ianto Jones Memorial* at the marina. Once you‘re there, I recommend taking the Aquabus (which costs around 4£, tickets are purchased on the ship), which will bring you straight back to the city centre.
*Sidenote: Ianto Jones is a fictional character from the television series Torchwood. After the character’s death, fans from around the world have been leaving flowers and letters at the place where he died.
Bute Park: It was already late in the afternoon when we came back to the city centre. We decided to take a rest in Bute Park, where we nearly got to feed a squirrel. The weather was awesome that day, so we lay down on a bench and just enjoyed the fresh air. We had dinner in our hostel that day, but again: if you still have the energy, go check out some of the pubs nearby.
Day 4: Brecon Beacons & Marina
Brecon Beacons: For our fourth day, we had pre-booked a guided tour with WhereWhenWales Tours. I uploaded a more detailed article on our day trip here, but just to let you know in advance: It was awesome! If you are planning to see some of the famous Welsh landscape, I suggest to check out the famous national park. It will give you a great impression of the Welsh nature – and of its sheep.
Marina: The same evening, we wanted to check out the Marina once more. The Millenium Centre looks absolutely stunning at night, and there are loads of restaurants and bars around the corner to enjoy a last relaxing evening in Cardiff.
If you’d like to see more Wales Photography, check out my Cargo.
Also, let me know if you are planning to visit Cardiff, or, if you already have, if you would recommend something the same or different places. And above all: Have fun!