It’s the Welsh capital, it sees over 18 million visitors a year, it’s the biggest media centre in the UK outside London, and it’s the home of BBC sci-fi programme Torchwood. It’s also the least rainy place in Wales, which alone is excuse enough for a visit. Yep, we’re talking about Cardiff, one of those UK cities that has its very definite own buzz and that should be on the must-visit list of anyone looking for things to see and do in Britain.
There’s loads to do here, from sports to music to shopping – Cardiff is ranked sixth best city in the UK for lightening your wallet, ahead of other big shopping centres like Edinburgh, Leeds and Newcastle-upon-Tyne. There are theatres – the New Theatre* is the biggest, and there’s also the Sherman Theatre*, Chapter Arts Centre* and the Gate Arts Centre*. And then there’s the Cardiff nightlife. Hoo boy.
If you haven’t been to Cardiff before, we’d just like to say firstly, Why? and secondly, Never fear, for here is an overview of the best things to do in the city. There’s been extensive redevelopment in the city since the 1990s, which has brought even more things to do – the new waterfront area at Cardiff Bay* has the Senedd building, home to the Welsh Assembly, as well as the Wales Millennium Centre Arts Complex*. And there’s more to come – current plans involve a BBC drama village (yay) and a new business district in the city centre (hmm).
There’s also a newly built Cardiff International Sports Village (yay again), which was used in the 2012 London Olympics and which has the only Olympic sized pool in Wales. But then the Welsh are a bit mad about their sport, and so they should be with that rugby team, which we do not only watch for perve value despite the scurrilous accusations.
Cardiff’s been named the European City of Sport for 2014, so there’s plenty to see and do in the city if you’re an energetic type. The Welsh rugby union (and football) teams are based at the Millennium Stadium*, which is a must-see in Cardiff for the atmosphere on its own. It holds 74,000 people, has hosted the FA Cup Final several times and is the biggest stadium in Europe with a retractable roof (why all stadia in Britain don’t have retractable roofs is beyond us with the weather we get here). If you’re in Cardiff and there’s no big rugby or footie match on, you can take a tour of the Millennium Stadium for £6.50. Also check out SWALEC Stadium* for cricket, Cardiff International Sports Stadium* for athletics, Cardiff City Stadium* for Cardiff City FC and Cardiff Blues rugby team, and Cardiff Arms Park* for, er, more rugby. (Yum.)
If it’s not sport it’s music for the Cardiff folk, with the city named the UK’s second 'most musical' City by PRS for Music in 2010. It’s home to the BBC National Orchestra of Wales and the Welsh National Opera, and there are loads of concert venues – as well as the Millennium Stadium, there’s also St David’s Hall* and the Motorpoint Arena*. The UK's biggest free outdoor festival, the Cardiff Big Weekend Festival, is held every summer with free performances from both big and upcoming names.
And, like most places in the UK, Cardiff also has plenty of history and culture in between the music, sports and falling out of nightclubs. Cardiff Castle is a must and is right in the middle of the city centre, and following close behind on the ‘have to see even if clubbing the night before’ list are Llandaff Cathedral and St Fagans National History Museum*, which has dozens of buildings from Welsh history. Then take a run to Cathays Park*, where there’s the Cardiff City Hall* and the National Museum and Gallery of Wales*. Bute Park* is the biggest park in Cardiff if you need to collapse afterwards, or there’s Roath Park* to the north with a popular boating lake.
That should keep you going for about a week in Cardiff, but there’s enough to do there for at least a couple of months, so check out our Cardiff listings for more info. If you have a favourite spot in Cardiff, or you think we’ve left something out that’s a must-see, drop us a line and let us know!