Four Days in Cardiff, Wales is Too Many
So here’s the thing about Cardiff. It’s smaller than you’d think for a capital city. And even when you compare it to many small countries, the capital city will often still have a ton to do in it. Cardiff was fun, but even I started getting a little bit bored by my last day. Now, if you like museums a lot, four days could be perfect for you. And in some ways that’s where I went very wrong. The way I scheduled my trip was to leave early Tuesday morning but Monday would be my “real” last day. Because I hadn’t done any museums on the first day, and wandered around like I normally do, I didn’t think about the fact that most museums in the UK are closed on Mondays.
I think four days could have been just right if I had done the museums earlier and left my “wandering” day to Monday. As it was for me, four days in Cardiff, Wales was too long. Anyways! That’s a long intro/tangent and lets get into what I did 🙂
Where I Stayed
I stayed in Mrs. Pott’s Hostel and while it is more expensive than your average hostel in Wales, I chose it because the beds are adorable. It’s just who I am, I see a cute thing, I am intrigued. The beds are super private, with outlets, lights, curtains, and all built-in. I didn’t feel like I was going to fall even though I’m notorious for tossing and turning. It was also super quiet. Now, YMMV on this because I heard that for the people whose rooms (including the all female dorm) faced the street there was a ton of noise. My room faced an alleyway and I didn’t have that problem. When you book, maybe mention it? I slept super well. The kitchen facilities are pretty good, not the best I’ve ever encountered and Wifi doesn’t work in them so….if you’re trying to get to know other backpackers and look things up for them it can put a small wrench in that.
Things to Eat
I didn’t eat out much in Cardiff, the ones I can think of the most are:
Waterloo Tea in Wyndham Arcade
Because I’m obsessed with afternoon tea, there was no way I wasn’t getting a taste of what Wales had to offer. I chose this spot out of the several available in Cardiff because it was in an arcade, and I was jealous of all the people I saw eating in the arcades. They looked so chique and fabulous.
I’ll be honest, this wasn’t my favorite afternoon tea ever. They didn’t have my first two tea requests which was irritating. The timer they gave me was broken and my tea oversteeped. I mean, that’s kind of my fault for not paying attention but I that was the point of the timer, so I didn’t have to pay attention. There were a few other things that didn’t go well but I’m not going to dwell on them 🙂
The food was pretty excellent and I liked their approach to afternoon tea. By never having the same menu but it all being delicious was a fun experience for me. I really only experiment with food when I travel and the various nameless items were good! You also get to choose a slice of cake which gives you a little more power if you’re not down for the mystery 🙂 All-in-all a little hit and miss. Hence my giving it three paragraphs. I care about my tea, ok???
I. Love. Welsh Cakes. There, that’s all that needs to be said. Ok, ok, I’d best be specific. I hate raisons and dried fruit in most things, so the traditional Welsh Cake doesn’t really do it for me, but the ones with chocolate chips? Oh boy. Perhaps the reason I didn’t eat out all that much or even shop in grocery stores, was that I was too busy chowing down on Welsh cakes. I tried them from two places and bought a dozen in each, from a stall in Cardiff Central Market, and from Fabulous Welsh Cakes. Both were good and I kept changing my mind on which I preferred. I recommend trying several! I’m going to have to make my own at some point.
What I Did
Apparently I’m behind the times and tourist attractions have gone up to ridiculous prices. I thought it was just the UK, but I’m writing this in Colorado Springs, Colorado, and trying to see a waterfall was going to be $16. What the actual heck? Anyways, I abstained from Cardiff castle because of the 12GBP entry ticket for students, and the fact that I knew I’d be seeing a castle on my bus tour. I found the animal wall around the castle to be more my speed.
This trip truly was the trip of tours. While I’d always abstained in the past due to not wanting to be a “tourist” (shock, gasp, horror) this kept my costs and confusion down substantially. I took a tour to Caerleon, Tintern Abbey, and Raglan Castle and you can see what I had to think of it here: SeeWales Bus Tour Review
Free Walking Tour
So this was my first time experiencing the “free” walking tours a lot of cities have. You pay what you think the tour was worth and it’s usually around $5-7 in the equivalent currency for an hour of walking about and seeing the sights. I didn’t know this, I naively assumed it was for some reason sponsored by the local government. Ah, yes. Sometimes I am a little dim, thank God I had cash on me.
I quite enjoyed this, and I got to learn that at one point the richest man in the world came from Cardiff. The 2d Marques of Bute had gotten rich off of coal mining and coal transportation. Wales is known for the problems it had in the 80s with all of the coal mines going under but it certainly seems as though they’ve got a handle on it now. Clearly they managed to find alternative energy and jobs for those people, but hey, why would history tell us anything? *not directed towards any government I may happen to live under at all*…*sarcasm* I definitely get there was a struggle and a lot of people suffered but we should, you know, learn from that.
Wandering the Arcades
I get lost a lot, but Cardiff has a nice way to do so. More countries should invest in these open air, fully covered shopping arcades. You can still get your fresh air, window shop, and not be in the blinding sunshine or pounding rain. It’s brilliant. It’s definitely my favorite thing about Cardiff.
Heading Down to the Bay
Personally, I wouldn’t base my stay at Cardiff Bay. It’s much smaller than I thought and there’s a good 20 minute walk between Cardiff and Cardiff Bay. It’s definitely worth a visit but there’s honestly not that much to do unless you’ve already signed up for some kind of attraction. There are two main ways to get there without a car or walking. You can sign up for the hop-on, hop-off bus and get slightly more “tour” stuff with it. I opted for the river/bay cruise that left from Bute Park (which is also worth a wander around). It costs about 8GBP for a round trip and I thought it to be quite fun.
I think Cardiff is a nice city, and I imagine its a lovely place to live. However, sometimes it felt as though they had only just started figuring out what tourism is. On my tour I heard about an old monastery having been torn down awhile back, and there isn’t that much to encourage tourists. For instance, Edinburgh has heavily cashed in on anything remotely Harry Potter related, and traditional Scottish things are everywhere. In Cardiff, finding any sort of traditional food is nigh impossible aside from the Welsh Cakes. Cardiff is suitable for a day trip, which is something I don’t think I’ve ever said about a capital city but that’s just the way it is. If you scheduled yourself well, you’d see the market, the arcades, the castle, and a museum with time to spare 🙂