If you fancy a drive into the countryside, the Maenllwyd Inn in Rudry village makes a great place to stop for lunch. It’s traditional Sunday fare with great desserts, but be prepared to wait on a Sunday. Mains are around £7-16.
The Maenllwyd Inn, Rudry, Caerphilly 029 2088 8505 www.goodpubrestaurants.co.uk/show_restaurant.tpl?restaurant=150
A good Indian restaurant. Prices are a bit more than you would pay for a curry in a bigger city, but it’s a great place to go with a large group and very central.
The Jubaraj, 10 Mill Lane, 029 2037 7668 www.juborajgroup.com/
A few sayings you can try out on your visit: Iechyd da (cheers) Diolch yn fawr (thanks very much) Twll dîn pob Sais! (Down with the English!) All street signs are in Welsh and English and while everyone in shops and pubs speaks English, a lot of people are also Welsh speakers.
Rugby and football fans should go on the Millennium stadium tour, where you can take a look at the teams’ dressing rooms, visit the VIP area, walk through the players’ tunnel and marvel at the famous retracting roof. It’s £5.50 for adults and £3 for children.
Boat-lovers should take a cruise on the Waverley – the last sea-going paddle steamer in the world. It leaves from Penarth, just outside Cardiff, and visits the islands of Flatholm and Steepholm in the Bristol Channel. Sights include seabird colonies, rare flora and fauna, naval defences and an abandoned cholera isolation hospital.
Get a bike and ride the Taff trail. You can go from the centre of Cardiff all the way out to Castle Coch, following the river on safe bike paths.
A lovely park with a huge lake to feed the ducks or hire a boat. There’s a great playground for children, lovely rose gardens and an impressive greenhouse. Also in the park is a memorial lighthouse dedicated to Captain Scott, the South Pole explorer, who set sail on his final, ill-fated voyage from Cardiff.
Down between Cardiff Castle and the River Taff is Bute park, an adventure playground of standing stones, ruins and trees. It’s right on the edge of the city centre, and is a great place to take the weight off your feet after some shopping. The park extends north along the river and becomes Sophia Gardens, where you’ll find Glamorgan cricket club’s ground and the Welsh Institute of Sport, and the wide open playing fields of Pontcanna and Llandaff fields.
My favourite green space in Cardiff is a section of the old Glamorgan canal, which was used to transport coal down from the valleys out to the Cardiff docks. You begin by walking along the canal, through a green tunnel of trees, alive with wildlife. Halfway along you can fork off left to Forest Farm, or to the right, where you cross a lock, climb up a steep hill and look back down at the canal through the canopy of beech trees. It’s a very peaceful place and there’s so much wildlife to see at all times of the year.
If you're searching for a romantic spot, get out of the city and head for the peace of the countryside. The Vale of Glamorgan has some lovely spots for a picnic and its green, rolling fields, lush woods and pretty villages immediately make you forget your troubles. But if you’re not the outdoor type, you could see if romance blossoms over Cardiff’s biggest steaks like Gav and Char at Charleston’s.
Bring this back as a great holiday souvenir or present. The tradition of carving and giving wooden lovespoons began hundreds of years ago in Wales when young men gave them to their sweethearts as tokens of affection. Different designs and sizes convey different messages: a cross means faith, a horseshoe symbolises luck, a knot signifies everlasting love, and so on.
This museum, with its collection of Welsh archaeology, arts and crafts, and surprisingly impressive collection of Impressionist paintings, is worth a visit if you’ve got a few days here. Entry is free.
It's a brilliant free outdoor museum 10 minutes west of the centre showing how Welsh people lived, worked and spent their spare time through the ages. Set in 100 acres of beautiful parkland in the grounds of St Fagans castle, a 16th-century manor house, over 30 buildings have been painstakingly moved from various parts of Wales and reassembled brick by brick. Native farm animals roam the fields and farmyards, and there’s a working flour mill and blacksmith. There are also some great old-fashioned shops including a baker’s and a sweet shop. The village of St Fagans itself is worth a look, with pretty thatched-roof cottages, a picturesque cricket ground and decent pub.
You may love it or hate it but raucous Saturday night in Cardiff has to be experienced. The St Mary’s Street and Mill Lane end of the city is the focal point for most of the action. It’s worth checking out the Yard complex, a redeveloped Brains brewery which now contains restaurants, bars and a club. Moloko on Mill Lane is an interesting vodka bar, Metro’s is a great indie club and Clwb Ifor Bach (the Welsh Club) has different music on three floors. Dance music lovers should head for Emporium, which was featured in the clubbing film Human Traffic. It’s then essential to visit Caroline St, fondly known as Chippy Lane, to soak up all this alcohol with chips and gravy, chips with curry sauce, battered sausage, kebabs or whatever else you fancy. Another popular late night choice is Charleston's Brasserie, which stays open until about 4am and costs about £13 for a big juicy steak. Celeb spotters will be interested to know that this is where Charlotte Church punched her ex-boyfriend after he sold his story to the tabloids, and also where she met her current squeeze, Welsh rugby player Gavin Henson.
The best place to watch the world go by is down at Cardiff Bay, which has witnessed so much pass by itself. Originally the site of the docks which exported Welsh coal worldwide, by the 1980s Tiger Bay was a mass of derelict land and abandoned buildings. The regeneration began with the controversial barrage which flooded the bay, and now the area houses a cinema complex, restaurants, piers, clubs, bars, museums, designer apartment complexes, the Welsh assembly and the Wales Millennium Centre, the home of Welsh opera and seven other arts and culture organisations. The coffee shops and bars which now line the water’s edge at Mermaid Quay are the perfect place to watch it all come alive - by day or night.
There’s no landmark in Cardiff which can give you a view of the city in the way that the London Eye or the Eiffel tower would, although the Garth and Wenault mountains are worth venturing out to for a view of the city from a distance. But if you want a window into the Welsh nation, go to Cardiff when there’s an international rugby fixture on. For the Welsh, rugby is the expression of a nation and it’s an experience you will never forget. The sight of 75,000 people - mostly wearing red - in such a huge stadium is itself a spectacle, and the singing will make your hair stand on end.
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