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24 Hours In Cardiff

Cardiff Castle in Wales

The motto on Cardiff's crest reads: Deffro mae'n ddydd. Awake, it is Day! The sort of chipper saying that morning people are prone to saying to those of us who struggle to raise eyelids at dawn. But with so much to do and see in the Welsh capital there's no reason to spare a moment sleeping in or slumbering about. From the peaceful Roath Park in the morning to stirring performances at the Millennium Centre at night, this is a city that demands a full day's attention.

Roath Park

Scott Lighthouse in Roath Park, CardiffScott Lighthouse at the centre of Roath Park

The verdant grounds of Roath park are the most loved public green space of the Welsh capital. And one can easily see why - from the centrally located lake to its corners it feels like the sort of place where you might find fairies or sight a unicorn nonchalantly grazing. The lake is home to the lighthouse pictured to the right. From the nearby promenade you can see right up to the edge of Cardiff. Active morning types can hit up the Boat House to rent rowing and pedal boats for a float on the pond. Just south of the park the Botanic Gardens is a colourful way to pass the early morning hours.

Cwmcarn Forest Drive

A little bit outside the city of Cardiff is Cwmcarn - a Welsh village that looks exactly as you would expect it, with lush rolling hills and forests as far as the eye can see. Cwmcarn Forest is a great weekend drive through some of the most photogenic landscapes you'll find in the UK. Adventurous types who prefer two wheels to four will find an established mountain biking trail to exercise the body and relax the mind.

  • Address: Cwmcarn Forest VC, Cwncarn, NP11 7FA, Crossways
  • Tel: 014 9527 2001
  • Website: www.forestry.gov.uk

National Museum

The National Museum in Cardiff

The Cardiff branch of Amgueddfa Cymru - the National Museums of Wales - combines the functions of an art gallery, a history museum and a geology museum. Arts and science under one roof allows you to move from exhibitions about earliest humans in Wales from 230 000 years ago to the disputed Aenid Rubens cartoons acquired by the musuem in 1979. The cartoons - which draw inspiration from the epic poem by Virgil, have recently been the centre of furious debate in the art world. Whatever their origin they sit well amongst the museums collection of artworks, including a treasure trove of the finest Impressionist paintings.

  • Address: National Museum Cardiff, Cathays Park, CF10 3NP, Cardiff
  • Tel: 029 2039 7951
  • Website: www.museumwales.ac.uk

Dr. Who Bus Tours

Who but Doctor Who could be the most famous export from Cardiff? The show has the city to thank for its recent revival, having used various locations around the city. Dr Who Tours zips fans around the city in a TARDIS (ok, maybe just a bus) to see all the Doctor's favourite haunts like the location of the Cardiff rift. How about taking part in an re-enactment at Amy Pond's home for a bit of added fun? We can't promise that you'll see the Doctor's quiff flapping about, but the tour is a must-do for the hardcore fans.

Pierhead Building

Pierhead Building in Cardiff Bay

The landmark of Cardiff has been a fixture of the bay since it was first opened as the headquarters of the now defunct Bute Dock Company in 1897. The repurposed building - specifically the three-roomed Pierhead Suite - serves as a record of Welsh history and identity, with the Futures Gallery alongside the museum serving as a space for discussion on the latter.

  • Address: Pierhead, Cardiff Bay, CF99 1NA, Cardiff
  • Tel: 084 5010 5500
  • Website: www.pierhead.org

Norweigan Church

The Norweigan Church in Cardiff Bay

The church on the bay was built in the 19th century to service the sizable population of Scandinavian sailors that passed through Cardiff and some who made Cardiff their home; perhaps its most famous association being that with the children's author Roald Dahl - who was baptised in the church. Today the church has been remade into an arts centre where you'll find exhibitions, concerts and events.

Armless Dragon

Why is the dragon armless? Well, we're not quite sure about that (they do provide an explanation here), but you would have to be tasteless to not enjoy the cooking of this peculiarly named restaurant. The fusion of Welsh and international cuisine is divine, we recommend the Carpaccio (fun to say, fun to eat!) dusted with three peppercorns and cummin.

  • Address: 97 Wyeverne Road Cathays, CF24 4BG, Cardiff
  • Tel: 029 2038 2357

Cardiff Castle

Cardiff Castle at night

Throughout the history of Cardiff the castle has watched over the city in various guises. First as a Roman Fort, then as a Norman keep and finally as a Victorian mansion. If you can only visit one place in Cardiff the castle has to be it; better yet, visit the castle on the Joust Days, when things get very Medieval.

Cardiff Market

Like the castle above, the market has a long history with the city. Where once livestock was traded and the smell of the fram was thick in the air you can now find modern coveniences - but don't despair fruits, vegetables and all that vintage market fare can still be found here.

Alliance Sculpture

Alliance Sculpture in the Hayes
Image courtesy of (John Lord) / CC BY-SA 2.0

We were not quite sure what to make of the sculpture at first sight. A javelin resting precariously on a hula hoop perhaps? This head scratcher is the work of the French sculptor Jean-Bernard Métais and symbolises the sea that once lapped the area that is now the Hayes. The 25-metre structure is made of enammelled metal filled with a liquid that rises and falls with the tide. At night the sculpture projects Welsh text onto passerbyers so make sure to bring a camera when you visit.

Mermaid Quay

Mermaid Quay at night

The Mermaid Quay is the stylish bay area shopping, entertainment and eating destination. The Quay is located where the old Tiger Bay used to be and is part of the recent redevelopment of the shore area. Being quite close to Pierhead and the Norweigan Church it's the perfect place to end a day exploring the Bay with eating, shopping and a view to die for.

Sosban Fach

The revival of Welsh heritage has also spilled over to the restaurant business, with a number of Welsh cuisine restaurants to choose from. Sosban Fach - meaning small saucepan in Welsh - is one of those, claiming to have 'the real taste of Wales'. In keeping with its image it is located in the Old Cardiff Bay and serves meal from that bygone era. Meals like Tarten Cenhinen, Caws gafr a Chnau Barfog (Leeks, Goats cheese and Hazelnut Tart) sound like a mouthful and are delicious to boot.

Millennium Stadium

Millenium Rugby Stadium

The home of Welsh rugby is a suitably atmospheric grand venue. Intimidating to foes, who have found it to be a difficult venue in recent years, but a wonderful experience for any visiting fans. Listening to a Welsh crowd in full voice (and an away victory) is something every rugby fan should put on their wishlist. Check what's on at the stadium on your next visit and schedule your intinerary accordingly.

St. David's Hall

Singing and music could be said to be an integral part of Welsh identity, such that Wales is known as the 'land of song' (and who can argue with Tom Jones, Shirley Bassey, Katherine Jenkins, Gwenyth Jones and many other Welsh-born singers who export their lovely singing voices). St. David's Hall is the state-of-the-art venue where you'll find the closest thing to acoustic excellence. If you can, attending the biennial Cardiff Singer of World competition, held every odd year, is where you'll find singers of the highest calibre - a world away from the garden variety talent on reality shows.

Millennium Centre

The multipurpose Millenium Centre

Millennium Centre is the new venue on the block for performance art of all types. The conspicious writing (seen to the right) that dominates the building roughly translates to: "Creating Truth Like Glass From The Furnaces Of Inspiration." A beautiful verse that sums up the purpose of the building. Inside the glitzy glass and steel structure are six performance spaces with the 1,896-seat Donald Gordon theatre as the centrepiece. For those who can't get tickets to the nightly performances, the Glanfa foyer has free lunchtime performances for an entertaining lunch with a serving of culture.

  • Address: Bute Place, Cardiff Bay, CF10 5AL, Cardiff
  • Tel: 029 2063 6464
  • Website: www.wmc.org.uk

Buffalo Bar

Buffalo is the type of bar that has a space to satisfy every inclination. In the mood for fresh air and a beer in the hand, the Beer Garden can take care of that. Late night hunger pangs? There's food for that too. For the John Travoltas among you (and also for those who struggle with basic foot placement) a dance floor is available with a steady supply of live acts on club nights.

Last Updated: May 2012

Gugulethu Hlekwayo

Gugulethu Hlekwayo

A timid traveller, but a traveller none the less; Gugulethu is in his element lost and without a map - preferably with a companion willing to listen to his tall tales. He's our resident expert on the best muffins in town.