Other Grandeur Travelers.

Friday, February 10, 2012

I left my heart in Cardiff (Caerdydd): Discovering the Capital of Wales and Beyond.

View of the City Center from Cardiff Castle

Cathays Park War Memoral

Lonely Planet aptly describes Cardiff as the "epitome of cool." As expected, it only took me a few weeks to discover why it deserved to be called as such. This youthful capital has beautiful castles, pubs, parks, shops, and a compelling history (dating back to the Romans) that will all make your visit in United Kingdom exceptional.

Cardiff (or Caerdydd in Welsh), the capital of Wales, is special to me for many reasons. Among all the places I had visited during my vacation, I got to stay here the longest.  I was able to spend a few weeks in Cardiff and somehow, it eventually felt like home. I had a crude map of this city in my head, which was deemed an accomplishment for any traveler. We first rented an apartment near the city center and for the the rest of my vacation, I had a chance to stay in the largest University residence complex called Talybont South. I got to relive my college days here without the real and pressure of academic life.
Talybont South with one the many missing Tesco Carts. 

To make this blog post easier, I've written this Lonely Planet style. If you only have a few days in Cardiff, here are some of the basic tips for your new Welsh Adventure.

One thing you'll find most interesting in Cardiff (and Wales in general) is the actual use of the Welsh language. You'd think that in the United Kingdom, English is the only medium they use. Not. The Welsh people are quite nationalistic, hence their language is still taught in school. This language is an important element in the Welsh identity and culture. It looks and sounds like the Elvish from the Lord of the Rings trilogy. I am certain Tolkien must have taken Welsh as his inspiration.

Most of the signs have a corresponding Welsh Translation. Try pronouncing some of them while you wear some fake pointed ears and a robe.

1) SEE the Cardiff Castle (Castell Caerdydd)/Bute Park. 

This medieval castle is the most important attraction in Cardiff because of its historic and architectural significance. Originally established as a Fortress by the Romans as early as 55 A.D, the castle was built on this specific site because of its proximity to the sea. The Romans always had good and practical reasons for building things. Around 400 AD, however, The Romans left and the castle was not used for more than 6 centuries. After that, the castle witnessed violent and turbulent turnovers to various lords (from the Normans to the Tudors) until it was owned by the Bute Family in the 17th century. The Butes then changed the course of Cardiff.

Cardiff Castle at Night.

When the World War broke, this was used as a shelter by the soldiers.

Inside where you can see a commanding view of the whole fortress.

The 3rd Marquess of Bute was said to be the richest man in the world after the he inherited his father's wealth. He is responsible for the architectural masterpiece that you see in Cardiff Castle today. With the help of a genius architect, he spent an incredible amount of money to redesign the castle's interiors. The Butes were like our very own Ayalas during that time.

Inside the Great Hall of Cardiff Castle

View of the Keep with the Spider Like Millenium Stadium in the Background.

The Norman Keep is an example of medieval fortification (dominated the site since 1041 A.D)

A memorial for some brave soldiers who ought during the war.

After visiting the Castle, you can walk around Cardiff's Bute Park. It has 130 acres of landscaped gardens and it used to be part of the castle grounds. Events such as Sparks in the Sky and Guy Fawkes Night (The guy who failed to bomb the House of Lords) are held here.

2) EXPLORE the City Center. You'll see the unique and well preserved Welsh Architecture in the city center. My days were exhausted while shopping and eating in this part of town. Everything is accessible from the here, which makes it convenient for tourists and locals alike to go around.

Cardiff is heralded to have a network of Elegant Edwardian and Victorian Arcades. It is a pride for the locals and a delight for any visitor. Shopping here becomes a different kind of experience. You'll also find quaint coffee shops in these arcades where you can hang out to evade the erratic Welsch weather.

Other Landmarks in/near the City Center.

See that spider shaped structure? That's the famous Millennium Stadium where mostly rugby matches are held. The stadium will be hosting some of the games this year for the London 2012 Olympics.

Cardiff Library. Aside from its wide collection of books, this is also a modern cultural venue. John Lewis, a luxrious shopping haven, is locared right beside it.

The National Museum (R) and Cardiff City Hall (L)

CHECK out Cardiff University. Being a member of the Russell Group, this university is one of the best research universities in the UK and probably the world. Go around the campus and feel the energy of Cardiff student life. My favorite person studies here.

3) VISIT Cardiff Bay. Cardiff Bay is only a few minutes away away from the city center. The Bay area shows Cardiff's efforts to modernize the city. You'll find a myriad of restaurants and bars at the Mermaid Quay. During the late 19th century, the coal industry in Cardiff was booming and that fueled the industrial revoltion. Coal from the Welsh valleys was transported from the docks to the rest of the world. The coal industry made John Patrick Crichton-Stuart, the Third Marquess of Bute, the richest man in the world at one point.  (How to get to Cardiff Bay? Click http://www.visitcardiff.com/about-cardiff/cardiff-bay)

The Cardiff Opera House. This building represents the welcoming movement of this young city towards the future. (I wanted to take a good shot but no one could stop the rain and gloomy weather.)

4) WATCH a Rugby Match. Needless to say, The Welsh are passionate about RUGBY! I had a chance to watch the Cardiff Blues (one of the four professional regional rugby reams) in action and they won! As a matter of fact, this was probably the first rugby match I had seen. Never watched it on TV. I seriously did not understand the mechanics of the sport in the beginning but I got the drift later on. Thank God!

Aside from rugby matches, college social events are such a big part of student college life that they will do anything as a sign of camaraderie. The students do the craziest things for their socials. Case in point: Below.


If you have spare time, take a day trip to see the medieval Caerphilly Castle, located in South Wales. Apparently, this is the largest Castle in Wales (Not the Cardiff Caste) and it the second largest in UK, next to Windsor Castle.

Caerphilly Castle was carefully constructed to have extensive water defenses. Because of several centuries of disuse, the castle deteriorated but the Butes made sure it only underwent partial restoration when they took over. Nonetheless, the partial restoration works well since it adds a character and history to the castle.

You can rent the Great Hall for your wedding or Birthday (Ain't that grand?)

We had the perfect vantage point overlooking the small town of Caerphilly.

The Welsh Flag is represented by a mighty red dragon.

The grandeur traveler and the geese.

6) EAT.

*.CAWL - The Welsh cawl, a staple of Welsh Farmhosues, was usually eaten from wooden bowls with hand carved wooden spoons.

Enjoy the experience when you try this genuine Welsh dish.

Greggs. I know this chain is all over UK but I first got to try it in Cardiff! Steak bake is the best!

For a new dining experience, try Milgi's. It's a chill out and funky bar/resto like no other in Cardiff. They serve organic food and delicious healthy shakes. You can always try something new off the menu (Like squash and barley risotto and Aubergine and Chickpea Curry)

213 City Road, Cardiff, CF24 3JD

7) Party in Cardiff (if this is your cup of tea)! As a university town, expect the bars and clubs to be full during the weekend. Popular spots are Tiger Tiger and the award winning Oceana.

Where to Stay:

Max Serviced Apartments
Meridian Gate, Bute Terrace, Cardiff CF 2FE, United Kingdom
+44 29 2405 0812

It was nice to have our own serviced apartment for a week. It was so comfortable that we did not want to leave anymore! We even had a washing machine/dryer! 

Radisson Blu Hotel Cardiff. Situated right in the heart of the City Centre, this hotel is perfect for most business travelers. www.radissonblu.co.uk/hotel-cardiff.

For a more luxurious 5-star accommodation, you can check out St David's Hotel in Cardiff Bay. http://www.thestdavidshotel.com/

They say that no matter how beautiful a place may be, it is only as good as the people in it. True enough, I enjoyed my sojourn in Cardiff because of the people I was with. They made all the difference in the world.

So, why visit Cardiff? It is a city that does not overwhelm its visitor. It has the right amount of cool that will easily make you feel connected to it. Without a doubt, I will see be back again..soon. 


Jet said...

We miss you doc! nice write up. :D

Anonymous said...

Quite comprehensive! great write up, and love the pictures!! :) <3

deobaraanmd said...

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retrochic said...

I miss Cardiff!!

deobaraanmd said...

lets go back...soon! hopefully!

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