2 Days in Cardiff: What To See, Where To Eat, and Where To Stay
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Have you ever considered planning a trip to Cardiff? The Welsh capital had been on my list for a few years, so I was really excited to be spending 2 days in Cardiff in the off season when the streets are a little less busy with tourists. Despite it being one of the smallest and newest capital cities in Europe, Cardiff has a rich history that’s evident as you walk along its cobbled streets and dive into the famous Victorian and Edwardian arcades around the city centre.
Cardiff’s history dates back over 6000 years, with archaeological evidence from the Neolithic period and the Roman period being found both within the city centre and just outside of it. It’s also a city with deep ties to the coal industry which is interesting to learn about. If this is your first time visiting the city, 48 hours in Cardiff is enough to see all of the main attractions in the city centre and explore the very popular Cardiff Bay area too. It’s also worth noting that there are plenty of popular castles in Wales that are within driving distance too!
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Best Places to Visit in Cardiff
Whether you’re spending a weekend in Cardiff or are planning on visiting mid-week like we did, you’ll find that there are plenty of things to do in Cardiff to easily fill your itinerary. Many of the best places to visit in Cardiff are within walking distance from one another, so even if you plan to visit Cardiff in one day you’ll be able to see quite a lot of attractions in only a few hours.
The first thing you should do during your 2 days in Cardiff is to visit Cardiff Castle. It’s one of the most famous castles in Wales, and was once a Roman fort before becoming a Norman stronghold. Much of the castle you see today is from the Victorian period when it was turned into a palace that reflected a medieval “dream world”, but the keep itself sitting at the top of the mound is of medieval origins. This is one of the main places of interest in Cardiff so it’s definitely worth visiting at any time of the year.
If you’re planning to visit Cardiff on a budget, visiting the interior of the castle might be something to leave off of your itinerary. Entry to Cardiff Castle costs £14.50 and additional tour prices run at £4.00 each. However, if you’re on the hunt for free places to visit in Cardiff then you’re in luck because the public square next to the gift shop has no entry fee and you can get a great photo of the Norman tower there.
National Museum of Cardiff
While I was doing research for our trip to Cardiff, I was amazed at how many free things there are to do here. The National Museum of Cardiff is one of the most unique museums in all of the United Kingdom, and entry is completely free which is a huge bonus. It’s located only a 10 minute walk from Cardiff Castle and has a wide range of exhibitions on various floors to discover. Visiting this museum is considered to be one of the best rainy day activities in Cardiff too.
Located directly behind Cardiff Castle is one of the city’s most popular parks - Bute Park. This large open space is known as the green heart of the city, and is only a short walk from the city centre’s main shopping streets too. There are a few points of interest to see within the park itself, such as Blackfriars Friary which was demolished in the 16th century, but it’s also a nice area to take a casual stroll around if you have some free time during your 2 days in Cardiff.
Cardiff Central Market
Cardiff’s city centre is full of beautiful Victorian and Edwardian structures, and this includes the Cardiff Central Market. The market itself has been in existence since the 1700s, and has stood on its current site for over 100 years. Its unique glass roof is one of the most noticeable original features still standing today, and the stalls sell everything from fresh produce to kitchen utensils.
Did you know that Cardiff is known as the City of Arcades? That’s because it’s home to 7 Victorian and Edwardian shopping arcades spread out around the city centre, each with their own unique selection of shops and eateries. One of the largest and most popular is Castle Arcade, with an entrance located across the road from Cardiff Castle. Apart from the shops inside this arcade, you can get a birds eye view of it by heading upstairs to one of the balconies, which is an unusual thing to do in Cardiff that you shouldn’t miss.
Located in the heart of the Morgan Arcade is the world’s oldest record shop - Spiller’s Records. It was established in 1894 in Queens Arcade and was recently moved to its current location so it could keep its doors open. The shop is small but they have a lot of records to choose from as well as merchandise with Spiller’s Records on them. It’s an interesting shop to say that you’ve visited and it needs to be added to your Cardiff itinerary.
Looking for things to do near Cardiff Castle? Why not check out the oldest public house in Cardiff and grab a drink? The Rummer Tavern is a traditional pub with a Tudor-style exterior, but the building itself only dates back to the early 18th century. This is a very well known landmark in Cardiff, and really can’t be missed if you’re making your way to the castle as it stands out among the modern shops.
No weekend away in Cardiff, or day trip for that matter, is complete without taking in the views of the waterfront and exploring the points of interest at Cardiff Bay. It’s the largest waterfront development in Europe and offers some great indoor things to do in Cardiff as well. Some of the main attractions here that are worth seeing include the Wales Millenium Centre, the Norwegian Church, the Roald Dahl Plass, the Pierhead, and the Senedd or the Welsh Parliament. There are plenty of Cardiff Bay attractions to discover and the waterfront is very pleasant to walk along.
NQ64 Arcade Bar
If you’re looking for unique things to do in Cardiff then you need to check out NQ64 Arcade Bar. The bar is decorated in splattered neon paint and features a number of retro arcade games as well as classic consoles, so be prepared for hours of fun. Their cocktails are character themed, but you don’t need to drink to enjoy yourself - tokens are available to buy for everyone regardless of if you’re drinking or not. Add this to your Cardiff itinerary if have a free evening!
Where To Eat in Cardiff
The Welsh capital may be small, but there are some fantastic places to eat in Cardiff that range from traditional eateries to modern restaurants. We were based in the city centre, so we mostly stayed in this part of Cardiff, but we did manage to head a bit further afield to check out one of the most popular restaurants in Cardiff too.
Marco Pierre White Steakhouse Bar & Grill
For a unique dining experience in Cardiff, head up to the 6th floor of Hotel Indigo Cardiff and grab yourself a table at Marco Pierre White Steakhouse Bar & Grill. We’d visited Mr White’s during our trip to London, so we were really excited to try this version of the acclaimed chef’s restaurant chain. This rooftop restaurant and bar serves British cuisine at affordable prices, with their most popular dishes revolving around steak. I would recommend trying one of the signature steaks which are served with tasty additional sauces. We switched our chips out for macaroni cheese so our three course meal wasn’t too overwhelming.
For starters we had the beetroot and goat’s cheese salad and the French onion soup which were very tasty and a great way to start the meal. We had a little extra room for dessert, so we ordered the cheesecake and chocolate mousse. If you want something a little less heavy then the chocolate mousse is a great option and it’s presented beautifully. Overall we had an amazing evening at Marco Pierre White Steakhouse and would recommend it to anyone visiting Cardiff.
A short 20 minute walk from the city centre will bring you to Tuk Tuk, located along Crwys Road. This unique restaurant in Cardiff serves authentic Thai food with a modern twist inside a cozy space. It’s a very popular place to eat in Cardiff, so I would recommend booking a table ahead of time if you can to avoid disappointment. There are a lot of tasty options on the menu, with Pad Thai and the Thai Cashew Chicken being big hits with customers. The chicken satay skewers and vegetarian spring rolls are both nice options for starters that will get your tastebuds flowing.
Their desserts are Thai-inspired so I would suggest ordering at least one to share if you don’t think you have enough room for one each. Either the banana spring rolls or the mango cheesecake are sure to leave you with a happy stomach! Tuk Tuk is definitely worth the walk to get to, and I guarantee this will be one of the best places you’ll eat at in Cardiff.
The Alchemist is one of my favourite restaurants in the UK, so whenever I visit a new city that has one I have to go. This bar and restaurant is famous for its science based and eye-catching cocktails, but it also has a great food menu that changes regularly and is Asian-inspired. For lunch I went with a lighter rice dish, but their wraps and burgers are equally worth ordering if you’re feeling a little hungrier. You can always just pop in for cocktails too!
The Grazing Shed
Fancy trying the best burgers in Wales? Well luckily Cardiff is home to The Grazing Shed which has been voted the top burger joint in the country - and it’s easy to see why. They offer a self-service ordering system so it couldn’t be easier to get your meal in a quick and timely fashion. All of their burgers, sauces, and buns are made with the finest and freshest ingredients available, with no preservatives added whatsoever. The burgers are freshly made so you’ll have the best dining experience too, with beef, chicken, vegetarian, and vegan options on the menu.
You’ll be spoiled for choice here, so don’t feel bad if it takes you a little longer than normal to choose the right burger for you. The John Wayne is one of the most popular, and on the chicken side you can’t go wrong with the Chicka Wah Wah which is served with an apple chutney. If you’re feeling really hungry, you can upgrade your fries to dirty fries to complete your very messy but delicious meal.
Where To Stay in Cardiff's City Centre
Hotel Indigo Cardiff
For those of you spending 2 days in Cardiff or more, there’s only one place to stay - Hotel Indigo Cardiff. This beautiful hotel is located within the Dominions Arcade with an interior that reflects the Welsh heritage of the city. There are three different themes within the boutique rooms themselves, with lots of local photographs and natural furnishings in them. Our double room was themed around “Welsh Industry” with a nod to the coal industry that the city has a deep rooted history in. It included a large double bed, TV, a stocked mini-fridge, robes and slippers, and a very nicely finished tiled bathroom. The room was spotless and we couldn’t fault it so we had a great two nights at Hotel Indigo Cardiff.
The hotel is located a 5 minute walk from Cardiff Castle, along one of the main shopping streets in Cardiff, so it’s in the best position possible to explore the city from. Breakfast is served on the 6th floor and is a mixture of a continental buffet and a set hot menu with a nice variety of choices on it. This is also where you’ll find the Marco Pierre White Steakhouse Bar & Grill which is one of the best places to eat in Cardiff. The hotel also boasts a fitness suite, seating area, and a popular cafe next to the lobby, and if you’re lucky enough to check in when there are fresh Welsh cakes available make sure you take full advantage and grab one before they’re gone!
>> Click here for the most up to date prices at Hotel Indigo Cardiff <<
Bonus: Rural Retreat 90 Minutes From Cardiff
The Cottage in the Wood
When we visited Cardiff we drove down from the northwest coast of England, so to break up our journey we decided to stay in Malvern at The Cottage in the Wood. The area is known for its natural beauty and is less than a 90 minute drive from Cardiff, and the hotel is home to a very popular restaurant too, called the 1919 Restaurant and Bar. This restaurant is always booked up so make sure you plan in advance if you can! We stayed in the Coach House which is set apart from the main building with incredible views of the countryside from most of the rooms.
Our large double bedroom was very cozy, with an enormous and comfortable bed, a vintage record player, a mini fridge with water and milk inside, a TV, and a seating area in front of the window where we could enjoy the views. The bathroom was equally as spacious with a nice walk-in shower and a beautiful Victorian bath that you should definitely make the most of during your relaxing stay. We were so comfortable here that we didn’t want to leave in the morning!
Rather than looking nearby for dining options, your best bet is to dine at the 1919 Restaurant and Bar, which has been awarded 2 Rosettes for its stunning food. There are two options here: a three course dining menu for £49 or a tasting menu for £69. We opted for the tasting menu so we could sample a variety of different dishes and it really didn’t disappoint! Every dish was different from the other and was centred around local and seasonal produce. The menus change regularly so there’s always something new around the corner.
The restaurant is also where you’ll go for breakfast in the morning. All bookings include breakfast, and there are plenty of hot food choices on the menu to choose from, as well as cereal and fruit bowls to start off with. We had an incredible 1 night stay at The Cottage in the Wood and it was the perfect hotel to recharge our batteries at as we made our way down to Cardiff.
>> Click here for the most up to date prices at The Cottage in the Wood <<
Cardiff is one of the most visited cities in the UK, and has a lot going for it including historical attractions, a vibrant nightlife, plenty of shops, and some delicious places to eat. If you’re only spending 2 days in Cardiff like we did, then you’ll be pleased to know that there are a lot of free things to do in Cardiff’s city centre which is surprising but it’s great for the wallet! And if you have spare time or are spending 72 hours in Cardiff or more, it’s worth adding St Fagans National Museum of History to your itinerary and planning a half-day trip to Caerphilly Castle - the largest castle in Wales and the second largest in the UK behind Windsor Castle.
Hopefully you’ve read enough to entice you to visit the Welsh capital, because it really is a unique city to travel to. Having only been around Northern Wales in the past, it was a nice experience to visit another part of the country. If you have any questions about visiting Cardiff or have any tips on what else to see in and around the city, please leave a comment below or get in touch via email. You can also follow my travels on Instagram too.