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A weekend in Cardiff, Wales: A 48-hour itinerary

A weekend in Cardiff, Wales: A 48-hour city break itinerary

The Welsh city of Cardiff is Europe’s youngest capital, with a great mix of history and culture, from ancient castles to Cardiff Bay’s modern architecture and into the future as the home of TV’s Doctor Who. You’re spoilt for choice when it comes to eating and drinking too. Seasonal, local produce has become a real buzzword but that’s the type of food Wales has been doing well for years. Not to mention the local ciders, beers and even wines – you definitely won’t go hungry or thirsty. So here’s my 48-hour itinerary for spending the perfect weekend in Cardiff.

Read more: 10 Great British weekend break ideas

How to spend a weekend in Cardiff

Norwegian church in Cardiff Bay

Norwegian church in Cardiff Bay

Friday evening

Check into boutique hotel Cathedral 73, on a tree-lined street an easy walk into the city centre. This Victorian townhouse has been converted into a stylish hotel, with rooms from small doubles to a two-bedroom suite with kitchen. There are lots of luxury extras too, like a private chef, butler and even a chauffeur-driven vintage Rolls Royce. Rooms start from £150 a night.

Or if you’re on a budget, try the Sleeperz Hotel Cardiff. It’s one of a small chain of hotels which come with compact, contemporary-style rooms in city centre locations – this one is right next to the train station. Rooms start from £48 a night. Head into town to start the weekend off at Tiny Rebel Cardiff. This former fire station is now a bar run by Tiny Rebel, a cult craft brewing company which is based in nearby Newport. As well as 15 of their own beers on tap they also have a kitchen which claims to serve the best burgers in the city.

Cardiff Castle Wales weekend

The keep at Cardiff Castle

Saturday morning

Cardiff Castle is at the heart of the city. Over its long history it’s been a Roman Fort, Norman Castle, Victorian Gothic mansion and Second World War bomb shelter. Take a walk around the battlements and grounds, and climb to the top of the keep for a panoramic view over the city.

Entry costs £13.50 (£11.50 for seniors/students and £9.50 for children) but it’s worth paying the extra £3.75 for a 50-minute guided tour around the Castle Apartments with their ornate interiors. Tours run every hour from 10am–5pm (4pm from November to February).

When you’ve finished clambering around the castle, cross the street to the Castle Arcade – one of a series of Victorian shopping arcades around the city. It’s home to Madame Fromage, a great lunch spot where you can try a traditional cawl – a soup made with lamb and root vegetables – or a local cheese platter (they have 150 varieties on sale). Leave room for dessert at nearby Science Cream, which uses liquid nitrogen to make super-smooth ice cream.

Ice cream at Science Cream

Chemistry meets ice cream at Science Cream

Saturday afternoon

Take the short walk over to the National Museum of Cardiff next. Entry’s free, though donations are welcomed, and you get two museums in one. The ground floor is all about natural history, telling the story of the evolution of Wales from the Big Bang to the end of the last Ice Age, with everything from meteorites to wooly mammoths. Then the upper floor is an art gallery with paintings, sculpture and ceramics from Wales and around the world.

Stop off for a drink at the Hopbunker, where they have an award-winning and ever-changing selection of ciders and real ales, before dinner at the Potted Pig. This former underground bank vault in the city centre is now a restaurant which specialises in modern British dishes using local Welsh ingredients. It also has an impressively huge range of gins and, to go with the name, your drinks come with a side of crispy pork scratchings.

Inside the art galleries at the Cardiff Museum, Wales

Inside the art galleries at the Cardiff Museum

Sunday morning

Head over to Cardiff Bay, where a huge urban regeneration project has transformed the city’s old docklands. They were originally used to ship coal out from the Welsh Valleys but are now a mixture of modern architecture and renovated historic buildings. Start off at the Senedd – the Welsh Assembly’s parliament building – where you can take a free tour to find out more about the building and the Welsh political system (open 10.30am–4.30pm).

You can also take a look around the red-brick Pierhead Building which was built as the headquarters of the Bute Dock Company in 1897. Its clock tower its been nicknamed the ‘Big Ben of Wales’ and there’s a Welsh history museum inside. There’s also the white wooden Norwegian Church where author Roald Dahl was christened, which is now an arts centre and café.

The Senedd – the Welsh Assembly's parliament building

The Senedd

The bay’s most recognisable building is the Millennium Centre, where you can see opera, music and theatre performances. The copper frontage has a poem by Welsh poet Gwyneth Lewis built into it which is lit up at night. Translated it means “Creating truth like glass from the furnace of inspiration”. Stop at the Centre’s restaurant ffresh for lunch which has an open kitchen with a great view across the bay where you can watch chefs prepare modern Welsh dishes.

Millennium Centre in Cardiff Bay, Wales

Millennium Centre in Cardiff Bay

Sunday afternoon

For a view of the Bay from a different angle, take a boat trip. Bay Island Voyages run a few different trips departing from Mermaid Quay, with a 15-minute blast around the Bay in their high-speed inflatable RIB boats for £8 per person. Or there’s a longer 90-minute Coastal and Island tour which runs out as far as the Cardiff Barrage then into the Bristol Channel and on to Flat Holm and Steep Holm Islands (£28.50 for adults and £20 for children under 12).

Back on land, Doctor Who fans might recognise a few Cardiff Bay locations from the show. Since restarting in 2005, much of the series’ filming has taken place here. Roald Dahl Plass was the site of ‘The Rift’ in Doctor Who spin-off Torchwood. And under a bridge by the water is ‘Ianto’s Shrine’, where Torchwood fans left letters and flowers after character Ianto Jones was killed off. Then finish your weekend in Cardiff with a hot dog and milkshake at Eddie’s Diner, a 50s-style American diner complete with real Cadillac that also featured in a Doctor Who episode.

Roald Dahl Plass in Cardiff

Roald Dahl Plass

Have you visited Cardiff? Do you have any tips to add on what to see, do and eat?

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How to spend a weekend in Cardiff, Wales, with tips on the best things to see, do, eat and drink on a 48-hour escape to the Welsh capital city. #Wales #Cardiff #weekendA guide to spending a weekend in Cardiff, Wales, with tips on what to see, do, eat and drink in this a 48-hour itinerary for the Welsh capital city, including the castle, museums, Cardiff Bay, restaurants and more. #Cardiff #Wales #weekend #itinerary

Thanks to Visit Wales for hosting me in Cardiff. All views and opinions are, as always, my own. This article contains affiliate links, where I get a small commission at no extra cost to you, thanks.

Cardiff wedding photographer

Monday 23rd of April 2018

Hi Lucy, lovely to see that you enjoyed your trip to the capital. You have of course mentioned some of the better known places. I do feel that you ought to check out the five old shopping arcades that end in St Mary Street/High Street during your next visit! Because, these really are the gems of this beautiful city of ours. While they retain much of the character of how old Cardiff used to be, at the same time, there are also some niche eateries and cafes - wonderful cafes! I personally love the cafes during a lot and it is nice to see them doing great business during all parts of the year. Personal favourites? Well, Barker's Tea House (Earl Grey to die for & lavender cake), Madame Fromage (another cafe for beautiful cakes and exotic cheese) and The Plan, which is my snow favourite haunt. I had some courgette cake at the Plan the last time I was there and it was just lovely. One more place is an old fashioned Italian style grocers! I am biased obviously, but I don't think many British cities pack in as much as our arcades here in the Welsh capital!

Lucy

Monday 30th of April 2018

Thanks, yes the arcades are lovely – I already mentioned Castle Arcade and Madame Fromage in the article (can never resist a good cheese stop!) but some other great ideas to check out there.

Debbie Ramsey

Friday 8th of December 2017

My husband of 17 years is from one of the vvalleys close to Cardiff. He moved to the USA to marry me 17 years ago. He has not been back and I am hoping to be well enough to go To Wales with him. Is it Disabled friendly. I am in a Wheelchair. Also he said the Dr Who Experience moved. Too bad but I would love to visit the Castle.

Lucy

Monday 11th of December 2017

How lovely! Yes unfortunately the Doctor Who Experience is closed for now, but there's a lot to see in Cardiff. Regarding the disabled friendly facilities, a fellow blogger has written a guide which might be useful: https://www.thebimblers.com/cardiff/

jase1971Jason

Monday 20th of March 2017

We love Cardiff, especially Mermaid Quay in Cardiff Bay, it's so funky and there are some excellent places to eat.

Lucy

Friday 24th of March 2017

It's a great part of the city to explore!

fatima

Tuesday 13th of December 2016

My cousin lives in Cardiff and I am hoping to visit her soon. Sounds like an interesting place.

Fatima | www.blogsbyfa.com

Lucy

Wednesday 14th of December 2016

It's a great city – hope you enjoy it!

Dawn

Wednesday 13th of January 2016

Hi Lucy, my husband and I are travelling from Canada in mid-May 2016 to visit Wales and either England or Scotland. Wales is our primary destination as three of my grandparents were born and raised in Wales. One of my grandmothers was born and raised in Cwmfelinfach until she emigrated to Canada. We love to hike (this will be a day hike trip only, multi-day is not an option for us at this point) and want to see as many sights and hikes as possible during our 3 week stay. We plan to rent a car for the full trip. Any suggestions on the things we must see and do (including what may be of interest in Cwmfelinfach?)

Gemma

Monday 18th of April 2016

Was looking for things to do in my local area that I haven't visited before and thought I can help with this query :) There isn't much to do in Cwmfelinfach, it is a very small village but there are some nice walks in the area. It is situated near the Sirhowy Valley Country Park where you can walk and cycle. I would recommend a visit to the nearby Cwm Carn Forest drive where you can stay in a pod for the night or camp and there are some great views from the top of Twmbarlwm which is in the forest drive. I would also recommend that you visit Big pit on the way to the Brecon Beacons National Park. Local libraries such as the one in Blackwood will have books and photos of Cwmfelinfach over the last 100 years or so if you wanted to find out a little more about the town your grandparents grew up in. I grew up in a town about 5 mins drive away from Cwmfelinfach so happy to help if you want more info.