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Cardiff mixes grand architectural reminders of its illustrious port city past, with a lively local creative community, and plenty of hidden charms.
8:00: Resist the temptation to linger over your breakfast at Hotel Indigo Cardiff on Queen Street, pull on some comfortable shoes and bring your brolly; you have a long day ahead!
9:00: Start with a visit to Cardiff Castle, a mixture of genuine medieval fort and Victorian gothic revivalism, courtesy of the 3rd Marquess of Bute, one of the wealthiest men in Britain at the time. A guided tour is the best way to see the detailed murals, decorative tiles and carved panelling in the opulent interiors.
11:00: Stretch your legs with a stroll through Bute Park, the former castle grounds, before popping into the Castle Arcades, one of Cardiff’s many 19th century covered arcades, filled with charming one-off boutiques, traditional tea houses and cute cafés.
12:00: Continue the covered market experience (you’ll be grateful if it’s raining) by heading to nearby Cardiff Central Market, an unpretentious mix of stalls you could spend hours exploring. Food stalls specialise in local treats, including the obligatory hot Welsh Cakes. Don’t leave without thumbing through the extensive vintage vinyl at Kelly’s Records, a Cardiff institution. For more, head on to Spillers, the world’s oldest oldest record shop, in the nearby Morgan Arcade, where you can buy tickets to local gigs.
12:30: Head to Sunflower and I for lunch in a café-bar that’s also a florist and concert room located in a former bank, boasting elegant columns and a high stuccoed ceiling. The owners are Polish (he’s a musician, she’s the florist) and the menu features Polish treats like rye bread, pickles and vodka.
13:30: Clear your head with a stroll around Cardiff Bay. A great mix of old and new architecture includes the grade I listed Pierhead Building, now a museum, and the landmark Millennium Centre, home to the Welsh National Opera. Next door is the Senedd, AKA the Welsh Parliament. Designed by Richard Rogers using Welsh oak and slate, it’s well worth a visit for its wave-shaped wooden roof and light-filled interiors.
14:30: Don’t leave without popping into Craft in the Bay, another listed port building that’s home to the Maker’s Guild in Wales, where you can buy jewellery, ceramics, glassware and furniture by talented local artists.
15:00: You can’t visit the Welsh capital without exploring an antiques shop. The Cardiff Indoor Flea Market, hidden away on an industrial estate in Tremorfa, is an Aladdin’s den of retro and vintage treasures.
16:00: Gen up on the local arts scene by dropping into G39, Cardiff’s foremost artist-run gallery and arts space hosting exhibitions, symposia and experimental projects in an old warehouse in Roath.
17:00: By now you’ve probably already noticed some of Cardiff’s excellent street art. Roath boasts one of the best neighbourhoods featuring a diverse range of talents. Check the Empty Walls Festival blog for what to look out for and where. Then stop in at the Andrew Buchan bar for a reviving pint of real ale.
19:00: Refuel in luxe surroundings of the Marco Pierre White Steakhouse, Bar & Grill on the top floor of Hotel Indigo Cardiff.
20:00: Watch an art house film at Chapter, a cinema, arts venue and creative hub for local hipsters over in Canton, then head over to Womanby Street, home to some of Cardiff’s best live music venues for an exhilarating end to the day.