Cardiff weekend breaks

With its world-class stadium, vibrant arts scene, fantastic shopping and seamless mix of old and new, the Welsh capital has blossomed into a thriving and cosmopolitan city

When is the best time of year to go to Cardiff for a city break?

Summer
Summer is a great time to visit the city – you can make the best of the waterfront al fresco dining, take day trips to the beach or visit Cardiff Castle for a sunny wander around the battlements. There are some spectacular musical performances on at this time, too – the Welsh National Opera enjoys a full season at the Wales Millennium Centre over May and early June, followed by the Welsh Proms at St David’s Hall in July. Pride Cymru – Wales’ largest celebration of equality and diversity –is on in August and sees bright parades, live music and market stalls take over the city centre.

Spring
St David’s Day is also an excuse for a parade, with 1 March seeing the city awash with daffodils, leeks, parades and black and yellow flags to honour the Welsh patron saint. The Royal Horticultural Society’s Flower Show takes place in April at Bute Park, celebrating all things flora and fauna.

Autumn
Why not indulge at one of the many food festivals that coincide with the harvest season – try the Cardiff Tasting Tour or the Cardiff Food Safari in October. Autumn also sees the return of the now iconic Sŵn Festival, with over 130 music acts performing across 11 different venues over the city.

Winter
Cardiff takes Christmas seriously. As soon as Sparks in the Park – a free Bonfire Night firework display at Bute Park – is over, Christmas festivities commence. Mid-November sees the opening of the Winter Wonderland in the city centre, complete with alpine village, fun fair and open-air ice rink. A pretty Christmas market is also open in the pedestrian area around St John Street. And we couldn’t mention winter without also referencing the Six Nations, which takes place in February. Check in advance and see if you can find tickets for one of the matches at Principality Stadium.

What is the best way to get around Cardiff during a weekend break

Cardiff is a small city, so you won’t need a car to get around. Direct trains from Birmingham or London take around two hours. The bus fares are low, and there is a Baycar coach service linking the city centre and the bay. Pedal Power is a charity that is endeavouring to get Cardiff visitors and residents on two wheels – they hire out adult and children’s bike from Pontcanna Caravan Site.

How do I get to Cardiff?

Cardiff is extremely well connected. It has an airport 12 miles west of the city centre, which flies to more than 800 destinations worldwide. Trains travel between Cardiff Central Station and Birmingham, London, Manchester, Nottingham and Southampton. It is also just off the M4, making it easily accessible to the rest of the UK.

What are Cardiff’s best attractions?

Cardiff has undergone rejuvenation in the past 20 years, largely thanks to generous funding from the Millennium Commission, which awarded funds for a number of transformative projects in the city. The Principality Stadium (formerly known as the Millennium Stadium) is a stupendous sporting arena, instantly recognisable to rugby fans as many internationals take place here. The Cardiff Bay Area, home to the Wales Millennium Centre, is a must-see, containing a beautiful new hub of restaurants and attractions. The building of the Millennium Centre is an ode to the quality of Welsh materials: everything – from the steel and slate to the cables that went into its making – came from the surrounding area. Even if you don’t book to see a play or musical inside (and you should), then take a moment or two to admire the oxidised steel exterior.

The Doctor Who Experience in Cardiff is a site of pilgrimage for Whovians from all over the UK – and the world. Go on an interactive adventure through space and time and see original props and costumes from the TV series; it’s a thrill for fans of the show. Impressionist lovers should make a beeline for the National Museum Cardiff, where works by Renoir, Monet, Cézanne and Pissaro are on show. Join the huddle around Renoir’s La Parisienne – it’s the kind of captivating painting that even the unseasoned art observer can appreciate.

What are the best shopping destinations in Cardiff?

If you’re looking for character, then head to one of Cardiff’s many Victorian and Edwardian shopping arcades. Morgan Arcade is home to Spillers Records, which is supposed to be the world’s oldest record store. It sits alongside a charming selection of independent retailers, selling handcrafted accessories, jewellery and gentlemen’s shoes. The Royal Arcade has a more antique feel, and sells collectible arts and curios.

The Cardiff Indoor Market is the one of the cheapest places in the city to eat – pick up a quick breakfast here and then go rummaging in the stalls for fabrics and second hand books. Antiques hunters can continue the search for treasure at Jacobs Market, near Cardiff Central Railway. This is a three-floored emporium full of retro furniture, trinkets and collectibles.

Is Cardiff near enough to the coast for a beach break?

Wales has some of the best beaches in Britain, and you can easily combine a city break in Cardiff with a seaside trip. The pretty seaside town of Penarth is just a few minutes drive away, and is home to a lovely seafront and an artsy pavilion, which hosts cinema screenings and exhibitions. A little further down the coast, at eight miles from Cardiff’s centre, is Whitmore Bay, which has received a Blue Flag award for its clean sweep of golden sand and safe waters. You can easily spend an afternoon here and then head back to Cardiff for the night.

If a weekend break in this Welsh City sounds perfect for you, then take a look at our hotels in Cardiff and start planning your getaway