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Going outStudent LifeThings to do in Cardiff

Culture, Character, and Cafes in Cardiff

20 June 2024
Photo by <a href=Nathan Dumlao on Unsplash ">
Photo by Nathan Dumlao on Unsplash

Welcome to Cardiff, the vibrant capital of Wales! Whether you’re a prospective student or an offer holder, one of the most exciting parts of moving to a new city is exploring its diverse neighbourhoods. If you don’t explore the city, you might mistakenly think that its a small city. Cardiff is a city full of character, with each area offering something unique. Wether you are considering where to move, searching for inspiration for a new place to explore, or looking for cafes to study in, here’s a guide to help you get to know some of Cardiff’s most popular neighbourhoods:

1. City Centre
This one had to be the top of the list, as everyone who’s been to Cardiff will have seen it! The heart of Cardiff, the City Centre is bustling with activity and is home to major shopping destinations like the multiple arcades, St. David’s Dewi Sant, the historic Cardiff Market, and countless restaurants, cafes, and bars. It’s also where you’ll find the beautiful Cardiff Castle and the lush Bute Park, perfect for a relaxing stroll between lectures. My favorite afternoon pasttimes on lazy Saturdays was to walk through the arcades, looking for a perfect brew. I managed to find several hidden gems! Wether you go to ‘Little Man Coffee’, ‘Barker Tea Room’ or ‘Chance & Counters’, a good time is certain.

Photo by Korng Sok on Unsplash

2. Cathays
A student haven, Cathays is just a stone’s throw away from Cardiff University. This lively neighbourhood is packed with affordable eateries, coffee shops, and pubs. It’s also home to the Students’ Union and various university buildings, making it an ideal spot for convenience. Be sure to check out Alexander Gardens and the National Museum Cardiff. In Cathays you are a short walk away from City Road that’s lined with small shops and businesses and (in my humble opinion) some of the best (and affordable) food joints in Cardiff! On City Road, try a dosa at Ponnuswamy, a doner kebab at German Doner Kebab or a Shawarma at Laziz Shawarma. My personal favorite is Moo Moo Thai Tapas for a filling yummy meal after grabbing a drink at Sticky Fingers!

3. Roath
Roath is known for its multicultural vibe and vibrant arts scene. The area is dotted with independent shops, cafes, and the famous Roath Park, which features a beautiful lake, gardens, and a conservatory. It’s a great place for those who enjoy a mix of tranquility and cultural activities. The annual Made in Roath festival is a highlight, showcasing local art and performances. On warm days, Joe’s Ice Cream on the corner of Wellfield and Marlborough road has a long line of people queing up to have their famous delicious ice cream… or you could walk around and find a cafe who’s ambience matches your current mood. There’s plenty to choose from! Like Café du Chat Noir, the french Bistro in the lesser known Wellfield Court Arcade.

Photo by Krisztina Papp on Unsplash

4. Pontcanna
If you’re looking for a more laid-back and leafy neighbourhood, Pontcanna is the place to be. This area, on the other side of the Bute Park and River Taff, is popular with professionals and families and is known for its Victorian and Edwardian houses. Pontcanna Fields and Llandaff Fields offer expansive green spaces for outdoor activities. The neighbourhood also boasts a range of chic cafes, delis, and restaurants like Milk Wood Cardiff, Brød – The Danish Bakery or Coffee#1. There’s even a dog-focused cafe called Fido Coffee that offers treats for the doggos and healthy lunch options for their humans!

5. Cardiff Bay
For a more modern living experience, Cardiff Bay offers stunning waterfront views and a host of entertainment options. The area is home to the Wales Millennium Centre, a hub for the performing arts, and Mermaid Quay, where you can find a variety of dining and leisure activities. The scenic walks along the bay and the tranquil atmosphere make it a desirable spot for many students. The quirkiest cafe here might be Coffi Co’s flagship store, made from shipping containers; Or you could watch a bay from the deck at the Cadwaladers; Or you could walk across the Cardiff Bay Trail Walk to Penarth!

Unpopular opinion: The welsh cakes at Fabulous Welshcakes are almost better than the absolutely mouth-watering-ly delicious welshcakes you can get from Bakestones in the Cardiff Market.

Photo by Jonny Gios on Unsplash

6. Adamsdown
Adamsdown is an up-and-coming area that offers a mix of affordability and convenience. Close to the City Centre, it’s known for its diverse community and vibrant street art. Adamsdown Creative Community Centre and the local market are great spots to immerse yourself in local culture. But I love Adamsdown for two other reasons: the spanish latte at ‘Coffee Planet’ and bubble tea at ‘Lea’s tea’! Walk along Clifton street for a wide variety of Afro-carribean restaurant. The wafting smells make me hungry everytime!

7. Grangetown
On the other side of town, just across the River Taff from the City Centre, Grangetown is a diverse and lively neighbourhood. It’s well-connected with public transport and offers a mix of residential streets and commercial areas. The community is active, with numerous events and festivals throughout the year. All the best places are crowded along one junction where Clare road, Penarth road, corporation road and Paget street meet. Chinese takeaway, Continental stores, sandwich shops, pizza grills, Yemenite food… this place is a foodie’s dream come true!

8. Canton
Canton is a creative and cultural hotspot, known for its thriving arts scene. The Chapter Arts Centre is a must-visit, offering a range of film, art, and performance events. Canton also has a variety of shops, cafes, and restaurants, making it a dynamic place to live. When strolling down Cowbridge road, you can’t go two minutes without spotting a cafe! If you go far enough, you will end up at Victoria Park which very few Cardiff students have been to. This beautiful park is great for a summer stroll but quite far for most Cardiff University Students who live near the university.

Welsh Cakes: Photo by Krisztina Papp on Unsplash

Cardiff is a city that caters to all tastes and preferences, offering a rich tapestry of neighbourhoods each with its own charm. Exploring these areas will not only help you find the perfect place to live but also enrich your student experience. Whether you’re enjoying the lively atmosphere of Cathays or the serene beauty of Pontcanna, Cardiff has something for everyone.

We hope this guide helps you get a feel for Cardiff’s neighbourhoods and makes your transition to student life smoother. Welcome to Cardiff, and happy exploring!