Victoria, our Advice & Money Student Intern, shares her pick of Cardiff’s best budget-friendly locations…
New to Cardiff? Or a golden oldie in your third year? If you’re a new student, exploring your new home can help you feel more settled – and no matter how long you’ve been here, can you really say that you’ve seen all Cardiff has to offer? It’s time to go beyond the beloved Student Union, the rusty train tracks and Cathays Terrace Lidl (though this is admittedly a cherished student landmark, which sells everything from sushi-making kits to kangaroo steaks). When the train screeches in and the Cardiff University emblem blazons you a welcome, remember that Cardiff is more than just the home of Cardiff University.
Watch our video, ‘5 Places to Go Around Cardiff for Under £5’
Here are some of the top leisure locations in and around Cardiff. Most are free, but remember to prepare for the temptations which may spring up along the way. For example, if you’re heading to the Bay just to sightsee, taking your own lunch may stop you treating your very cheeky self to a Nando’s. When you’ve scrimped for what seems like weeks on end, you’ll appreciate a treat that little bit more, but be careful not to overspend in these places.
The must-see sights for students…
As a resident of Cardiff, you can get a key to Cardiff Castle for just £5, which grants you unlimited access for up to three years. That basically makes you a resident of the castle, which practically makes you royalty. Well not really, but the castle still has awesome views, a military museum, a free accompanying audio guide available in 10 languages, and some great grass to plonk your not-so-royal rear upon.
Roath Park is a bit further afield for some, but well worth the trek. You can walk around the lake, sit on one of the picnic benches and take in the view, visit the gardens or release your inner bug and glide along the lake in a rented pedlo like a pond skater. Just be wary of sitting too near the water, unless you want to get eyed up for dinner by one of the ferocious ducks. (In all seriousness, they are a little possessive of their watery wonderland. Don’t be fooled by their cuteness.) Students can also enter the warm Roath Conservatory for just £1 to say hello to the terrapins and greet the botanical gardens in all their leafy-greened glory.
Bute Park is probably the most well-known open space in Cardiff, but it’s not just a place to kick back, relax and silently snigger at those doing the jungle boogie to escape a wasp. It’s a luscious expanse that stretches all the way from town to Tal-Y-Bont. It’s a place where you can kick a ball around on the playing fields, try and avoid being hit in the face with said ball while chilling with friends in the sun, ride your bike along the Taf Trail or just take a solo walk or jog through the beautiful gardens.
The three parks in Cardiff’s Civic Centre are not to be sniffed at, unless of course you’re inhaling the scent of the blooming flowers that grow there. The parks near the National Museum, City Hall and Cardiff University Bute Building are beautiful places to take a stroll in the daytime, provided the clouds aren’t feeling too grumpy.
The National Museum
If you haven’t already, it’s time for you to discover all that’s inside the pretty building you pass on your way to university. The artwork and archaeological displays at Cardiff’s National Museum blow measly kangaroo steaks out of the water any day. Just walking along and feeling the cold marble handrails can work like an immediate stress reliever and make you feel like Cleopatra bathing in milk (and culture). Plus, who doesn’t love that infamous fluffy mammoth.
Cardiff Bay is Europe’s largest waterfront development, and it certainly lives up to the hype. You can try braving white water rafting at Cardiff International White Water, sliding into an adrenaline rush in the International Pool or ice skating at the Ice Arena Wales, which offers student discount. You can also treat yourself to food and cocktails in one of Mermaid Quay’s bars or restaurants, satisfy your inner child at Techniquest or visit the daleks at the Doctor Who Experience (which offers a 20% student discount during term-time). Even with student discounts, one too many trips to the temptations of the bay could exterminate your budget. Unless you’re just going regularly to soak in the views, be careful of overspending. You won’t be able to go back in time and change things.
It’s not quite the clear blue seas and sandy shores of Lanzarote, but Barry Island has its own Welsh charm. It’s the home of much-loved BBC drama Gavin and Stacey (which you can do your own tour of), as well as to Pirate mini-golf, arcades and good old traditional fish and chips. Beware of the seagulls though, they make for very rude dinner guests. A return trip costs just £3.35 with a railcard, or £5.10 without. You can catch a train from Cathays train station, and a direct line will take you to see exactly what’s occurring.
A bus to St Fagans National History Museum from Westgate Street in town costs just £3.40, and entry to the Museum itself is free. St Fagans has it all: Celtic history, authentic historic buildings, a manor house, blooming gardens, ducks and cute chubby piglets (or alternatively fat full-grown pigs).
So, what are you waiting for? Fetch your best tourist bucket hat and bum bag and begin your budget-friendly student sightseeing.
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Victoria, Advice & Money Student Intern
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