If the big tourist attractions aren’t for you here’s a choice selection of the lesser-known pulls Wales’ capital has to offer…
Do a ghost tour of a castle
A tour guide full of knowledge of ghostly happenings and the often-gruesome past of Cardiff Castle will lead you by torch light through the haunted rooms of the fortress, telling you detailed stories of what happened in each one. Expect to get the spooks.
The Clink is a restaurant which aims to challenge perceptions and reduce the chance of its staff re-offending, all of whom are serving prisoners of HMP Cardiff, the city’s prison. Not only is it a charity initiative which has shown to reduce reoffending by 41%, but it has been named among the top restaurants in the country.
Cardifferent Historic Pub Tours take visitors around the old pubs of Cardiff on foot with interesting historical commentary and plenty of chance to sample the wares, with their promise to: ‘take you on a journey celebrating the people of Wales and their stories.’
Still on an alcohol theme, how about going to hidden bar The Dead Canary? It does the most amazing, intricately-made cocktails, and takes it speakeasy theme just as seriously. Down an unassuming little street you’ll see the tell-tale canary cage and what looks like a back door. Ring the bell to be ushered into a low-lit vintage-style bar where you’ll be shown a seat and helped to choose a drink based on your favourite flavours and spirits. The outcome is guaranteed to be exquisite.
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Spot stone animals
The Animal Wall is a veritable Cardiff institution – a row of animal sculptures designed in 1866, found along the outer walls of Cardiff Castle. No visit to Cardiff would be complete without a picture of your favourite critter.
Cardiff’s Roath Park has a beautiful lake complete with a lighthouse and little islands where birds nest. You can hire a boat – choosing from pedalos or rowing boats – and head out to get a closer look, while admiring the scenery of weeping willows and wildlife.
Go to an indoor jungle
Another feature of Roath Park is its conservatory, a beautiful and humid indoor jungle with a large pond in the middle where you can feed fish (buy some food for them on the way in) and watch the huge colony of terrapins bobbing about. The vines and flowers too make for a magical visit which kids will love.
If you’d like to do something creative how about throwing a pot? Cardiff Pottery Workshops do one-off days (check the website), as do Llanover Hall and Barefoot Ceramics. Whether you’re only visiting, or you have time to sign up for a longer course, there’s nothing like getting your hands in some clay, using the wheel to shape your creation and then decorating it, all while getting to take home something you made at the end of the day.
Visitors to Cardiff Castle often miss this little hidden gem, a heavenly oasis above the city. Once you get inside the castle go Bute Tower, where a spiral staircase takes you up to a decadent rooftop garden with lush plants, colourful tiles and water features.
Out of the city in the woodland of Fforest Fawr, which is also the grounds to Castell Coch, you can follow the trail of sculptures. Designed to help kids engage with nature, the sculptures are connected by a tale of a giant creature who has misplaced its things: a treasure chest, a cauldron, books and a chair. There are also mystical creatures to spot and a wizard.