With the “TOP 5 SPOTS” series, I host on my blog people from all around the world listing their special spots in their hometown or in a city/region they feel it’s like their home. To get to know cool spots from a local perspective.
It’s not unusual for me to meet new (interesting) people online. Maybe cause of common friends on Facebook, or of a same group on Twitter, or maybe I just find their blog and start leaving comments. I don’t really remember how I “met” Michela exactly, but we’ve been internet friends for 3 years now. Can’t wait to meet her in person!
Born and raised in the North of Italy, Michela has always wanted to travel and live abroad. Six years ago she went to Austria on an Erasmus exchange and has never stopped seeking opportunities in other countries since. She pursued her career in communications in Canada, the Czech Republic, and now Cardiff, the capital city of Wales, where she lives with her boyfriend. An avid reader, a horse lover, and a vegetarian foodie, she spends her spare time looking for new recipes, watching tv series and planning weekend trips around beautiful Wales.
So, here are her favourite 5 spots in Cardiff.
1. Torre Coffee
How stereotypical for an Italian to include a coffee shop in a top 5 list, eh? But Torre Coffee is not a simple Italian coffee shop – since I’ve discovered it, it’s been truly one of my favourite places to escape everyday life for a while, and for a number of reasons. Firstly and most obviously, their cappuccino is amazing, foamy to the right point and so Italian-tasting. You should try the rest of their menu as well – focaccia and olives are too good not to be mentioned. Second, it’s in a great position right in front of Cardiff Castle, which means it should be your go-to place for a break after a bit of sightseeing. Last but not least, it features a cosy ambience, free Wi-Fi (ideal, if you like to write or study in coffee shops as much as I do!) and what I believe is the friendliest staff in Cardiff.
Where: 3 Castle Street, Cardiff CF10 1BS
Photo by Michela
2. Llandaff Cathedral
I’m a fan of gothic cathedrals, Halloween-ish atmospheres, and Tim Burton-y locations, and I found this all at Llandaff Cathedral. It’s a bit outside of the classic tourist itineraries, in the heart of Llandaff, a historic city that became part of Cardiff in 1922. Even more than the cathedral itself, I like the surroundings – if you want to go for a walk and avoid the usual routes, Llandaff is definitely an option – and the atmosphere. My suggestion is to arrive at the cathedral in the evening after it’s dark, possibly on a winter night, when the lights are on and a bit of fog blurs the profiles of the cathedral and the nearby cemetery – exactly what I did the first time!
Where: Cathedral Close, Cardiff CF5 2LA
Photo by Ham – Wikipedia
3. Roath Park Lake
It’s not difficult to find green areas and beautiful parks in Cardiff. It’s a very green city, with a huge park right in the city centre (Bute Park) and many more dotted around. My favourite is probably Roath Park – a Victorian-style massive area that features a botanic garden, an adventure playground for kids, sports facilities, and… a lake! You can rent a boat for half an hour to an hour and row your way around the lake, or choose the easier option and just peddle around in a pedal boat. It can be quite romantic if you’re with your partner, or just a lot of fun – and laughs – with friends. After the exercise head to Terra Nova Café, which is right next to the boat rental and overlooks the lake. I went there a few times for tea or lunch, and it never disappointed.
Where: Lake Road East, Cardiff CF23 5PG
Photo by Rob Burke – Wikipedia
4. Troutmark Books
If I have to pick a downside of Cardiff, it would probably be the small number of bookstores you can find in the city. Luckily enough, Troutmark Books has plenty of character and a great selection of used books to cover for all your book cravings. Located in one of the Arcades – an historic characteristic of Cardiff – this shop has three stores full of titles ranging from comics to sci-fi stories, as well as history books, novels, classics, sports, languages and hidden gems that you wouldn’t easily find anywhere else. It’s definitely a must visit if you’re an avid reader in Cardiff, and like me you love to look around and breathe that lovely old-books-smell.
Where: 39-43 Castle Arcade, Cardiff CF10 1BW
Photo by Google Maps
5. The River Taff and the Aquabus
The easiest ways to reach Cardiff Bay from the city centre are on foot, by train or by bus. However, these are not necessarily the most scenic routes. If you’re not in a hurry, the journey via Aquabus won’t cost you too much – it’s just £4 – and will add a nice twist to your day. Although this is not a spot, I think it’s a very nice way to see Cardiff from a different perspective. The departure is located in Bute Park, right in the city centre, giving you the chance to walk around the park as well.
The journey takes around 20-25 minutes and it’s quite picturesque. You’ll float along the river Taff and pass next to the Millennium Stadium, where Six Nations and Rugby World Cup games take place. Arriving in Cardiff Bay with the Aquabus will also give you a landscape view of the Bay that’s impossible to get with other transport options. However, do check the weather forecast beforehand – this is the kind of thing you should do when it’s nice and sunny!
Where: Aquabus stop – Castle Grounds, Bute Park