Secret City: Cardiff
1 May 2014
Sport, arts, culture – and the sound of the sea.
This week, our Secret City team travels to Wales to track down international students who know the ins and outs of the Welsh capital city – from super-saver discount cards to a very special ball game.
Croeso i Gaerdydd – welcome to Cardiff!
Harbour city: Ships sit quietly in Cardiff Bay, one of our insiders' top picks for a Cardiff day out (©VisitBritain)
Cardiff: Key facts
Location: Glamorgan, South Wales
Population: 447,287 (2011 Census)
Famous for: The Senedd building (home of the National Assembly of Wales), the Millennium Stadium, watersports, BBC Wales, rugby, football, coal mining, castles
Famous Cardiff people: Roald Dahl (author), Tanni Grey-Thompson (11-time Paralympic gold medallist), Craig Bellamy, Gareth Bale and Ryan Giggs (footballers), Frank Whitcombe and Colin Dixon (rugby players)
Cardiff musicians: Shakin’ Stevens, Shirley Bassey, Catatonia, Super Furry Animals, Charlotte Church, Ivor Novello
Major football teams: Cardiff City FC (and several smaller clubs too)
Major rugby teams: Cardiff Blues, Cardiff RFC, Glamorgan Wanderers RFC (Welsh Rugby Union Premiership) and Cardiff Demons and UWIC Rugby League
Closest airports: Cardiff International Airport, Bristol International Airport
Train to London takes: 2 hours direct
Train to Edinburgh takes: From 6 hours 20 minutes (with changes)
Most people in Wales speak English as a first language – but many also speak Welsh, and you’ll often see Welsh translations in Cardiff.
Click here to find out more about the Welsh language and learn some Welsh phrases!
Meet the insiders
Name: Edita Gondzic
From: Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina
Studying: MSc Information and Communication Technology Management at Cardiff Metropolitan University
My most important Welsh phrase: Diolch – ‘Thank you’. You will definitely use it over and over again, because people here are amazingly polite and friendly, and will always help you with anything you need.
Name: Gustavo Alexandre Wobeto
From: Florianópolis, Brazil
Studying: BA Computer Animation (Science without Borders) at University of South Wales
My most important Welsh phrase: Tîm rygbi Cymru yw'r gorau! – ‘The Welsh rugby team is the best!’
Seat of Government: The Senedd, the home of the National Assembly of Wales, on the waterfront of Cardiff Bay
Where can I find out what’s on in Cardiff?
Gustavo: I normally check out websites like www.visitcardiff.com/events and www.whatsoncardiff.co.uk and keep an eye on the University and the Student Union groups on Facebook – they can be really helpful about what’s happening.
Edita: Usually my friends inform me about what is on in Cardiff – I’ve made great friends here and we do most things together.
What’s the best way to get around the city?
Gustavo: The city centre is very concentrated so you can have most things you need in walking distance.
Edita: Public transport is easy to use, but unless you’re in a rush, I’d also say the best way to experience the city is by walking. Everything in Cardiff is easily accessible and Cardiff has lovely parks too, so make sure you bring your camera with you.
Summer stroll: Cathays Park is one of many green spaces in the city (©VisitBritain Britain on View)
What’s the best way to spend a cultural evening in Cardiff?
Edita: It depends what you like, but my personal favourite is the Wales Millennium Centre in Cardiff Bay – there are always a number of plays, musicals or ballet performances going on, some of them world famous, and there are usually art exhibitions or performances which you can visit before or after seeing a show.
Gustavo: I’d agree with the Millennium Centre – and there are also concerts at Motorpoint Arena and great dancing in a few pubs during the week. There’s always something cultural to do in Cardiff.
Culture spot: For a night out to remember, head to the Millennium Centre (©VisitBritain / Craig Easton)
What’s the best way to spend a sunny weekend in Cardiff?
Edita: Definitely Cardiff Bay. Whether you feel like going for a walk, enjoying a slice of cake in one of the many charming restaurants, taking a boat tour, visiting the art exhibition in the Norwegian Church or even trying to be an artist yourself, Cardiff Bay is a must on a sunny day!
Gustavo: Cardiff Castle is great when the sun’s shining, but I have to say, I definitely agree that Cardiff Bay is the place to be on a sunny Saturday – great shops, tourist attractions, and the best part is the great view.
Seaside spires: The Norwegian Church in Cardiff Bay is an arts centre and hosts exhibitions (©VisitBritain)
What’s the best way to spend a rainy weekend in Cardiff?
Gustavo: Go to the National Museum Cardiff. It has a great range of art and natural history pieces, and all for free!
Edita: I would suggest visiting the historic shopping arcades – I enjoy spending a rainy day in one of the antique bookstores.
Far from 'dry': Shopping in the Arcades (left) or checking out a Rodin sculpture in Cardiff National Museum
What’s your top restaurant in Cardiff (with student-friendly prices)?
Gustavo: Being Brazilian, I recommend Viva Brazil. It’s a great Brazilian-style steak house with a good price for lunch.
Edita: Try the Plan Café in the Arcades; the prices are affordable for students and the staff are nice and friendly.
Evening views: Cardiff Bay is beautiful at any time of the day (©VisitBritain/Britain on View)
What’s your favourite bar or pub in Cardiff?
Gustavo: There are lots of good options – Gwdihŵ, The Moon Club, Metros, The Waterguard in Cardiff Bay. The best student prices are usually at JD Wetherspoon pubs – my favourite of those is The Prince of Wales on Mary Street.
Edita: I would pick La Tasca in the Brewery Quarter. They serve great tapas food and if you go on Saturday evening the place turns into a salsa dancing stage with live Latin music! Even if don’t think you’re into dancing, you will forget that here! Revolución de Cuba just off Queen Street is another great place to go with friends.
Cardiff Castle, a traditional castle with Roman foundations, Norman origins and Victorian additions (©VisitBritain Simon Winnall)
Where’s the best place for sport in Cardiff (watching or playing)?
Edita: This year Cardiff has been voted the European Capital of Sport, so there will be many things going on. Being in Wales, I would have to choose a rugby game played in the Millennium Stadium. Apart from the fact that it is one of the most beautiful stadiums in the UK, rugby is a part of Welsh culture and everyone here is very passionate about the game, so you really have to experience it while you’re in Cardiff! Don't worry too much if you don't understand the rules; it's about having fun and experiencing a unique atmosphere.
Gustavo: If you want to play sport, there are lots of different options all over the city such as tennis, football, climbing, rugby of course, and even a dry slope for skiing and snowboarding at the Cardiff Ski and Snowboard Centre. But yes – in terms of watching, make sure you go to the Millennium Stadium and watch the Welsh rugby team – preferably playing against England!
Action packed: A Wales v Argentina rugby game at the Millennium Stadium (©VisitBritain / Andrew Orchard)
Where’s the best place to go shopping?
Gustavo: St David’s Centre shopping mall. It's really big with all kinds of shops, and even if you don't find what you need within the shopping centre, it is situated in the city centre and close to lots of other shops on Queen Street.
What’s your top tip for getting a student discount or bargain?
Gustavo: For those who like going to the cinema, the BAFTA Wales membership card lets you watch as many films as you like for free in lots of cinemas most days of the week, and with discounts at other times. It gets you invites to preview screenings and special events, and deals at other places around Wales like shops and cafés and hotels… and it only costs £35 for the whole year.
Edita: Definitely the Cardiff Castle Key. Regular student entry to the Castle costs between £10.50 and £13… but if you pay £5 and show your student ID card, you can get the Castle Key, which is valid for three years and allows you to enter the castle as many times as you like!
Slice of history: The Norman motte and bailey keep of Cardiff Castle – just £5 for students with the right 'key'!
What’s your number one Cardiff experience… the one you’d tell your grandchildren about?
Gustavo: Without a doubt, all the friendships I’ve made here. Cardiff is a very welcoming city and the people here are really nice, and I think that's the reason why so many international students come to Cardiff. I have lots of good friends from all over the world here and they’re exactly what I’ll be telling my grandchildren about.
Edita: I’ve had so many beautiful and inspiring moments since I came here that it wouldn't be fair to pick only one. What I would say is to enjoy every day and don't be scared to be spontaneous and try new things. Each place has many adorable places and people; it is just up to you to find them.
Slick style: The Millennium Stadium in Cardiff, situated in the modern city centre (©VisitBritain / Jason Hawkes)
Want to see more around Cardiff? Check out our article on 20 things to do in Wales!
For more information about events and attractions in Cardiff, go to VisitCardiff. Find courses and scholarships with the Search tool at the top of this page.