If you are the sort of person who enjoys the absolute best things in life, a person for whom second best (or, heaven forbid, third best) is just no good, a person who would have preferred Goliath to trounce David…you get the picture – somebody who enjoys only the best…then you will appreciate Cardiff Bay, because it is considered by many experts to be the most successful and best urban regeneration project ever undertaken.
For many years Cardiff Bay was a hub for heavy industry, but after the Second World War businesses closed down and the area became a rundown graveyard of derelict buildings and abandoned warehouses. In the 1980s the decision was taken to regenerate the area, and by 2000 the place was unrecognizable – a hive of culture, art, watersports, nature, great restaurants, bars, and cafes.
This is a true ‘rags to riches’ story, the ultimate ‘zero to hero’ tale. So visit Cardiff Bay – quite possibly the freshest, most vibrant and best new(ish) district in the world. Before you go, have a look at our recommendations for what to do while you’re there and take note of your faves in your BUCKiTDREAM planner!
Visit the Senedd, Where You Can Almost Smell the Power The Senedd is the National Assembly of Wales building. This is where the big decisions for the country get made. The building is open to the public every day and the debating chamber and committee rooms are certainly worth checking out.
Let the World-Famous Welsh Singing Voice Caress Your Eardrums The Welsh National Opera is based at the Wales Millennium Centre in Cardiff Bay. The Welsh are famous for having, to a man, woman, and child, excellent singing voices, and their national opera is certainly no let-down. There is a busy schedule of excellent events at the Millennium Centre, ranging from musicals to opera, ballet, and contemporary dance, so check out the listings and go and enjoy some high culture.
Explore Cardiff’s Past At the Pierhead The Pierhead is an 113-year-old, Grade One-listed building housing Wales’ very own Big Ben clock (move over London, Cardiff’s here!). This beautiful old building is now an events center which holds exhibitions throughout the year.
Breath the Fresh Sea Air On the Cardiff Bay Barrage The barrage embankment is perfect for a relaxing stroll, bike ride, jog or skate. It offers a great view out over the bay and has a series of amenities including a skate park and outdoor gym. Think of it as Cardiff’s answer to Venice Beach.
Relax On a Slow-Moving Cardiff Bay Cruise Step aboard Princess Katherine and get comfortable. Very comfortable. This cruise is the most relaxing way to see the sights and learn the history of the bay and surrounding area.
Hang Out In the Hustle and Bustle Of Mermaid Quay This is where the main action happens, day and night. Mermaid Quay is alive with shops, cafes, bars, restaurants, and even the only Welsh-themed carousel in the entire world! This is the beating heart of Cardiff Bay.
Get Your Adrenaline Pumping at Cardiff International White Water Whitewater rafting, indoor surfing and a dauntingly high-altitude obstacle course make this place a must-visit for those who enjoy a bit of action and adventure.
Celebrate Welsh Arts and Crafts at Craft In the Bay Visit this cool gallery for artist talks, workshops, and exhibitions of Welsh pottery, jewelry, textiles, metalwork, furniture and ceramics.
Allow Yourself To Be Thoroughly Amused At The Red Dragon Centre Should you be unlucky and visit Cardiff on a day when the weather is a bit grim, then fear not, the Red Dragon Centre is on hand to keep you dry, warm and thoroughly entertained. This complex has a cinema, bowling alley, casino and plenty of cafes, bars and restaurants.
When In Wales, Do As the Norwegian Seamen Do, and Pay a Visit the Norwegian Church Arts Centre This fine building was originally a church for visiting Norwegian sailors. The famous children’s author Roald Dahl was baptized here, and the building now houses the Dahl gallery for art exhibitions. It is also a popular concert and party venue.
Have a Space Adventure At Techniquest Britain’s longest established educational science and discovery center, Techniquest houses over one hundred hands-on science exhibits, a science theater, and Wales’ only digital planetarium. A fascinating experience for anyone with a curiosity about our planet and the vast universe that surrounds us.
Spot Some Rare Birds At Cardiff Bay Wetlands Reserve This is a protected area of approximately eight hectares on the north shore of Cardiff Bay and is home to a wide variety of plants, animals, and fish. Stroll along the gravel walkway and boardwalk and see what creatures you can spot. It is free to visit.
Cardiff Bay has plenty of good-quality accommodation options for all budgets.
High-End St David’s Hotel and Spa looks out over Cardiff Bay and boasts a spa that is undoubtedly one of the best in the UK. Luxuriously comfortable rooms and a great restaurant make this award-winning hotel genuinely outstanding.
Medium Jolyon’s Boutique Hotel is another excellent hotel that overlooks the bay; particularly cozy it has a classically beautiful decor. The hotel bar is incredibly atmospheric and the perfect place to nurse a whiskey on a wild and windy Welsh evening.
Budget: Travelodge Hotel – Cardiff Atlantic Wharf does exactly what it says on the tin. Clean, comfortable and efficient, if you want a no-hassle budget option, look no further.
When it comes to food, Wales has a strong and illustrious heritage. Welsh rarebit (posh cheese on toast), Glamorgan sausage (a vegetarian cheese and leek sausage coated in breadcrumbs), Welsh cakes (sweet cakes flavored with spice and dried fruit) and Welsh cawl (traditional lamb stew) are all local favorites.
Ffresh is a great little restaurant in Cardiff Bay that serves traditional Welsh cuisine with an inventive and modern twist. Ffresh (seriously, it’s not a typo) offers pre-show lunch and dinner menus, making it the perfect place to dine before catching a show at the Wales Millennium Centre.
Cardiff Bay also offers a plethora of restaurants that serve international cuisine from every corner of the globe. Bosphorus is a Turkish restaurant situated on a pier jutting out into the sea from Mermaid Quay. For a succulent steak or some luscious lobster, check out Miller and Carter near the Red Dragon Centre. If it’s pizza or pasta that you crave, pay a visit to Signor Valentino, the best Italian restaurant in Cardiff Bay.
Drinks and Nightlife
Cardiff Bay has lots of fun bars and nightclubs to suit all tastes, with Mermaid Quay being very lively on weekend nights. Salt is an ocean-liner-themed bar on Mermaid Quay that serves food and has a relaxed atmosphere during the day but turns into a fun, cocktail-fueled party bar at night.
Not far from Cardiff Bay in Cardiff city center, St Mary Street, and Greyfriars Road have a great selection of bars and clubs and are heaving with thousands of revelers on Friday and Saturday nights. Mill Lane, also known as the Cafe Quarter, has plenty of bars and cafes with very pleasant outdoor terraces and Westgate Street has some superb craft beer pubs with Urban Tap House being a local favorite.
Cardiff airport is 12 miles west of the city and is well served by buses and trains. Cardiff Central train station has regular services to and from all major British cities.
Take the Sea Safari High-Speed Sightseeing Tour Riding a powerboat around Cardiff Bay and out into the Bristol Channel is both a hair-raising and mind-expanding experience. This is, without doubt, the most exciting and action-packed way to see the area…hold on to your hats!
Cardiff Bay is certainly a destination worth discovering. So while you relax and let the honeyed tones of the Welsh Opera wash over you, or ride the truly unique Welsh-themed carousel, why not inspire your friends by sharing your dream Cardiff Bay experiences on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram?