When we arrived in Cardiff for our first city break, we both had chest infections, which wasn’t ideal, but Wales’s capital city didn’t disappoint. If anything it was a bit of a surprise!
Cardiff was to be our test city, from it, we needed to hone our travel blogging skills and develop a city breaks template. In truth, we forgot we had a job to do and simply got on with enjoying accessible Cardiff!
Whether it’s entertainment, sport, shopping, history or even relaxation, Cardiff is the perfect destination to experience them all!
Steeped in over 2000 years of history the university city evolved from a minor settlement into the world’s busiest port and then into the worthy capital city of Wales which it is today.
Stepping off the train it was immediately apparent this is a culturally diverse city. It’s heartwarming to see the diversity of this magnitude, students from every nation and European citizens living side by side with a proud Welsh population.
Diversity is also beautifully represented by Cardiff’s architecture which shares stories of a bygone age. We were struck by the contrast of a Grade II listed railway station (Cardiff Central) less than 500 yards away from one of the most advanced stadia in the world; The Millennium Stadium
Wandering the streets you are enticed and charmed by the modern shopping centres, historically important markets, quaint emporiums and if that’s not enough it’s all set against the impressive backdrop which is Cardiff Castle.
Cardiff has certainly set the bar high for our city breaks, and it’s a shame we only had two days to explore it. We are however left with the promise we will return again soon!
Travelling to Cardiff
Cardiff is well connected by road, rail and air. We would recommend if possible leave the car at home because like all major cities traffic congestion is an issue and parking can be expensive.
Cardiff city centre is pedestrianised, the public transport network which includes accessible buses and trains is the best way to get around and probably the cheapest. A “Park and Ride” scheme is in operation so if your car is essential we’d advise using the scheme… more details about “Park and Ride“.
We can’t comment on Cardiff Airport because we didn’t use it. Being an international airport, we’d assume it has a fully accessible support service… their website suggests it does!
We arrived in Cardiff Central and although it wasn’t filmed there you’re transported to the railway scene in ” A Brief Encounter”. This Grade II listed building has maintained most of its original features and is stunning!
It’s impossible not to imagine locomotives sitting on the track, tooting their whistle’s and bellowing out plumes of steam while folk in period clothing mingle on the platform and drink tea in smoke-filled tea rooms.
We don’t normally get excited by railway stations but this one deserves it!
Getting Around Cardiff
Cardiff city centre is surprisingly compact with everything easily accessible on foot or in our case on wheels.
Talking about wheels, if you’re able to ride a bike you can hire one from Pedal Power.
We actually found walking/pushing took us into parts of the city centre we’d have probably missed. Numerous alleyways lead you into “oldie worldly” arcades with their splendour and intricacies too good to miss.
As a wheelchair user Cardiff is relatively flat, more importantly, it’s obvious a lot of thoughts has been given to accessibility.
Pavements, kerbs and road crossings are mostly designed with us in mind and there’s also a city centre mobility assistance scheme where you can hitch a ride or book in advance an environmentally friendly electric vehicle… details here.
Hotels in Cardiff
You are literally spoilt for choice when it comes to resting your head after a hard days sightseeing. Cardiff has accommodation to suit every budget, every taste and can cater to any whim.
We didn’t stay in a 5* hotel, we can’t afford it (hint), we took advantage of Premier Inn’s room sale and booked two nights at the Premier Inn City Centre hotel.
In all honesty, we couldn’t imagine anything a 5* hotel could offer us that the Premier Inn didn’t? It’s a bit sad but we loved this hotel so much we’ve written a post about it … The Best Value Hotel in Cardiff
Although other budget hotels are available they’d be hard pushed to top the service, location and price of Premier Inn Cardiff City Centre.
Things to do in Cardiff
Eating and Drinking in Cardiff
Foodie’s and party goers will love Cardiff!
When you have a diverse population, especially students world cuisine follows. We couldn’t even begin to discuss the variety of food, restaurants, café’s, fast food outlets and street vendors available, so we won’t!
For your convenience, the Visit Cardiff website has a dedicated food page which includes: A-Z of Cardiff’s restaurants, The Cafe Quarter, The Restaurant Quarter, Food and Drink Festivals, iPhone app to find places to eat and special offers via their newsletter.
We’re not big drinkers so can’t give a personal opinion on the bars and clubs in Cardiff City Centre or The Bay Area. What we can say is you’ll be spoilt for choice! Helpfully Visit Cardiff has listed over 80 places to drink in Cardiff…enjoy!
I’ve just read this section back and we sound like a pair of miserable git’s… honestly we’re not!
What and Where Eat in Cardiff
On our first night in Cardiff, Bridget was understandably tired after the journey so we decided to eat in the hotel.
The Premier Inn has a Thyme restaurant on site, the service, setting and food were top notch. If you’ve read our story you’ll know Bridget struggles using her hands, here’s what she ordered…
Be honest, would you? I think she forgot she can’t hold them, fortunately, the meat fell off the bone. And me, the healthy option… Chicken Risotto.
We left the hotel for breakfast and visited The Capitol Shopping Centre which is 100 yards away, we’d noticed a full English breakfast for £3.95 in Cafe Caribe.
The funny thing is; the seating area is outside the entrance to a gym, and boy is it a busy gym! At least 20 sweaty people walked past us as we tucked into our hearty breakfast… oh the irony!
The following day we had dinner in the Golden Corner Chinese restaurant (50 yards from the hotel).
The decor is dated but the food is very tasty. There seem to be two menus, one in English and one in Chinese.
The Chinese menu is in pictures and looked lovely but we had no idea what it was. We did recognise shins, chins and fish heads!
We think it’s reasonable to assume judging by a number of Chinese patrons in the restaurant it is a truly authentic Chinese experience.
Shopping in Cardiff
Not surprisingly Cardiff is a shoppers paradise! It was recently voted the 6th best place to shop in the UK …
The city centre as you’d expect is awash with well known high street brands, at first glance, you could be in any major city.
But, when you dig a bit deeper what Cardiff does really well is nurturing local crafts, tradesmen and independent business.
Virtually around every corner, in every nook and cranny is a small business selling everything you could possibly need and some stuff you didn’t know you needed!
For us it was heaven, there’s nothing we like more than sampling local produce, rummaging through unique crafts and generally immersing ourselves in the quirkiness only small independent business can offer.
We were caught out by the charge for plastic bags (min 5 pence) but the Welsh Cakes soon helped us forget. You must visit Cardiff Market and try the home-made cakes!
For the most part, we managed well pushing a wheelchair around Cardiff. Please remember many of the arcades and markets were designed long before accessibility mattered. Use a bit of common sense, courtesy and take your time navigating and you’ll be fine!
Cardiff is so proud of its shopping experience it has a dedicated website where you’ll find details of 6 historic shopping arcades, the oldest record store in the world and modern shopping centres.
Landmarks in Cardiff
Where to start … Cardiff is rich in architecture, history, culture and oh yes a bloody big castle smack bang in the middle!
We just didn’t have the time to fit them all in, we could easily spend a week doing tourist type stuff and still not see it all.
In Cardiff, there are more iconic landmarks than you can shake a stick at, Cardiff Castle, City Hall, Cardiff Bay, Millennium Stadium and Central Station to name but a few. With that in mind, we felt they deserved a post of their own – 7 Wonders of Cardiff
To immerse yourself in Wales and Cardiff’s history visit one of the many museums. Cardiff is home to the National Museum of Wales, St Fagans National History Museum, Big Pit National Coal Museum, National Wool Museum, National Roman Legion Museum, National Slate Museum and the National Waterfront Museum.
In short, you could spend a weekend in Cardiff just visiting museums. For accessibility, opening times and entrance fee’s visit: Museums in Cardiff
Although not a landmark as such Cardiff Bay absolutely deserves a mention in the section because it is the home of architectural icons. Our advice is, plan to spend the day in the Cardiff bay area because there’s so much to see and do!
Events and Festivals in Cardiff
Cardiff Millennium Stadium became the home of major sporting events when Wembley Stadium was being rebuilt. Today it hosts International Rugby, football, Motorsport and music concerts from some of the world’s biggest stars.
Cardiff Bay is home to a variety of local and international festivals both on land and water.
The annual Cardiff Festival celebrates its 30th year in 2015 so expect a full calendar of culture, food and drink, entertainment and fun!
Cardiff is a positive roll call of who’s who when it comes to literature (Roald Dahl), entertainment (Ivor Novello) and sporting icons (Gareth Bale). Needless to say, there are plenty of locally organised festivals to celebrate their favourite sons and daughters.
We arrived in Cardiff at the end of the festival season, the best resources for the 2015 season are: Cardiff Festivals and Visit Cardiff Events
What we wished we’d done in Cardiff
One downside of short city breaks is we simply don’t have the time to do and see everything we want to!
We also have to factor in how much Bridget can actually do and how long she can sit in her wheelchair. We covered quite a bit of ground but really only scratched the surface so here’s our bucket list for the next time we visit Cardiff:
Cardiff Castle –
We visited the castle three times, our intention was to take some photographs, each time we got anywhere near the place it rained and on one occasion from a lovely blue sky came hailstones!
You really couldn’t make this up, we’d walked up the main street and the castle was basked in the sunshine as we neared to take a photo there was a freak downpour and we quickly took cover in a pretty shopping arcade.
Eventually, we gave it up as a bad idea and put it on our “To do” list, the pictures of the castle you see in this post are courtesy of Flickr.
Cardiff Bay Tour –
After our day in Cardiff Bay, we took a ride on the water bus which dropped us off at the foot of the Millennium Stadium. It was only a short ride but it wet our appetite for a more substantial water tour.
One thing we did notice whilst bimbling on the bay was a number of boat owners on loudspeakers promoting their bay cruises. According to the Cardiff Harbour website there a number of tours available including a trip out into the Bristol Channel and a tour to Flat Holm Island.
The water bus had a portable wheelchair ramp and the crew were more than happy to assist us on and off the boat. For the more substantial cruises, you’ll need to contact each tour operator in advance. See here: Cardiff Harbour Tours
City Bus Tour –
We had planned on taking a bus tour as it seemed like the best way to see the city highlights, sadly we ran out of time so it’s added to our next visit list.
We’ve done a bit of research and eventually, we found accessibility information tucked away on a downloadable leaflet. Not all tour buses are wheelchair accessible so advance booking and clarification is a must!
Accessible Cardiff in a Nutshell
For us, Cardiff came as a bit of a surprise!
Although we didn’t have any preconceived ideas we were expecting it to be more stressful when, in fact, it was anything but!
Cardiff is compact and, for the most part, accessible to wheelchair users. Because of its size, it’s not difficult getting around, the tourist sites, the public transport system and the city centre itself are all wheelchair friendly.
Cardiff Bay is less than 10 minutes away from the city centre and is fully accessible when you get there.
Everywhere we went people were friendly, always willing to help and frankly made what was a nice city break into a great one.
The locals were the biggest surprise because you associate capital cities with people rushing around without acknowledging each other.
In Cardiff, everyone we met was more than happy to give us the time of day, we were asked many times by complete strangers if we needed help and people seemed genuinely interested in what we were doing whilst in Cardiff.
In a nutshell… we loved our Cardiff city break, we loved the people and we can’t wait to return – Thank you, Cardiff, for a great weekend!
If you enjoyed Cardiff, you might also enjoy these Wheelchair Friendly Destinations