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 our test city; 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 got on enjoying wheelchair-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, this is a culturally diverse city immediately apparent. It’s heartwarming to see the diversity of this magnitude, with students from every nation and European citizens living alongside a proud Welsh population.
Cardiff’s architecture also beautifully represented diversity, 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 world’s most advanced stadia: The Millennium Stadium.
Wandering the streets, you are enticed and charmed by the modern shopping centres, historically significant markets, and quaint emporiums. If that’s not enough, it’s all set against the impressive backdrop of Cardiff Castle.
Cardiff has undoubtedly 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 soon!
Travelling to Cardiff
Cardiff is well connected by road, rail and air. We recommend leaving the car at home because, like in 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 project… 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 at 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 whistles 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 usually 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 wheels.
Talking about wheels, if you can ride a bike, you can hire one from Pedal Power.
We 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 splendour and intricacies too good to miss.
As a wheelchair user, Cardiff is relatively flat. More importantly, a lot of thought has been given to accessibility.
Pavements, kerbs and road crossings are mainly designed with us in mind. 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.
Wheelchair Accessible Hotels in Cardiff
You are spoilt for choice when resting your head after a hard day sightseeing. Cardiff has accommodation to suit every budget and taste and can cater to any whim.
We didn’t stay in a five* hotel and 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, I couldn’t imagine anything a five* 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 ina Wheelchair
Eating and Drinking in Cardiff
Foodies 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, cafés, 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, and an iPhone app to find places to eat and special offers via their newsletter.
We’re not big drinkers, so I 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
Bridget was understandably tired after the journey on our first night in Cardiff, 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. You’ll know Bridget struggles using her hands if you’ve read our story, and here’s what she ordered…
Be honest, would you? I think she forgot she couldn’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; that 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!
We had dinner in the Golden Corner Chinese restaurant (50 yards from the hotel).
The decor is dated, but the food is delicious. 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 the number of Chinese patrons in the restaurant, that it is a truly authentic Chinese experience.
Shopping in Cardiff
Not surprisingly, Cardiff is a shopper’s paradise! It was recently voted the 6th best place to shop in the UK.
As you’d expect, the city centre is flush 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 well is nurturing local crafts, tradesmen and independent businesses.
Virtually around every corner, in every nook and cranny, is a small business selling everything you could 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 businesses 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 homemade cakes!
We managed well by pushing a wheelchair around Cardiff for the most part. Please remember many of the arcades and markets were designed long before accessibility mattered. Use a bit of common sense courtesy, take your time navigating, and you’ll be fine!
Cardiff is so proud of its shopping experience. It has a dedicated website with details of 6 historic shopping arcades, the oldest record store globally, 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 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 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 fees, visit Museums in Cardiff.
Although not a landmark, Cardiff Bay deserves mention in the section because it is the home of architectural icons. Our advice is to 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 rebuilt. Today it hosts International Rugby, football, Motorsport and music concerts from some of the world’s biggest stars.
Cardiff Bay is home to various local and international festivals on land and water.
The Cardiff Festival celebrated 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). 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 don’t have the time to do and see everything we want to!
We also have to factor in how much Bridget can 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. We intended 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 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 rode on the water bus, which dropped us off at the foot of the Millennium Stadium. It was only a short ride, but it whetted our appetite for a more substantial water tour.
While bimbling on the bay, we noticed several boat owners on loudspeakers promoting their bay cruises. According to the Cardiff Harbour website, several tours are available, including a trip out into the Bristol Channel and a time to Flat Holm Island.
The water bus had a portable wheelchair ramp, and the crew were 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 planned to take a bus tour as it seemed like the best way to see the city’s highlights. Sadly, we ran out of time, adding it to our next visit list.
We’ve done some research and eventually found accessibility information tucked away on a downloadable leaflet. Not all tour buses are wheelchair accessible, so booking and clarification are necessary!
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 are all wheelchair friendly.
Cardiff Bay is less than 10 minutes 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 lovely 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, strangers asked us many times 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 Accessible Travel.