Isn’t it time you thought about where to stay in Cardiff for your next weekend away? The number of people taking city breaks in the UK has grown enormously in recent years, and with Wales being voted one of the top 10 countries to visit by both Rough Guides and Lonely Planet, the country’s capital city is a good place to start.
To help with your decision, we’ve picked 7 best areas to stay in Cardiff, to ensure you get the most from this most cosmopolitan of cities.
Although the likes of Liverpool, London, Newcastle, and Bristol are among the more obvious destinations, you are missing a big opportunity if you don’t think a little outside the box, and this time choose one of the UK’s up-coming destinations for your next city break.
7 Best areas where to stay in Cardiff
As the tenth largest city in the UK, and home to the Welsh Senedd (parliament), getting to Cardiff and the city centre is easy.
By rail, depending on your point of departure, alighting at the mainline Queen Street Station, or Cardiff Central Station, drops you on either side of the city centre, while the main A road from the M4 runs into the centre of town.
Whether your interests are sporting activities, museums, ancient castles and old ruins, shopping, arts and culture, local cuisine, or as a base to explore the surrounding area, choosing one of these 7 places to stay in Cardiff offers an excellent selection of all types of accommodation, while keeping you close to the interests and attractions you may want to visit.
1. Cardiff City Centre, where to stay in Cardiff for first timers
From international rugby to international designer stores, to the best of international cuisine, Cardiff city centre has it all.
Rugby union is the national game of Wales, and Cardiff city centre doesn’t just have one major stadium – it has three.
The Millennium stadium, now named the Principality Stadium and Wales’s national rugby union and football stadium. Cardiff Arms Park, the old national venue and a stadium that has hosted some of rugby union’s most memorable games, and Cardiff Blues, home to the local Cardiff Rugby Football Club. Guided tours around the Principality Stadium are available.
Cardiff city centre is also a shopaholic’s paradise. As one of the UK’s top 10 shopping destinations, it has 1.5-million square feet of retail space including 21st century shopping malls, a plethora of high street names and designer brands, and fabulous traditional markets undercover; in arcades that date back to the 17-hundreds.
To make your shopping experience even more enjoyable during your stay in Cardiff, most of the city centre is pedestrianised.
For those with an interest in history and culture, Wales is famous for its castles, and Cardiff Castle sits right in the middle of the city centre. Over 2,000 years of history lies within its 12 walls, tracing the castle’s rise and fall from its beginnings in 1135 to the present day.
Guided tours around the castle take an hour, leaving you plenty of time to visit the National Museum of Wales which is close by.
Evenings can be as quiet or as busy as you like in the city centre. With plenty of local and international restaurants, a thriving pub trade, trendy cocktail bars, and live music venues, you can party the night away into the early hours.
If you’re wondering where to stay in Cardiff city centre, it has an excellent selection of hostels, B&Bs, and budget priced accommodation, as well as 3, 4, and 5 star hotels, and a popular campsite.
2. Riverside, a historic inner-city multi-cultural suburb of Cardiff
If you’re thinking about where to stay in Cardiff away from the night-time hubbub of the city centre, consider Riverside.
Originally a group of cottages on the west bank of the River Taff, Riverside was constructed in the later part of the 16th century. During WWII, Cardiff docks were a constant target for German bombers, and all of Riverside’s Blackstone Street was destroyed, and the surrounding area badly damaged.
Nonetheless, it wasn’t until the 1970s that the area was eventually flattened, and new homes, shops and businesses built on the site.
The weekly Riverside Farmers Market attracts people from across the city every Sunday. Instigated in 1998 as a one-off Christmas market, so popular was it that it became a weekly food market, attracting artisan food producers from across Wales.
An attraction not to be missed, you can sample locally made cheeses, butter, preserves, honey, bread, pies – the list goes on. You can also buy free-range eggs, pork, poultry, and organically grown fresh veg.
On your walks around Riverside, you may also come across the Ianto´s Jones Shrine. It was set up in 2009, as a fan’s memorial to the character of the same name in the TV mini-series Children of Earth.
For some unexplained reason, the shrine continues to grow to the present day, and makes for an interesting and quirky few minutes stop on your travels.
For a little quiet ‘you’ time, or a relaxing picnic lunch, look out for Riverside’s Sophia Gardens. Taking four years to construct, and opened in 1858, the gardens were originally privately owned, before being taken over by Cardiff City Council in 1947.
Riverside is also home to the Sports Wales National Centre. Originally opened in 1972 by Princess Anne, the centre has undergone several name changes, becoming the Sports Wales National Centre in 2010.
The building houses boxing, judo, and fitness centres, squash, badminton, and basketball courts, shooting ranges and outdoor pitches.
If Riverside sounds like one of your places to stay in Cardiff, it has a good selection of hostel accommodation to suit all budgets and needs, as well as hotels and guest houses.
3. Newtown – Atlantic Wharf, the best place to stay in Cardiff for families
In 1850s Cardiff, with the coal industry booming, arrangements were made to bring over hundreds of Irish immigrant families to work in the increasingly busy Bute Docks. Six new streets and 200 houses were built to accommodate the new arrivals.
Although the area was named Newtown, it became known as Little Ireland.
By the early 1900s, with dockside business continuing to increase, more Irish families had arrived, and the two roomed terrace properties, with no water or sanitation connections, became home to multiple families.
Although the area was by now a slum, it took until 1970 before the remaining families were moved to different districts of the city, and the area was demolished. The docks were redeveloped as an industrial estate.
But it wasn’t until the 1980s that the Cardiff Bay Development Corporation was set up, to convert the three remaining dockside warehouses, and build housing, business premises, and hotels on what had by now become Atlantic Wharf.
Today, Atlantic Wharf is a thriving business centre and visitor attraction with plenty of international hotels, shops, pubs and restaurants.
The Atlantic Wharf Leisure Village, now known as the Red Dragon Centre, is a massive leisure complex with an 18 screen IMAX cinema, ten-pin bowling with 26 lanes, a 24hr casino, a 24hr fitness centre, and myriad bars and restaurants to cater for all preferences.
If you’re thinking about where to stay in Cardiff with the kids, the Atlantic Wharf area should fit the bill.
With family friendly hotels, a leisure complex for the kids, and plenty of shops, pubs, and restaurants for mum and dad, it makes an excellent base for the entire family.
4. Cardiff Bay, popular business and leisure area
Famous 75 years ago as a seedy red light dockside area, and birthplace of the singer Shirley Bassey, Cardiff’s once infamous Tiger Bay has been transformed into one of the UK’s premier waterside business and leisure centres.
Pride of place must go to the 70-million pound prestigious National Assembly of Wales building. Built mainly from local Welsh materials, which included over 1,000 tons of Welsh slate, the building stands three floors high, and incorporates a large event and exhibition area.
The whole Cardiff Bay area is a mass of places of interest and attractions for the whole family.
The kids (and mums and dads) can try their hand at white-water rafting, canoeing, kayaking, and paddle-boarding in the International Sports Village, or rowing at the Cardiff Bay Water Activity Centre. Don’t want to get wet? Then try the climbing wall.
For some fabulous views across the River Severn and Cardiff Bay, enjoy a stroll along the purpose-built Cardiff Bay Barrage. Smooth and flat to accommodate buggies, prams, and mobility scooters, the entire family, including the dog, can enjoy the fresh sea air.
If the arts are your thing, you can visit the Wales Millennium Centre for the latest shows. This magnificent building is also home to the BBC National Orchestra, The National Dance Company of Wales, and the Hijinx Theatre.
For nature lovers, when Cardiff Bay was being redeveloped, a new nature wetlands area was included. Called the Cardiff Bay Wetlands Reserve, it is becoming an increasingly popular location with bird watchers from across the UK.
If you enjoyed the stories of Roald Dahl as a child, pencil in a visit to the pretty Norwegian Church at Harbour Drive in the bay. Built for the hundreds of Norwegian sailors who used to arrive at the docks, it is reputed to be the place Dahl was christened.
The church also has an all-day café where you can sit on the terrace and watch the comings and goings on the water.
If you’re wondering where to stay in Cardiff Bay to enjoy its history and modern family attractions, there is a good selection of quality hotels around the area, with guest houses, B&Bs, and 3 and 4 star hotels within a short walk.
5. Roath, where to stay in Cardiff on a budget
Sometimes, when deciding where to stay in Cardiff for that long weekend, it’s nice to keep away from the busier visitor areas, and choose instead a base a little less well known. The pretty residential area of Roath is a case in point.
Situated less than a mile north-east of the city centre, Roath is a mix of different ethnicities, occupations, and age groups, and it’s starting to show.
Roath is fast building a reputation among the younger Cardiff population as a district for independent and artisan traders.
Although Roath has the usual variety of high street shops, it also has an excellent selection of local businesses. Local coffee shops and cake shops. Locally made products and organic produce shops, and a vegan and vegetarian restaurant are a very few of the independent traders you will find in Roath.
Roath is also blessed with some pretty open spaces. If you need to exercise Rover, or just fancy a stroll around the area, you have a choice of three open areas. Start off at the large recreational field, which will lead you into the Pleasure Gardens, and finally into Routh Park.
The park has a large lake with a lighthouse in the middle, and is popular with freshwater anglers. During the warmer months visitors can also hire rowing boats and pedalos to explore the lake area.
In the evenings you can check out craft-ale bars and pubs, trendy cocktail bars, and vegan and vegetarian restaurants and cafes.
If you have an artistic streak, during October Routh hosts a ‘Made in Roath’ festival, highlighting the work of local authors, artists, interior designers, dress and jewellery designers, cake makers, and many others. The festival runs over one week.
If Roath sounds like your area where to stay in Cardiff, it has a variety of self-catering apartments, guest houses, and boutique hotels available.
6. Cardiff Outskirts, adding flexibility to your weekend away
Some city-breakers prefer to be right at the centre of things in the middle of town. Others take a different approach to their weekends away, choosing instead to stay on the outskirts, or just outside the city.
If you’re visiting a city like Cardiff, with its excellent public transport system, staying outside the city can have a lot of benefits. Not least because the cost of like-for-like hotels is invariably cheaper out of town, a bonus if you’re travelling on a budget.
On the other hand, if you’re planning a special occasion short-break, and are looking for something sumptuous with all the trimmings of spa, sauna, and massage facilities, with gardens and fabulous views outside, you’ll get more bang for your bucks outside the city limits.
You can also consider staying in country inns or village pubs. Old coaching inns in some of the nearby towns, or a 5-star resort complex with multiple hotels, restaurants, spas, and even golf courses.
Staying on the edge of Cardiff also allows you to visit some of the great attractions a little further afield, without having to spend the extra time navigating in and out of the city centre.
Places like the 17th century Tredegar House in Newport, or Margam Country Park and Gardens at Port Talbot, with its petting farm and wild deer.
Visit the Brecon Beacons, part of the Welsh National Park, and ride on the Brecon Mountain Railway from just outside Merthyr Tydfil.
The largest castle in Wales, Caerphilly Castle, is less than a 30 minute drive from Cardiff. Or, if you fancy a day on the beach, Barry Island is just 10 miles away.
If you’re wondering where to stay in Cardiff – without staying in Cardiff – check out some of the great deals to be had within just a few minutes drive of the city centre, and broaden your options for visitor attractions.
7. Cardiff Airport, don’t dismiss local airport accommodation out of hand
Sometimes it’s nice to get away from the constant pressure of work, and a short stay in Cardiff could be just the place to do it. Being able to relax doing something different, in different surroundings, even if just for a few hours, is often all it takes to recharge the batteries.
On one of those short, ‘start Saturday morning and finish Sunday afternoon’ weekend breaks, consider leaving the car at home and flying to your destination. You can fly into Cardiff Airport from anywhere in the UK within a couple of hours.
By booking into one of the airport hotels, a shuttle will have you dumping your overnight bag in your hotel room in minutes, and you can be enjoying a latte or pint in the city centre by lunch time.
Many leisure travellers don’t consider using airport hotels, believing them to be the realm of the business traveller or people in a hurry. Yet there are some sound reasons to consider booking a hotel close to your arrival airport.
Busy airports need to move thousands of passengers into and out of the airport and surrounding area quickly and efficiently, if things aren’t to grind to a halt.
Consequently, airports have a regular mix of rail, buses, coaches, shuttles, and taxis, to get people to their destinations as promptly and safely as possible.
The hotel industry is highly competitive, and for budget weekenders, hotels close to airports are often cheaper than city hotels, and in some areas, considerably so.
In many instances, as an additional attraction, hotels will offer free shuttles back and fore to drop-off points in the city, saving you the cost of rail or bus fares.
With Cardiff’s excellent public transport system, and the majority of the city centre pedestrianised, getting about without a car is easy and stress free.
Even if you’ve driven down, you can book into a hotel close to the airport, and leave your car in the car park for a more enjoyable visitor experience.
Another big plus with airport hotels is that they are usually well insulated, to minimise aircraft noise. A bi-product of this extra insulation is that rooms also tend to be more heavily insulated. Meaning the guests partying in the adjoining room don’t keep you awake until the early hours.
At the end of your weekend, you can be heading to the motorway in minutes, or enjoying a leisurely breakfast, before the short walk or shuttle ride to your airport departure point. No need to leave your city-centre hotel early, worrying about traffic or other hold-ups that could make you miss your flight.
Cardiff Airport is situated just 12 miles from the city, in the village of Rhoose. If you fancy an airport hotel stay in Cardiff, there is a good selection of international chain hotels within a short walk of the airport.
Others can be found just a few minutes drive from the airport, and the majority of these provide a free shuttle transfer between airport and hotel.