We arrived in Cardiff, the capital of Wales, on an early Saturday morning after travelling from Copenhagen to London by flight and then on a night bus from Gatwick Airport to Cardiff. Despite having to change busses twice during the 5,5-hour trip, we managed to get a bit of sleep in, so we weren’t completely exhausted when we finally reached the city.
Our main reason for going to Cardiff in December 2017 was to attend the annual TAG-conference on archaeological theory. The destinations for the conference change every year within the UK, and in 2017, it had come to Cardiff. And what better excuse to go to a new country!?
But as well as the conference, we also wanted to explore and take in the city of Cardiff. When we first arrived early in the morning, we went to our hostel to leave our luggage and then went into the city center while we waited for the check-in time at 2 PM. We spent the first two hours drinking hot drinks at McDonalds and when it was finally light, we set out to explore the main shopping area on High Street and St Mary Street. I ended up buying a Star Wars sweater, which was perfect for my outfit for our trip to the cinema the same evening.
We were both surprised to see how dirty the streets of Cardiff were. There was literally trash everywhere, and for a western country, I hadn’t seen anything like it before.
Cardiff Castle, the main sight, is located right by the end of High Street. The castle was built in Victorian Gothic revival style during the medieval period in the late 11th century by Norman invaders on top of a Roman fort, which was built in the 3rd century. Throughout it has been involved in several conflicts and has been attacked a few times. But today, it stands in its full glory after being reconstructed in the 1920s.
We walked past the castle every day to and from the city center, but we never went inside, as we were too cheap to pay the entrance price. It was beautiful to see from the outside though, especially lit up by all the Christmas decorations.
On our first day of sightseeing, we walked all the way through the center and into an industrial area, which we had to go through to get to Cardiff Bay. We weren’t sure what to expect there, but despite the long walk, we thought it would be nice to see the port. Thankfully, the weather was absolutely stunning that first day in Cardiff, so we let us be persuaded into taking a 20-minute boat ride for 3 pounds around the bay. That gave a nice little break from all the walking and allowed us to see the city and bay area from new perspectives.
By the time we got back to the city center, we were too tired to do any more exploring, so we headed back to the hostel to wait for check-in time. When we were almost there, we were met by hundreds of swans, ducks and seagulls, all fighting over food that the locals laid out there for them. What a lovely sight!
At 2 PM, we were finally able to check ourselves in, and fell asleep straight away after a nice, long shower. That was much needed!
For the evening, we had booked two seats at the Cineworld Cinema to see a long-awaited film – The Last Jedi of the third Star Wars trilogy! I’m a huge Star Wars fan, so of course we had to see it on big screen. And since the cinema tickets are only 3,60 pounds for students in Wales, there was no better place to do it than there! The film was just as amazing as I had hoped and it served as a beautiful tribute to Carrie Fisher, our Princess.
Cardiff at night is a beautiful sight – especially in December. There are Christmas decorations all over, and the city really comes to life during the weekend nights with Christmas markets, rowdy pubs and people dressed in far too few clothes (what’s with all the bare legs in December, ladies?). Also, there was a Winter Wonderland theme park when we were there, and it was nothing short of magical!
The last three days in Cardiff were spent at the conference, which was a really great time. We attended many interesting lectures, made new friends, got to hang out with famous theorists and even went to a party with them! It was a lot of fun and also very educational, and it’s definitely something that I will attend again – and maybe I’ll even give a talk at the next one!
During our walks to and from the conference, we got to see some of Cardiffs parks. We were already in love with the city because of its quaint streets and Christmas atmosphere, but the parks made me love it even more. I’m all for nature within a city, and Cardiff definitely does that well!
BUT, my favourite thing about Cardiff wasn’t any sight or park or even the conference – it was a cat! Yes, a little cute cat!
The cat belonged to the neighbour of our hostel, the River House (awesome place, btw!), and he came into the hostel for cuddles all the time. I stroked him all the time and gave him snacks, and he even slept on my bed during our nights there! I miss that little kittie.
As you have probably guessed by now, I really loved spending time in Cardiff, despite its trashy streets! It’s no big city, but there’s plenty to do and see, and the visit was made even more pleasant with the presence of a cat at the hostel, Christmas decorations everywhere and an interesting conference to go to!
But we didn’t stay in Cardiff during our whole time in Wales – we actually took a trip out to a national park as well! Stay tuned for the next post on that day trip!