Best things to do in Cardiff: a student guide

04 February 2020
International students having lunch at a restaurant in Cardiff.

Cardiff is a fantastic place to live and study. The capital city of Wales, it is a fun and affordable city where you never need to be bored. Here, we share some of our favourite things to do in Cardiff on a student budget.

Explore the city

You will never be short of places to visit in Cardiff. Cardiff Bay is only a 3-minute train journey from the city centre, and it’s got an atmosphere all of its own. Here, you can relax on the waterside, find some food in one of many restaurants, or walk over the barrage to the pretty town of Penarth.

On a rainy day, St David’s Shopping Centre will keep you entertained. With a massive range of over 150 shops and restaurants, you can find anything you want here. If you’d like to do something more active, Cardiff International White Water is one of the best water sports facilities in the UK and beyond. From white water rafting, to an indoor wave machine, there are plenty of fun and challenging activities to try.

Get out in nature

A 15-minute walk from the University, Roath Park has something for everyone, with huge green spaces, landscaped gardens, cafés, a conservatory, and even an outdoor gym. Relax with an ice cream, go boating, and see if you can find the lighthouse on the lake, built in 1915 as a memorial to the great arctic explorer, Captain Scott. It’s one of the most instagrammable spots in the city.

In the tranquil setting of Bute Park, it’s easy to forget you’re in the centre of the city. Set within the walls of historic Cardiff Castle, it’s a pretty and quiet spot to sunbathe, catch up on your notes, or meet friends for a game of football. You could also hire a bike and cycle around the Taff Trail alongside the river.

The beautiful Brecon Beacons National Park is only an hour’s drive from Cardiff. People travel from all over the world to visit, and there is a wealth of stunning scenery to enjoy as you hike through mountains and lakes.

Discover Welsh history

Wales is a country known for its historic castles, and Cardiff’s is one of the best. You will be amazed by the luxury inside the Victorian rooms, built by the man who founded modern Cardiff. Parts of the castle walls date back as far as the Roman period, and the tunnels inside them were used as air raid shelters in WWII. There is even another castle inside, built in the 11th century.

St Fagans Museum of Welsh History, near Cardiff, is free to visit and is an amazing day out. With buildings and houses from across the centuries, it’s a great way to learn about Wales’s history and how people used to live. There are even real craftsmen working around the site, using traditional methods and tools.

Explore Cardiff’s nightlife

Cardiff has one of the best theatres and music venues in the UK. One of Cardiff’s most iconic buildings, Wales Millennium Centre is visited by some of the best musicals, plays and musicians in the world. Or if you’d like something closer to home, the Students’ Union has loads of fun and affordable gigs each week, with different music styles to suit everyone. Clwb Ifor Bach – known as ‘Welsh Club’ – is the place to go for alternative music in the city centre.

If you’d like to try something different, Treetop Adventure Golf is a great place to go with friends. The course is open until late, and you can grab pizza and drinks while you play. Or you could head to Cardiff Bay for dinner and bowling.

Discover delicious food

Cardiff is known for its huge range of dining options. The city’s long multicultural history has led to pubs and restaurants serving delicious food from all over the world. You can find options from almost every country between Roath and the city centre. If you want to try a Welsh favourite, visit Cardiff Market for a warm, freshly-baked Welsh cake, tossed in cinnamon sugar. Or Cardiff’s famous ‘Chippy Alley’ – also known as Caroline Street - is the place to go if you fancy some fast food.

Wherever in the world you come from, Cardiff will soon seem like your new home. We’re looking forward to meeting you.

Find out more about student life in Cardiff.

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