I just realised it’s been ages since I wrote one of my guides on cheap UK holiday destinations! And since I’ve been hearing a lot about Cardiff recently, I thought I’d put my new-found knowledge to some use. It’s been at least a year since I was in the Welsh capital, but over the last decade I really think it’s become one of the UK’s most sought after destinations. And, considering how many more Britons will be holidaying at home this year due to the credit crunch, 2009 could be its glory year.
Of course, the problem with visiting a popular tourist destination is, the more visitors it attracts, the more prices in restaurants and attractions are likely to rise. But there are still plenty of things to do in Cardiff on a tight budget, with some of its primary attractions being free.
Take Cardiff Bay, for example. This regenerated waterfront is wonderfully scenic, especially on a clear, warm day, with dozens of shops, cafes, bars and restaurants dotted around. Even if all you want to do is take a pleasant walk, Cardiff Bay is the ideal place to do this in the city. The Cardiff Bay Visitor’s Centre – free to enter – provides excellent views across the bay and offers visitors an insight into the area’s important maritime history too.
On to more ancient attractions and Cardiff Castle really is unmissable on a visit to the city. I’ve been once and the tour of the 19th century Bute household is really quite spectacular. But at £8.95 a ticket for an adult and £6.35 for a child aged 5 to 16, it might be the only attraction you can afford to splash out on, especially if you’ve got a large family. Thankfully, many of Cardiff’s leading museums and galleries are free to visit. The National Museum of Cardiff has some interesting historical and archaeological collections, and the Bay Art Gallery has a diverse collection of Welsh and international exhibits.
And if you’re planning a trip to Cardiff in the summer, you’re in for a treat. The Cardiff Summer Festival – one of the UK’s biggest free festivals – takes place over July and August. Most events are free and revolve around a range of family activities and cultural performances – check out the Cardiff Festival website for more details.
All in all, I think Cardiff would be a fine place for a cheap but exciting getaway. As well as it’s plethora of attractions, it’s easy to get to from London, the north of England and Scotland, and I’m pretty sure you can fly there from Belfast as well. What’s more, it’s very compact so you’re unlikely to spend much on transport while you’re there as you’ll be able to walk everywhere – if the weather holds out, that is!