A jaunt around Cardiff, the capital of Wales doesn’t have to cost the earth. There are lots of ways you can have a budget weekend in Cardiff.
This super cool Welsh city is regularly named as one of the most affordable cities in the UK.
For a small city, it has a huge variety of budget-friendly things to see, do, eat and drink.
Experience gorgeous green spaces, bike trails, art and culture, live music and free festivals in this compact city.
A cheap weekend in Cardiff
For the budget-conscious foodies out there, you are frankly spoiled for choice when it comes to eating and drinking in Cardiff.
There are lots of indies, quirky cafes and cheap eats in the capital, just waiting for you and your cold hard cash.
You can spend as much or as little as you want in the Welsh capital. There are many swanky pplces to spoil yourself, as well as budget cafes, free exhbitions and low cost live music venues.
How much you blow on a weekend in Cardiff, is really up to you, there are choices to suit everyone here.
Take a trip around the city with our guide to some of the affordable spots and have yourself a super fun, budget weekend in Cardiff.
Walk around Cardiff Bay
Cardiff’s regenerated waterfront area has a very Costa-del-Cardiff vibe going on.
There’s a great selection of pavement café’s, bars with outdoor seating, green spaces, cycle paths and restaurants.
Here you can bike or walk over the Cardiff Bay barrage to soak up some scenery and maybe even some sunshine. If Wales is playing ball with the weather that is.
Taking a stroll around Cardiff Bay is one of the best free activities in Cardiff. You can spend as much as as little as you like in the many cafes and restaurants here.
For a small price you can also take a boat trip from Cardiff bay to the city centre on the Princess Katharine water taxi.
This family-owned water taxi gives visitors a bit of insight into the history and sights of Cardiff, whilst travelling between the two.
Budget food and drink Cardiff Bay
For budget food and drink in Cardiff Bay, try Octavo’s Book Cafe and Wine Bar. It’s a quirky and independent book shop that also serves delicious soups and sandwiches.
I would also check out Portuguese bakery Nata. For around £6, you can get fresh soup, a tosta or classic sandwich and a Nata. What a bargain.
If you want to indulge a little when down the bay, I recommend heading to the Admiral restaurant and bar, in the swanky 5-star St David’s hotel.
You can grab a cocktail if you are feeling fancy and enjoy spectacular views Cardiff Bay and Penarth Marina.
Go boutique shopping in Cardiff’s Victorian Arcades
There are seven magnificent Victorian and Edwardian Arcades in Cardiff. These historic arcades are full of vintage and independent shops and cafes.
The arcades include Morgan Arcade, Royal Arcade, Castle Arcade High Street and Duke Street Arcade.
You could spend a good few hours browsing the many independent stores across the arcades.
One of the best times to visit Cardiff Arcades is at Christmas when they come to life with sparkling Christmas lights and decorated window fronts.
If you want to spend a few pounds shopping, You can visit iconic stores such as Spillers Records, the oldest record shop in the world. Or maybe buy a retro t-shirt at Hobo’s Vintage?
Hungry? Why not sample some Welsh cheese in Wally’s Delicatessen? Or get a scoop of liquid nitrogen ice cream from the quirky Science Cream? Or try traditional Welsh Cawl from Madam Fromage?
Explore Cardiff’s parks
Cardiff has an impressive amount of parks and green spaces to discover. Many of the parks have walking trails, bike paths, scupltures, cafes and children’s play areas.
Some of the most popular outdoor spaces in Cardiff include Bute Park, Pontcanna Fields, Roath Park and Gorsedd Gardens.
If you are looking for a cheap weekend in Cardiff, go for a stroll in one of the most beautiful and expansive parks in the city, Bute Park.
There is urban woodland, exercise equipment, and the popular Taff Trail route to walk and bike through.
Why not grab a brew and a bite to eat in one of the many cafes’ in and around the park such as The Secret Graden cafe or Pettigrew tea rooms?
They have a delicious selection of homemade cakes to feast on as you ‘people watch’ in the park. And believe me when I say there are some proper characters to watch wandering around Cardiff.
One of Cardiff’s most popular parks, Roath Park Gardens was one of the first public parks in Cardiff’s when it opened in 1894. The park has a classic Victorian touch that can be seen in its facilities and architecture.
There is an abundance of wildlife here as well including swans, geese and squirrels.
The gardens are set around a beautiful 30-acre boating lake that features one of the iconic images of Cardiff, the Scott Memorial Lighthouse.
Roath Park has a range of facilities for all the family including a Children’s play area, ice cream kiosk, cafe, bowling green and botanic garden.
Discover Cardiff’s history
Cardiff has a long and interesting historical timeline that spans at least 6000 years. Cardiff’s history includes the Roman settlement and the Viking invasion.
As well as the Act of Union between England and Wales, the Victorian era and the influential Bute family.
There are several historical spots in the city that you can find for yourself. Popular history spots include Cardiff Castle, the sculptured animal wall and the Victorian corridor in Cardiff’s old library.
Cardiff’s small size means that you can take yourself on a self-guided walking tour and find all the interesting architecture and historical spots quite easily.
Cardiff history tour
If you want to get a more in-depth insight into the history and culture of Cardiff then why not book a walking tour? If there is a group of you, the price comes down considerably.
You can book a walking tour with the Difflomats for just £15 per person if you have a group of 3-4 people.
Or book a Cardiff Like a Local tour if you want a personalised tour of Cardiff, the price varies by group size.
Grab a bite to eat in Cardiff Market
Take a trip to Cardiff Market for a low-cost dining experience in the city. This uber retro Victorian structure houses a variety of traders.
Here you can shop for fish, fruit and veg and cakes and also feast at pop up cafes, pizza stalls and traditional cafes.
Some of Cardiff Market food Stalls include:
- Naked Vegan
- E. Ashton (Fishmongers)
- Celtic Corner Cafe
- Chai Guys Indian Street Food
- The Bread Stall Bakery
Cardiff Market stalls
It’s a great place for budget eats in Cardiff as many of the traders offer reasonably priced food and drinks.
One of my favourite food stalls in Cardiff Market is Ffwrnes Pizza. Chow down on tasty, homemade pizza for an affordable price.
As well as foodie stands there are a huge variety of traders. Everything from records, pets, fabrics, hair extensions, books, hats, and greeting cards. Cardiff Market is an important part of the city’s history and is full of character.
There are surely not many places where you can pick up a sea bass, an egg bap, watch batteries, a pet rabbit and some welsh cakes all in one go right?
Hire a bike and explore Cardiff
You can rent a bike in Cardiff with the innovative nextbike bike-sharing scheme.
Registration is completely free for nextbike, just download the app and then easily rent a nextbike from any of the many stations around Cardiff.
You pay a small fee to rent the bikes and can then go exploring some of the many bike paths in Cardiff.
You can choose an annual rate if you live in Cardiff or are a frequesnt visitor, or to just rent by the hour.
bikes will be charged at the standard rate of £1 for every 30 minutes or a full-day price of £10 for 24 hours. Cycling in the city is a brilliant budget activity in Cardiff and is also super eco-friendly.
Admire impressionist art at the National Museum of Cardiff
A trip to Cardiff Museum is one of the best free activities in Cardiff. Entry is totally free to Cardiff Museum, so you can pack in a morning of culture without spending a penny.
Here you can admire contemporary art, dive into natural history, learn more about geology and dinosaurs and discover the Evolution of Wales.
The museum also has a cafe, a shop selling Welsh souvenirs, and a regular program of free and low-priced events.
Whilst you are in the area, grab a coffee and a cake from the small coffee cabin, Brodies Coffee and take a stroll around Gorsedd Gardens and Cardiff’s civic centre.
Check out Cardiff’s foodie scene
Eating out in Cardiff doesn’t have to cost a fortune. There are plenty of budget eats, tapas, pop up food ventures and street food festivals that have reasonably priced food
There’s a growing culture in Cardiff of venues turning into hip pop-up foodie jaunts.
You can find pop up cafes and mini street food festivals throughout the year, so make sure to keep an eye on events in Cardiff.
Cardiff is also home to Depot, a funky, converted warehouse space for creative pop up events and kooky street food stalls.
One of the best ways to get budget eats in Cardiff is to download the Wriggle App. This innovative app will give you exclusive offers on food and drink at the best cafes, restaurants, bars, pubs and pop-ups.
This will help you to have a cheap weekend in Cardiff, whilst still eating out at local venues.
Cardiff food festivals
Cardiff also has a regular roster of exciting foodie festivals throughout the year to enjoy. You can spend as much or as little as you like at these food festivals.
Discover a range of local specialities, producers, pop-ups and international dishes at these charming festivals. Make sure to check what’s on when you are visiting the city, so you don’t miss out.
Exampes of Cardiff food festivals include:
- Cardiff International Food and Drink Festival
- Great Welsh beer and Cider Festival
- Street Food Circus
- Rum & Reggae Festival
- Bite Cardiff
Rock out at Cardiff’s Live music scene
The live music scene in Cardiff is the stuff of legend. The city was the stomping ground of many ‘Cool Cymru era’ acts including Manic Street Preachers, Super Furry Animals, Stereophonics and Catatonia.
Word on the street is that the Strokes also performed in the city before they were big.
The live music scene has sadly shrunk over the years, with many venues controversially being forced to close their doors as the urban development of the city changes direction.
There are still several places where you can catch local live music and homegrown acts in Cardiff at a low cost.
Many venues will either have free entry or a small price to pay at the door. This means you can enjoy a great night out in Cardiff on a budget.
Popular places to see local live music in Cardiff include:
- Clwb Ifor Bach
- Live Lounge
- Brew House
- The Globe
- Fuel Rock Club
Visit Fairytale Castell Coch
Castell Coch, or the ‘Red Castle’, is a 19th-century Gothic Revival fairytale castle in Cardiff, that is set amongst the trees of Fforest Fawr. It honestly looks like something out of a Disney movie.
The castle was built in the 1870s by Architect and designer William Burges, at the request of the third Marquess of Bute.
The uber-wealthy aristocrat had a vision of creating a medieval fantasy castle and Burges was happy to oblige.
Today the castle is open to visitors to take a step back in time and marvel at the richly decorated rooms.
Entry to Castell Coch is currently £7.70 for adults and £4.60 for children. The low cost makes it a cheap activity in Cardiff for all the family to enjoy.
An audio guide available detailing the history of the Castle and the Bute family is also available.
Enjoy free events at the Norweigan Church
Looking for a cheap way to get some culture in Cardiff? Head to the Norwegian Church in Cardiff Bay. This pretty, converted Church was used by Scandinavian sailors and the Norweigan community who had arrived into Cardiff Docks.
Today this architectural landmark of Cardiff is now a gallery and community centre. They have regular music concerts, classes, craft fayres, touring exhibits and displays by local artists.
The church is also home to a piece of literary history as famous children’s author Roald Dahl was baptised in the church. One of its rooms is in the Norweigan Church is now known as The Dahl Gallery, in honour of the author.
Cheap weekend in Cardiff
As you can see, a weekend in Cardiff doesn’t have to cost a fortune. there are lots of free things to do in Cardiff including walks, art, activities and culture.
You are also spoiled for choice for budget places to eat in the city, it’s definitely a burgeoning foodie hot spot.
Are you thinking about having a budget weekend in Cardiff? What are you excited to see? Let us know in the comments below.
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