Need some rest and relaxation, but can’t afford the gold dubloons it would cost you to spend a day in a spa? Fear not – Jenny Jones has put together this handy guide to Staycations in Cardiff – when you’re skint. She’ll be rounding up some of the best value options for pure indulgence on a budget.
Stressed out? Skint? Know you need some time out, but just have no idea how you’re going to afford it? Yeah, me too. Everyone needs time out from work – whether your “work” pays you loads, not enough, or nothing at all if you’re caring for people at home.
But luckily for you, I’ve been putting together this thrifty guide to getting your chill on. Even if you can’t take a full day out, I’ve split my ideal day up, so you can pick and choose relaxing activities that can fit around your schedule. My preferred mode of transport is bicycle (car parking is a nightmare anyway) so most of these are things you can access in or near the city centre either by bike or on foot. There are also a couple of things you can do – without ever leaving your home!
A THRIFTY AND RELAXING MORNING
If you love the idea of sitting on a Parisienne street corner, supping coffee and watching the world go by, perhaps you could consider the Cardiff budget option: getting a cuppa in Cardiff Indoor Market? As far as people watching goes, as far as I’m concerned, there’s nowhere better.
The Indoor Market has a number of breakfast options both downstairs and upstairs, where a cup of tea will set you back 85p, you can get a cooked breakfast for £2.99, and the people watching is free. Now that’s a bargain.
TAKING IN SOME ART
If you’ve got kids, then you’ll already know about how amazing the National Museum is. With its endless rooms of fossils and minerals and early finds from around Wales, it’s the perfect place for the kids to run around and you to get some peace.
What lots of people don’t know is that the museum also a serious hoarding of art – including the biggest collection of Impressionist and post-Impressionist art outside of Paris. Pick up a stool on your way in, place yourself in front of the art work, clear your mind and just let the canvases loose on your cerebral cortex. You can see Monet’s Waterlillies and Van Gogh’s Rain amongst many others here. Oh and did I mention that those galleries have free entry?
Most massage places around the centre cost an average of £40 an hour, £60 for an hour and a half. If you don’t have the cash, there are other massage options that won’t break the bank, including qualified masseuses that will visit your home (great news if you’re housebound or find it difficult to get around). I like Odnova, who bring their own massage beds and other bits, charge £30 for a 90 minute massage (plus a small petrol charge to get to your house), and will pummel you to your heart’s content.
If you love being outdoors but don’t have a garden and can’t commit to an allotment, the opportunities for really getting your hands dirty in nature are pretty limited. At least they were, until you heard about the Riverside Community Allotment project. Based in Pontcanna Fields, you can learn how to grow food in a sociable and supportive atmosphere.
There are two working poly-tunnels where peppers, tomatoes, grapes and aubergines are grown, as well as raised beds and an accessible pond and wildlife area. There’s also a solar cooker and a compost toilet. Find out more about Riverside Community Allotment (See also the Riverside Community Garden Facebook page) and drop by – it’s a lovely place to spend an hour or two.
There are various other organisations that will get you outdoors and in sociable environments – Cardiff Conservation Volunteers undertake a new small project every week, and there are a couple of community gardens dotted around the city you can always volunteer with (Green City have more details), or even Keep Wales Tidy – Cardiff branch, or Cardiff Rivers Group.
BUDGET FRIENDLY BONZA AFTERNOON
Although there are plenty of budget options in town, you are trying to treat yourself, so no Greggs, right!? I would send you back to the Indoor Market for lunch, where you can choose between Clancy’s Vegetarian Emporium, Milgi’s lunch boxes (my favourite is the green one!), and the Thai place (pad thai on a plastic plate – just like in Bangkok) – all of which will gift you a very tasty lunch for under a fiver.
If the weather’s nice, grab your food and go sit in the little garden between St John’s Church and the Cardiff Story buildings. Also great people watching in there (but watch the pigeons).
If you’re seeking a bit of peace from a constantly busy and cluttered mind, then maybe some meditation or mindfulness could be your self-indulgence.
The Buddhist Centre in Roath (but the town end of Roath – very near Newport Road) has drop-in meditation sessions that are open to all, 19.30 Wednesdays and 12.30 (midday) Thursdays. These sessions operate on a donation basis – amazing for those with low cash flow.
It may not look like much from the outside, but inside you’ll find friendly people and a quiet retreat from the madness of the city. Bless those Buddhists.
SHOP TIL YOU DROP
If your idea of relaxation heaven is splurging loads on clothes, then how about investigating the city’s wide selection of charity shops? Albany Road and Wellfield Road in Roath are well-mined by the city’s students, but venture a little further afield (particularly into the more affluent areas) and you’ll find some real gems. I particularly like daytripping over to Penarth, where we’ve managed to get designer items for an absolute steal.
We’d also like to suggest two more shopping alternatives to you, that are perfect for people on a budget: car boot sales, and vintage kilo sales.
There are so many car boots around south Wales it’s impossible for me to pick favourites (although I will – I’m still a fan of Splott Market and Bessemer Road Market, and definitely make the trip down to Sully Car Boot if you can. I’ve heard Cardiff City Stadium Car Boot is good but I haven’t visited yet, and apparently there’s an amazing undercover car boot in Bridgend, but again I haven’t made it out there yet).
A REWARDING EVENING
As the spiritual (and physical) home for Cardiff’s student population, Cathays and Roath are absolutely bursting with cheap, tasty eats. It’s hard for me to pick just one, so I’m selecting two: Falafel Kitchen on Cwrys Road (my pick: Sabich pitta – fried aubergine and an egg, with mountains of salad for a fiver), or Jalan Malaysia on Woodville Road, where the Turmeric Fried Chicken is a finger licking £8.95.
Don’t feel limited to these two though – City Road and Crwys Road are all about the budget eats.
JOIN A RUNNING CLUB
If you’re one of those nutters that gets relaxation from endorphins, how about joining a running group? Cardiff has recently acquired its own GoodGym, and we’d recommend this. The group meets every week at the Old Library in town, goes for a short run, and then heads to a local destination where they carry out a task to help the local community. Examples of tasks carried out include painting fences or walls, weeding, basic gardening tasks – all for local community groups or charities.
They’re a fun and sociable group which does good and gets fit together. They keep together as a group and no-one gets left behind. Although you do have to pay to join Cardiff’s GoodGym (a tenner a month), the money goes into the GoodGym charity – plus imagine all that karma you’ll be building up.
There are weekly free Sahaja Yoga Meditation drop in sessions in the city centre. In this class, you’ll sit on chairs to achieve Yoga, effortlessly and spontaneously – no Asanas (exercises), mats or special clothing required. If you’re having trouble juggling the challenges in your life, this kind of activity can help you manage stress, master your emotions and find solutions to your problems. You may enjoy better health, better focus, and a deeper understanding of the universe and your place in it. And if not – it’s free, so why not give it a try?
RELAX IN A SPA
Okay, I said spas were out of the question right at the start … but I lied! Cardiff and Vale College on Dumballs Road has its very own hair and beauty therapy studio, called Urbaspa. It’s brand new, it’s cheap, and I love it!
The idea is that the students get hands on experience while they’re studying, and so the prices reflect that. Bear in mind though, your treatment might take a little longer than usual, and students might have to get teachers to look over what they’ve done. If that doesn’t float your boat, you can always ask for one of the recent graduates who work there in a professional capacity – I had a great short haircut in there for £20, and got a shape and paint done on my nails for just a fiver. Bargain!
You should also check out the actual spa there – it’s got a sauna, jacuzzi, steam room and monsoon shower, along with heated ceramic beds, and half day access is only £8. I recommend adding on a session on the floatation bed, which is just £7. If you’re feeling really flush, book in a half day spa along with a tasty lunch at the Schoolroom. It’s an incredible £20 – but because it’s so cheap, weekends are booked up months in advance. Go during the week, when the spa is much quieter. Urbaspa website / Urbaspa price guide.
Well, that’s it! Thanks for reading my guide to Thrifty Staycations in Cardiff. Have you got any recommendations you could add? Let us know in the comments!
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