Tag Archives: students

A Freshers’ Guide to Cardiff

Student journalist Ellie Philpotts writes a guide to Cardiff – for freshers!

Big wheel and Pierhead building, Cardiff Bay

Here at We Are Cardiff, it’s fair to say we’re fans of … Cardiff. Some might even say we are Cardiff. Not even just those of us writing away, although the name kind of suggests that. The beauty of Cardiff is that we are all Cardiff – the people make the city what it is. Whether you’re in your first term at Cardiff University, Uni of South Wales, Cardiff Met or the like, or have never strayed further than the Welsh capital in all your years, you’re sure to appreciate that Cardiff is full of friendly faces.

While lots of people come together in forming Cardiff, right now we’re focusing on one group of Cardiff’s people – new students. Now it’s November, you’ll have had a couple of months’ prime time to work your way around it, but it’s still early days compared to how long you’ll be here, so here are Ellie’s top tips on how to make the best of this exciting city.

Cardiff’s Best Places for Coffee

Alliteration isn’t the only thing Cardiff and coffee have in common. They also happen to compliment each-other perfectly. So if you’re in urgent need of a generous dose of caffeine to tackle your 9am or are after a more leisurely location to whittle away a South Wales Sunday, you’ll have plenty to choose between.

The city centre may be the obvious hive of activity, and sure enough, there’s more than enough to satisfy shoppers, sightsee-ers, tourists or residents who double as coffee fans – think Milk & Sugar; The Plan; Coffee Barker; Pettigrew Tea Rooms; Garlands; Little Man

But as impressive as each of these are, Cardiff’s coffee scene isn’t restricted to the centre. Walk a little further afield and you’ll stumble across these:

These are to name just a few!

Cardiff’s Best Places for Student Shopping

Rose Street Flea Market – another alternative shopping location for a student budget

If you wish it was socially acceptable to place ‘Shopping’ in the ‘Interests’ section on LinkedIn, you’re in luck living in Cardiff. As with any city, the big names line the centre, most notably Queen Street; St Mary Street and Queen’s Arcade, but the Arcades trailing through the city are certainly unique to Cardiff. Bookworms, foodies, vintage lovers, fancy dress fans, bargain hunters or just those who fancy a good hair cut all unite. Other hidden gems include Jacob’s Antiques; Castle Emporium; and an array of quirky charity shops in areas such as Cowbridge Road East and Albany Road.

Cardiff’s Best Lunches

A delicious bagel from the New York Deli

Studying is hungry work, but you don’t need to demolish your student loan to have a good lunch. The cheap and cheerful crème de la crème in the city centre span from New York Deli, High Street Arcade’s legendary take on the Big Apple (fruits don’t actually always feature in the Hoagies and bagels); The Real Italian Pizza Co (the authentic pizzeria recently set up camp on Church Street having expanded out of Bath); Nata & Co, a charming Portuguese bakery opposite the castle but also found in Splott and the Bay; and 29 Park Place, a colourful and fun welcome addition to Park Place, otherwise known as Cardiff University’s Student High Street.

Meanwhile, the Roath/Cathays border offers its fair share of good grub if you’re not up for venturing too far from student territory – highlights include The Pot’s quaint sister branch, Arty’s Kitchen; Anna-Loka, Cardiff’s first 100 per cent vegan cafe; and New York Diner, the new (York) kids on the City Road block who know how to serve up a mean burger and milkshake combo.

Cardiff’s Best Nightlife

Good times at Buffalo

With something (or multiple events) on every night of the week, ‘bored’ soon becomes axed from the Cardiff student’s vocabulary. From Bump ‘n’ Grind at legendary bar Buffalo to the somewhat iconic Live Lounge and the chain of nationwide-recognisable clubs like Glam and Pryzm, there are plenty of opportunities to belt out some 90s classics, but on the quirkier end of the spectrum are Clwb Ifor Bach; Chapter; Dempsey’s and Millieu’s Spoken Word nights.

Cardiff’s Best Parks

Spring in Cathays Park, Doug Nicholls

Not many cities can say they’re in such close proximity to what more resembles the middle of nowhere. And even if they could, we’re still going to praise Cardiff’s park culture. You’ve probably by now tracked down Cathays Park (right next to Cardiff University), just a stone’s throw from Bute Park, but did you know it’s not just under the shadow of the castle? One of the UK’s largest parks, it covers 130 landscaped acres, leading all the way towards Llandaff down the Taff Trail.

Meanwhile, Roath Lake is the heart of the community-centric suburb of Roath, with its stunning botanical gardens beautiful whatever the season. If you’re feeling brave enough in summer, rent a pedalo, or hibernate in Terra Nova cafe if the Cardiff rain is doing its usual thing.

Trek slightly further out though and you’ll find Canton’s Victoria Park; the grounds surrounding St Fagans Museum; or abandon the constraints of inner Cardiff altogether and reach Cosmeston Lakes to the south of attractive seaside town of Penarth; the Knap proving Barry is so much more than Gavin and Stacey; the Brecon Beacons’ peaks and waterfalls; or the Bay’s Barrage walk.

As rambling should be reserved to South Wales’ actual countryside, I’ll wrap it up now – but all in all rest assured that if you’re new to Cardiff you’ve made the best decision. With a thriving cultural scene; opportunities all round; the prime balance between nature and urbanisation and the chance to try your hand at skills you wouldn’t have ever thought of, Cardiff has it all.

Need any other inspiration? We Are Cardiff’s archive probably houses something worth reading…


Ellie Philpotts Ellie Philpotts is a student at Cardiff University studying English Literature, Journalism and Media. She is  a teenage-cancer survivor; is obsessed with travelling, and her favourite cities outside Cardiff are being Sydney, NYC, Nashville and Paris. Her ‘likes’ also include general Britishness, cups of tea, exploring, attempting to write songs, journalism, Italian food, finding new places, going out for dinner and taking photos – of everything. She is not a fan of maths, mashed potato, narrow minded people, her phone constantly running out of memory for photos, or people who are mean about Taylor Swift. Follow her blog or Instagram.

“Cardiff is gentle, real and always grounded” – Amy

amy mcclelland

As I write this, I am sitting in my front room in Cathays. I can hear those seagulls we all hear on the roof and can smell “student cooking”. A thought comes into mind. No matter how hard the council tries to ‘Keep Cathays Tidy’ (and I know how hard they try) … it never really is tidy. I am starting to feel that somehow this is meant to be. Discarded pizza flyers and nibbled bin bags appear to be part of the shabby chic ephemera which typifies Cathays.

I love Cardiff. It is gentle, real and always grounded, no matter how many students, well-oiled rugby fans or naked cyclists pass through its streets.  When I tell people that I live in Cardiff, they always say ‘’I have heard that Cardiff is meant to be a great place to live’’. They are right. Having happily lived here for nearly ten years with my partner, I always speak extremely highly of this wonderful town. Where else in the British Isles can you walk in a beautiful park, see a man banging sticks on a bin, see absolute stag and hen hedonism, an Indian City Hall wedding and the delights of a Norwegian church all in one day?  Walking through Cardiff offers so many delights besides the great culture, architecture, museums and shops. If you look carefully enough, you may get to see its hidden treasures, like the teenage PDAs outside Blue Banana, the lady with the hat and black boots who spends hours dancing in front of buskers, the RAC man who seems to be everywhere, the religious preacher with his speakerphone or the almost edible kittens upstairs in the market. In Cardiff, no matter how crowded and busy things get, there is always somewhere for you to escape to. There is always a haven. One of my favorite havens in Cardiff has to be the ‘Summer House’ in Bute park. Just a five minute walk from my office or the town centre, it is the perfect place to sit and breathe, be it the middle of winter or the peak of our wet summers. Full of children with sticky fingers rushing around panting dogs, people getting lost in books and mums and dads on health kicks with bike helmets on, you can never be bored.

I first came to Cardiff to study Psychology in 2003. My sister loved it so I figured I would too. Being from Birmingham originally, Cardiff initially felt small and a bit old-fashioned. In my mind, I would stay for the three years of my degree and then go with my partner to somewhere more ‘exciting’. However, one night, as we walked under the bridge by the Hilton, my friend said ‘’Amy, I think you will find your Karma here’’. Little did I know, he would be absolutely right. I can’t see myself settling anywhere else anytime soon.

Cardiff has many wonderful resources. It is clever yet humble and gives often without wanting anything in return. May our wonderful town live on. Thanks Cardiff, you have been good to us.

Amy McClelland is a local Psychologist who runs the Cardiff Sleep Clinic ‘Sleep Wales’ and ‘Optimis Psychology’. Away from her office, she is a passionate linguist, likes singing, collecting her niece from nursery, yoga and spending free time in the College House chatting to Salvo, Dan and Michaela. Her favorite place in the world is the Blue Marlin in bar in Ibiza.

Amy was photographed in Bute Park by Lann Niziblian