[Originally posted on www.usa.visitwales.com on January 15, 2010] I’ve been in Cardiff for a few days this week, and head back to New York tomorrow. Meetings, meetings, meetings. With just an odd minute here and there to catch a breath and see a bit of Wales’ capital. With snow on the ground at the start of the week, then slushy snow, then rain, and now drier warmer conditions, we’ve certainly had varied weather.
The good news is that the sparkly new St. David’s shopping center affirms Cardiff as a year-round city destination. I loved wandering around the split level shopping areas, warm and dry. The new center links into the original St. David’s shopping center, making a huge shopping mall which also connects with the Queens Arcade.
And Cardiff is an easy walking city. Just outside the shopping malls and I was steps away from the edgy new Central Library building with six floors containing 900,000 books.
There’s great High Street –style shopping along Queen Street leading up to Cardiff Castle, which I never tire of seeing. But my favorite shopping experiences in Cardiff are still the Victorian and Edwardian shopping arcades. I was on a mission this lunchtime to find Welsh cheese, so I started by heading to the Castle Arcade…
In the Castle Arcade, Madame Fromage (www.madamefromage.co.uk) is an amazing Welsh deli’. Welsh cheeses, Welsh chocolates, Welsh beers and cider, Welsh Cakes, Bara Brith… Perfect for me – it was lunchtime after all – they also have a café so I enjoyed a delicious Caerphilly Cheese sandwich with salad and home made chutney. They also serve Welsh meal items in the café including Welsh Rarebit, leek and potato soup, Welsh lamb cawl and hand made pie. My lunch was great, but I have to confess being impressed by the huge cheese platter which a couple were devouring on the table next to me; I think they were on vacation in Wales, yay!
Another great place to get Welsh cheese in Cardiff is Central Market – yes, even more under cover shopping for me! The market is located in a Grade II-listed building and is brimming with food, greengrocers, china, second hand books, second hand records and CDs and take-away food options. There’s also a neat coffee area where it’s fun to sit and watch the world go by; but I was on a strict mission today. The cheese stall at the front of the market has a great selection of Welsh cheese.
Now to another shopping arcade: the Royal Arcade, to check out Wally’s Delicatessen (www.wallysdeli.co.uk). Wally’s doesn’t so much focus on Welsh products as food from around the world, so it’s truly a mouth-watering selection. I even saw Hershey’s Chocolate Syrup! But they do have a couple of Welsh cheeses to look out for, and a lot of different chutneys to go with all the cheese you’ve been buying!
Finally, the Welsh Food Hall at House of Fraser should be worth visiting. It was relaunched last year when Rural Affairs Minister for Wales, Elin Jones, opened it, so it’s gotta’ be good, right? They say they have more than 270 Welsh products including Penderyn Welsh Whisky. I didn’t count the number of Welsh products, but they seemed to have a range.
So the shopping malls, shopping arcades, Central Market – all under cover – and the High Street shops all combine to give Cardiff a formidable range of retail therapy. It officially places Cardiff as one of the top five shopping cities in Britain. There’s more all-weather activity too… how about exploring National Museum Cardiff? With free entry, it’s a “must-see” in the city.
I’ve been staying at the Hilton Cardiff hotel (www.hilton.co.uk/cardiff) and, wow, what a perfect location. It’s opposite the castle but just a couple of blocks away from the shopping malls and arcades. And just across the road from City Hall and National Museum Cardiff. My room is large, clean and, well, just perfect really. The staff here at the Hilton are so helpful. In fact, the Sales Team are so helpful that they’ve even put together a special shopping package until the end of this month… for just £99 a night for two adults sharing a twin or double room, you get accommodation, breakfast plus an appointment with a personal shopper at Debenhams department store who can help with shopping and tips on selecting that perfect outfit. And that price includes tax. Call the Hilton for more information and bookings on (011 44) 292 064 6300.