Eight things I've learned about Cardiff after two years of living here

By Elizabeth Thomas

I first moved to Cardiff in 2019 to study for an MA and accepted the city as my new home almost immediately.

Having grown up in Swansea and later moved to Warwickshire for university and London for work, I can honestly say I’ve never felt so at home so quickly in any other place. It really is a unique experience.

Having now lived there for just over two years, there are plenty of things that I've come to learn about life in the Welsh capital. Here are just a few.

Read more: You can find more of our Cardiff stories here.

The arcades are the best place to shop in the city

Cardiff's arcades are full of independent shops and eateries (Gareth Everett/Huw Evans Agency)

While The Hayes and Saint David's shopping centre have plenty of shops for an afternoon of browsing, you'll find some of the best shops in the city's arcades.

Cardiff has been dubbed the 'City of Arcades' for a reason. With seven arcades across the city, there is a whole maze of independent shops and eateries to explore. The Victorian and Edwardian architecture of the buildings adds to the experience, making for a much prettier day out.

The food scene is amazing

Selection of baked goods from Ground Bakery, Pontcanna (Instagram / Ground Bakery)

Until I moved to Cardiff, I hadn't really heard much about its food scene but, within just a few weeks I found I was spoilt for choice. As well as big name chains like the Ivy and Honest Burger, Cardiff has a wealth of incredible independent eateries and bars, with more opening up every year.

From high-end restaurants run by MasterChef stars to top street food vendors, there truly is something for every taste. It would take you months, if not longer, to make your way through the sheer amount of independent vendors in the city, and I feel lucky to have so much choice on my doorstep.

Chippy Lane is the place to be after a night-out

Rugby fans flock to Caroline Street - aka Chippy Lane - after a game (Matthew Horwood)

Every town has a popular chippy or takeaway that people seem to flock to after a night out. When I was at university, there were two chippies that had students pouring out of the doors come 3am. After a night out in Swansea, McDonalds is always packed. But for Cardiff, Caroline Street - or Chippy Lane as it's better known - is the place to be if you want to grab some food on the way home.

It was a good few weeks of living in Cardiff before I found out Chippy Lane's real name and learnt that, actually, there's a debate about whether it should be called Chippy Lane or Chippy Alley. The street has become such a Cardiff institution that a friend of mine even has it printed on a t-shirt.

Place names aren't always pronounced as you'd imagine

It took me a while to learn how Llanedeyrn is pronounced (Mirrorpix)

One of the first things I learnt upon moving to Cardiff is that some place names are not pronounced as you'd first expect. Take Llanedeyrn, for instance. When I first moved to the city, I was pronouncing it Llan-e-dayrn until someone told me that nobody actually says it like that - it's Lanedin.

A bit later on, when I got onto a bus and asked for a single to Llandaff, the bus driver was confused for a second before saying, 'Oh, do you mean Landav?' It's safe to say that, as a newbie to the city, it took me a while to get my head around how different places in Cardiff are pronounced.

Make sure you pre-book a taxi on match days

Getting a taxi after a big match can be difficult (WalesOnline/Rob Browne)

Whilst getting a taxi or Uber home from the city centre isn't usually too much of a problem, match days are an entirely different story. The city centre is always heaving after a big game, and, as people make their way home from the match or the pub, taxis can become few and far between.

After wandering Castle Street alone, I learnt the hard way that it's best to pre-book or find another way of getting home when one couple tried to push me out the way as I attempted to get into a taxi, and another group of strangers tried to join me in the cab I'd just hailed. When it comes to taxis on match days, it truly can be every man for himself.

The Magic Roundabout doesn't refer to the TV show

The Magic Roundabout of Ocean Way, Cardiff (South Wales Echo)

When I've heard people talk about The Magic Roundabout in the past, it's always been in reference to the television programme that my parents grew up watching. However, in Cardiff, it's referring to the unusual roundabout in Splott which greets drivers with its different sculptures made out of road signs. The unique-looking roundabout was created in 1992 by French sculptor Pierre Vivant.

The city is steeped in history

Behind a door in the Royal Arcade lies the remains of the hidden Kingston Court (WalesOnline/Rob Browne)

It's clear from Cardiff's museums and galleries that the city is full of interesting history. However, you don't have to go to the museums or hit the books to find out about it - just walking around the city you'll come across all kinds of hidden histories. Right in the centre, for instance, is the Grade I listed St John the Baptist Church, dating back to pre-Medieval times.

There are also more hidden histories that might initially pass you by. There are holes, for example, on Lansdowne Road railway bridge that are thought to be the result pf being strafed by a low flying aircraft in World War II. There's also a door in the Royal Arcade that leads to a secret street. Cardiff is full of these lesser-known gems and, as someone who hasn't lived in the city for a particularly long time, I really enjoy coming across them.

The bollards on The Hayes have peep holes inside

The bollards in The Hayes which contain miniature artwork (WalesOnline/Rob Browne)

I would walk past these bollards on a daily basis without giving them a second thought until I was out with a friend who insisted stopping by to "look inside." I was completely confused about what she meant until I realised that they contained peep holes. If you look inside, you can see pieces of art by artist Jane Edden and students at the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama called Post Secrets.

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