It truly is the most wonderful time of the year. It is socially acceptable to live in loungewear, there is cinnamon in absolutely everything and raclette is officially its own food group. This year, the festive build up looks a little different, but with this guide, and a little help from For Cardiff , it should see you through this “new normal” and have you skipping merrily down Castle Street singing like Mariah herself and showing a bit of love to all of the amazing businesses that really, really need it right now.
Don’t forget to check the current restrictions before you venture out into the world! You can find updated restrictions here.
1.Enjoy the Christmas markets
My fave part of Christmas in Cardiff. The markets. I really thought this year it wouldn’t be doable but how amazing it is to see those lodges lit up and full of amazing produce. Don’t miss the Raclette stall! They are doing a raclette mac & cheese this year and it’s truly to die for.
2.Toast some marshmallows at Cardiff Castle
If it’s good enough for Kate and Wills, it is good enough for me! The folks at Cardiff Castle have gone to an unbelievable effort this year in order to bring us some Christmas joy safely. The Castle is free to the public and packed with ski style chalets, light shows, food trucks and my fave, the marshmallow roasting station. Sadly, the interior of the Castle has had to close due to Covid restrictions but the public square and food stalls are still open and brimming with merriment.
3.Treat yourself to a spot of lunch.
It still amazes me what a culinary hub that Cardiff is becoming. Christmas means meals with loved ones, festive menus and overdue catch-ups. The 6pm curfew, rule of four and restrictions of premises serving alcohol has certainly thrown a curveball our way but why not book a lunch at any one of the countless restaurants the City has to offer. Try Honest Burgers for their Christmas special stuffed with an oozy slice of Camenbert. Or, Mowgli, with their swing seats and authentic Indian street market dishes. Don’t miss the yogurt chat bombs. Or, The Ivy! Those beautiful decorations draw me in every time, as does their iconic Shepherd’s pie. The perfect winter warmer.
4.Cardiff’s best hot chocolates.
Where do I start first? The Ferrero Rocher one at the Christmas market, the Nutella latte at Coffee Barkers or maybe even the Gingerbread one at Hotel Chocolat made with real flakes of chocolate. City of Arcades, City of hot choccies.
5.Raid the Market for all your Christmas must-haves.
Cardiff Market truly is a Cardiff institution. A bustling hub of sellers that have been there for years on end and sell anything and everything you can imagine – Tophats, fabrics, fruit and veggies, wood fired pizzas, flowers and more. I always take a visit to Ashtons to pick up some fresh seafood for Christmas Eve. Followed by a quick stop off at The Secret Garden Florist for some of their adorable mini Christmas trees. Just do not leave with getting a bag of fresh Welshcakes from Bakestones – it’s basically against the law.
6.Shop for some last minute decorations.
It is never too late to shop for decorations. Cardiff is home to the only John Lewis in Wales and every year in mid-November the 3rd floor becomes a treasure trove of baubles, tinsel and fairy lights. My tree may be up and fully decorated but there are always space for a few more pretty pieces. If you like your baubles with a side of wacky make sure you head to Paperchase – it’s the only place I know that you can get baubles in the shape of Ramen noodles…
Wrapping is one of my favourite parts of Christmas! I plan my colour scheme and then hunt for all the paper, ribbon and decorations I need. I usually get my paper at Paperchase in St David’s 2 but for ribbons, tags and little pretties it’s always Cardiff Market and Tiger! Tiger has those gorge little Scandi tags this year with the old-fashioned Santa’s on. Too cute.
8.Inject a bit of luxury with a Festive Afternoon Tea.
Why not book an early Christmas treat for someone? The Park Plaza are currently serving up a Festive Afternoon tea in their Laguna kitchen and bar and it is the perfect treat for this time of year. A selection of festive pastries, finger sandwiches, fresh scones, mince pies and the cutest little Christmas sweets you’ll ever see. Get there a little early and enjoy a non-alcoholic mulled wine in their lobby, which is beautifully lit right now with log fires and fairy lights.
9.Pretend you’re in The Holiday at Wally’s Deli.
“Oo someone’s having a party!” “Oh yeh”
I have never stepped into a Deli that looks anything near to the one Cameron Diaz steps into in The Holiday. Apart from Wally’s that is. Whether it’s their Deli you’re heading too or the Liquor Cellar over in Castle Arcade what you’ll find is endless shelves and corners of gorgeous foods, booze and goodies. I love piling up tub after tub of olives, artichokes and sun dried tomatoes to graze on. They also sell those gorgeous lebkuchen that are perfect attached to a gift for a little extra treat for someone you love.
10.Satisfy your sweet tooth.
One word. Hotel Chocolat. I remember when the 1st store in Cardiff opened, my closest one at the time was Birmingham so when they opened in the ‘Diff it was utter heaven! Then, they opened a new store… with a cafe!!! So now when I go to buy boxes of Christmas sleeksters, caramel penguins and Apple strudel truffles I can also pick myself up a Billionaire sundae. Treat for you, treat for me!
11. Finish off some last minute shopping.
The St David’s shopping centres truly are a one stop shop for all your gifting needs. Everything from something for the little ones in Disney or Hamleys to something handmade from one of the many businesses at Cardiff Creative. A little further outside the comfort of St David’s is The Castle Emporium – a sweet little independent store with several small businesses selling house plants, art and gifts.
12. Add a touch of Wales
All Christmas’ should have a touch of Wales. Even if it’s a simple Nadolig Llawen in the Christmas card. If you want to get something a little more personal this year then why not head to Shop Wales. Tucked away on St John Street, Shop Wales is a lush little gift shop selling art, ornaments, gifts and some very cute cuddly leeks… I’ll be picking up a few Welsh cake candles for relatives living in England. Bringing a little bit of Wales to their Christmas!
So many of these wonderful businesses featured are For Cardiff members and you have the chance to win a £150 voucher to spend in a plethora of Cardiff busineeses. To enter just head over to Instagram to find out more – @forcardiff
For more tips on where to go this Christmas in Cardiff don’t forget to go to the For Cardiff website, there are also some fantastic videos on their Instagram page, guides to the arcades, little glimpses into the City’s favourite restaurants and a through the doors of Cardiff Market!
Wishing you all a very Merry Christmas all! Nadolig Llawen.