Cardiff is one of the UK's most charming cities – but that doesn't make always it one of the sunniest. Pack your umbrella and prepare to dash between cosy restaurants and covered markets on this wonderful weekend in the Welsh capital, whatever the weather.
Check into the central Radisson Blu Hotel Cardiff, from which you can take in spectacular night views across the sprawling city. Once you’ve had a chance to freshen up, it’s less than ten minutes’ walk to Castle Arcade (or if it's really pouring, a seven-minute taxi ride), where you can spend an indulgent evening cheese tasting at Madame Fromage. The deli has a mouth-watering selection of over 150 different artisan varieties, and even sells four-tier wedding cheeses. Tasting evenings take place every Friday and the selection will vary, but highlights include traditional Welsh creations like Gorwydd Caerphilly, a creamy, strong cheese with slight citrus notes that linger on the palate. A cheese expert talks you through what you’re eating and drinking, matching wines to complement the cheeses. Once the serious business of tasting has finished, the evening takes a social turn with tapas, drinks and music.
Begin your day with a visit to the National Museum, which houses one of Europe’s finest art collections, including the largest collection of impressionist paintings outside France. Temporary exhibitions run throughout the year, including the Artes Mundi 6, the UK’s biggest art prize. It’s a mixed media competition whose past winners have included a giant floor mural, and the theme this year is the human condition, on display until 22 February. The museum also houses the Clore Discovery Centre, which allows you to handle artefacts like insects, fossils and Bronze Age weapons, and discover items normally buried in the museum’s stores. You can even dig your own historical curiosities out of the attic and bring them in for identification by knowledgeable staff.
A short walk through Bute Park will take you to the Cardiff Fashion Quarter, one of the city’s best-kept secrets. The marketplace is set in a converted cinema on Womanby Street and sells inventively designed trinkets and vintage clothing, like Pocket Pirate’s reclaimed leather accessories. While inside seek out FINA, a stall selling custom jewellery made from materials like delicate Czech glass.
For dinner, leave the city behind and take the train or ten-minute drive to the elegant seaside town of Penarth, home to the renowned James Sommerim Restaurant. Gaze out on panoramic views over the Severn Estuary as you choose between their three seasonal tasting menus, featuring dishes like Welsh venison in port with beetroot and savoy cabbage. For a real treat, you can sit at the chef’s table and watch a 14-course feast being prepared for you.
After a morning in Cardiff’s covered Victorian arcades hunting for eclectic old books, fancy dress or even bespoke violins, pass the rainy afternoon with a Sunday lunch at Chapel 1877. The restaurant is in one of Cardiff’s most impressive buildings, a sympathetically renovated Gothic chapel originally built in 1877, designed by famous architect Henry C Harris. Under its glass arches and antique chandeliers you can sample traditional, seasonal dishes like roast chicken with wholegrain mustard mash, or milk chocolate mousse with orange polenta cookies.