Cardiff Lifestyle

Christmas at Cardiff

2020 might have changed a lot of our festive plans, but you can still find plenty Christmas cheer in the Welsh capital.

Christmas Markets on St John Street (Image author’s own)

This blog post has been written as part of a paid advertising campaign with FOR Cardiff

Like most of us, I’m doing Christmas a little differently this year.

 I’ve lived in Cardiff for two and a half years now, however this year I’ve chosen to not head back to my hometown of Edinburgh and instead embrace my first Welsh Christmas. As tough as altering Christmas traditions can be, I have decided to look at the positives and embrace everything my adopted home of Cardiff has to offer this time of year – and I’ve discovered even a global pandemic can’t quash the festive cheer in the ‘Diff! With a few adaptations, you can still shop safely, eat and drink at some fantastic local spots, all while embracing everything we love about the Christmas season. Here’s just a few if the ways I’ve been enjoying Christmas at Cardiff:

The Christmas Shopping Capital

St David’s Centre are bringing the Christmas cheer (Image via St David’s Cardiff)

Cardiff is what you would describe as a “shopping destination”, with people flocking from far and wide to take in the amazing variety of big-name brands and unique independent stores, all set in the bustling and lively city centre. So, it really is no surprise that Cardiff and Christmas shopping go hand in hand.  Now, the idea of busy city centre Christmas shopping amidst a global pandemic could be a little off putting for some, and I’ll admit I had my reservations too, but after venturing into town to brave the shops myself, I was really impressed by the lengths that all the stores and shopping centres have went to, to ensure you have a safe and enjoyable shopping experience. The entire city centre has been mapped out in one-way systems to avoid congestion, and if you can, popping into town as early as you’re able will make the experience a little less frantic all round. If you’re looking for as swift a trip as possible, head to the St David’s Centre, who offer all the usual best love brands we rely on at this time of year, as well as creating a controlled atmosphere conducive to Covid regulations. They also still have their usual festive decorations to inject some cheer into your trip.

But don’t forget the independents too! I recommend nipping into Shop Wales for some fabulous Welsh made gifts, homewares, and edibles that you can’t find anywhere else – because what is a shopping trip to Cardiff without taking a little bit of Wales home with you too. I challenge you not to treat yourself in the process.

Top Tip – Some larger retails stores such as Marks and Spencer and John Lewis offer a “Book and Shop” service where you can pre book a shopping slot to save you queuing. Other stores like Lush are offering Click and Collect, where you can order in advance and pick up your goods at a designated spot in store. 

Capturing the Christmas Spirit

Cardiff Castle is a hub of festive activity (Image author’s own)

While it might not be the usual festive affair of mass crowds huddled in the Christmas markets, ice skating by the museum or mulled wines a plenty, every effort has been made to make sure the Christmas spirit is still alive and well in Cardiff. The first port of call for full on festive vibes is Cardiff Castle: the grounds of which have been used extensively since the first lockdown back in March and have become a cherished public space that boasts plenty room for social distancing, and some spectacular surroundings too. For Christmas, the castle is paying host to a selection of Christmas food and drink offerings, capturing the usual feel of the winter wonderland delights we are used to, but in a much more controlled and Covid compliant manner (I recommend checking the Cardiff Castle website in advance of your visit for the most up to date restrictions and guidelines) .

Although some restrictions have been introduced to the public square, there is still an opportunity to bag your own little alpine hut to enjoy a hot chocolate and one of the many culinary delights on offer (I defy anyone to resist the smells that waft round the Christmas markets!), followed by a stroll round the grounds, where there are lots of friendly and helpful castle staff around to keep you safe too! As far as this year has went, the little oasis of Christmas cheer found inside Cardiff castle is one we all need.

If you’re missing your Christmas market fix, fear not! You’ll still find plenty of them dotted around the city centre, offering not only food and drink but independent gifts and treats too. Shopping from the markets is an alternative way to tackle Christmas shopping and it helps our beloved indie businesses!

Top Tip: Head to the castle and the markets at night where you can enjoy these beautiful surroundings whilst they are lit up in all their festive glory. Nothing says Christmas quite like an abundance of fairy lights!

The City of Arcades

The Arcades never fail to dazzle at Christmas (Image authors own)

Cardiff is home to seven Victorian and Edwardian shopping arcades, dating back 150 years and all with their own unique atmosphere. In amongst the wynds and pathways, you are met with familiar brand names and independent institutions that are as much a part of Cardiff as the castle (I’m looking at you, Wally’s Deli). Browsing the delights of the arcades are a day out in themselves, and they can often provide a calmer environment away from the hustle bustle of Queen Street. The arcades are the city’s unique selling point, and with each one beautifully decked out in lights and trimmings for the festive season, this is by far the best time to pay them a visit. Just taking time to wander around and soak in the beautiful atmosphere makes it the perfect place to take some time out from shopping and just enjoy the moment. Oh and of course stop for a coffee break (that’s what Christmas shopping is all about right?) I recommend hitting up Coffee Barker in the Castle Arcade for a Nutella Latte and a slab of their homemade cake slices. Nothing will set you up for that second round of shopping more! You can discover more about the history and what to discover at the Arcades via the City of Arcades website.

Top Tip – Make sure to pop into the Dominion Arcade as they have their own unique Christmas markets set up with lots on offer from local makers and creators. A fab excuse to pick up unique Christmas gifts and help independent businesses.

Helping Hospitality

Drink Nutella Lattes at Coffee Barker and help save the hospitality sector! (Image author’s own)

While it is true that pretty much no industry has emerged unscathed by the effects of Covid-19, the hospitality sector has taken continual blows with each new rule, regulation, and lockdown. Even now, in the run up to Christmas, a time that was hoped to be a little reprieve from the devastation caused, Welsh hospitality has yet again drawn the short straw, forced to close by 6pm with a complete ban on selling alcohol and the further lockdown looming post-Christmas. While these restrictions could prove devastating for many businesses, especially the independents, it is worth remembering that there are still ways we can lend our support. We are all dreaming of the day we can freely visit our favourite pubs and restaurants with friends and family (and without fear of Covid) but to ensure that will happen, it is up to us to take a little bit of the weight and help our hospitality friends out. Here’s a few small steps that can make all the difference:

  • Bars aren’t just about alcohol – I know, I know, believe me there’s nothing I enjoy more at this time of year than a festive themed cocktail or an endless supply of mulled wine in my favourite cosy pub. But just because that isn’t an option for the time being, it doesn’t mean we should abandon our locals altogether. Check in to see who is still offering food or coffees (I recommend Juniper Place for the brunch options – festive surroundings and great value food makes it a winner). Opting to spend your coffee shop breaks in your favourite bar or restaurant could be the thing that pushes them through to 2021.
  • Enquire about takeaway options – Where the can, bars and restaurants are providing takeaway options allowing you to still capture a little bit of what you love in the comfort of your own home. Why not treat yourself to take out from your favourite restaurant or buy your festive drink supply as takeaway from a pub as opposed to a supermarket this Christmas.
  • Buy Vouchers – If possible, buy a gift voucher for your loved one’s favourite bar or restaurant as a Christmas present this year; not only do they give the recipient something to look forward to, but it also ensures some money is still making its way to the hospitality sector. The FOR Cardiff Gift Card covers a whole host of eating and drinking establishments in Cardiff, so if you’re stuck for choice, you can leave it up to the recipient to decide! You could even recommend a friend or family member to buy you a voucher in return – who doesn’t want to have lots of excuses to eat, drink and be merry in 2021?
  • Use the power of social media – No one expects one person to save the hospitality sector singlehandedly, but by showing support on social media through sharing posts, giving recommendations, and just leaving a kind comment on the page of your favourite hospitality haunts you never know who it might reach and how it might help. A few social media shares are proven to go a very long way.

Doing it FOR Cardiff

FOR Cardiff #ChristmasAtCardiff Instagram Competition (Image via FOR Cardiff)

Things might not be exactly as we hoped this Christmas, but luckily the Cardiff many of us know and love is still here, ready and waiting to welcome you with a socially distanced air cwtch. Come grab a coffee, take in the Christmas lights, and show your favourite retail and hospitality spots some support – these little acts of kindness will help ensure the pre-Covid Cardiff we desperately want back is still around for us to enjoy again when we are through the other side. And do you know what’s even better?  FOR Cardiff  are giving one lucky person a chance to win a £150 gift voucher to spend in over 70 city centre shops and eateries through their new seasonal initiative, Christmas At Cardiff. To be in with a chance of winning, simply post a photo of your favourite Cardiff business to Instagram, tag @forcardiff and use the hashtag #ChristmasAtCardiff.

And while you’re on Instagram, why not check out the FOR Cardiff page for more ways to help our local Cardiff businesses this Christmas – they’ve got a wonderful IGTV series showcasing the best the city has to offer! Head over to Instagram, get involved and most importantly share some love; that’s what Christmas is all about, isn’t it?

Winner of the FOR Cardiff competition will be selected on 21/12/20 (Full competition T&C’s available here: #ChristmasAtCardiff – Brought to you by FOR Cardiff)

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