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Cardiff city guide

A compact and friendly city with a passion for sport, Cardiff is a popular study destination for students worldwide.

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The birth place of Roald Dahl, Shirley Bassey and Jon Ronson, Cardiff is steeped in history and culture. What started as a roman fort is now the thriving metropolitan city of Wales. Cardiff is the largest city in Wales, with a population of 400,000 and a student community of more than 44,000. In this city guide we explore what makes Cardiff such a great place to live, work and study.


Where can you study in Cardiff?

Home to beautiful countryside, long stretches of beach and a vibrant city centre, it’s no wonder Cardiff is such a popular choice among students from all around the world. If you are thinking about studying in Cardiff, you have the choice of three welsh universities:

Each institution offers a unique experience for international students. For example, Cardiff University is among the top 10 most beautiful universities according to Times Higher Education 2018. Cardiff Metropolitan University ranks 1st out of 159 universities for its careers service. Similarly, at the university of South Wales, 95% of students find employment within the first six months of graduation.


We understand that choosing the right university can be confusing, but we’re here to show you why Cardiff could be the right choice of city for you.


Why study in Cardiff?

Cardiff is often described as a small and compact city, making it a great place to meet new people and feel part of the local community. As an international student you are likely to be moving away from home and making friends will be an important of your university experience.


We spoke to Eleanor Piga, an Interior Design student from Italy, who is in her second year at Cardiff Metropolitan University. Eleanor noted, “The people are simply delightful and I feel very close to Welsh culture, which is very present in the city and it’s something that people are very proud of.”


On the other hand, if you want to escape the small-town feel, you can take a quick train ride to a nearby city to feel more anonymous. Cardiff is close to London, Bristol, Plymouth and Birmingham, which are major UK cities. As an international student, you might be pleased to hear that the airport is just a 30-minute drive from the city centre, which is convenient if you need to fly home during the holidays.



One major advantage of living in Cardiff is the nearby countryside, perfect if you enjoy the outdoors, hiking and taking a break from the bustling city. Explore the breath-taking views of Brecon Beacons National Park, just a 30-minute drive from the city centre. Besides country walks, Cardiff also has 330 parks within the city itself, ideal for a quick relaxing break in between lectures.


Bute park is a particularly popular spot in the city centre with wide open spaces, beautiful scenery and the river Taff running through the middle. Some of Cardiff’s parks are also used for popular music festivals during the summer months.




As a country, Wales has a reputation for its love of rugby. The national stadium known as Principality Stadium, seating 73,000 and located in the heart of Cardiff, is home to the Welsh Rugby Union team. The sporting culture doesn’t stop there, as Cardiff is also known for its passion of football and ice hockey.


So, whether you enjoy watching or playing sport, Cardiff is a great setting to explore your sporting interests. Cardiff also has an International Sports Village with an Olympic size swimming pool, which could be a great way to stay fit. Or you can head down to Cardiff Bay Water Activity Centre for jet skiing, water polo and sailing. Cardiff Bay also houses a bowling alley, swimming pool, mini golf and other activities. If you’re a sports enthusiast you may be interested in learning more about studying health and fitness at a university in Wales.


Places to eat

As an international student you are likely to experiment with new cuisines and may be out of your comfort zone at times. Luckily, Cardiff has a wide range of restaurants and cafes to meet the needs of different taste buds. Explore Europe’s largest waterfront development, Cardiff Bay, which has a wide range of food, cafes and hotels. Two popular restaurants include Riverside Cantonese which is one of the oldest Chinese restaurants in Wales. Alternatively, you can feast on Indian food at the Purple Poppadum, which was ranked as the 7th best restaurant in Cardiff in 2018.


Satisfy your caffeine craving by exploring the many independent coffee shops dotted throughout the city. In particular, Cathays is a student hub located near Cardiff University which has a variety of quirky coffee shops. For example, Stag Coffee, which is a popular spot among students for all-day breakfasts and delicious coffee.


Where to live

Besides Cathay’s, one of the most student-centric parts of Cardiff, Llandaff is another common place to live as a student and just a 15-minute walk from Cardiff Metropolitan University. Interior Design student Eleanor Piga said, “Llandaff is an especially vibrant neighbourhood, and I love living there. The city is so green, with its never-ending parks and fields, and one could cross the city just by walking or cycling, something that I myself do very often.”


We also spoke to business postgraduate student Saskia Cilliers, from Cardiff Metropolitan University who said, “Even though Cardiff is the capital city it still has a strange familiarity. From the friendliness of the Welsh [people] to the multicultural food selections, the city feels like a big community.”



If your interests lie with music, comedy, theatre and attending live gigs, you can visit the Wales Millennium Centre, which holds 2,500 people. Perfect for a birthday outing or mid-week break. A well-known comedy venue in Cardiff is Glee club, where you can find cheaper tickets on weekends and food vouchers, just for being a student. To further expand your curiosity and knowledge of music, check out Spillers Records, the oldest record shop in the world, hosting live music performances in store.




As Cardiff is a compact city, lots of the local attractions are easily accessible on foot. You can also take advantage of the buses and trains which run regularly in and around the city. Cycling is an economical way to travel and a popular option in Cardiff as the city is flat with designated areas to safely park your bike. Cycling is also a cheap and fun way to exercise during your studies.


Are you feeling inspired to study in Cardiff? Explore our range of courses in Welsh universities to begin your study abroad adventure today!


Check out some other city and study destination guides in the UK


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