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THE UK: Destination Guides - Must read

The ultimate student guide to Cardiff

Cardiff is the capital of Wales and a vibrant UK city providing a unique backdrop for international students. We guide you through what Cardiff offers, from culture to universities.

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The energetic capital of Wales, Cardiff combines old with new to give a unique vibe and something for everyone. This is a city with a stunning waterfront, deep historic appeal and a vibrant arts and culture scene.


Studying in Cardiff provides a unique experience to enjoy a capital city with a strong sense of community. With international students arriving from more than 130 countries every year, this is a city with lots to offer.


What is Cardiff like?

Location and demographics

Situated on the south-east coast of Wales, Cardiff is positioned where the River Severn meets the Bristol Channel. It has a mild climate throughout the year, allowing you to make the most of this city’s charm. And there’s plenty to enjoy. Cardiff is a bustling urban hub bordered by lush green valleys, a little over an hour’s bus ride from the Brecon Beacons national park.


With a population of just over 360,000, you’ll quickly feel a sense of community. Wales is a small country, immensely proud of its heritage and culture, so you’ll find road signs and information in both Welsh and English. But it is also a place which celebrates its diversity, and the Cardiff Bay area is home to a larger number of nationalities, cultures and languages than anywhere else in Wales.


Before studying in the UK, you may want to become familiar with some of the British accents that you will hear, including Welsh.



Culture and history

People have lived in Cardiff for at least 8,000 years, so this is a city with a rich history. The Romans considered it an important enough area to build a fort there, and you can still visit the city’s 900-year-old castle. In more recent history, Cardiff’s docks and nearby coalmines boosted its economy to make it the thriving metropolis that exists today.


Cardiff is the economic, commercial, and political hub of Wales. Home to the Synedd Cymru (Welsh Parliament), it is Wales’ centre of finance and business. It also attracts many domestic and international tourists.


Cardiff is the birthplace of several notable figures in almost every field, including author Roald Dahl, businessman Sir Michael Moritz, actor Iwan Rheon and footballer Gareth Bale.


What universities are in Cardiff?

Cardiff University is ranked in the top 200 universities globally by the QS World University Rankings 2023, making it the highest-rated university in Wales. With notable alumni, including poet Gillian Clarke, rugby player Gareth Davies and Olympic gold medal winner Nicole Cooke, if you choose to study at Cardiff University, you’ll certainly be starting on the road to success.


 Other academic institutions of note in Cardiff include:


The Complete University Guide League Tables 2023 is also a good way of discovering which universities in the UK rank highly for particular subjects and degrees.


What does Cardiff offer students?

What is the transport like in Cardiff?

Living in the UK, many students want to make the most of walking or cycling to get around quickly and cheaply. However, there will inevitably be times when you’ll need to use Cardiff’s public transport.


The easiest way to get around the city is by bus, and you’ll be pleased to hear that 16 to 21-year-olds can apply for a free MyTravelPass, entitling them to one-third off their bus fares across Wales.


Cardiff is well-connected by rail to other cities across Wales and the UK. A train journey from London to Cardiff takes less than two hours – helpful for getting its international students to and from the UK’s bigger airports. But you’ll be pleased to learn that Cardiff is also home to an airport, providing direct flights to over 50 destinations across Europe, the Caribbean, and the Middle East.


What about entertainment and food?

Cardiff is a city renowned for its nightlife and bar scene. This includes pubs and clubs, and everything in between, with something to suit any student’s night out. The city is a cultural hub, and as such, there’s no shortage of concerts, comedy gigs or theatre performances any night of the week.


When it comes to eateries, you’ll be spoiled for choice, from boutique coffee shops and independent cafés to luxury restaurants and cocktail bars, Cardiff has it all. Want to try a local flavour? Grab yourself some Welsh rarebit – a hearty version of cheese on toast, famous across the UK. Or try a sweet Welsh cake with your tea.


What is the accommodation like in Cardiff?

For people studying in the UK, it’s most common to live in university-owned shared houses or halls of residence in your first year before moving into privately rented accommodation for later years of study. This enables you to make friends and decide who you want to live with if flat or house sharing is something that appeals.



Cardiff University guarantees all new students a place in its halls of residence. Depending on the type of room you choose and its location, you’ll be looking at accommodation costs of around GBP 146 a week.


When renting privately, you’ll have plenty of accommodation options available, but you’ll find a lot of price variation, so do your research to ensure you’re getting a good deal. You can choose between private halls of residence or living in a house or flat.


Find out what it takes to apply for a student visa in the UK.


Are there public services for students in Cardiff?

Contact your university’s international office to find out about dedicated resources for international students. The staff here should be able to help you with all your immigration queries, from visa issues to questions about settling into Cardiff. Many institutions also have designated societies for international students, so it’s worth checking what your university offers.


Explore more about the best student cities in the UK


How much does it cost to live in Cardiff?

The general cost of Cardiff

Cardiff was named the most affordable university city in the UK in a 2022 survey by NatWest. So you can feel reassured that with careful budgeting, living in Cardiff should not be too financially taxing.


Discover more about the cost of tuition fees in the UK. 

Student budget

Students can expect a few upfront costs, for example paying the deposit for their accommodation. But once these are paid, Cardiff University suggests a weekly budget of around GBP 215 to GBP 300.


Find out more about student cost of living in the UK.



What are Cardiff’s main attractions?

With Cardiff University alone welcoming more than 8,500 international students every year, Cardiff is a city full of attractions and activities aimed at students.


If history and arts excite you, why not pop into one of the city’s many museums and galleries? A lot of these are free or at least offer student discounts. And did you know that Wales is home to more castles than any other country in Europe? Cardiff itself has four, all of which are well worth a visit.


Cardiff was named the European Capital of Sport in 2014 and has hosted several international sporting events over the years. If spectating is your thing, you’ll find plenty of opportunities to watch a game of rugby, football, cricket or even ice hockey. And for avid sportspeople, the amount of funding given to Cardiff’s sporting infrastructure in recent years will quickly inspire you.


Cardiff is the UK’s first Music City. Hosting festivals throughout the year and with venues of every size, the city caters for any music taste imaginable. Head down to Womanby Street for a vibrant local music scene and thriving nightlife. Once there, you can study over a coffee in an independent café if you want, or party the night away in a bar or club.


Now that you have a better idea of what to expect from Cardiff, you may want to start exploring your study options using our course matcher tool.



Study in the UK


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