Our new microguides series is inspired by the slow travel movement, encouraging travellers to relax their pace and take a deep dive into one particular neighbourhood in a well-loved city. Rather than a whirlwind itinerary which aims to hit up every must-see attraction, these compact, close-up guides encourage you to zone in, take your time and truly explore like a local.
I’m pretty sure I live in Roath. Not certain, because Roath’s boundaries are somewhat vague, having shifted over centuries and practically vanished thanks to the council’s map tinkering. But this place – (very) roughly contained between the city’s Roath Park and Newport Road – is no wishy-washy no man’s land. Affluent but edgy, it’s home to an ever-increasing number of independent shops and cafés, a creative, eco-conscious community and one of the city’s loveliest parks.
The area is worth a wander for its Victorian and Edwardian architecture alone – but the action centres along its three eclectic high streets. There’s Wellfield Road, with its well-to-do village vibe; Albany Road, known for its chicken joints and charity shops; and multicultural City Road, the Welsh capital’s answer to London’s Kilburn High Road – a heady blend of shisha lounges, barbershops and Middle Eastern restaurants.
Here are just some of Roath’s best bits.
Wander around the Victorian-era park
Roath Park is the neighbourhood’s green heart. Peruse exotic plants in the manicured gardens (the monkey puzzle tree is my favourite), stroll around the lake with a coffee in hand – dodging geese as you go – or hire a rowing boat for a swan’s eye view of the white clock tower, a Cardiff icon.
Practise your downward dog
Physiospace’s gorgeous fairy-light-strewn studio is an enchanting spot for stretching things out at a yoga class. Lovely Icelandic instructor Osk teaches hatha flows that are suitable for all levels and class sizes are refreshingly small. Drop-ins cost £12 – book through the MindBody app.
Catch a show in an old church
Pull up a pew – literally – to watch a gig at The Gate, a grade II-listed Presbyterian church which has been lovingly transformed into an arts and community centre. The intimate venue regularly hosts art exhibitions, comedy and a plethora of pop, folk and Welsh-language bands.
In 2021 Lark, Design, Make moved up the road to the Cathays area (Roath’s student-filled neighbour), but it deserves an honourable mention. Their wholesome workshops, from crochet and macramé to soap making and lino printing, reflect Roath’s creative, can-do spirit.
Eating plant-based is no problem in Roath. Vegan favourite Anna Loka serves up comforting plates of goodness in its boho restaurant and garden nook: spectacular full breakfasts, pimped-out burgers, nourishing Buddha bowls and a mean seitan Sunday roast.
There’s no shortage of decent pizzerias in Cardiff, but Scaramantica is up there with the best – churning out thin, chewy-crusted classics from its Stefano Ferrara pizza oven as well as swish cocktails. It’s my little slice of la dolce vita in the ’Diff.
Friends in Knead
The queue down the street says it all: gluttons for gluten adore Friends in Knead. The sourdough and Biscoff “dirty buns” are divine, but the real showstoppers are the brioche doughnuts, which come in an ever-changing line-up of flavours such as cinnamon crunch, strawberry milkshake and pistachio.
For a Syrian feast, head to Shaam Nights on City Road. The in-your-face interiors – all gilded tiling and glitzy hanging lanterns – delight newcomers, but it’s the mouthwatering shawarma, falafel and stuffed vine leaves that keep them coming back.
Get your caffeine fix at Sibling, a minimalist café and wine bar with an Antipodean feel, housed in a former brothel. Brother-and-sister team Will and Georgie take their coffee seriously, sharing tasting notes as they pour your batch brew and baking moreish cookies to match the beans’ flavour profiles.
Part deli, part upmarket cafe – think cheeseboards, oysters and caviar crisps – Glory Stores is the brainchild of Shaun Houcke, the oenophile behind Cardiff’s LGBT-friendly pop-up Gays Who Wine. I can think of no cosier place to get tiddly on Bolly and Beaujolais.
Know your rooibos from your Yunnan black? Whether you like a fine loose leaf or a builder’s brew, there’s a rarefied cuppa for you at Waterloo Tea. There are two outlets to choose from in Roath – one on Wellfield Road and the original, overlooking leafy Waterloo Gardens.
A female-owned, crowdfunding success story, Ripple is Cardiff’s first not-for-profit, zero-waste shop. And I am obsessed. As well as kitchen cupboard essentials and snacks, they stock eco-friendly toiletries, sustainable fashion, green-themed books and plastic-free gifts and greeting cards. Perfect for lining the shelves of your Airbnb.
A souvenir- or gift-shopping paradise, indie arts hub Cardiff Made celebrates and supports local makers and artists. It hosts regular gallery exhibitions as well as the permanent shop, stuffed to the brim with colourful prints and handcrafted textiles, jewellery and ceramics.
Penny Lane Vintage
I could easily while away an afternoon in Penny Lane Vintage, found in a little arcade off Wellfield Road. It’s a treasure trove for sustainable, one-off fashion finds to wear out on the town. Who doesn’t love fabulous faux-fur coats, retro radiograms and chunky-knit sweaters from the 1970s?
This charming Edwardian home, available for rent on Airbnb, overlooks Roath Mill Gardens, where I spend an inordinate amount of time smiling at other people’s dogs. The balcony is a prime spot for people (or puppy) watching.
The Crofts Hotel
If you’re looking for a spotless room, good-value pub grub and an ample beer garden, set up camp at The Crofts Hotel. Light sleeper? Bring earplugs – affable locals can keep the bar lively on the weekends.