Less than two miles from Cardiff Castle, Roath is a suburb that plays a significant role in giving the city its character.
A thriving capital it may be, but Cardiff is in no way defined by its city centre. Venture a little north-east and you’ll land in Roath, a district thriving with community, creativity and culture. Neighboured by Cathays, Cyncoed, Penylan and Adamsdown, Roath is highly accessible, and well worth the detour.
The area is proud to house a diverse population, which includes an overlap of Cathays’ students thanks to Cardiff’s multiple universities; young professionals; and families.
With notable features spanning from the iconic Roath Park, to the welcoming and inclusive Made in Roath festival; City Road, the hotspot for international cuisine; to an impressive proportion of local businesses occupying the shopping perimeters of Albany and Wellfield Roads, Roath’s quirky vibe is distributed evenly between various avenues.
So here’s how to spend a ‘Diff day with a difference…
Morning – Start your day the energising way
There’s no point wasting the day when there’s so much of Roath waiting to be explored, so swap the bed for breakfast. The only dilemma experienced regularly by every hungry Roathian – where to go?
Juno Lounge, perched on a cheerful corner of Wellfield Road, is an expert in the serious matter of morning meals, with its legendary Avocado Brunch and egg combinations. A little further on the same road and you’ll reach The Coffi House, a friendly cafe, which, as the name suggests, also does a mean simple coffee (or coffi) – perfect in you’re in a rush. Walk a little beyond the centre and you’ll be very glad to meet Penylan Pantry. Easily a front-runner for the capital’s most charming and innovative deli, choose between Hazelnut/Cocao Porridge; Healthy Bowl with quinoa and avocado; or their famous Beans and Chorizo on Toast.
Walk – FitBits at the ready
Next, it’s time to stretch the legs, and there’s an abundance of suitable space across Roath.
It’s easy to lose a few hours pounding the pavement alongside the tree-lined avenues characterised by their Victorian-style houses, but everyone in Roath knows the park is where to head. While the very existence of the lake manages to command much of the attention, without the added bonus of its adjacent Terra Nova cafe or old-school rentable pedalos, the iconic park also includes Botanical and Rose Gardens; Roath Brook and Recreation Grounds.
Roath Park has an unspoilt Victorian appeal married to a collection of modern touches, such as the almost-permanent ice-cream vans, conservation area with water-birds; conservatory tailored to visitors; and generous room for sports and playgrounds.
Shopping – Vintage heaven
Roath’s surplus of shops eliminates the trek into town and you can browse til your hearts’ content.
Albany Road is bursting at the seams with little treasures – from Beti Biggs’ den of retro homeware and gifts you’ll want to keep yourself, to The Albany Gallery showcasing the region’s most inspiring artistic talent.
The winner of last year’s Best Cardiff Fashion Retailer, Penny Lane Vintage, is an atmospheric boutique tucked in Wellfield Court, and the surrounding area is often perked up by cheap and cheerful charity shops and fruit and veg stalls, from which the shared passion at serving the community really radiates.
Lunch – Cafe Culture
If your previous activities have worked up more of an appetite, you’re in luck.
Opposite Roath Park are the Field of Beans coffee shop and Fish & Field restaurant, where you’ll understand the conflict of wishing they had more deserved attention, but also willing them to remain Cardiff’s most delicious little secret. Moreover, Anna-Loka is maintaining quite the splash in the city, as the first completely vegan cafe, and although not exclusive to the area, the local Coffee #1s are convenient if you’re more ‘grab and go.’
Every Saturday, Roath Farmers’ Market is in town. In the grounds of Keppoch Street’s Mackintosh Sports Club, traders rotate, but regulars include Coffee Am Byth, a success story in revolutionising local drinks; Pettigrew Bakery, which has expanded from the main Bute Park tea-room into separate premises on Cowbridge Road East; and Riverside Sourdough, whose claim of ‘making the best thing since before sliced bread’ is one rooted in reality.
Afternoon Activities – Culture Vultures
So, you’re refuelled and ready to carry on exploring, and culture vultures have time to shine when Roath’s on the radar.
The market shares Keppoch Street with The Gate, an arts centre which promotes the community’s dance, music and drama with infectious gusto. With Cafe Bar events like Jazz Cafe and Gaming at The Gate, festivals and classes such as pilates and Roath Writers, you’re sure to find something new to surprise yourself with.
October’s on its way, and that means 2017’s take on Made in Roath. The annual festival is a week-long extravaganza covering the whole creative spectrum, and very few areas avoid a look-in. Its success has merged into Made in Spring, but fear not if you’re around at a different time – there are numerous blogging platforms and projects that considerately break the boundaries of these seasons.
Elsewhere in both creativity and Roath, Lake Road East’s Harnisch-Lacey Dance Theatre is supported by The Arts Council of Wales and combines genres of stage performance and film, and Cardiff MADE and TEN are innovative spaces that capture the essence of Roath.
Dinner and Drinks – Eat your way around the world
It’s always five o’clock somewhere, but life is even better when it’s five o’clock in Roath. And there are countless ways to get the evening started.
Chic Italian restaurant Porro, also found in Llandaff and at city centre sister branch The Potted Pig, is a welcome addition to the local culinary scene, particularly complimented by later popping two doors down to Cameo, which stylishly fuses the bar/bistro/lounge triad.
Further along Wellfield Road are Pear Tree, a cosy cafe/bar clearly operating with Roath’s young-professionals in mind; La Vita, an atmospheric setting for pizza and wine, and Chai, a calmer venue sure to be a hit with local tea drinkers.
However, the Wellfield area isn’t where Roath’s capacity for dinner and drinks starts and ends. City Road is one of the best streets in the region, let alone just Roath, in terms of its international offerings, from kooky cocktails in the yurt at vegetarian eatery Milgi, to Lebanese feasts and belly-dancing at Mezza Luna; authentic Italian courtesy of I Giardini Di Sorrento and comparative newcomers Meat at 165 and New York Diner, which prove it’s a case of the more the merrier when burgers and shakes are on the scene.
Same again tomorrow, Roath?