It may be rich in history and culture, but you don’t have to be rich to enjoy it.
Cardiff is home to four university campuses, and this means a whole lot of students. So whether you’re at Cardiff University, Cardiff Met, University of South Wales or Trinity St David’s Cardiff campus you’ll find something worth knowing in our virtual tour of the Cardiff student scene.
Things To Do on a Budget
There’s no denying it – students and ‘cash-strapped’ go hand-in-hand. Even with the growing availability of jobs dotted around Cardiff, and our favourite notification to receive, that of the trusty student loan, we’re still not exactly living the Harrods lifestyle. But fear not – Cardiff gets it.
Exploring the market is a great place to start. While we can’t claim that it’s so cost-efficient you don’t need to spend any money at all, it is undeniable that it’s one of the cheapest yet quirkiest shopping areas in the UK.
Not many cities play host to a massive castle right in their centre – so make the most of Cardiff’s individuality with a wander around. Even if it was expensive, the abundance of heritage and beauty would make it worthwhile – but an added bonus is that it’s cheap as the chips that are found so famously down Cardiff’s Chippy Lane (just slightly classier). We recommend utilising the Key system, whereby Cardiff residents pay just £5 for three years of unlimited free access.
Having fun isn’t hard when you’ve got a library card! Cast your mind back to your childhood days and what kids’ TV soundtrack should jump to mind? Arthur, of course! The lovable aardvark sang about the benefits of reading, so we think he’d appreciate Cardiff’s resources. Central Library in the Hayes has enjoyed millions worth of redevelopment, while almost every suburb has its own branch. Residents here are such big fans they recently staged peaceful ‘Save Cardiff Libraries’ protests.
Getting to grips with the local past certainly isn’t reserved to the History students among us. National Museum overlooking the city centre is not only aesthetically breathtaking, but actually also really handy for learning about bygone days! Here you’ll find everything from palaeontology to Quentin Blake – and what’s more, it’s all free! Inspired to find out more? The outskirts of Cardiff also has the quaint St Fagans Museum, plus The Hayes’ Cardiff Story.
Get back to Nature
If your bank account is looking withering, we’re sure branching out into the scenery will make you feel better – because now we’re in autumn, the trees are doing the same thing! Whether it’s renting a pedalo over Roath Lake; trekking down the Taff Trail; photographing Castel Coch; perching with a coffee in Canton’s Victoria Park, or braving the Barrage separating the Bay from Penarth, you’re sure to find the feel-good factor without breaking the bank.
Student Nights and Cheap Places to Drink
As with any university, it seems fair to say that drinking culture plays a role in the Cardiff experience. So if you’re looking to unwind after a hard and strenuous day cooped in the lecture theatre, you’re in luck.
Start as you mean to go on with Mondays’ legendary Bump ‘n’ Grind. Found at Buffalo, a ‘modern-vintage’ central bar, you know the night’s a good one by the fact that last year it sold out every time but three. And also by your inevitably reduced memory in the morning, but that’s another story.
The word on everyone’s lips come Tuesday is Sync, at Revs. While Revolution can be found all over the UK, from Swansea to Leeds, the branch here is a bit of a Cardiff institution in its own right. With plush décor, individual cocktails and even specialist masterclasses, it’s a stylish affair (or at least starts that way).
The date of WTF Wednesdays at Retro, potentially Cardiff’s most colourful club, is pretty obvious, as is the decade Retro pays homage to, as soon as you’re within earshot. Disclaimer: it’s the 90s.
Thursday is quieter in terms of specific student nights, but the list of cheap places to drink still spans on and on – more alternative ideas are Dempseys; Porters; Face 11 and of course the abundance of pubs nestled on almost every street corner.
By Friday, it’s time to finish the week with a bang, aka Smack at Glam. The club’s tagline is ‘too glam to give a damn’, which may only ring true at the start of the night. By Saturday morning, you’ll be looking anything but glamorous.
Finally, Saturday is never going to be a sedate affair in the city. We can’t neglect Live Lounge – the core of all Cardiff moving and shaking. You will end up there, many, many more times than once.
Prepping yourself up for the week ahead doesn’t have to be boring. Fortifying the point that Cardiff’s nightlife is in no way limited to evenings followed up with lazy mornings, Soda Sundays are the place to be. You’re sure to discover the perfect conclusion to the weekend in Mill Lane’s bustling cocktail bar/club hybrid.
The Best Places to Shop with a Student Discount
Shopping is big business here in the Diff, which is all good if you need a fail-safe method of whittling away your afternoon; a guilt-free reason to refuel at one of our many brunch options; or just something new to wear. It’s not so appreciated by your student loan, however. But we’ll think about that when we’re finally done modelling our new outfits.
Although his primary role is Patron Saint of Wales, it seems in these modern times St David could double as the Patron Saint of Shopping. St David’s Centre has served the city’s shoppers since 1991, comprised of 203 services, including department stores, eateries and other forms of entertainment, such as TreeTops Adventure Golf. While Primark, Boots, Debenhams, John Lewis and Marks & Spencer are the five anchor tenants, other places to make the most of your student discount include H&M, New Look and Paperchase.
St David’s is so considerate of students that they even operate a successful Student Night – basically up to 40% off and an array of freebies from most stores. This year, it welcomed Freshers to our city on 4th October. And it’s not just confined to traditional shopping – food also gets in on the act! Think 30% off alcohol at Barburrito, which extends to 40% from Chimichanga; Zizzi and My Cookie Dough.
And we can’t write about Cardiff’s shopping scene without praising our unique trail of Arcades. We’re not known as ‘City of Arcades’ for nothing – these Victorian treasures, from Royal to Castle, are each intricate and home to individual cafes and boutiques. NUS discounts may be trickier to track down, but sometimes searching a little harder is well worth the effort. You’re bound to stumble across a quirky design that may have previously passed you unnoticed.
Cardiff’s food scene may mean our diets are broken, but at least the same can’t be said about our banks. From Riverside to Llandaff and everywhere in between, here’s our selection of the best of budget dining.
Don’t be fooled by its entertainment-centric exterior – the Red Dragon Centre down at the Bay doubles as an excellent haven for some cheap eats. Whether you need a hefty dose of Wales’ beloved Cadwalladers ice-cream; some Malaysian spices courtesy of Oriental Garden; the UK’s take on the American classic at Five Guys; or family-friendly fun at Grill ‘n’ Shake, you’ll be spoilt for choice. Check out their Student Offers and Competitions as well!
New York Deli successfully transports a little dose of the Big Apple here to the Diff. Well, we say ‘little.’ In reality, its servings are anything but. You may need a little assistance tackling the bagels, hot-dogs and renowned Hoagies (that’s huge submarine-style rolls for the New York novices among us), but despite this the deli only causes a little damage to your purse. Although maybe a little more to your waistline.
Amid the plethora of foodie outlets that line Crwys Road, long-term satisfying hungry students and the like, Falafel Kitchen is a real gem. This may have something to do with the fact that Cardiff is a city of falafel fangirls (and boys). But its friendly style and cheerful cheapness are really its focal points – think takeaway pitta and houmous for just £3, or sabich and the works totalling £4.50.
At the other end of the city spectrum, Cowbridge Road East bears some Crwys similarities thanks to its perimeter being occupied by hearty offerings from different cuisines. Bangkok Cafe is an energetic addition. Alongside takeaway and desserts, its grills, curries and specials are excellent value considering their size and quality.