One day in Cardiff, the capital city of Wales

Cardiff capital city of Wales

Even if Cardiff is better known for its love of rugby, during Euro2016 football championship the town was just as vibrant and euphoric.

Watching the mass outpouring of joy on Cardiff streets when the national team had defeated England made me decide that my first day trip from Bristol must have been to the capital city of Wales.

Sport is a huge part of Welsh national pride, and although when I finally managed to visit Cardiff the Wales team had been already eliminated, the town was still pervaded by its notorious sport-hysteria and football fans were getting ready for the final Euro2016 match, which was taking place on that day.

We arrived in Cardiff in the early morning after a short train journey through herds of grazing animals and the bright colours of Wales’ countryside glistening in the misty rain.

Our exploration began from the city centre, an area where modern buildings outreach Victorian houses, giving the sense of a place that had been just put there rather than a place that had grown organically.

Cardiff capital city of Wales

However, my agenda wasn’t centred on Cardiff’s Victorian architecture, but it was revolving around its more recent street art scene. Bristol might be the capital town of street art in the UK, but also Cardiff has livened up its dull walls, or –better- its “Empty Walls”, as the name of the street art festival that brought a colourful revolution to the Welsh capital.

As soon as we exited the train station, I spotted the first street art of our hunt: a paste-up work by the photographer Dan Green depicting the Welsh musician Guto Dafis, a master in traditional Welsh music (how patriotic are those Welsh people, btw?).

Dan Green street art cardiff wales

At the other side of that same block, therefore on Wood Street, there is a stunning mural by Phlegm, which unfortunately I found half covered with scaffoldings. Heavily influenced by Phlegm’s experience in comic illustrations, this artwork is inspired by the “Mari Lwyd”, an ancient Welsh tradition that sees people going around with a horse skull during Christmas times. Here, Phlegm’s iconic characters are carrying the highly detailed, animal-shaped structure along a tortuous path.

phlegm street art in cardiff wales

Still on Wood Street, there are two pieces by the German graphic designer Kera, whose style is characterized by bold-and-bright geometric shapes and patterns.

Kera street art cardiff wales

I found this second work quite unusual because it is painted on a riddled surface made up of several warped metal panels, rather than on a proper wall.

Kera street art cardiff wales

Next to Kera’s latest work, which also happens to be the largest piece of street art in Cardiff, there is a piece by local artists from the Peaceful Progress organization. It depicts a large red dragon ferociously breathing fire across the wall and greeting fans and supporters heading towards the famous Millennium Stadium, which btw is the landmark of modern Cardiff. The dragon is the symbol of Wales and the sentence written next to it, “Croeso i’r Ffwrnais” (how odd is the Welsh language, btw?), means “Welcome to the Furnace.”

Peaceful Progress street art cardiff

We walked past the humongous stadium, crossed the Taff River and reached the Fitzhamon Embankment, where we found the Riverside Farmers’ market. For some mysterious reasons, there are not such markets in Bristol, and I really miss them! So, once here, I couldn’t help buying some bread and some cheeses to carry all day around and eventually bring back home, as well as some traditional Welsh little cakes flavoured with spices and dried fruits, which were so delicious that didn’t last ‘till Bristol.

Riverside farmers market cardiff

Riverside farmers market cardiff

Riverside farmers market cardiff

Then we retraced our steps and headed to the area behind St. Mary Street, where I spotted a large-scale mural by the Argentinian artist Hyuro. As is common in her works, dull colours create the melancholy tone of a piece that, at the same time, ironically points out to the Ebola hysteria that was spreading at the time when she painted the mural.

hyuro street art cardiff

A few blocks away, there is the controversial work by the Italian street artist Zed1, which has made the headlines in the UK as residents complained about the image of a horse in a state of excitement and about to mount its fallen rider. Eventually, the mural got a PG friendly makeover, which eliminated the erection as well as any counterpoint between the story represented and Zed1’s iconic artistic imagination, which is made up of cartoonish characters and pastel colours.

ZED1 street art cardiff

From here, we headed towards the touristy part of the city for a stroll through the Bute Park, the green area surrounding Cardiff’s Victorian-Gothic castle. We didn’t visit the castle, but we did indulge in some people watching while resting on the benches dotting Bute Park’s beautiful avenues of trees.

bute park cardiff wales

When the rain began falling harder, we took shelter under the glassy roofs of the unique Victorian arcades of Cardiff Castle Quarter, which are several shopping galleries housing independent shops, tiny cafés, bookshops and boutiques.

cardiff arcades shopping cardiff arcades shopping

In the same area, more precisely on Womanby Street, there is a huge mural by local artists Zadok, Karm and Rmer1 portraying the singer and songwriter Gwenno Sounders. This piece was commissioned by the “Get it Right” campaign, which aims to prevent piracy in music, hence the music-related subject.

Zadok Karm Rmer street art cardiff

For lunch, we had a table booked at Jamie’s Italian.

Jamie Oliver Italian restaurant Cardiff

After that tasty experience at Jamie Oliver’s Fifteen in London, I was looking forward to trying one more restaurant run by the telly chef. As skeptical as I was (“never ever trust Italian restaurants abroad” has always been my foodie mantra), Jamie Oliver’s impersonation of authentic Italian food is a noble effort. (One might object that, after one month living in the UK, I desperately needed an Italian food fix, but no: Jamie’s Italian is objectively good, with no regards to my withdrawal symptoms).

jamie oliver italian restaurant cardiff

For starters, we had fried fish, pea and mint arancini with herby cheese fonduta, and crispy fried ravioli stuffed with mozzarella and ricotta, which came with a spicy tomato sauce.

jamie oliver italian restaurant cardiff jamie oliver italian restaurant cardiff jamie oliver italian restaurant cardiff

Then I ate some delicious half-moon ravioli stuffed with buffalo ricotta and spinach, with tomato sauce, mozzarella and sweet baby basil and, it goes without saying, I couldn’t resist sneaking a bite from that tagliatelle with vegetarian sauce at the other side of the table.

jamie oliver italian restaurant cardiff jamie oliver italian restaurant cardiff

To digest this gargantuan lunch, we had a postprandial walk along the Cardiff Bay. Once the world’s greatest coal-exporting port, in the past few decades the Cardiff Bay has moved away from its industrial past and has turned into Europe’s largest waterfront.

cardiff capital city of wales

But, on that Sunday, the harbour was hosting Cardiff international food and drink festival and its hundreds of visitors so, despite its vastness, the area felt pretty claustrophobic, which made us run away from it after just a quick stroll.

cardiff capital city of wales

So we carried on exploring a couple of more authentic ‘hoods: Roath, which lies just northeast of the city centre, and Canton, located on the western outskirts of the city.

Wandering around the multicultural area of Roath, I finally began appreciating Cardiff.

roath cardiff

We walked past terraced houses and kebab shops, turbans and veiled women. I was enchanted by scents of cumin, curry and countless other spices I couldn’t even name.

roath cardiff

The contrast with the cold, glassy city centre couldn’t be more evident.

roath cardiff roath cardiff

This area has its fair share of street art too! Again, the first street art that we spotted was by Dan Green: a long mural made up of several portraits that were taken by the photographer during a trip through Uganda. The diamond design on the background shares the same colours of the Uganda flag: black, red and yellow.

dan green uganda street art cardiff
Dan Green, Lowther Road, Cardiff

And again, Phlegm’s mural was partially covered with scaffolding: what a bummer! Luckily, the magnificently defined head of the dragon is visible. This piece is different from Phlegm’s usual works because it doesn’t feature his iconic, comics-like characters but a dragon, which is the symbol of Wales.

phlegm street art in cardiff
Phlegm, City Road, Cardiff

My favourite street art pieces in Roath are those aligned on Northcote Lane. Here I found “Making War,” a collaborative work by Colourdoomed and HB, whose two different characters are playing a game of chess. HB painted the man with a green shirt and a panama hat, while Colourdoomed painted the blue man sitting opposite to him. On the chessboard there are several playing pieces, each one characterized by some funny details.

colourdoomed HB street art cardiff

Next to it, there is a work by the Italian street artist RUN, who carries on his studies on man figures by dissecting and deeply analysing the human body. In this mural, human parts are connected to pieces of machinery by wires and cables, which at that time was the latest thing in RUN’s artistic imagery.

RUN street art cardiff

One block further, there is another collaborative work by Colourdoomed and HB, where the styles of both artists totally complement each other. This colourful, large-scale mural depicts two huskies pulling a wooden caravan housing a skeleton in a basket, complete with a floating man being carried along by some balloons.

colourdoomed HB street art cardiff

In a different area of the neighbourhood, I found another mural by Colourdoomed featuring a tramp lying down in a waste container and reading a book

colourdoomed street art cardiff

while on Tavistock Street I spotted two more works by Rmer1: a black and white portrait of a woman and a colourful skull.

RMER1 street art cardiff RMER1 street art cardiff

From Roath, we went to another genuine neighbourhood called Canton, which is one of the most ethnically diverse of Cardiff’s suburbs.

canton hipster cardiff

Though the area has strong working class roots, nowadays Canton is undergoing a gentrification process.

canton hipster cardiff canton hipster cardiff

Our first stop was the Chapter Arts Center, home to alternative theatre, art exhibitions, international films and workshops, as well as to a great café and bar.

chapter arts centre cardiff chapter arts centre cardiff

The current exhibition is the sculpture show “Sticky Intimacy: Katie Cuddon, Emma Hart & Nicholas Pope”, featuring three artists from totally different backgrounds but equally un-monumental, whose exuberant sculpture are made of glass, wood and clay: a collection of pieces looking, at the same time, familiar and strange.

chapter arts centre cardiff

After visiting the exhibition, we wandered around Canton looking for a place to go for dinner until we finally entered The Ivor Davies pub just in time to order our steaks with chips while Cristiano Ronaldo and his heroic Portugal-team mates were taking the field.

And, well… the rest is history.

the ivor davies cardiff

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cardiff capital city of wales  street art in cardiff

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  • djleekee

    Great tour of the street art in Cardiff. Check out some more pics over at http://diffgraff.wordpress.com

    PS we ok to reblog this over there?

    Thanks,

    • Hi! Of course, and thanks for sharing it! :)

      • djleekee

        Thank you!

        I can see that you are using WordPress but I cant see any ‘reblog’ buttons or anything remotely WordPressy to achieve a quick reblog.

        Any ideas?

        Thanks.

        Lee.

        • Nope… I’m not so techy! ;)
          ps. are you coming to Upfest?

          • djleekee

            YES – Ill defo come to Upfest this year! Still never made one so far! What dates is it this year?

            Lee.

          • It’s happening right now! Let me know if you are coming, just send me an email through the blog… I’m there almost all day long! See you :)