CARDIFF: The Welsh capital isn’t just about legions of tribal rugby fans going head-to-head, en masse, pints in hand. Well, it is about that, but it’s about lots of other things too. A huge student population and a vibrant artistic and musical community, both underground and overground, contributes to Cardiff as an exciting, welcoming city well worth wiling away a day in. Here’s a list of some of the most vital pin-drops to build your visit around.

Milgi, City Road

At the heart of the sleepless, multicultural bluster of City Road, Milgi is a well-loved gem. Mismatched lamps, enticing soft furnishings and an atmosphere of relaxed inclusiveness draw you into this vegetarian eatery, as do the eclectic selection of world sounds seeping from the speakers, from African high life to chirruping rocksteady. The walls are lined with a fluctuating cast of art and illustration, while an alley round the back frequently plays host to lively markets and outdoor parties. The restless, seasonal menu spans ambitious, health-conscious fusion main dishes and hearty, familiar brunch options, but the real kicker for Milgi can be found in the drinks menu. It’s rare to see such commitment to unique, affordable cocktails, so if you’re after something a bit different from your boozing, you could do far worse than check out Milgi’s Lychee & Basil Mojito or a Pear & Cardamom Daiquiri. Yep, they’re as delicious as they sound.

The Castle Emporium

Formerly knows as Cardiff Fashion Quarter, find this relatively new addition to the Cardiff landscape nestled in a converted cinema on Womanby Street, overseen by an enthusiastic collective of creatives and packed with unique stalls and vendors. Within its walls you’ll discover an enthusiastic micro-community, hawking a great selection of bespoke and vintage wares, arts and crafts, second-hand records, oddities, bits and bobs and odds and sods. The discerning rummager will doubtless emerge clutching a wealth of one-of-a-kind garms, but anyone could easily part with a couple of hours and a couple of quid in the depths of this wonderfully weird indoor market.

Chapter Arts Centre, Canton

A little way out of the town centre in the Canton district, Chapter is one of Cardiff’s most important cultural hubs. Existing for over 40 years and welcoming upwards of 800,000 visitors through its doors each year, it’s a multiplatform, multimedia venue incorporating several art spaces. The outstanding Gallery exhibits a host of internationally-renowned contemporary artists, while the striking Art In The Bar series has murals by everyone from the legendary Louise Bourgeois to the Radiohead-affiliated Stanley Donwood glare down from the high walls at innocent drinkers, forcing art into the public realm. This concept is pushed further still by the large Lightbox at the building’s front, which distributes Chapter’s ethos to the outside world. There’s also an intimate cinema embracing the arthouse and the populist, a theatre and performance space which welcomes everything from contemporary dance to leftfield stand-up to noise rock, a great food and beer selection, and in the summer months, as the sun begins to shows its reluctant face, it all spills out into the car park for boot sales and live music and general merriment.

Spillers Records, Morgan Arcade

The oldest record shop in the world is a downright Cardiff institution, with people coming from all around to flick through the racks at the legendary Spillers. Founded in 1894 by the good sir Henry Spiller to sell phonographs, wax phonograph cylinders, shellac phonograph discs and Phil Collins LPs (probably), it has moved location a few times since, but has never erred too far from its city centre home. When the shop’s status came under threat in 2006, the outpouring of support from everyone from Welsh Assembly members to the Manic Street Preachers was indicative of its wider significance, leaving no doubt that Spillers is the spiritual home of every Welsh crate digger, and a Spillers t-shirt their official uniform. With a reputation for incredibly helpful and knowledgable staff, a vast selection of CD and vinyl, old and new, and brilliantly raucous instores, if Spillers isn’t still around in another 120 years we’ll eat our hats. (Disclaimer – we may not actually eat our hats).

Clwb Ifor Bach, Womanby St.

A trip to Cardiff wouldn’t be complete without a visit to this legendary venue. Welsh speakers call it Clwb, non-Welsh-speakers call it the Welsh Club, but whatever your preference, it’s been a staple of the Cardiff live scene since the 80s. For a range of international touring bands it’s a vital landmark on their jaunt around the UK, and for any local act it’s the surefire sign that you’ve made the big-time. While typically all staff are Welsh-speaking – so if you’re not down with the lingo you might find yourself a bit confused to hear a Rum and Coke being ordered in some confusing, far-fetched tongue (the Welsh translation is ‘Rum a Coke’) – they won’t make you feel out-of-sorts, all are welcome here. Spread across three floors, over the course of any given weekend Clwb can host an almost infinite range of musical styles, with highlights from recent years including an unforgettable DJ set from fabric royalty Craig Richards, and a pummelling live set from Brooklyn art-punk legends Liars, while famous shows from Pavement, The Strokes, Foals, DJ Shadow and Autechre are littered throughout its illustrious history. It also serves as the focal point for Cardiff’s answer to South By Southwest, the sprawling, city-wide festival Swn.

Undertone, Church St.

As the day winds towards its end and night draws in, some more adventurous souls might feel a hankering to burrow underground and discover the city’s nightlife at its most cutting edge. Thanks to the tirelessly committed community of beatheads and electronic music enthusiasts who make up local promoters like City Bass, Groove Theory and Mood, this boxy, intimate rhythm bunker constantly comes up with the goods in terms of DJ talent from across the globe. You won’t find big names up in lights here. Tucked beneath its sister-bar, the decidedly more lavish 10 Feet Tall (also related to the excellent Buffalo Bar just across town), Undertone offers stripped-back basement clubbing at its finest: grainy techno and lascivious house, excellent sound quality, a bar and a dancefloor. Take care, we’ll see you in the morning.

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