Gay Travel to Cardiff Wales
Cardiff’s sequins and glitter
By Sebastian Saenz @sebastiaenz
Madrid, San Francisco, Puerto Vallarta, even Tel Aviv… gay tourists have plenty of locations to chose from all over the world to let themselves go. However, personal experiences have taught me that, even though some gay Meccas are true musts, gay tourists shouldn’t overlook some little places that actually may have a lot to offer, such as Cardiff, Wales.
This city is truly underrated. I myself have not even heard its name until my early twenties, when I was looking for universities to get my masters degree. All I’ve ever heard of Wales (like most people) was that certain controversial and beautiful princess from there died in a tragic car accident in the 90s. Apparently, people into sports (ew) may have also heard from the Welsh rugby or soccer teams. However, Shirley Bassey and Tom Jones are from Cardiff, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Anthony Hopkins and Duffy are Welsh, and Rihanna, Katy Perry and Kylie Minogue have included Cardiff in their tours.
Surprisingly, when I got to the tiny nation, my inner tourist was amused by the friendliness of the locals, the unexpected masses of international students, the delicious (and zero-diet-friendly) welsh cakes, the sublime Millennium Centre, the outstanding Millennium Stadium (which I actually visited a few times, I swear), the nice bay, the peaceful Bute Park (great to watch topless guys playing Frisbee when it’s warm), the overwhelming National Museum and Art Gallery (which portrays a wing for local LGBTQ personalities), the artistic Chapter Center, and the historic Castle. Mostly a city of “uni” students, Cardiff may be surrounded by sheep and hills, but it is not pretentious like posh London. Everything is walkable and cheaper!
There is another thing that most people outside the UK also ignore about Cardiff: it is the British Vegas. People from the whole continent visit it during long summer weekends to have fun, drink and dance with no inhibitions. People find any reason to wear costumes. Bars are open since lunch time till three or four in the morning. Of course, Friday and Saturday nights are always busy, but if you’re thirsty on a Monday or Tuesday afternoon, you’ll even find a small crowd in most bars. This obviously comes with some perks, such as barefoot ladies with bright talons, drag queen makup and flashy leggins avoiding piss puddles outside The Live Lounge (the college bar par excellence) on their way to Maccy D, or cheeto-tanned muscular lads from the Valleys having chicken curry and chips and taking selfies with cops before heading to The Prince of Wales (two pitchers for 12 quid). And the atmosphere gets even wilder during rugby game days (broadcasted at any bar, gay or straight), because even though the game may be from two to five, true Welsh people drink from dawn til the last straight man wearing a bachelorette party veil stands semi-conscious.
Shall we start with options for our community? Due to the young population, Cardiff has a broad mind, and pretty much the whole city is friendly. You can spot a few same sex couples holding hands on St. Mary St. or Queen St. If you stay long enough, pretty soon you’ll start running into the same people all the time (the population is around the 325 thousand), but for such a tiny city, there are numerous gay (and very straight friendly) options concentrated at the City Center (barhopping is almost mandatory). Icon is great to start drinking (ask for a deadly Glitter Bomb), drag shows, contests and show tunes of Wow are broadly famous, Minsky’s is huge for hen nights, Locker Room is the gay sauna, bears concentrate at Eagle (duh), daddies at The Golden Cross, and most students from LGBTQ uni societies enjoy dancing at the Pulse basement. If possible, try to visit during the Mardi Grass. Oh, and before I forget, Cardiff may not be a fashion capital of the world (Londoners actually consider it a tad tacky) but if you’re in a shopping mood, St. David’s mall and Primark will satisfy your labels thirst.
Getting used to the strong accent is completely worth the experience, Love. Be ready for one pint after the other, but culture and warm smiles as well. Don’t forget to get an issue of Attitude Magazine to have material to break the ice. Oggy Oggy Oggy Oi Oi Oi!