Situated in the beautiful Vale of Glamorgan, Cardiff is the capital city of Wales as well as being the largest Welsh city. It is the economic powerhouse of Wales, home to the National Assembly (the government of Wales) and is the cultural centre for the country. Cardiff has benefited from a great deal of development in recent years, going from strength to strength since the ’80s.
Is Cardiff a good place to live? Yes, Cardiff is a great place to make a home. In surveys it has some of the best ratings along a number of metrics, particularly quality of life. House prices are rather high but the overall cost of living is low. Cardiff offers good career opportunities, pleasant surroundings and lots of amenities.
Maybe you’ve been offered a job in Cardiff. Maybe you’re considering a degree at Cardiff University. Maybe you’re moving to the UK and are looking for a suitable location for your new home or business. Whatever your reason for being interested in Cardiff, we have answers for all of your questions.
- How much does it cost to live in Cardiff?
- How high is the Cardiff crime rate?
- What are the schools like?
Keep reading to find out all this and more.
Is Cardiff a good place to live?
Cardiff is one of the best UK cities to live in, according to various surveys and assessments. The city is well-served by transport links, economically successful and a vibrant cultural hub.
Crime rates for the Cardiff area are slightly lower than in the rest of the country; , unfortunately, the same cannot be said for the city centre where crime rates are higher. That said, they have declined significantly in recent years and it would be wrong to suggest that Cardiff was an unsafe place to live. The majority of Cardiff’s residents report feeling safe and confident in their city as they go about their lives. Ordinary, common-sense security measures will be sufficient to keep you safe if you live and work in Cardiff. The areas with the highest levels of crime are reported to be Mill Lane, which has higher levels of violent crime than the rest of the city; and Queen Street, in the main shopping area. This is a little misleading, as the main crimes reported in Queen Street are shoplifting and similar offences — the sort of crimes you might expect to see in a busy city shopping precinct.
The least affluent areas of Cardiff are mostly found in the “Southern Arc” — inner-city neighbourhoods lying south of the A4161. The exception here is Cardiff Bay, which is fairly desirable. Popular neighbourhoods for students seeking accommodation in the city are Cathays, Plasnewydd and Gabalfa; these are somewhat more affluent than the neighbourhoods in the Southern Arc but still offer plenty of affordable dwellings. To the west of the city there are a handful of large housing estates, which offer a mixed bag of properties. Most of the homes in these estates are in economically disadvantaged areas but there are some up-market developments nearby. The neighbourhoods lying on an arc from the northwest to the northeast of the city are considered more desirable and have more expensive properties. The most affluent areas in the city are Cyncoed, Lisvane, Rhiwbina and Radyr — in fact, these areas have some of the most expensive properties in Wales.
Schools in Cardiff are good overall, although there are some struggling primary and secondary schools in less affluent areas of the city. Note that because the Welsh language is actively promoted in Cardiff and Wales as a whole, you will find that some schools are bilingual or Welsh-speaking (known as Welsh medium). This gives children in the city an excellent opportunity to experience language-learning from a young age; even if you don’t plan on remaining in Wales in the longer term, it may still be beneficial to let your children attend a bilingual school simply for the exposure to languages other than English.
There are three state nursery schools in the city and almost a hundred state primary schools. Of these, a few are bilingual and fifteen are Welsh medium. Welsh language learning continues in secondary school; of the 19 secondary schools in the city, three are Welsh medium. For students wishing to leave school after 16 and continue their education, there are some good sixth-form options. In particular, Cardiff Sixth Form College has an excellent record.
There are four major institutions offering higher education in Cardiff. The best known of these are the University of South Wales and Cardiff University. The other main institutions are Cardiff Metropolitan University and the Royal Welsh College of Music & Drama.
Transport in and around Cardiff is good, although some of the less affluent outlying districts are underserved by the local bus network. If you live in the city, most points are within easy walking distance of each other. Cycling is being more actively promoted these days and is an increasingly popular way of getting from A to B.
Cardiff Central railway station, the largest rail station in Wales, is a major hub with connections to every part of the region and beyond. It’s easy to pick up a train from Cardiff to Manchester, London and other major cities. The second-busiest railway station in Wales is Cardiff Queen Street railway station; this offers connections to the South Wales valleys and also Cardiff’s outlying suburbs.
Cardiff is connected to two major motorways, the M4 and A470. (In the future Cardiff will also be connected to the A4232 but this is not yet complete.) Cardiff is on several major regional and national bus routes, with National Express and Megabus providing connections to many major cities.
Cardiff’s nightlife is notably lively, with people travelling from well outside the city in order to enjoy the pubs, clubs and social events that Wales’ capital offers. It’s very easy to have a good time in the city centre, whether you’re looking for a rowdy student bar or a refined and elegant eateries offering world-class cuisine; Cardiff Bay also has a vibrant social scene. The city boasts numerous cultural experiences, from theatres and galleries to the opera.
Is Cardiff a good place to work?
Cardiff is an excellent place to find a career or start a business. Wages are slightly higher than the national average; while pay in the Vale of Glamorgan as a whole tends to be fairly low, the average salary in Cardiff is just under £25,000.
Cardiff has always been a centre for industry and commerce, with countless ships coming and going from its busy Tiger Bay port over the years. While the port has seen its ups and downs, it’s currently thriving; huge volumes of goods pass through every day. In modern times, Cardiff has kept up by pivoting towards new lines of business and embracing the high-technology sector. Cardiff is now the main centre for finance and business in Wales and is economically significant for the UK as a whole.
As well as financial services and business development, Cardiff is home to a very active media sector. The Welsh media is based in Cardiff: S4C, the main Welsh language TV station, broadcasts from Cardiff as do BBC Wales and other major TV stations for the region. There are a number of smaller TV studios in the city. Several very popular dramas are filmed here, including Casualty, Pobol y Cwm and the ever-popular Doctor Who. This means that there are some excellent career opportunities in the media sector for Cardiff residents.
Major employers in the city include the Admiral Group plc, a provider of insurance and other financial services. Cardiff County Council is also a very big employer, followed by Cardiff University. The most highly paid careers are in the tech and software industries, which are very active in the city.
Is Cardiff a good place to buy a house?
If you’re moving to Cardiff, house prices can be a little daunting. The average price of a home in Cardiff is £274,000 — significantly higher than the national average in the UK. Even so, Cardiff is still a cheaper option for the would-be city dweller than similarly-sized cities elsewhere; the high property prices are also offset by savings elsewhere, as the cost of living is lower overall.
The average price of a single-bedroom house in the city is £128,000. For a three bedroom house you can expect to pay in the region of £255,000. A large five-bedroom family house costs around £517,000.
Rents are similarly high when compared to the average across the rest of the UK. The average rent in Cardiff is £1,020 pcm. You can expect to pay over £500 pcm for a single-bedroom house. A three-bedroom house costs around £990 pcm while you can rent a five-bedroom house for £1,530 pcm.
Flats are significantly cheaper than houses with a similar number of bedrooms and provide a more affordable option in desirable neighbourhoods like Cyncoed or Lisvane. The most affordable properties are those in the Southern Arc or in the larger housing estates such as those in Ely. A good compromise is to look for a property in a mixed-income neighbourhood like Cathays or Plasnewydd. If socialising and nightlife are important to you, the city centre or Cardiff Bay are both good options.
Is Cardiff a good place to retire?
According to several newspaper surveys and other analyses, Cardiff is one of the best British cities to retire. While many retirees choose a dwelling in one of the outlying areas, the city itself is an excellent place to start this new chapter of your life.
Whitchurch is one of the most popular neighbourhoods for retirees; homes here are fairly inexpensive but very comfortable, and the neighbourhood itself has good amenities and transport links. Other popular neighbourhoods for retirees include Penylan and Roath — these areas are more affluent and properties are both larger and more expensive. The Whitchurch area offers some lovely retirement properties; you can easily find a one or two-bedroomed flat for around £100,000. If you’re interested in a larger retirement property you might need to look outside the city proper at some of the suburbs and villages, such as Lisvane. Here you’ll find charming three-bedroomed properties for around £475,000. There are not too many five-bedroom retirement properties available but they do appear in the listings periodically. Expect to pay in the region of £600,000 for these larger retirement properties.
Renting a retirement property in Cardiff is also a possibility. Expect to pay around £600 pcm for a basic one-bedroom flat. There are plenty of two-bedroomed retirement properties in the city but it is quite hard to find larger retirement homes. Of course, depending on the level of care you want, you could consider renting a standard dwelling for around £990 pcm for a three-bedroomed house or £1,530 for a five-bedroomed home. These won’t be purpose-built retirement properties but some landlords may allow you to make a few adaptations.
Is Cardiff a good place to visit?
Cardiff is a fun and exciting place to visit, whatever you’re looking for. If you’re in the area, Cardiff is a good choice for a day trip but it’s even better for a short break. There is so much to explore that you can easily occupy a week or more, visiting attractions in the city or possibly venturing out to hike and go sightseeing in the Vale of Glamorgan. Cardiff also makes an excellent base to visit other Welsh towns in the region, thanks to its excellent road and rail services.
Accommodation is varied and interesting, with options for every budget. If you’re a younger person visiting friends or checking out the university, you might want to check out one of the city’s backpacker hostels — the YHA hostel is a popular option for budget travellers. As in any city, you can find various chain hotels — comfortable and inexpensive if not inspiring. There are plenty of luxury options and some charming boutique hotels; one example is Jolyon’s, a former Cardiff bay seaman’s lodge converted into a six-room hotel. Just outside of the city you can find various charming cottages, offering bed-and-breakfast or self-catering accommodation at reasonable prices. There truly is something for everyone.
The city has any number of famous landmarks. The most obvious of these is Cardiff Castle. This amazing structure started out as a Roman fort, which later formed the site of a Norman castle. In the Victorian era, the castle was extensively renovated into a Gothic fantasy, replete with magnificent murals and other decorative elements. There are various tours and exhibitions; you can easily spend all day exploring the castle and its environs. The city is home to perhaps the largest concentration of castles in the world, including Castell Coch, located to the north, and several other less well-preserved but still fascinating structures. There are over 1,000 listed buildings in Cardiff.
A more modern landmark is the celebrated Principality Stadium (formerly the Millenium Stadium). Sport is huge in Cardiff — it’s the perfect place for sport lovers to come and visit — and there are multiple sports stadia throughout the city. The Principality Stadium is the largest, home to the Wales national rugby union team and used for matches by the Welsh football team.
Cardiff is a magnet for science fiction fans, thanks to the fact that both Doctor Who and Torchwood are filmed there. Fans can visit the studios where their favourite shows are filmed; sadly, the world-famous Doctor Who experience is now closed but there are sometimes exhibitions of costumes and models from the series that you can visit.
Cardiff’s green spaces and parklands are both extensive and lovely. If you’re fond of long walks or if you have children who need to burn off a little nervous energy, a day in Bute Park or the nearby Pontcanna Fields and Llandaff Fields may be just what you’re looking for.
Cultural institutions include the Wales Millennium Centre – a large arts venue showcasing permanent and temporary exhibitions and various performances. The Welsh National Opera is also located in Cardiff. There are too many cultural institutions in Cardiff to count, with the city ranked alongside cultural heavyweights like Berlin and Athens.
Cardiff is home to many annual festivals, including the Cardiff Festival, Cardiff Mardi Gras and Cardiff Winter Wonderland. Art buffs won’t want to miss Made in Roath, an arts festival held every October.
About the author: Marta Kovachek is the author of this article. She graduated from the University of Chicago with a master’s degree in Economics. Marta enjoys writing about the current economic situation and loves helping our readers to find their next "destination". From places to live to complex social and economic topics, we always enjoy Marta's work. Please contact us in case of any questions.