Cardiff might not be a well-trodden destination for the fashion conscious or savvy shopper but, since its city centre revamp, it has much to offer
London, Paris, New York, Cardiff...whoah when did that last one get in? Seriously though, the Welsh capital, since completion of its multi-million pound city centre revamp, can now hold its head up high and claim to be one of the UK's premier shopping destinations.
Whether it's big name brands in well-known chainstores or quirky goods from independent outlets, Cardiff city centre is the place to visit to offload some British pounds and pence.
Did you know the city is home to the oldest record store in the world and boasts the largest department store in Wales? If not, it's time to explore a compact, walker-friendly, world of retail where the modern design of the eighties, nineties, and noughties sit happily alongside the quaint arcades harking back to the Edwardian and Victorian era.
The city centre is home to six Edwardian/Victorian Arcades (Wyndham, Royal, Morgan, High Street, Castle and Duke Street) which house a plethora of independent shops, with the odd spattering of national chains. Here it is possible to browse or buy a multitude of items and services ranging from cameras to crafts, books to beauty treatments, and fancy dress to fine cheeses and more.
The Castle Arcade features Madame Fromage (21-25 Castle Arcade, Cardiff; www.madamefromage.co.uk; 029 2064 4888) - a mecca for Wallace of Wallace and Gromit fame, mice, and discerning lovers of fine cheese. The shop, which features a cafe at each of its two arcade positions (opposite each other), has more than 150 cheese varieties available daily.
Also here is arguably the city's best rare and second-hand bookshop Troutmark Books (41-43, Castle Arcade, Cardiff; 029 2038 2814) where the infamous J R Hartley would probably have found several copies of his long-lost tome Fly Fishing. You'll find anything and everything be it sci-fi or fantasy, military history, horror, novels and even children's fare.
High Street Arcade, scene of Torchwood and Doctor Who adventures, is where the groovy flock to seek out Hobo's Vintage Clothing (26 High Street Arcade; www.hobosvintageclothing.co.uk; 029 2034 1188). Find your inner Austin Powers and dig a selection of 60s, 70s and 80s attire for both him and her for any occasion thinkable. It's groovy baby!
And one not to forget for lady fashionistas is Pussy Galore (18 High Street Arcade, Cardiff; 029 2031 2400) which features a range of unique clothing ranging from hotpants to hoodies, and corsets to ballgowns much of which has a definite independent label slant.
Morgan Arcade is an airy, tranquil oasis, hosting the hideaway from the city hustle and bustle that is The Plan (28 Morgan Arcade, Cardiff; 029 2039 8764). This vegetarian and vegan friendly eaterie also serves up organic and fairtrade food with a wide range of teas and coffees on tap.
The Royal Arcade is home to the institution that is Wally's Delicatessen (38-46 Royal Arcade
Cardiff, www.wallysdeli.co.uk; 029 2022 9265). Based in this arcade since the 1980s, this popular city centre shop has expanded by taking up another unit in the St David's 2 shopping centre opposite proving beyond any doubt that it is a virtual United Nations of the foodie world. German, Polish, Czech and Hungarian delicacies can be found alongside foodstuffs from Italy and Greece. The edible treats don't just confine themselves to Europe either with produce from as far afield as China, Japan, Mexico and the Caribbean also getting a foot on the shelf.
At the opposite end is the Cardiff Antiques Centre (10-12 Royal Arcade, Cardiff; 029 2038 7585) - a three-level shop in which you find yourself thrown back into decades past confronted by a myriad of prints, paintings, furniture, clothing and a unique selection of assorted bits and bobs.
The Hayes, onto which half of the arcades lead, features Spillers (36 The Hayes, Cardiff; www.spillersrecords.co.uk; 029 2022 4905) - the oldest record shop in the world - near to the entrance of the Royal Arcade. This musical delight deals in CDs and vinyl records covering a variety of musical genres. Established in 1894 by Henry Spiller, it was once based in the old Queen's Arcade before moving to its current location in the 1940s.
Best known as Chip Alley this street is a Cardiff institution - a popular hangout and destination for rugby fans worldwide, clubbers in search of that hangover preventing kebab, and Voice of An Angel Charlotte Church in her teenage rebellion days.
Cardiff Market - entrances on St Mary's Street and The Hayes
This Victorian building houses a wide-range of basic provisions. Butchers, fishmongers, greengrocers, and bakers occupy stalls intermingled with haberdashers, greeting card outlets, home electricals and not forgetting the ever-filling greasy spoon café. Here you can cater for the needs of your much-loved pets and even get a glimpse into the future, without the aid of Doctor Who's Tardis, by having your fortune told.
St David's Dewi Sant
Doors opened in October 2009 to a throng of athletic shoppers charging through its doors, when the £675m development - and extension to the existing St David's - was finally completed. It is now home to a host of designer boutiques, national chains, first class eateries and big name electrical stores. And doors open on weekdays to a shop-a-holic friendly 8pm with times subject to change during holidays and in the commercial run-up to Christmas Day.
The centre, such is its size, is divided into sections with helpful touch-screen kiosks on hand to point you the right way.
St David's Way - the oldest part of the Mall - features big guns such as Boots, Debenhams and Marks & Spencer with the likes of the Body Shop, Gamestation, Watches of Switzerland acting as supporting cast.
St David's Walk leads you into the newest section passing outlets such as Bon Marche and Peacocks while The Hayes features upmarket names such as Links of London, TM Lewin, Hugo Boss, Radley and Crabtree and Evelyn with John Lewis - Wales' largest department store - the anchor. Jamie's Italian (yes the Oliver chef) nearby attracts hoards of hungry shoppers anxious to chomp on the spaghetti bit.
Hayes Arcade boasts the likes of L'Occitane and Folli Follie while Grand Arcade is where you can check out Disney, Karen Millen, Menkind, Henleys and Faith. On the upper level, Jane Norman, Lakeland, Paperchase, Apple and the Discovery Store will willingly lighten your purse or wallet.
For much needed sustenance, peruse the lower and upper Eastsides for coffee, pizza, sushi, ice-cream or even a visit to Pret A Manger - the first of its kind in Wales.
St David's doesn't just do shopping; offering gift wrapping, a shop and drop service, family friendly facilities, WiFi hotspots and more.
Queen's Arcade and Queen Street
Leading from St David's, The Hayes and Queen Street, this mall is small in comparison, but still manages to play host to the likes of Argos and Hawkins Bazaar while the pedestrianised Queen Street revels in the likes of Zara and Topshop and a host of fashion stores intermingled with mobile phone shops, banks, and the lone, but popular, Poundland store. Towards the street's lower end, furthest from Cardiff Castle, lies the Capitol Centre arguably affected by the presence of its newer rival but still housing the likes of H&M and Hennes.
And the sum of it all is that Cardiff has now leapt into the UK's shopping top five all in the opening of several stores.