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Guest blog: Discovering Cardiff’s hidden arcades

By Sarah Hill

Sarah Hill

I owe Twitter quite a large pile of ‘thank yous’, it would seem. So far this year it’s introduced me to a book club, a multitude of local friends, interesting websites, ways to work smarter not harder and the fascinating world that is the Cardiff Arcades.

It was a stray retweet — an article by Amy Davies (@amydavies) about The New York Deli — that peaked my interest a few months ago. I couldn’t believe I’d been in Cardiff for four months and hadn’t noticed a New York style café. Was I going blind?

Spillers Records, the oldest record shop in the world, know lives in the Morgan Arcade. (Photo by Amy Davies)

I duly followed the link and found that it was located in the High Street Arcade – somewhere I’d never even spotted on my regular trips into town. I walk through the Royal Arcade and the Morgan Arcade (@royalandmorgan) every day on the way to work but it never really occurred to me that there were any others, and the signage around town is practically non existent, which is a real shame.

My curiosity got the better of me so my partner and I ventured out one lazy Sunday lunch time only to find what possibly might be the world’s largest sandwich. Certainly the biggest available in Cardiff.

Heaped with ingredients, generous on the meat, The New York Deli has become a regular favourite. By then I was wondering what other gems Amy could introduce me to. Was the deli find just a fluke?

Photo courtesy of Amy Davies, Cardiff Arcades Project

Hardly. Since finding her blog, I’ve managed to stuff myself full of hoagies at The New York Deli, nipped into Fresh Baguette for a #17 (mozzarella, pesto and olives to the uninitiated), snagged the ingredients for our Japanese Supper Club night from Wally’s, inhaled a cupcake from Sugar Swirlz Cupcakes (but it wasn’t me that wrecked the joint, pinkie swear) and lost a few hours to the honey trap that is A Vintage Affair. I even bought my wedding dress from Seren, after failing to find anything remotely unique or ‘me’ within the high street shops around the corner.

It would appear that there is a whole world of possibilities hiding behind the unassuming facades of Cardiff’s historic arcades, and I really had no idea.

Sweet shops, vintage boutiques, cafes and record stores. Jewellers, stationers, camera shops, cheese emporiums and second hand book stores. There is an eclectic mix covering pretty much every aspect, and of course every store has a personal story behind it – something that I think makes them unique and worth fighting for. If that isn’t enough to tempt you then hopefully the incredible Victorian architecture might at least whet your appetite whilst you wander through.

The Cardiff Arcades Project is definitely a good place to start if you’re looking for something a little less generic that the offerings of St David’s. (Although I’ll be sticking to my beloved Krispy Kreme until the arcades can offer me a tastier equivalent. Those without a free hat need not apply).

The website is regularly updated with new stores and events happening throughout the arcades. On Wednesday, Big Little City in the Cardiff Story Museum will begin exhibiting the Arcades Project. You can view it for free between 22 June and 22 July. I urge you all to take a look, and then head to the arcades to do a bit of exploring on your own. I promise you won’t be disappointed.

Sarah Hill (@miametro) moved to Cardiff in November 2010 after a whirlwind romance and hasn’t looked back since. You can find her tweeting, blogging or putting together the latest issue of Télégramme Magazine depending on the time of day. She likes pandas, a good book and all things yellow.


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