The City of Cardiff is both the capital of Wales and the county town of the historic county of Glamorgan. The city is recognised for its quality of life and its residents live in pleasant suburbs close to the city centre, with many districts still offering the pleasure of a village atmosphere. Cardiff's parks and gardens extend to within yards of the city centre and shopping area, indeed Bute Park grew out of the grounds of Cardiff Castle and the world renowned Roath Park and Lake are frequented by tourists, residents and, although in the heart of the City, a wide variety of wildlife.
For centuries, Cardiff remained just another Welsh harbour town. Between the end of the 18th and early 19th century Wales became the world's first industrial nation and the iron masters and colliery owners of the South Wales valleys needed an outlet to the sea for their booming businesses. They chose Cardiff at the head of the River Taff.
At the same time the Bute family built the Glamorganshire canal to join Cardiff with Merthyr Tydfil. The Taff Vale Railway to Merthyr and the Rhondda was built in the 1840's. The Butes owned vast areas of the coal rich Welsh valleys and in 1839 the second Marquis who built much of present day Cardiff created the first Cardiff Dock.
Others followed in quick succession, and all the coal and iron from the Welsh valleys was exported from these docks. The town was reborn as an important trading centre, and by the start of the 20th century Cardiff had become one of the world's leading ports.
Today Cardiff is a modern city with over 320,000 inhabitants established on the wealth of the vast coal empire, and the city is fast becoming one of Europe's finest maritime cities with the added bonus of sitting among some of the most beautiful countryside in Britain. The city is acclaimed for its Civic Centre with many buildings made of white portland stone, including the National Museum and Gallery, Cathay's Park, and City Hall. Still in the heart of the city located off High Street are the fascinating Edwardian Arcades, lined with specialist shops retaining their original facades.
The Victorian covered markets and the modern shopping precincts combine to give Cardiff one of the finest shopping centres in Great Britain. Yet High Street and St Mary Street owe their layout to their alignment with the Gateway to the ancient Cardiff Castle.
Castles and Forts
Cardiff Castle is the jewel in the crown featuring both Roman and Norman fortification. The castle is an impressive site from outside the massive stone walls but one needs to enter the castle to fully appreciate its splendour. Take the castle tour to view the private quarters of the Bute family and to view close up the fantastic extraordinarily ornate decorations throughout this idealised medieval castle.
The castle grounds are home to the impressive Castle Keep, and both the Welsh Regiment Museum and the Queen's Dragoon Guards Museum.
Just a stones throw from Cardiff Castle, and in the heart of the city is the Millennium Stadium. Already an iconic building praised for its atmosphere by both football and rugby supporters alike.
Cardiff Bay has in recent years undergone substantial redevelopment and the key to the revitalised waterside is the barrage across the estuary of the Taff and Ely rivers. The Cardiff Bay Barrage has created a non-tidal freshwater lake with an 8-mile waterfront that provides a setting for new developments, including the new Welsh Assembly Government building, the Vistorian Pierhead building, and the fantastic Millennium Centre. The Millennium Centre is home to the Welsh National Opera, and a showpiece Welsh performing arts venue.
The Bay has been transformed into a stunning waterfront with a wealth of attractions, and leisure facilities including the science museum "Techniquest", the Norwegian Church, now a cafe and art gallery, Harry Ramsdens restaurant, and the Welsh Industrial and Maritime Museum.
A number of boat tours operate from Mermaid Quay, which allow you to gain an understanding of the history and fauna of this exciting area. Cardiff Waterbus has introduced a new taxi service, which operates throughout the year from the Bay to both the city centre and the suburb of Penarth.
Other attractions in Cardiff and vicinity include: the National Museum and Gallery, housing the second largest Impressionist collection after Paris; the fairytale Castell Coch (Red Castle), set in the wooded hillside north of the City; the Rhondda Heritage Park, a former coal mine recreating a gruelling underground life; and The Museum of Welsh Life at St Fagans, a living village representing Wales through the ages.
For culture vultures Cardiff is a hive of activity with music and drama top of the bill. Besides the aforementioned Millennium Centre, Cardiff is also a city of festivals including a month long summer street festival, "Music in the Bay.”
The well-established and respected "Cardiff Singer of the World" competition is
held in St David's Hall.
In brief, Cardiff offers tourists a great time with plenty of things to do and places to see plus the opportunity not always available on city visits, the chance to sample Wales' beautiful scenery. The mountains, valleys and spectacular coastline... all within easy travelling distance of the City of Cardiff.