The City of Cardiff. What to see in the capital of Wales
The city of Cardiff became the capital of Wales only recently, in 1955.
It only came into prominence in the 19th century. Hard coal mined in Wales began to be transported through the port of Cardiff and this gave the small Welsh city a boost.
Often young countries and young capitals behave in a juvenile way, trying to stand out and make a name for themselves. The city of Cardiff is no exception. The sights of Cardiff are not too historical, but it’s impressive what has been built in the last two centuries. And then there’s the openness, the freshness, the carefree attitude that really adds to its appeal.
My last story was about Cardiff Castle, Cardiff’s main attraction, and let’s see what else you can see in the capital of Wales.
Cardiff on a map
City Hall and the National Museum of Wales
The administrative center of Cardiff looks quite capitalist.
The town hall was built in 1905. You can see the clock tower from many points around the city
What do you think of these claws?
In Cardiff (as in all of Wales), English lettering is duplicated by Welsh lettering. Welsh (a member of the Celtic language group) can be spoken by about 20% of the population in Wales.
The inscriptions in Welsh are puzzling. It seems to be all in Latin, but how to read it is unclear. Often there are very long words – in Celtic languages words are formed by adding various particles to the stem (not without reason the village with the longest name is in Wales). Dual letters are used: dd, ff, ll. The ll is especially common (I was immediately reminded of Lloyd’s Insurance Company).
In the photo above, the very last word is “Caerdidd. That’s how you spell “Cardiff” in Welsh. The “dd” is pronounced like an “f.” And the word “caer” is a fortress. The city’s name (according to one version) means “fortress on the river Tuff.”
The town hall is adjacent to the National Museum of Wales . The museum is famous for its collection of impressionists. Unfortunately we arrived after 5pm and the museum was already closed.
Behind the town hall are Cardiff University and the small but pleasant Alexandra Gardens.
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There is also a large park in Cardiff, the city’s Bute park. It adjoins Cardiff Castle and runs along the River Taff. Previously it, like the castle, belonged to the Marquesses of Bute, but in 1947 the last Marquis of Bute gave both the castle and the park to the city.
It is a large green area, but in general – nothing special, quite a traditional English park with lawns.
On the spacious lawn there is a small rock garden.
From the castle there is an exit to the park, which was used by the former owners of the castle.
Along the river Taff stretches a pretty alley with flower beds on both sides.
Bridge over the Tuff
The park’s stone fence is decorated with figurines of different animals
You can see the clock tower of Cardiff Castle through the trees.
And beyond that, on the river, you can see something spectacular. It’s the Millennium Stadium, built in Cardiff on the eve of the new millennium. It seats 74,000 fans. In case of bad weather its roof can be retracted. It is the world’s largest indoor stadium with a natural surface.
In contrast, the houses across the river from the Millennium look quite traditional
St. Mary Street
From the South Gate of Cardiff Castle begins Cardiff’s main city street. At first it is called High Street, then St. Mary’s Street. It is a lively, ornate street with many pretty houses.
Don’t look for a strict unity of style here, like in Bath – it’s all mixed-use. But look at the different facades.
A house with portholes on the roof.
My personal favorite.
The arcade leads to the central market.
And deep down the next street you can see the tower of the Anglican Church of St. John the Baptist.
Perpendicular to Saint Mary’s Street there is Queen Street, a pedestrian walkway with a number of green, low-rise buildings.
There are some interesting houses on it as well.
Cardiff Bay, Mermaid Wharf
After a little meandering around the city the River Taff flows into Cardiff Bay, and there in what is known as Mermaid’s Cove is Cardiff’s second center.
This is a huge entertainment and walking area which stretches for 12 km along the bay, with lots of bars, amusement park, Ferris wheel, a lot of ultra-modern buildings. If the castle is surrounded by buildings mostly from the 19th and 20th centuries, the avant-garde architecture of the 21st is widely represented here.
The first thing one sees when arriving on the coast is the Welsh Millennium Center, an original structure resembling a huge boulder of dark stone. It is Cardiff’s main theater and exhibition hall.
The windows on its facade, made in the shape of letters, fold into words. On the left side of the facade is an inscription in Welsh: lines from a poem by the Welsh poet Gwyneth Lewis, “Create truth like glass from the furnace of inspiration.” On the right is written in English, “These Stones Horizons Sing.”
The letters are illuminated in the evening.
The wings of the facade are lined with colorful strips of local stone. Look at the interesting shades.
Next to the Millennium Center stands the red-brick Pierhead Building, the former office of the Bute Dock Company and now the Museum of Welsh History.
Pierhead Tower is what the Welsh call “little Big Ben.
We turn the corner of Pierhead, walk along the promenade, and find ourselves in front of an unusual building with an elongated wooden canopy.
This glass cube under the canopy houses the National Assembly of Wales, or Senedd in Welsh. And the building was built by Richard Rogers, one of the creators of the “high-tech” style, winner of the Pulitzer Prize, author and co-author of such projects as the Pompidou Center in Paris, the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, Lloyd’s Insurance Company and Reuters in London.
The building was built in compliance with the strictest environmental standards and contains numerous witty solutions to save as much as possible on the maintenance of such a large building.
The transparent walls of the building symbolize the openness of the legislative processes. Anyone can come to the parliamentary sessions.
After a high-tech building, this modest structure, moreover under the Norwegian flag, looks a bit strange.
It turns out to be a Norwegian Lutheran church, and it was built in Mermaid Bay in the 19th century by Norwegian sailors, of whom there were many in Cardiff at the time.
In addition to the unusual and colorful buildings, there are many interesting sculptures on the waterfront
Expressive Monument to Fallen Sailors
Monument to the conquerors of Antarctica, the Terra Nova expedition led by Robert Scott. On June 15, 1910, their ship left Cardiff Bay and sailed for the shores of Antarctica, where Robert Scott and three of his comrades conquered the South Pole and died on the way back.
In 1987 the Hindu preacher Sri Chinmoy first organized the World Harmony Peace Run, in which runners from different countries participated by passing each other the torch of harmony. Every year this event becomes more and more popular.
Statues of Universal Peace Harmony dedicated to the event have been erected in several cities around the world, including Cardiff.
And this is just a domestic scene
Walking along the shore.
A restaurant in the shape of a ship
The next photo in the background shows a building with a soaring roof.This is the five-star St. David’s Hotel.
(St. David is the patron saint of Wales. March 1, St. David’s Memorial Day, is a national holiday in Wales.)
And here’s that gray structure on the other side of the bay, the Visitor Centre, or “Tube.”
As you can see, Cardiff Bay’s coastline is a peculiar exhibition of modern architecture (with a smattering of past centuries’ buildings, also unusual and interesting). It’s lovely to walk around and at every turn you’ll come across something you’ll enjoy, or get a different perspective on the bay and the buildings lining the coastline – very quirky indeed.
To wrap up the story of Cardiff’s sights, there aren’t any exceptional objects in the city. Cardiff Castle is what they call a “new-fangled” castle, though it is very pretty. Still, there are many beautiful buildings, parks, and a vast coastal area provided for the most daring architectural experiments.
The most visited city in Wales is, of course, its capital. Tourists come to Cardiff to get acquainted with its historical and cultural sights, visit museums and the famous Cardiff Castle. Find out what else is interesting about the city, when to visit it and what are the peculiarities of the holiday here.
On the map of Britain the city of Cardiff can be found in the southern part of Wales. It is washed by Bristol Bay. The settlement was built on the site of drained moorland (which is not uncommon in Wales), due to which its relief is unusually flat. The city is “cut” into parts by three rivers: the Taf, the Rimney and the Ely.
Cardiff is the largest city in Wales with population of 346 thousand people and area of 140 sq km. The best time to visit is during the summer months when it’s comparatively warm and dry in the south of Wales. Precipitation is highest in November and January, and the climate is considered temperate, with winter temperatures usually above freezing.
How did the city develop?
People have lived in this area since the Neolithic. Later, a tribe of Silurians, the Welsh Celts, who built settlements of wooden log cabins, formed here. At the beginning of our era, Cardiff was conquered by the Romans, who left Wales alone in the V-VI centuries. Before the Norman invasion, there were several Celtic kingdoms here, until the city became part of the English Crown. However Cardiff did not become a city until 1905, and officially became the capital of Wales in 1955.
The history of Cardiff was greatly influenced by the coal industry as it has long been a major port. It was also home to a first steel mill in 1891 and this has had a big impact on Cardiff’s history as an industrial city.
What’s to see?
Like any capital city, this city offers its visitors many curious sites to explore. Some of the most visited attractions in Cardiff include:
- Cardiff Castle is the pride of the city and all of Wales. It is the oldest building in the country, its walls standing on Roman masonry. The castle is perfectly preserved not only from the outside but also from the inside. Here you can see the beautiful decoration of the halls, an exhibition of the Historical and Archaeological Museum, take a walk in the extensive castle garden.
- Medieval village of Kosmeston . Located on the outskirts of the city and is a reconstructed village of the XIV century. The most interesting thing is that the settlement once actually existed on this site, and nowadays it is inhabited by people “working” as policemen and carpenters, bakers and hog herders, priests and herbalists. Tourists come to marvel at how natural life in the village is shown.
- Cardiff National Museum . Being free for tourist visits, it shows guests collections of paintings, archaeology, geology, botany, and art.
- Welsh Millennium Centre . This is the center of the capital’s cultural life: exhibitions and concerts, public events and theatrical productions are held here. The building is architecturally interesting: you won’t see such lettered windows anywhere else in the world.
- Millennium Stadium in Cardiff . A huge sports arena with a capacity of 74,500 spectators hosts rugby and soccer matches, boxing matches, and even car races. The main feature of the stadium is its sliding roof. You can come here for an informative tour. Cardiff has another sports stadium, Ninian Park, where Cardiff City Football Club plays its home matches.
Among the best hotels in Cardiff in 2018, tourists noted the following:
The city’s main streets offer tourists an abundance of restaurants, bars, pubs and nightclubs. Devotees of gastronomic tourism will not be able to ignore the Welsh cuisine, very similar to the English cuisine, but with its own specifics. Here they love vegetables, oatmeal pastry, soups, lamb and mutton dishes, and cheeses.
Such places as Razzi and La Brasserie, Spanish restaurant Las Iguanas, French restaurant Bully’s, Chinese Chinese China, Italian Carluccio’s have received great reviews for their delicious food, big portions and excellent service.
Events in the city
It’s most interesting to come to Cardiff in the midst of some of its rousing festivals of music, coffee, ice cream, beer and more. It could be:
- Winter Wonderland;
- Cardiff Coffee Festival;
- Ice Cream Festival;
- Cardiff Oktoberfest;
- Burning Lantern Fayre;
- Inside Out Festival;
- St. David’s Day, the patron saint of Wales, celebrated on March 1.
Cardiff is the best place to shop in Wales. There are several streets in the city center, where you can find large shopping centers with the widest range of goods, small souvenir shops, boutiques of branded and designer clothing, and modest arts and crafts stores. It will be cheaper to buy souvenirs in the markets, which here are usually covered, or at the fairs that are held in the open air. The best places to shop in Cardiff are:
Cardiff is a large enough city, although it is not a megalopolis. Transportation between different areas is provided by city buses. Tourists can take a cab or rent a car, but be aware that there may be parking problems in the city center. The residents of the capital themselves like to travel by bicycle, and there are several rental stations for two-wheeled vehicles for fans of fresh air and outdoor activities. By the way, there are comfortable bicycle lanes everywhere.
How to get there?
Cardiff Airport, the largest airport in Wales, is located on the outskirts of the city. It takes international flights. For example, you can fly here from Moscow in 3.5 hours.
You can also get to Cardiff by train, bus or car. Two main companies, providing transport links with cities of North, South Wales and England are National Express and Stagecoach.