Founded by the Romans, a way station for Vikings and Normans, booming port city and now cultural center, Cardiff, Wales, has gone through many transformations and you can see its multifaceted past on its streets today. From medieval castles to 21st-century buildings, Cardiff is a city with a solid historical foundation that looks firmly to the future with a strong sense of fun and in enjoying the moment.
At its heart, the imposing Cardiff Castle, which dates back to the Romans but was destroyed over the centuries; the castle that stands today is a 19th-century Victorian gothic vision of what a medieval castle should look like. The richest man in Britain, John Patrick Crichton-Stuart, third marquess of Bute, funded the transformation, as well as the neoclassic Civic Centre. It was all part of the industrial revolution, on which the marquess and other barons of the day made their fortunes, thanks to Cardiff’s strategic location as a seaport near coal fields; the city was an industrial giant. But coal’s fortunes waned as oil ascended, recession and nationalization of the mines hastened the region’s decline well into the 1970s and 80s. But Cardiff is transformed, the waterfront that was once its fortune and then its blight is now a destination itself--Cardiff Bay. Old landmarks are restored and new ones now stand, such as the Techniquest Science Discovery Centre with a vast array of interactive exhibits.
Cardiff has become a major tourist destination, with everything from top sporting events at the Millennium Stadium, to world-class stage performances at the Wales Millennium Centre, not to mention the U.K.'s biggest free outdoor summer festival.
Recent developments such as Mermaid Quay and the Old Brewery Quarter have meant that a huge number of new restaurants have opened in Cardiff during the last few years, giving visitors more choice than ever before. You can choose from Turkish, Portuguese, Mexican or Chinese restaurants to name but a few. Cardiff is regularly voted one of the best drinking destinations in the U.K., St. Mary Street is a major hotspot, with more than 40 pubs and bars on the street and near it.
Historic and cultural attractions include the National Museum, Cardiff Castle, Castell Coch and the Welsh Folk Museum in St Fagans. The recently opened Cardiff City Stadium is the new home to Cardiff Blues Rugby Club and Cardiff City Football Club. Cardiff has a wide variety of accommodation options, ranging from budget hotels and B&Bs, to 5-star hotels and exclusive guest houses.
Its airport is served by flights from other parts of the UK and Europe; it’s also just a two-hour train ride from London.
Spring, summer and fall are excellent times to visit Cardiff.