Cardiff (Welsh, Caerdydd) is the capital of Wales and is located in the south of the country. Though it had a reputation of being a rough, industrial city, Cardiff has changed dramatically in recent years. It is now a lively and modern capital city, gaining popularity with tourists interested in its history and culture. Once overlooked, it is now one of the United Kingdom's tourism hotspots. Summer is by far the best time to visit, as many of the attractions are outdoors. Its population is roughly 325,000.
Cardiff is on the south coast of the south Wales plain, with a shoreline on the Bristol Channel. Cardiff is quite a flat city, a characteristic that helped it become one of the world's leading ports in the transport of coal from the rugged south Wales Valleys.
Cardiff's city centre is located in the southern portion of the city just north of Cardiff Bay. It is traditionally bounded by the historic civic centre, castle, park and university buildings to the north by the River Taff to the west, and by the Valleys and South Wales rail lines to the east and south. Growth in recent years however is pushing the city centre beyond these boundaries, especially in regards to commercial office provision.
The site at Cardiff castle has been occupied for over 2000 years. Originally a Roman fort, the castle and surrounding village evolved and in Norman times the existing motte and bailey tower was constructed. The town continued to grow at a slow but steady pace for hundreds of years until the arrival of the industrial revolution and the rise of coal. Cardiff became a major coal exporting port, and was at a time the largest coal exporting port in the world. The period from 1800 therefore saw phenomenal growth in the population and economy of Cardiff. The city was proclaimed a city in 1905, and then made capital city of Wales in 1955. Given that it was always historically smaller than towns such as Merthyr and Swansea it has achieved a meteoric rise to become the capital city today.
Cardiff has always had a strong sporting and cultural presence given that it is the capital city, and therefore plays host to most Welsh sporting events, especially since the opening of the Millennium Stadium. In fact one of the city's charms is when it plays host to matches and the atmosphere can be extraordinary.
However in the past it was quite a gritty and industrial city with manufacturing and industry playing a huge role, Cardiff's ports were once the most important in the world. Notable milestones were when Cardiff Bay was the first area of modern Britain to be thought of as a multicultural area given the huge part immigrants played in the city's ports, and the world's first 'million pound' deal was also signed at the Bay's own Coal Exchange building.
In recent years however the city has moved away from its industrial past and been enriched by such developments as the cultural Cardiff Bay barrage area which now hosts famous and striking landmarks such as the National Assembly for Wales and the spectacular Wales Millennium Centre building. Massive investments have also been made throughout other parts of the city such as the in opening of the Millennium Stadium.
When to go
Cardiff is best to visit during late spring to early autumn as the warm weather adds to the city's pleasures and allows maximum experience of all the sites and areas of the city, as most of the attractions are outdoor oriented.
The main airport is Cardiff International Airport. This is the only major airport in Wales and is situated some 12 miles to the south-west of the city in the Vale of Glamorgan. The airport is served by a number of airlines including low-cost bmibaby  which operates a number of domestic and foreign destinations and other airlines including Flybe , KLM , Thomsonfly  and Skybus . Domestic services operate daily to Anglesey, Belfast, Newcastle, Newquay, Jersey, Glasgow and Edinburgh. As for European routes, Amsterdam, Paris, Madrid, Dublin, and many other holiday routes such as Faro, Palma de Mallorca and Alicante, operate daily. Toronto and Vancouver are also available direct.
There are regular bus services from the city centre to the airport. You can also get to the airport using a rail service to Rhoose Cardiff International Airport railway station. There are shuttle buses to the airport and frequent services to Cardiff Central.
London Heathrow is around 2.5 hours away by road or 4 hours by rail.
Cardiff Central railway station is a major hub for many services and is in an ideal location being very close to the main city centre attractions and is in close proximity to Cardiff Bay. Arriva Trains Wales  operate the vast majority of inter-Wales services with regular departures from Cardiff Central to the South Wales Valleys, Swansea, and a frequent service to North Wales. They also operate regularly to Manchester and Birmingham making Cardiff ideal to visit via rail. All inter-city travel is via Cardiff Central while Cardiff Queen Street station located near the eastern end of the city centre is the hub for Cardiff's Valley Lines services, connecting the centre of the city with the suburbs and commuter towns. Both stations are controlled by ticket barriers, so you will need a ticket to enter or leave the platforms. Ticket machines are located in the entrance of both stations and in Central station there are many maps that will help you plan your journey.
Cardiff Central is two hours from London Paddington by train, however some may take longer with more stops. Trains depart half hourly during the day and are operated by First Great Western . These services also continue hourly to Swansea. First Great Western run a service from Cardiff to Portsmouth Harbour via Newport, Bristol, Bath and Southampton.
Rail service provides quick and easy links to other interesting areas (such as the Vale of Glamorgan and West Wales), making Cardiff a pleasant and cheaper place to use as a home base while exploring the surrounding areas.
The city itself has around 22 train stations located within its boundaries, with travel to North Cardiff especially accessible, however it is usually cheaper and quicker to fly to Anglesey direct from Cardiff with Highland Airways. While the system is not as comprehensive as other metro systems, travel to tourist attractions such as Cardiff Bay, Castell Coch and Barry Island can be easily and cost effectively reached by train.
From London and the South East of England, Cardiff is most swiftly reached by taking the M4 motorway west across the Severn Bridge and into Wales. Journey times from Central London to Cardiff are usually 3 hours, although visitors from Heathrow could shave up to an hour off this time. Don't forget the bridge charges a toll to cross (cash only)! This is £5.30 at the moment for a car and usually increases by 10p each year. The M4 is also the main artery linking Cardiff with West Wales including Swansea, while the A470 road mainly links Cardiff with the South Wales Valleys. Travelling from North or Central England and Scotland the M50 links the M5 motorway with Wales and continues down to south Wales eventually linking with the M4. Cardiff's junctions are 29 - 34 inclusive.
Within Cardiff it is cheaper to find a train station and continue onto the city centre via train, as car parking within the city, although plentiful, can be notoriously expensive. However getting around the city in car is pretty simple, and even within the city centre it is quite easy moving around, although its best to restrict entering the city centre area during off-peak times as congestion can occur quite readily. Generally though the city centre is pretty compact and its much easier and cheaper to move around on foot.
See  for a list of Cardiff City Council operated car parks.
National Express  operate regular services to and from most major cities in England and Wales with Cardiff Central bus station, which is located in the forecourt of Central railway station making it quite easy to switch between train and bus. In addition MegaBus offer a regular and very cheap service to London.
Cardiff and especially the central area are pretty compact with the main attractions being quite close to each other making getting around on foot quite easy. Most sights are signposted to help you guide your way around the city centre and the bay.
Cardiff Bus  offer a comprehensive network of services across the city, to the nearby City of Newport and to destinations in the Vale of Glamorgan. Fares could be seen as a little exorbitant given the unreliability of some of their services but nonetheless you won't have to wait any longer than around 10 minutes for a bus to turn up. Some of their services run even more frequently usually around every 7/8mins (Monday-Saturday) on services to the east of the city. The central bus station is located in Central Square, in the forecourt of Central railway station, and maps are readily available that will help you plan your journey. Tickets are based on a zone system, but a 'Day to Go' ticket costs just £3 and offers unlimited travel across their network all day. Cardiff Bus also operate a frequent 'Baycar' service between the city centre and Cardiff Bay, which makes it easy to get between the main attractions, and is good value if you don't want to walk. Stagecoach also offer regular routes linking nearby towns, mainly in the South Wales Valleys, with the city centre.
Open top sightseeing buses operate regularly during the summer season at a price of approximately £8/person.
There are also park and ride sites based at County Hall and Crown Way, see National Park and Ride Directory 
It can be quite cost-effective, quick, and easy to visit areas with a local train station such as Llandaff Cathedral or Penarth Pier as services leave from both Cardiff Central or Queen St stations so check on maps for train services if you'd rather this than the bus. The wider Cardiff metropolitan area (including Penarth, Taffs Well, Pontypridd and Dinas Powys) contains 26 stations, making train travel a viable alternative in many cases
Cardiff is not short of taxis. They can be flagged down on the street or booked in advance:
Although a lot of taxis in the city centre are black, they have no set colour. Licensed taxis have a yellow plate on the rear bumper of the vehicle.
For a different experience the River Taff Waterbus runs regularly during the summer season between the Millennium Stadium and Cardiff Bay. Tickets cost around £4 and are available to buy online.
Museums and Galleries
Festivals and Events
Cardiff isn't well known for its festivals, but they are increasingly contributing to its development as a major tourist attraction and as most of them are concentrated in the summer months it ideal to visit then to make sure that you experience all the attractions and the festivals as an added bonus. Unlike Edinburgh, Cardiff is still pretty cost effective during the summer months so its ideal for those who don't want to go all out!
Cinemas and Theatres
Cardiff has some of the best theatre and cinema in Wales and even across the UK, covering huge range including mainstream films, foreign and theatre.
The Cardiff International Arena plays host to major bands and artists throughout the year. More information can be found at .
Look out for events at the Millennium Stadium too.
Smaller gigs can be seen at many venues across the city including Barfly, The Point, Callaghans, Clwb Ifor Bach, Cardiff Students Union, and Buffalo Bar.
More 'sedate' concerts are frequently held at St Davids Hall and The Welsh Millennium Centre.
The Victorian arcades are worth a visit in themselves. They have lots of little shops, food markets, etc. Up-market homestores include Melin Tregynt (blankets, cushions and trinkets), and Banana Custard (for kids).
Queen St is the major pedestrianised shopping street which is a five block shopping district that is closed to cars, so it is easy to walk from shop to shop. All the usual suspects, such as Marks and Spencer, Boots, Virgin, Topshop, etc. are here.
The Hayes was peaceful area with more smaller shops, however is currently under development with the St Davids 2 Shopping Area. The Hayes still has access to all the arcades and other side streets.
The Central market is a must for anyone looking for a find whether it be arts and crafts or food.
Things are getting better in Cardiff for eating. It can be very difficult to book a table in the better restaurants on a Friday or Saturday evening. As a rule of thumb Mermaid Quay and the city centre are jam packed full with a varied contrast of eateries allowing you to experience many different tastes within a small area.
The Prince of Wales - a great city centre location offering great food all day at some good prices considering its very central location. This is a typical weatherspoon pub.
There are lots of little Mom and Pop eateries with reasonable, plentiful and quite tasty takes on the Full English breakfast, sandwiches, fish and chips, etc.
Also there is the Brewery Quarter, which contains a few well known and different restaurants including Cardiff's Hard Rock Café.
Vegetarians and vegans should head to Crumbs in Morgan Arcade for a great range of veggie and vegan food.
Canteen on Clifton Street has built up a reputation for excellent vegetarian and vegan food at very reasonable prices. Their evening menu  changes every two weeks, with regular 'best of' menus chosen by their customers. A good selection of vegan wines are available. Only 10 minutes walk from the city centre. The No.12 Cardiff Bus passes their door. Closed Sunday and Monday.
Cardiff is one of top nights out in Britain with many late night pubs, bars, clubs and restaurants. In the city centre St Mary street, Greyfriars road and Mill Lane are especially lively and offer a variety of establishments to suit all tastes. Mermaid Quay is a lively, albeit smaller option to spend a warm summer night.
Cardiff is a place to drink, favoured by Stag and Hen Parties from all over the UK. St Mary St contains many pubs and clubs and becomes wild and exciting on Friday and Saturday nights. There are numerous clubs only a block short walk from Central Station that are bumping into the wee hours.
For a quieter drink seek out
If coffee is your drink of choice, there are at least six Starbucks outlets or try out Coffee #1 a local chain of coffee shops, Wood Street (near Central Station) and on Albany Road.
Bear in mind it can be very difficult to find rooms available or within a sensible price when the Millennium Stadium is hosting events, especially when Wales play in rugby or football, so plan around the dates or plan early as it will be much cheaper.
Cardiff is home to around 30,000 students studying in various colleges and universities across the city.
Cardiff is quite a safe city, and certainly safer than some other major cities in the UK. However Cardiff has some of the highest car theft crime rates in the United Kingdom. Make sure you remove all valuables from your vehicle, especially from show. Do not park outside the city centre or cardiff bay, unless you know the area.
Alcohol related violence is not uncommon in Cardiff especially on the weekends in its clubs and bar so take extra caution to avoid offending anyone. In addition, as in any city, there are areas to avoid after dark: these include Bute Town, Bute Park and Riverside.