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Wales Millennium Centre, the focal point of the revamped Cardiff Bay.

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.

Get in

By plane

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 [1] which operates a number of domestic and foreign destinations and other airlines including Flybe [2], KLM [3], Thomsonfly [4] and Skybus [5]. 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.

By train

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 [6] 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 [7]. 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.

By car

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 [8] for a list of Cardiff City Council operated car parks.

By bus

National Express [9] 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.

Get around

On foot

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.

By bus

Cardiff Bus [10] 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 [11]

By train

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

By taxi

Cardiff is not short of taxis. They can be flagged down on the street or booked in advance:

  • Capital Tel: +44 (0)29 2077 7777
  • Delta Tel +44 (0)29 2020 2020
  • Celtic Tel: +44 (0)29 2045 2045
  • Dragon Metro: Tel +44 (0)29 2033 3333

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.

By waterbus

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.



Cardiff Castle

Cardiff bay
  • Cardiff Castle [12], Castle Street. ph 029 2087 8100. fax 029 2023 1417. Cardiff Castle is a large castle whose foundations are based upon a Roman fort. In the nineteenth century it was the one of the homes of the Marquis of Bute. The Norman fort in the centre, the Welsh regimental museum and and excavated Roman ruins are open, and tours of the Bute household are available. The Bute part of the castle is quite amazing. The interior was all done in the early 1900's in a very ideosynchratic and interesting style. There is barely an inch that is not adorned with some sort of artistic work. Yet, it is not overwhelming. The craftsmanship is well worth a look. Admission is £3 for adults, £1.90 for children and seniors and £2.45 for students. Admission with a tour is £6 for adults, £3.70 for children and seniors, and £4.85 for students. There are family group discounts. However from summer 2007 admission will be free.
  • The Millennium Stadium [13] - 74,200 seater stadium opened for the 1999 Rugby World Cup, and now host to the Wales national rugby and football teams. It hosted the FA Cup Final for some years during the redevelopment of Wembley Stadium in London. A must see for anyone, tours are available online or at the ticket desk.
  • The Wales Millennium Centre [14], a great piece of modern architecture, opened in 2004 by the Queen, the futuristic Wales Millennium Centre is host to a opera, dance and musicals throughout the year, making it a must see for those who like Welsh theatre. Entry is free throughout the year. While entrance to the theatre is charged free live performances take place in the foyer every lunchtime.
  • The National Assembly for Wales or the Senedd [15] (Cardiff Bay) is the seat of Wales' national government and was opened on St David's Day (1st March) 2006 by the Queen. Visitors have a chance to see public debates from the viewing gallery or a free tour around the building, which is made out of purely Welsh materials, and how it is designed eco friendly. Entry is free.
  • The Norwegian Church (Cardiff Bay, next to the Assembly) was first established in Cardiff Bay to serve the large community of Norwegian sailors working in the docks. Its main claim to fame is as the place where the author Roald Dahl was christened but today it is a cafe and art gallery.
  • Cardiff Bay Visitor Centre also known as the Tube is home to displays and exhibitions on the development of Cardiff Bay as the world's largest port. Entry is free.
  • The Doctor Who Exhibition[16] (Cardiff Bay), is operated out of the Red Dragon centre. This exhibition boasts various props and displays of the series, as well as a guide to the various locations in the Cardiff and Wales areas that were used as filming locations for the BBC's series Torchwood
  • Llandaff Cathedral is situated in the ancient 'city of Llandaff' and is one of the oldest religous sites in Europe. The cathedral dates from 1107 and features some spectacular architecture.
  • Castell Coch [17] meaning the 'Red Castle' in Welsh is a fairytale castle nestled on a hill in the outskirts of the city. Built for the 3rd Marquis of Bute, who was at one time the richest man in the world.
  • City Hall the domed roof of City Hall is one of the landmarks of Cardiff city centre. Dating from the turn of the century, it is built of beautiful white Portland stone. Inside, the marble hall is dominated by statues of Welsh heroes.
  • Bute Park A very large and beautiful park in the centre of the city, adjoining the city centre at Cardiff castle.

Museums and Galleries

  • The Museum of Welsh Life at St Fagans [18], free admission. Great for kids. Also features one of the most beautiful gardens in Wales.
  • National Museum & Gallery of Wales [19], free admission. An excellent collection of paintings from all periods (strong on Impressionists), plus archaeological and geological exhibits, cafes and shops. Buy parking vouchers here if needed.
  • The Cardiff Museum opening in 2008 this will show how Cardiff has developed from a small town into the capital of Wales. The museum will occupy the old library site in the city centre, which currently hosts large exhibitions focusing on themes of the city's history such as sports, industry, immigration or the arts.
  • Techniquest [20] (Cardiff Bay, near the Millennium Centre) has over 160 science and technology exhibits to entertain the whole family. There is also a Science Theatre and tours of the Universe in the Planetarium. Entry entry £6.90 Adults, £4.80 children with concessions available for groups.


  • Relax in Bute Park or in the grounds of the castle, for a break from the hustle of the city centre.
  • Visit Cardiff Bay a truly cosmopolitan experience full of restaurants, bars and cafes. A really good place for a 'passeggiata' on a Sunday afternoon. Boat rides in the Bay (permanently water-filled since the barrage was built), a few shops, and a children's playground at the far end (near the historic Norwegian church) along with beautiful views across to Penarth.
  • At near-by Penarth, cruise the Bristol channel during summer months to the likes of North Devon, Gower Peninsula and even occasionally Pembrokeshire on the paddle steamers Balmoral and Waverly. Penarth to Ilfracombe is particularly spectacular, taking in the massive cliffs of North Devon.
  • Visit the luxury Celtic Manor Resort in nearby Newport the site of the 2010 Ryder Cup which Wales hosts, for those who like taking part in or spectating golf. Travelling a little further the Vale Resort is host to the longest golf course in Europe.
  • Go on the Taff Trail, some of the sights close to the city centre are breathtaking and the tranquility offers a great contrast to the busy city centre.
  • Go to the Brecon Beacons. Just 40 minutes from Cardiff, this Welsh National Park is a scenic retreat from the hustle and bustle of the city, offering activities such as climbing, paragliding, sailing and many more.
  • Go for a pint of Cardiff made Brains beer in one of the city centre pubs on a match day at the Millennium Stadium for a one off experience.

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!

  • Cardiff Childrens Festival is held in the grounds of Cardiff Castle each year, and hosts a number of events, exhibitions and play areas for children. Entry is usually free.
  • Cardiff Mela inaugral mela was held last year at city hall, but not really anything spectacular but in coming years is expected to develop.
  • St David's Day Parade an unofficial parade held on St David's Day the patron saint of Wales (March 1st), every year. Something different so its worth a look.
  • The Big Weekend is probably the most participated of Cardiff's festivals as hundreds of thousands of people dawn the city hall area to witness the carnival theme events and fun fair atmosphere. Usually on last weekend of July.
  • Cardiff Mardi Gras is one of the UK's biggest gay and lesbian festivals, held every year in the grounds of Cardiff Castle.
  • Metro Weekender 2007 will be the second year this new festival has visited Cardiff. Held in Coopers field beside the castle grounds on the August bank holiday, it was a 20,000 sell out in 2006
  • Winter Wonderland in December/January is also worth a look.

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.

  • St. David's Hall (city centre) - orchestral concerts, recitals and other live music and comedy
  • Chapter Arts Centre (Canton) - arthouse and alternative
  • Wales Millennium Centre (Cardiff Bay) - Opera and ballet, West End Shows and musicals
  • New Theatre - here you can see west end shows
  • Sherman Theatre - a independent theatre
  • Odeon Cardiff Bay - mainstream multiplex cinema
  • Vue Central Square (inside Millennium Plaza and next to Millennium Stadium)
  • Cineworld - mainstream multiplex cinema, across the road from Cardiff Internation Arena (CIA).


The Cardiff International Arena plays host to major bands and artists throughout the year. More information can be found at [21].

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.


Victorian Shopping Arcade

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.

  • Queen Street and St. Mary's Street are the main shopping streets in Cardiff city centre. Queen Street houses the likes of Marks and Spencer, Boots and many other stores while the adjoining shopping malls contain other stores including Debenhams and other shops. St. Marys Street is home to a large 'Howells' or House of Fraser store and backs onto numerous arcades that house one-off shops and they are a must see.
  • There are many tourist oriented shops in front of the Castle and inside the Arcades so have a look around where you can find many Welsh souvenirs and gifts there.
  • Fish from Ashton's stall in the atmospheric indoor market, off the Hayes, Church Street or St Mary St.
  • from Canale's on Llandaf Road in Canton.
  • Cheese from Madame Fromage in the Castle Arcade.
  • Records, tapes and CDs from Spiller's Records, The Hayes, claimed to be the "world's oldest record store". This is the place to buy your Welsh music.


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 [22] changes every two weeks, with regular 'best of' menus chosen by their customers.[23] A good selection of vegan wines are available.[24] Only 10 minutes walk from the city centre. The No.12 Cardiff Bus passes their door. Closed Sunday and Monday.


  • Brazz (Cardiff Bay) serves good food, and is a stylish place to sit.
  • Cibo Italian Café on Pontcanna Street (at the non-city-centre end of Cathedral Road). Great little café-restaurant with superb food. Can get busy - booking strongly recommended. Expect to spend about 8-12 GBP for a main course.
  • Ichiban is a wonderful Japanese restaurant offering excellent value noodle, curry and sushi dishes. There is one on Cowbridge Road, Canton and another on Albany Road, Roath. Both are a short bus or taxi ride from the city centre, or a 20-30 minute walk.
  • Tenkaichi on City Road is great if you want fresh noodles and sushi.
  • The Goat Major pub has some very good bar style food in an authentic Welsh atmosphere. Try the Welsh faggots (a type of meat ball) in peppercorn gravy.


  • Castell Restaurant in the Angel Hotel
  • The Armless Dragon
  • Benedictos
  • Le Gallois - Roughly translated from French it means "The Welsh". This is a fantastic gourmet restaurant specialising in bringing Gallic flair to traditional Welsh food such as cockles and lavabread. Expect to pay somewhere around £40/person.


  • Café Mao is worth seeking out on Whitchurch road. Very good quality sandwiches for similar prices elsewhere.
  • City Canteen on Mount Stuart Sq is also worth a look


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

  • Cardiff Cottage (except weekends and matchdays).
  • Floyd's, 23 High Street, above the clothing store.
  • The Old Arcade, 14 Church Street, +44 29 20217999.

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.


  • Wedal Road Youth Hostel [25] - for £19 (adult without YHA membership) it's the cheapest place to stay and really quite funky (for a Youth Hostel): no curfew, modern, clean, friendly personnel, and a sumptuous breakfast is included; it's about a 20 minute walk from the city centre, or 10 minutes by bus. There are three other hostels in the city including Nos Da, Cardiff Backpackers and Nomad.


  • Cardiff Marriott Hotel [26] is located within a block of the train station, right across from at least ten clubs. It has reasonably comfortable rooms (not yet with the Marriott upgraded beds). They have high speed internet connections in the rooms, but the fee is £15/day for the service. The staff is friendly and helpful. Also have a small multistory carpark for the hotels guest.
  • Express By Holiday Inn Cardiff Bay, Longuiel Close [27] - clean hotel in Cardiff Bay, 15 minutes walk from the centre.
  • Holiday Inn Cardiff Central - just minutes from most attractions in the city centre.


  • Cardiff Hilton is the place for more upmarket stays. Situated right in front of the castle and offers nice views of the civic centre.
  • Mercure Holland House Hotel and Spa - a contemporary hotel located just opposite the main shopping street. It has an acclaimed restaurant and spa. Formerly owned by the MacDonald group, it was bought by Mercure in 2007 (part of the Accor group).
  • St. David's Hotel and Spa - a really great stay for those who want that little bit extra. Fronting the bay it offers spectacular scenery and is little more than 5 minutes away from the cosmopolitan bay area.


Cardiff is home to around 30,000 students studying in various colleges and universities across the city.

  • Cardiff University [28] Wales' highest ranked university.
  • UWIC [29] Self styled Cardiff Metropolitan University.
  • Glamorgan University [30] Wales' second largest university has a large new campus opening in Cardiff city centre in september 2007 focusing on the media, broadcasting and the creative industries.
  • Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama [31] is a university focusing on music and drama.

Stay safe

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.

Get out

  • The Vale of Glamorgan to the southwest of Cardiff contains the Victorian seaside towns of Penarth and Barry. Cowbridge is a picturesque town to the west.
  • The superb Glamorgan Heritage Coast is around 10 miles west of Cardiff, stretching from Llantwit Major to Ogmore-by-Sea, the majestic liassic/carboniferous cliffs provide sparkling views across the Bristol channel, and the small little back roads (particularly the road to ogmore-by-sea) provide some of the most spectacular driving routes in Wales.
  • Try taking the train to Newport, and then a bus to Caerleon and visiting the Roman amphitheatre there. It is quite well preserved and gives a real feel for how the Romans would have used the space.
  • It is possible to visit Hereford as a day trip, using either train or auto.

This is a usable article. It has information for getting in as well as some complete entries for restaurants and hotels. An adventurous person could use this article, but please plunge forward and help it grow!