If you haven’t visited Cardiff for several years, then you’re in for a big surprise. For Cardiff, the capital of Wales and seat of the Welsh Assembly is nowadays a buzzing metropolis – a thriving city that has completely obliterated the more dreary aspects of its poverty-ridden, industrial past.
image courtesy of istock.com artist pixelpot
Within the space of a few decades, Cardiff has undergone a radical makeover. But unlike other UK cities that have spruced up their image, in recent years, this city has taken a different approach.
Extensive investment and widespread renovation of the more run-down areas of the city has strengthened the local economy while, at the same time, boosted its tourist industry. With its cosmopolitan vision firmly fixed on prosperity, Cardiff has also managed to retain all that is good about its local character and unique culture.
Cardiff today is lively and prosperous; it is also one of the friendliest cities, in Britain. The people of Cardiff appear to enjoy the quality of life that the city has to offer. They exude that untranslatable quality of 'hwyl', which roughly equates with 'joie de vivre'.
So what does Cardiff have to offer visitors? The city's attractions are plentiful, with something to suit everyone's taste. The heart of Welsh rugby at the Millennium stadium (the first UK stadium to be built with a retractable roof); a lively contemporary music scene; superb restaurants, cafés and gastro pubs, as well as traditional, friendly local pubs; excellent shopping, with big names, designer outlets and an eclectic selection of specialist shops dotted throughout the Victorian and Edwardian arcades.
Or, simply chill out in the recreational quarters of the regenerated dockland area, especially on sunny, summer days. The ambience is positively carnival, with jugglers, buskers and street performers. Café society and trendy bars add to the party atmosphere. The water bus is a popular attraction and a great way to absorb the fun and frivolity - and enjoy some people watching, at a distance!
For those in search of culture, Cardiff is awash with inspiration, with theatres, outdoor performances, museums and regular literary events. Visit Cardiff's well-preserved castle, situated in a commanding central location. Cardiff Castle is an architectural extravaganza of colour and baroque detail and a reminder of the huge wealth amassed by the Bute family (allegedly richer than Queen Victoria herself!). No visit to Cardiff, however, is complete without a leisurely day out at the Museum of Welsh Life at St Fagans, on the outskirts of Cardiff. The folk museum is an amazing showcase for the rich cultural heritage of the people of Wales, from the early Celtic era to the present day. Also, do try and fit in a visit to the National Museum and Gallery of Wales, located in the impressive neoclassical Civic Centre. The Gallery houses the largest collection of impressionist paintings, outside Paris.
From a tourist perspective, Cardiff also provides the ideal base for exploring the surrounding coastline and areas of outstanding natural beauty. Perhaps take in the splendours of Llandaff Cathedral, on the outskirts of the city, which dates back to the sixteenth century. If you have transport, take a trip to nearby Caerphilly Castle, with its imposing moat and the second largest water defences, in Britain.
Whether you stay close to the city centre, or wander further afield, Cardiff never fails to impress. It is a dynamic forward looking city, with a highly sophisticated edge - no doubt about it. But above all, Cardiff is a city that is proud of its past.