Cardiff (or Caerdydd in Welsh) is the capital and largest city in Wales – and the county town of the historic county of Glamorgan. It’s the UK’s tenth largest city and combines a cosmopolitan yet intimate energy. The city was voted one of the top three European capital cities in a EU survey – yet it’s still compact enough to cycle across in 20 minutes.
Cardiff borders the rural Vale of Glamorgan district – also known as ‘The Garden of Cardiff’ – plus the city of Newport, the South Wales Valleys, the Severn Estuary and Bristol Channel. A small town until the early 19th century, Cardiff’s prominence as a major port helped it rise into a major city.
These days it’s the most popular visitor destination in Wales. It ranked sixth in the world in National Geographic's best alternative tourist destinations. There’s also plentiful green space on offer; and Cardiff University is considered one of the UK’s best research institutions. Cosmopolitan Porth Teigr, Cardiff Bay is home to television production companies and BBC Cymru Wales’ drama studios – and is increasingly favoured by media freelancers who’ve been priced out of London.
Many notable people have hailed from Cardiff, ranging from figures such as Roald Dahl, Griff Rhys Jones, athlete Colin Jackson, singers Shirley Bassey and Charlotte Church to footballers Gareth Bale and Ryan Giggs. Cardiff is also known for its musicians, such as Ivor Novello, after whom a prestigious annual songwriting award is named. Popular Cardiff-based bands include Catatonia and Super Furry Animals.
Cardiff was also awarded the title of European City of Sport twice, after hosting major international sporting events. The Millennium Stadium – the national stadium for Wales’ national rugby union team – hosted part of the 2012 Summer Olympics, including the games' opening event.
Road: The main road through Cardiff is the A48. It links to the M4 motorway connecting South Wales to London and to the M5 up to Birmingham.
Rail: There are four main stations in Cardiff: Central, Queen Street, Cardiff Bay and Cathays. Smaller stations, known as the Valley Lines, serve outer suburbs, towns and villages plus Cardiff International Airport. Cardiff to Bristol takes 50 minutes; Cardiff to London around two hours.
Air: Cardiff International Airport is about 11 miles from the city – offering around 50 direct flights to places like Edinburgh, Amsterdam and Belfast in just over an hour – and onward connecting flights worldwide.
Water: The Aquabus runs every hour between the city centre and Mermaid Quay, and between Cardiff Bay and Penarth. Cardiff Waterbus serves short sightseeing cruises between the Pierhead on Cardiff's Waterfront and Cardiff Bay Barrage. Boats also depart from Cardiff Bay to Flat Holm Island. The Paddle Steamer Waverley and MV Balmoral sail from Britannia Quay to destinations in the Bristol Channel.
Bus: Cardiff Bus provides most routes in the city and to Newport, Barry and Cardiff International Airport. Its hub is Cardiff Central Bus Station. National Express and Megabus provides direct services to cities including Swansea, London, Newcastle upon Tyne and Manchester
Cycle: The Taff Trail is a 55-mile walking and cycle path running between Cardiff Bay and the Brecon Beacons National Park. (On summer Sundays, the Beacons Bike Bus enables cyclists to take their bikes into the Beacons then ride back to Cardiff along the trail.)
Since 2000, Cardiff has been developing its centre's first purpose-built high-rise apartments. Tall buildings have also been built in Cardiff Bay – and more are planned. According to the Zoopla property website, Cardiff is a bustling, compact city “that offers the best of cosmopolitan living while only being a stone’s throw from beautiful coastline and countryside”.
It suggested that, “young professionals might try Cardiff’s leafy suburb of Pontcanna – which featured in The Sunday Times’ top 30 most fashionable places to live rankings.” Canton – home to Thompson’s Park and Victoria Park – was described as diverse and bohemian. Waterside developments around Victoria Wharf and Prospect Place are also popular with up-and-comers. “Families,” meanwhile, “might favour Penylan, Radyr, Heath and Llanishenm, all areas renowned for their choice of good schools”.
According to primelocation.com, Grangetown is a burgeoning area. “It has rows of traditional Victorian terraced houses,” says the site. “Its more affordable properties make it popular among students, young professionals, families and first-time buyers. The Victorian houses along the river are the most admired. Grangetown also offers plenty of green space…
Other areas to look out for in Cardiff are Adamsdown, Riverside, Pontprennau, Splott and Ely.”
A significant amount of new private housing is being built in Trowbridge while Pontprennau is the newest 'suburb' of Cardiff.
Cardiff is a capital for shopping: it’s considered the sixth-best British retail destination. Its spectrum of shopping combines charming Edwardian and Victorian arcades with ultra-modern shopping malls. With a combination of designer brands, high-street names plus more individual and independent shops, there’s something for everyone. And when you’ve had enough retail therapy, there are plenty of cafés, restaurants and bars to relax in.
Its two main shopping streets are Queen Street and St Mary Street – and its three primary arcades are Queens Arcade, the Capitol Centre, and St David's Centre. (The latter has become one of the UK’s largest shopping centres.) The city also hosts many Victorian shopping centres, such as High Street Arcade, Castle Arcade, Wyndham Arcade, Royal Arcade and Morgan Arcade. Also notable is The Hayes, home to Spillers Records, the world's oldest record shop.
Cardiff’s numerous markets include the massive Victorian indoor Cardiff Central Market and the Riverside Community Market, specialising in locally produced organic fare. Several out-of-town retail parks include Newport Road, Culverhouse Cross, Cardiff Gate and Cardiff Bay.
Sport: The Millennium Stadium is home of Wales’ rugby plus the World Rally Championship and The British Speedway Grand Prix; SWALEC Stadium hosts Glamorgan County Cricket Club; Cardiff City Stadium is home of Cardiff City football team; Cardiff International Sports Stadium hosts Cardiff Amateur Athletic Club; and Cardiff Arms Park is where the Cardiff Blues and Cardiff RFC rugby union teams play. Cardiff’s long association with boxing includes Lennox Lewis vs Frank Bruno at the Arms Park. Ice hockey team Cardiff Devils play in the Ice Arena Wales. The Hurricanes are an American flag football team. Cardiff Bay International Sports Village is home to the Cardiff International Pool and Cardiff International White Water facility.
Culture: Cardiff Story is a museum documenting the city's history. The largest and most prominent performing arts venue is the Wales Millennium Centre, which hosts opera, ballet, dance, comedy and musicals – and the BBC National Orchestra of Wales. St David's Hall (which stages the Singer of the World competition) offers classical music and ballet. The New Theatre is the largest of its kind. Other venues include the Sherman Theatre, Chapter Arts Centre and the Gate Arts Centre. Chapter, an independent cinema and arts venue in Canton, shows art-house films. Cardiff Castle is a major tourist attraction. There’s the National History Museum at St Fagans. And Queen Alexandra Gardens contains the Welsh National War Memorial.
Events: Contributors to Cardiff's annual calendar include Sparks in the Park, The Great British Cheese Festival, Cardiff Mardi Gras, Cardiff Winter Wonderland, Cardiff Festival and Made in Roath. The Cardiff Big Weekend Festival in summer plays host to free musical performances, fairground rides and a Children's Festival in the grounds of Cardiff Castle. The international contemporary arts prize, Artes Mundi, takes place in Cardiff’s National Museum every two years. The Six Nations Championship sees Wales’ rugby team compete every spring. Cardiff International Food & Drink Festival showcases specialist food and drink producers.