Although occupied since the Middle Ages, Cardiff really came into its own during the Industrial Revolution as an important dock town used for the distribution of iron and coal in Wales. Since becoming the Welsh capital in 1955, and subsequently the seat of the Welsh National Assembly, Cardiff has undergone a massive transformation from a forgotten industrial port to a vibrant, modern and cosmopolitan capital city.
Bute Park, Cardiff © Athena's Pix
Nowhere is the growth and development of the city more evident than in the Cardiff Bay area, a massive new commercial development and urban regeneration project. The trendy waterfront district known as Mermaid's Quay is home to striking modern architecture and modern art, as well as chic shops and boutiques, top-class restaurants, and plenty of clubs and bars. The Quay also provides a great launch site for numerous cruises and boat tours, ranging from serene paddleboats to thrilling speed boat rides.
These modern amenities lie alongside some impressive historical sites, including the Cardiff Castle, which was built by the wealthy third Marquis of Bute. The castle is located in the centre of Cardiff on a site used by both the Romans and the Normans as a strategic point of defence. Visitors can still explore the Norman Keep, set on top of a small hill overlooking the city.
Other popular attractions in Cardiff include the National Museum and Gallery, St David's Hall, Llandaff Cathedral, the outdoor St. Fagan's National History Museum, and the Millennium Stadium. There are also many historical attractions and points of interest just outside the city - including several Neolithic sites - and the area is resplendent with natural beauty.
This fast-growing urban centre is still relatively undiscovered as a tourist destination, but more and more travellers are venturing to the exciting Welsh capital.