Our city guide to Cardiff

Widely touted as Europe's youngest capital, Cardiff is undoubtedly the heart and soul of contemporary Welsh culture and innovation. However its modern reputation belies a long history and a cityscape dappled with historic architecture and sites. Effortlessly combining old and new and with a fiercely patriotic people, Cardiff makes a proud and fitting capital city for the ancient land of Wales.

The centerpiece of Cardiff has always been, and remains today, the magnificent Cardiff Castle. The original roman built fort was largely ruined, however in recent years there has been extensive excavation to uncover sections of the original Roman foundations, some of which date back to the first century AD. The castle has been rebuilt and reinvented throughout the ages most notably with the addition of a Norman motte and medieval castle walls in the middle-ages and more recently in Victorian times with the construction of a gloriously lavish gothic mansion within its grounds.

Surrounding Cardiff Castle, the city merges historic architecture with modern development. The buildings around Cathays Park are Victorian or Edwardian Baroque and now contain many of the cities Government buildings, civic centre and the National Museum and Gallery of Wales. It was in this period throughout the 1800s that Cardiff's population boomed as a result of the industrial revolution and resulting coal industry. Welsh coal, mined in the South Wales mountains, was funneled down the narrow valleys via railway to the Cardiff's port where it was distributed worldwide. By 1905 Cardiff was home to the second largest port in the world and by 1955 the city, which now had the largest population in Wales, was pronounced the Welsh capital.

This Victorian glory period of the city has left some marvelous and intriguing souvenirs of Cardiff's industrial heritage and the vast wealth that came with it. At Cardiff Bay, The Coal Exchange is noted as the site of the signing of the first million dollar cheque whilst at Cardiff Castle and Castell Coch ancient castles were renovated by rich coal barons in opulent gothic revival masterpieces which include the stunning Clock Tower, Beauchamp Tower and Castle Apartments. For a wider view of the history of Wales, Cardiff is also home to the Museum of Welsh Life.

Following the closure of the South Wales coalmines throughout the 1980s Caridff did face decline, but the city has since reinvented itself as the commercial, political and cultural centre for Wales. The city's Cardiff Bay area is a prime example, home to chic waterside cafes, restaurants and bars which rub shoulders with the stunning Welsh Millennium Centre Theatre and the Senedd Building home of Wales' devolved political powers: the National Assembly for Wales. Nearby sports and activities centres have sprung up including the Principality Stadium which was Britain's largest sports venue upon its completion in 1999. As recently as 2010 the new St David's Centre retail development, located in the heart of the city, has finalized Cardiff's transformation into a leading commercial and cultural centre in Britain. Certainly, Cardiff should not to be missed on any tour of the UK and Wales.

Related Guides

Relevant Tours

Tours of Wales - St Davids

Enjoy some of Britain's most scenic and dramatic rail routes as you explore the unique culture and sights of Wales.  From the capital of Cardiff and the scenic Pembrokeshire coast through the Brecon Beacons to the dramatic mountains of Snowdonia, Wales by Rail is a rail trip you won't forget.

Tours of North Wales - Caernarfon Castle

Enjoy a journey of discovery on this tour of ancient Wales staying in elegant country house hotels and grandiose castle accommodations. Explore the untouched landscapes of Snowdonia and Pembrokeshire and the awe-inspiring ruins of Wales' glorious World Heritage Castles including Conwy, Harlech and Caernarfon, not to mention the cosmopolitan capital city of Cardiff.

Wales Tours - Conwy Valley

Enjoy a journey through the heart of Britain taking in iconic landmarks of central England and lesser-known but equally enchanting gems of Wales. From the city of London, the Roman Baths, Stonehenge and Oxford we'll journey to the opulent Cardiff Castle, through the wilderness Brecon Beacons and to the medieval fortresses and majestic mountains of North Wales and the spectacular Snowdonia National Park.

Britain Tours - Lake District

Experience the very best of England, Scotland and Wales on this quality tour of all of Britain. Enjoy the fabulous cities of York, Edinburgh, Glasgow and Cardiff and pass through areas of outstanding scenery in the Cotswolds, Yorkshire, the Trossachs, the Lake District and the renowned coastal counties of England's West Country; Devon and Cornwall.

England Tours of Oxford

Experience all that is great about Britain on the ultimate tour of England, Scotland and Wales. See it all, from the thriving capital cities of London, Edinburgh and Cardiff to the remote Scottish Highlands, tranquil Lake District and spectacular Snowdonia National Park. Along the way you'll experience diverse cultures and histories and see world-famous landmarks.

Tours of Wales - Cardiff

Immerse yourself in the breathtaking natural scenery of Wales as you explore her towering mountains and untouched coastlines.  Magical medieval hilltop fortresses, ancient abbeys and a host of traditional towns and villages await discovery as you experience the age-old and unique Welsh whilst the vibrant capital in Cardiff offers a contemporary twist.

Tours of Wales - Tenby

Spend five days with your driver-guide and two days independently exploring Cardiff, before returning to London by rail. Your tour takes you over the border Marches and through the Mountains of North Wales, along the Welsh coast and Cardigan Bay to the beautiful seascapes and coastlines of the Pembrokeshire National Park. Your tour ends in Cardiff where you then have two free days to explore the Welsh Capital at your own leisure.

England Tours Salisbury

Enjoy the highlights of Britain on this leisurely 15-day tour which takes you from the most southerly tip of England at Land's End to Scotland's St Andrews. On route discover national icons such as Stonehenge, Edinburgh Castle and Windsor Castle alongside more "off the beaten path" destinations as you explore the coast and countryside of Devon and Cornwall, ancient Wales and the towns and dales of Yorkshire.

Scotland Tours - Edinburgh at night

Experience cityscapes and scenic lakes on this lively tour which will give you a flavour of England, Scotland and Wales. From London to medieval York, historic Edinburgh, vibrant Liverpool and the Welsh capital of Cardiff, you'll enjoy an insight in to British culture and craftsmanship. And by popular demand, Real Britain also offers a number of Winter departures.

A succinct but feature-packed tour, this spirited journey captures the essence of Britain in only a few days. Visiting England, Scotland and Wales it includes a fantastic cross-section of Britain's historical towns, traditional heritage, cultural figures and idyllic scenic landscapes not to mention some real gems of this great nation.

Scotland Tours - Edinburgh at night

Enjoy the sights and sounds of the contrasting cityscapes of the British capitals in Cardiff, Edinburgh and London.  Travelling by rail you can maximize your vacation time by gliding between these cultural centres in super-quick time.

Wales Tours

Experience outstanding natural beauty, historic castles and the heart of Welsh culture on this tour of South Wales.  From the moorlands of the Brecon Beacons to the towering cliffs of the Pembrokeshire coast.  Not forgetting the lively capital city of Cardiff.

Tours of Wales - Brecon Beacons

Experience the contrasts of two distinct British cultures on this tour of England and Wales.  Enjoy the stunning vistas of the Cotswolds and Snowdonia National Park to the icons of English and Welsh history at York Minster, Shakespeare's Stratford, Cardiff Castle and Stonehenge.

England Tours - Stonehenge

Get off the beaten tourist track as you journey from Windsor to Edinburgh through the beautiful West of Britain. Explore England's picturesque coastal counties of Devon and Cornwall, see unrivalled vistas in Wales' Snowdonia National Park, pass through the majestic Lake District and tour Scotland's most elegant city in, Edinburgh.

Tours of England - Liverpool

Enjoy two countries for the price of one as you use the British rail network to explore England and Wales. Travelling in comfort enjoy the city highlights including Cardiff, London and York as well as scenic train rides through the enigmatic countryside of North Wales, the Cotwsolds and the Yorkshire dales.

More Travel Guides

Contact us