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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 marvellous 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 Cardiff 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 finalised 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.

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