In the docks
The export of coal from the South Wales Valleys to the rest of the world during the industrial age bolstered Cardiff into its position as the Welsh capital. But after World War II, when coal disappeared as an economic driving force, the Cardiff docks gradually faded from bustling industrial plant to derelict dump.
However, in true Welsh spirit these docks have been regenerated over the past 20 years to become a playground of museums, galleries, bars and restaurants.
At Cardiff Bay you’ll find the famous Doctor Who television series exhibition, the fascinating Techniquest science discovery centre, the Bay Art Gallery and an amusement park. Make sure you also pay a visit to the massively impressive, albeit ugly, Wales Millennium Centre.
Cardiff’s profile was further boosted by luring big sporting events with the construction of a top-class venue, the Millennium Stadium (as well as a small hiccup at Wembley).
The venue, slap-bang in the middle of the city, hosts rugby internationals including the Six Nations, and visiting fans can attest to the thrill of local fans singing and cheering. It’s not only rugby, though. In July Cardiff’s Sophia Gardens will see the England cricket team take on Australia in first Test of this year’s hugely anticipated Ashes series.
In contrast to the modern developments on the waterfront and classy sporting venues, Cardiff city centre has a more traditional charm.
The Victorian and Edwardian arcades in High and Castle Streets, and Royal Arcade off St Mary’s Street, are packed with one-off boutiques. The food market where traders hawk fresh meat, fish and vegetables, is worth visiting for the buzz, even if you have no intention of buying anything.
Also on St Mary’s Street you’ll find several canteen-style restaurants offering good beer and decent food. Keep a look out for chilli-hot pork ‘dragon’ sausages and pork faggots (traditional meatballs).
The Brewery Quarter does what it says on the tin. Don’t miss locally brewed favourite Brains Beer which, as its name suggests, leaves you feeling much more intelligent after a few smooth pints.
The most prominent landmark in Cardiff – apart from the Millennium Stadium – is the neo-gothic Cardiff Castle, which dominates the city centre.
Close by is the National Museum and Art Gallery, St Fagans Museum of Welsh Life, the Roman Legionary Museum and the Big Pit National Mining Museum.
If you’re a fan of Roald Dahl’s wonderful children’s stories, don’t miss seeing the white clapboard Norwegian Church where the author was christened.
» Piet Van Niekerk travelled with Visit Cardiff.