As one of Europe's youngest capital cities, perhaps it's no surprise that Cardiff exudes a youthful vigour. Designated the capital of Wales in 1955, these days this former industrial city is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Britain. Packed with pubs, parks and the world-renowned Millennium Stadium, this once gritty port town now attracts millions of visitors to its vibrant city streets each year. And with so much to offer eager visitors, we've compiled a list of the best things to see and do in the eclectic Welsh capital.
You must visit Cardiff Castle
Undoubtedly the city's most popular tourist attraction, Cardiff Castle is a medieval castle and Victorian Gothic revival mansion constructed atop the remnants of a third-century Roman fort. A focal port of Welsh military history, the sprawling castle grounds boast reconstructed Roman walls, imposing gatehouses, a barbican tower and what is reputedly one of the finest examples of Gothic revival interior design anywhere in the world. These days one of Cardiff's most visited attractions, Cardiff Castle is just one of five such castles surrounding the immediate city centre.
The Millennium Stadium
Opened in 1999 to replace the outmoded National Stadium, Cardiff's venerated Millennium Stadium is an architectural marvel. The largest stadium in Europe to feature a fully retractable roof, the 74,500-capacity venue is home to the national rugby and football teams and on match days it's abuzz with thousands of red-clad, flag-waving Welsh fans. Take a tour of one of Britain's most famous sporting venues and climb the stairs to the President's Box to follow in the footsteps of some of world sports' most celebrated stars.
Viewed by some as a masterful regeneration project and others as an act of environmental vandalism, Cardiff Bay is one of the city's more polarising features. Originally a tidal bay which was full for just a few hours a day, the construction of the Cardiff Bay Barrage saw the bay inundated by the nearby Taff and Ely rivers. That has encouraged new developments to spring up all around the now aesthetically pleasing bay area, including the futuristic Wales Millennium Centre – a much-lauded centrepiece of Welsh arts.
For more than 150 years, Cardiff's resplendent Royal Arcade has stood as a gleaming testament to both commerce and the city's love affair with Victorian-era architecture. Linking St Mary's Street with commercial hub The Hayes, this majestic glass and stainless steel structure is one of the city's most beloved landmarks. Still housing a handful of original wooden shop façades and running parallel to nearby Morgan Arcade, the Royal Arcade is the high point in a metropolis referred to tellingly as the 'City of Arcades.'
An expansive oasis in the middle of Cardiff's bustling city centre, Bute Park comprises 130 acres of landscaped gardens and green parkland surrounding Cardiff Castle. With the River Taff running through it and manicured sports fields giving way to increasingly wild woodlands, the park is the city's most popular urban retreat. Thousands of nature lovers flock to its picturesque surrounds throughout the four seasons, yet so large is the park you're never too far from your very own piece of idyllic parkland serenity.