Cardiff, an old city but also the youngest capital in Europe. About 2,000 years ago the Romans founded this town on the River Taff. However, little happened in this town until the coal rush in the 19th century, when Cardiff grew into the most important coal port in the world. This university city has only been the capital of Wales since 1955. But Cardiff is also the capital of rugby. The Arms Park stadium is located in the middle of the city.
Thanks to the coal
Between 1845 and 1850 it turned out that the Valleys (the area south and east of the Brecon Beacons National Park) were a rich deposit of iron and coal of perfect quality. The favorable location of Cardiff on the Severn and the Bristol Channel prompted the Marquis of Bute, who saw his opportunities here, to invest his entire fortune in the construction of the harbour. Soon a train connection and a widespread system of canals ensured its fast and cheap transport. This is evident from the figures: in 1913, 10.5 million tons were shipped all over the world. The many white Victorian buildings date from this time. Together with the impressive historic buildings, gardens and beautiful parks, they give Cardiff a cosmopolitan allure. The city has a wide choice of restaurants and bars and a vibrant cultural life.
Board and residents of Cardiff
About 3,000 employees sit in the Welsh Office, the so-called mini-Whitehall, and govern the country. The Welsh can decide a lot for themselves, although legislation and the budget are decided by Westminster. Cardiff has around 300,000 inhabitants. The whole of Wales has about three million inhabitants. When you know that two million Welsh people live in the Cardiff area, within a one-hour drive, you realize that this is the most densely populated area in all of Wales.
Sights in and around Cardiff
Three meter thick walls surround the 2,000 year old Roman fortress. In the middle are the remains of a Norman castle. This keep is the work of the Normans, in particular William the Conqueror, who chose the site at the beginning of the 11th century. In the 17th century the castle was destroyed during a civil war. By the way, the remaining Norman tower offers a beautiful view of the city.
The fortress is now a mixture of buildings from all different eras. It has become a colorful mix of medieval, Arabic and fairytale elements. This makes an impressive impression on the tourist. The super-rich Marquis of Bute contracted the extravagant William Burges as designer and transformed the fortress into a mock Gothic palace. The palace is still in this state and can be visited. Inside you will find rooms in a wild mix of styles. Characterized by many motifs, marble walls and a cedar interior in the Arabic room. If you drive north from Cardiff towards Merthyr Tydfill, you will pass another fairytale castle of Marquis Bute. This is Castle Coch, his romantic country house from 1879.
As mentioned in the introduction, Cardiff was the largest coal port. A visit to the harbor on Cardiff Bay is a must. At the end of the twentieth century, work began on renovating the Docks, which had been neglected since the end of the First World War. The intention is that Cardiff Bay will receive many tourists. A monorail and the new Bute Avenue should connect Cardiff city center with the Docks.
From Cardiff it is not far to St. Fagans. Here you will find a collection of traditional farms, huts, shops and homes. All of this, well restored, can be found in the Welsh Folk Museum, an open-air museum. You walk past a row of typical houses, Rhyad-y-car, of workers from the iron mines. It shows you how the interior changed from 1805 to 1985. There is also a school and a chapel from the last four hundred years.
Cardiff has six 19th century shopping arcades. All major brands can be found there. The city’s best shops are located around Queen Street and St. Mary Street. Cardiff has been a market town since the 14th century. The current halls of the Central Market, where fish, fruits, vegetables, cheese, pastries but also clothing are for sale, are a remnant from this time.