After exploring the dream city of London for Christmas our next stop in UK Christmas itinerary was Cardiff the capital city of Wales. A port city and a popular center for cultural and recreational activities the Welsh capital is rapidly transforming making it one of the pre-eminent cities of the UK and a favorite tourist destination.
As we could catch a flight to our next UK destination Northern Ireland from Bristol airport we made a stay in the Bristol City which is about an hour from Cardiff by train. The train ride takes through the beautiful countryside of a vast stretch of greenery and grazing farm animals.
Once at the Cardiff station, we collected the walking tour map from the tourist information center and set off our city sightseeing. Cardiff can be easily explored on foot with the prominent attractions being located in close proximity. The weather was pleasant and welcoming. A street musician around the corner of the street made our day with his entrancing music.
We had enough time so we sauntered along the street exploring every nook and corner. Half the way to the castle we came to a bustling local market. Cardiff market is a Victorian indoor market in the Castle Quarter of Cardiff. The traders in the market offered a variety of products from readymade clothes, lace items, Cheese, Candies and fast food.
St John the Baptist Church
We strolled around in the Cardiff Market and exited through the door at the other end which opened up to the magnificent St John the Baptist Church. The oldest parish church from medieval times dating back to the 12th century has an imposing tower and beautiful stained glass windows making it worth visiting.
At the end of the street is the 2,000 years old Cardiff Castle. The medieval castle is a major tourist attraction situated in the heart of the city center. It is just around 10 minutes walk from the train station. A visit to the castle is the best way to learn about the rich Welsh history. The people who work or live in Cardiff have free admission into the castle on issuing the Castle Keycard.
The clock tower with the seven ornate astronomical figures is a striking attraction at the entrance of the castle.
We bought the entrance tickets of the castle and booked a guided House Tour of the castle clock tower at an extra charge of £3. In the 50-minute House Tour, the expert guide walked us through the Winter Smoking Room, the Nursery, Lord Bute’s Bedroom and the Roof Top Garden. One can only visit the interior of the castle with a guided tour.
The winter smoking room is the most extravagantly embellished room. An intricately ornate fireplace, appealing stained glass and opulent interiors and the vividly decorated walls and ceilings are phenomenal.
The banquet hall has splendid interiors and the impressive architecture on the ceiling.
The rooftop garden has a tiled courtyard with a fountain in the middle. The walls depict the Old Testament story of Elijah.
We ended the tour at a large library located beneath the banquet hall. Most of the rooms can be rented for parties, weddings, corporate and business meetings.
One can also explore the castle with a free audio guide and a map provided.
The Norman Keep towering high above the Castle grounds provides with remarkable views over the city and scenic vistas of the hills.
We visited the tunnels in the castle walls, which acted as the air-raid shelters for around 1800 people during the Second World War. The tunnels are recreated for an experience of bygone times with the kitchen, dormitories and the sounds of the siren.
Cardiff Castle Museum houses information and exhibits on 300 years of Welsh military history.
Principality Stadium or Millennium Stadium
After the amazing tour of the castle, we followed the route map to the Principality Stadium. Principality Stadium is the national stadium of Wales with a capacity for 74k supporters and features a retractable roof. The stadium hosts different kind of sports, events, and musical concerts.
One can also book a tour to visit the Stadium to visit the conference rooms, changing rooms and the stadium grounds.
From Principality Stadium, we boarded a bus number 8 to the Cardiff Bay. The city’s Docklands which were once booming coal export center is today a bustling recreation area. The Cardiff Bay is a waterfront built around a freshwater lake with a miscellany of cafes, shopping centers, boat trips, exhibits from the Doctor Who Experience and play area for kids which create a lively and vibrant atmosphere for people of all ages alike. The Celtic Ring details the tidal charts, maritime instruments, and the docks area.
The vibrantly colored Pierhead Building is a Welsh history museum and exhibition center.
The popular landmark of the Cardiff Bay is the Millennium Center with large inscription bedecking the facade, which reads as “In these stones, horizons sing”.
It is an art center, which hosts several concerts and performances. It consists of theaters, halls, cafes, and restaurants. We strolled around in the building and took a bus back to the station and thereafter a train to Bristol.
The capital city offers one with an amazing shopping experience, eating joints and entertainment and recreational activities around the bay. The city can be easily explored on foot and has good public transport with a day pass for unlimited journeys. A visit to the Welsh capital acquaints one with the knowledge of Wales’ history and culture and an immaculate charm of the city.
If you have more time in Cardiff you can plan a day trip to numerous places around Cardiff which are rich with breathtaking landscapes, lovely villages, dramatic coastlines, beaches, and valleys.
There is more to Wales than the capital and we left with a wish to return sometime soon to our next destination Belfast in Northern Ireland.
Have you visited the Welsh capital city, Cardiff? How has been your experience? Do share with us in Comments.
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