Thursday, June 30, 2011

Cardiff – The Beating Heart of Wales

When it comes to travelling around Britain, a lot of people will arrive in England and head directly to London where they will stay for a few days before probably taking off to visit a couple of the other major cities such as Manchester, Birmingham or Liverpool. And although there is no doubting the fact that you could probably spend a lifetime touring around London (and still not see everything) it would be a shame to judge Britain only on these famous cities alone. For one thing there are thousands of miles of English, Scottish and Welsh countryside to explore, and for another thing there are also the main cities of Scotland and Wales to check out. One such city which is worth making a detour for is Cardiff in Wales.

Cardiff has accomplished a remarkable transformation in recent years, turning its industrial heritage on its head to become one of Britain’s most exciting cities. Nowadays, instead of looking backwards to its coal-fuelled past, Cardiff is making the most of not just that industrial heritage but also the incredible range of ancient and historic sites on its doorstep, a wonderful collection of art galleries and museums and an eclectic and adventurous bar and club scene that is fast gaining a reputation as one of the party capitals of Europe. When you throw in the fact that in the last few years the city has also become an exciting new destination for sports fans it is easy to see why Cardiff’s stature is growing year on year.

For those travellers coming to Wales Cardiff is the first stop on any tour. You’ll need at least two or three days to just soak in the wonderful atmosphere of the city and to get around all the sites. Start off with the elegant beauty of the Welsh National Museum and the Gallery of Wales, which houses a world-famous collection that contains everyone from Renoir to Van Gogh to Monet as well as taking on the Civic Hall and Civic Centre which was constructed in gorgeous Neo-Classical white Portland stone. Then take an afternoon to mooch about the endless Edwardian and Victorian streets, parks and gardens, containing an eclectic mix of local boutique shops and all the usual chains. Another whole day can be spent simply touring around the wonderful parks and gardens that fill the city, with the quiet Bute Park being the perfect spot for a picnic or afternoon nap. And in the evenings, why not get out there and sample some of the best nightlife in the UK as well as a new and seemingly endless range of fine dining options. The city itself is packed with a fantastic range of hotels, with everything from grand old historic hotels to cheap and cheerful Holiday Inn, Premier Inn and Travelodge Discount Codes. Look around and you can find some amazing deals year round just by searching for travelodge discount codes or by waiting for last minute city break deals.

The best thing about Cardiff is you can use it as a base to explore the famous Welsh countryside. Head out of the city to take in the magnificent Cardiff Castle and then keep going to explore the hundreds of old castles and ruins that fill the region. Popular destinations include Castell Coch, an ornate and kitsch castle, Caerphilly Castle and Caerleon, the old Roman fortress that has been excavated to reveal a well-preserved bath complex and amphitheatre. Bring a copy of Wordsworth poems and get yourself to Tintern Abbey or pack your walking boots and get out on the jaw-droppingly beautiful Pembrokeshire Coastal National Park, with days and days of hiking trails along the coast to explore.

Cardiff and Wales are simply beautiful and worth heading a little off the beaten track for.

Alex is a travel writer and blogger. He loves writing about expensive, sunny and exotic places but usually ends up writing about rainy days and cheap holidays in Wales.

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