Once a depressed, post-industrial city, Cardiff is fast becoming a modern metropolis, its relatively small size no barrier to becoming an exciting destination for visitors.
To what does Cardiff owe its growing public profile? In part, the answer is a time travelling blue police box and a secret HQ beneath Cardiff Bay led by an omnisexual alien hunter. Doctor Who and its spin-off BBC series Torchwood have made Cardiff cool again, and it’s a rare weekend that you don’t see tourists gathering for photographs outside the Wales Millennium Centre; that’s the secret entrance to the Torchwood Hub, for the uninitiated! The city’s streets often double for London and other cities in Doctor Who, while Torchwood is set in contemporary Cardiff itself.
In Cardiff Bay, where many key scenes of the two programmes are filmed, you’ll find the Doctor Who Up Close attraction; a small museum and gift shop featuring memorabilia from the cult BBC series.
It’s not only science fiction fans that are drawn to Cardiff. Lovers of history and architecture are also well served, as are sports fans and those in search of a unique shopping experience.
Cardiff Castle, located in the very heart of the city, is a Victorian gothic fairytale, its beautiful clock tower emblazoned with gold and brightly coloured figures representing the Roman days of the week looking down over the modern streets of the capital.
It’s easy to spend a whole afternoon here. When you’ve enjoyed the guided tour of the sumptuous Burgess-designed interiors, take a walk up the steep steps to the Norman keep in the grounds for amazing views over the city. Visit the birds of prey in the castle’s small falconry centre and pore over the vintage weaponry in the castle’s Military Museum. Round your afternoon off with tea in the Undercroft; the castle’s atmospheric vaulted caf.
With a new visitors’ centre opening in Spring 2008 and an ongoing programme of events throughout the year, Cardiff Castle can only grow in popularity as a tourist draw.
Also undergoing renovation is the National Museum of Wales. With free entry, visitors can explore the history of Wales from pre-historic times onwards. The animatronic mammoth in the Natural History galleries is a big hit with the museum’s younger visitors!
For those in search of the ideal souvenir of their visit, Cardiff is an ideal shopping destination. A new extension to the central Saint David’s shopping centre will be finished in 2009, but until then visitors can enjoy all the usual high street brands in the old Saint David’s and also explore Cardiff’s series of Victorian arcades, where they can shop for unique home wares, clothing and jewellery.
Cardiff is a draw for sport lovers as well, and with the Millennium Stadium and Arms Park located in the very heart of the city, match days always give the city centre a vibrant atmosphere.
Served by regular trains and only two hours journey from the heart of London, Cardiff is the ideal base from which to explore south Wales and even the West of England, with regular, direct train services to Bath and Bristol.