Cardiff, Wales

Wales’ capital city has a lot to offer, from a castle dating back to the Normans to a modern shopping and cultural district along the bay. History and architecture buffs will be as delighted as fans of the TV series Doctor Who.

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1 Norman Shell Keep of Cardiff Castle in Cardiff, Wales

Cardiff Castle began with the Romans who built a fort here during the 1st century. Three more were constructed until they abandoned the ten-acre site in the late 4th century. The Normans arrived in the late 11th century. They initially constructed a wooden keep protected by a high wall and surrounded by a moat. In the 12th century, the Earl of Gloucester built this shell keep (tower) on top of a motte (man-made hill) in the center of an inner bailey (fortified courtyard). The twelve-sided citadel measures 77 feet wide and 30 feet tall. The Normans remained in control until 1216 AD. You can walk up the fifty steps to see the remnants of this medieval keep.

West St Cardiff CF10 1BT, UK

2 South Gate of Cardiff Castle in Cardiff, Wales

The Cardiff Castle was controlled by the de Clare family from 1216 until 1314. Richard de Clare’s son, Gilbert “The Red,” is credited with building this South Gate and the Black Tower standing behind it. This is now the main visitor entrance to the castle. After the death of Gilbert, the castle was owned by the Despensers for nearly 100 years (1317 – 1416). On the left is the Clock Tower. It was constructed much later in the castle’s history.

West St Cardiff CF10 1BT, UK

3 Clock Tower of Cardiff Castle in Cardiff, Wales

This Clock Tower dominates the southwest wall of Cardiff Castle. It was designed by architect William Burges at the request of John Patrick Crichton-Stuart, the 3rd Marquess of Bute. He was one of the world’s wealthiest men during the 19th century because of his family extensive land ownership and their legacy for making Cardiff a powerful coal exporting port. Inside of this tower are several opulent bachelor’s rooms. At the top is a two-level Summer Smoking Room. Visiting this tower costs extra, but you will thoroughly enjoy the 30 minute experience.

West St Cardiff CF10 1BT, UK

4 Main Range of Cardiff Castle in Cardiff, Wales

After the Beauchamps, the castle was passed through marriage to the Nevilles in the mid-15th century. When Anne Neville’s husband, King Richard III, was killed by Henry Tudor in 1485, the castle was controlled by his lineage and then Kings Henry VII and VIII until 1551. During the ownership of the Herberts and then the Windors (1551-1776), the castle was frequently besieged and languished in disrepair. Starting in 1776, the Bute family revitalized the castle, especially John Patrick Crichton-Stuart, the 3rd Marquess of Bute. Together with his architect William Burges, they spent 17 years (1865 – 1882) building what some have called a fairytale castle. The centerpiece is this Victorian Gothic façade with elaborately decorated rooms inside. This tour of the Castle Apartments and House will be a highlight of your trip to Cardiff.

West St Cardiff CF10 1BT, UK

5 Spire atop Beauchamp Tower of Cardiff Castle in Cardiff, Wales

The Beauchamps owned the Cardiff Castle from 1416 – 1449. From 1423 through 1439, they constructed their housing along the western wall. The best preserved structure from the 15th century is the Beauchamp Tower. Richard de Beauchamp ordered this 75 foot high, octagonal tower using ashlar stone and limestone. It was crowned with this cathedral-like spire with pinnacles during the 19th century.

West St Cardiff CF10 1BT, UK

6 Leopard Sculpture on Animal Wall in Cardiff, Wales

The Animal Wall is a delightful series of sculptures along the perimeter of Bute Park adjacent to the Cardiff Castle. John Crichton-Stuart, the 3rd Marquess of Bute, commissioned William Burges to design the animals. Unfortunately, the architect died in 1881 before construction began. The first phase of the project was completed in 1892 by William Frame. It contained nine animals sculpted by Thomas Nicholls. Six more animals, including this leopard, were added in 1931 by artist Alexander Carrick. The wall was extensively refurbished in 2010.

Castle Street, Cardiff CF10 1BJ, UK

7 St John the Baptist Church in Cardiff, Wales

The first St John the Baptist Church was built in the late 12th century when Cardiff had a population of less than 2,000 people. After being mostly destroyed in 1404, it took about 85 years to reconstruct. This makes it the second oldest medieval structure in Cardiff. The oldest is the castle across the street. The church was then expanded during the next 400 years. This Perpendicular Gothic clock tower crowned with pinnacles rises 130 feet. Inside is a carillon with ten bells.

Church Office, Church St, Cardiff CF10 1GJ

8 Cardiff Crown Court in Cardiff, Wales

The Cardiff Crown Court is one of several impressive Edwardian buildings located in Cathays Park. The 59 acres of land was purchased in 1898 from John Patrick Crichton-Stuart, the 3rd Marquess of Bute. It was then developed to be the Civic Center for Cardiff, now the capital of Wales. The Crown Court and the adjacent City Hall were built simultaneously at the turn of 20th century. Each building uses the same Portland stone with similar designs by the architect firm of Lanschester, Stewart and Rickard. The life-size statues seen on the right of the Law Courts represent Commerce and Industry. They were created by Paul Raphael Montford in 1906. On the left is an allegory for Science and Education.

Law Courts, Cathays Park, Cardiff CF10 3PG, UK

9 South African War Memorial Statue in Cardiff, Wales

The South African War Memorial is a tribute to the 817 Welsh soldiers who died during the Second Boer War from October, 1899 through May of 1902. The bronze winged statue holding an olive tree represents Peace. On the right is another allegorical sculpture by Albert Toft symbolizing Grief. This tribute was erected in Cathays Park along King Edward VII Street in 1908. In the background are the twin Baroque towers of the Cardiff Crown Court.

King Edward III Ave, Cardiff CF10 3NL, UK

10 Cardiff City Hall in Cardiff, Wales

In October of 1905, Cardiff became a city, a specific status granted by the United Kingdom’s monarch. The following year, its fifth town hall was finished and could be called the City Hall. The façade features white limestone from the Isle of Portland in Southern England. It is also notable for the dome over the Marble Hall plus an ornate, 194 foot clock and bell tower. The Edwardian Baroque design was created by Henry Vaughan Lanchester.

Gorsedd Gardens Rd, Cardiff CF10 3ND, UK

11 National Museum Cardiff in Cardiff, Wales

The National Museum Cardiff is one of seven facilities constituting Amgueddfa Cymru or the National Museum of Wales. Located in Cathays Park, the collection includes exhibits on natural history, geology and archaeology dating back to the ice age. In 2011, the National Museum of Art was added. This contains paintings and sculptures from European masters and impressionists plus historic and contemporary Welsh artists. The first phase of this Beau-Arts building by architects Arnold Smith and Cecil Brewer was finished in 1922. Admission to the museum is free.

Cathays Park, Cardiff CF10 3NP, UK

12 29 Park Place in Cardiff, Wales

Park Place defines the eastern edge of Gorsedd Gardens and Cathays Park. The short street was constructed towards the end of the 1800s, a period when Cardiff doubled in size within ten years. Several Victorian, red brick houses were built like this one at 29 Park Place across from the National Museum Cardiff. More recently, this structure has been the home of the Cardiff Arts Institute and the Bacchus Bar. At the end of 2015, it reopened as a restaurant and tavern appropriately called 29 Park Place.

29 Park Pl, Cardiff CF10 3BS, UK

13 Welsh National War Memorial in Cardiff, Wales

The Welsh National War Memorial is a tribute to the soldiers who died during World War I with a plaque mentioning WWII. The white, circular monument supported by Corinthian columns encircles three bronze statues of servicemen holding a wreath. Also created by A. B. Pegram is the center figure of St Michael the Archangel with a sword. The memorial was design by Sir John Ninian Comper and unveiled in Alexandra Gardens in 1928.

King Edward VII Ave, Cardiff CF10 3NN, UK

14 Glamorgan Building in Cardiff, Wales

When it opened in Cathays Park in 1912, the Glamorgan Building contained the administrative offices for the county of Glamorganshire. The name Glamorgan County Council is still inscribed over the door. After the thirteen Welsh counties were redefined in the mid-1970s, it was occupied by the Mid Glamorgan County Council until 1996. The following year, the former county hall became part of Cardiff University, an undergraduate and postgraduate research school founded in 1883. The Beau-Arts design by Vincent Harris features six fluted Corinthian columns plus pilasters and balusters.

King Edward VII Ave, Cardiff CF10, UK

15 Minerva Statue in Front of Glamorgan Building in Cardiff, Wales

The county of Glamorgan was a significant producer of coal plus copper, limestone and iron from the mid-18th century until the mid-20th century This statue by Albert Hodge is one of two in front of the Glamorgan Building. It is an allegory for the importance of mining to the region. The figure on the left is Minerva, the Roman goddess of wisdom, trade and commerce.

King Edward VII Ave, Cardiff CF10, UK

16 Millennium Stadium in Cardiff, Wales

A sporting complex called the National Stadium opened on this site in 1984. However, within a dozen years, it was considered inadequate. So most of it was torn down to accommodate the new Millennium Stadium. This view from along River Walk shows its unique design feature of four, 296 foot masts. This rugby and football facility was finished in 1999 and is owned by the Welsh Rugby Union. It has a seating capacity of 74,500 and a retractable roof over its natural grass turf. In 2016, it was renamed the Principality Stadium after a ten-year agreement was made with Wales’ largest financial institution (called a building society).

Principality Stadium Westgate St, Cardiff CF10 1NS, UK

17 Wales Millennium Centre in Cardiff, Wales

The Wales Millennium Centre is a venue for the performing arts. Since its second phase was completed in 2009, its two theaters and one hall host a variety of programs including concerts, opera, dance, theatre and ballet. The most distinctive architectural feature is the steel dome coated with copper oxide. The foreground was the West Bute Dock from 1839 until the end of the 20th century. In 2000, it was converted into a large public square and amphitheater appropriately named the Oval Basin. After the death of a native-born, popular novelist, it was renamed the Roald Dahl Plass (place) in his honor.

Wales Millennium Centre, Bute Place, Cardiff CF10 5AL, UK

18 Water Tower Reflection in Cardiff, Wales

A visual highlight of the Roald Dahl Plass along Cardiff Bay is a 70 foot, stainless steel rectangle by William Pye called the Water Tower. I liked the way the water fountain reflected the retail stores in Mermaid Quay. But the audience of BBC’s TV series “Torchwood” recognizes it as the entrance to The Hub headquarters. Fans also enjoy the Doctor Who Experience attraction within walking distance. Really avid fans take bus tours of local filming locations. The Roath Lock studios are also located in Cardiff.

Water Tower Cardiff CF10 5AN, UK

19 Mermaid Quay in Cardiff, Wales

In 1987, the Cardiff Bay Development Corporation was created to convert the decrepit docks along Cardiff Bay into a major shopping and entertainment area. The 150,000 square feet of retail space opened in 1999 as the Mermaid Quay. In addition to stores, restaurants and bars, the waterfront offers museums, performing arts, boating, frequent festivals or just a relaxing walk along the shoreline. On the left is a bronze sculpture by John Clinch titled “People Like Us.”

Tacoma Square Cardiff, CF10 5BZ, UK

20 Welsh Carousel at Mermaid Quay in Cardiff, Wales

No waterfront boardwalk is complete without a traditional carousel. Mermaid Quay is no exception. This merry-go-round is operated by Norman Sayers Amusements. Apparently, this is the world’s only Welsh themed carousel. During the summer months, the Roald Dahl Plass also hosts a large fair with more rides, a beach and pool plus games designed to entertain children.

Taff Trail Start Cardiff CF10 4PZ, UK

21 Pierhead Building in Cardiff, Wales

From 1794 through the late 19th century, a number of docks were built to accommodate the exporting of coal and iron. A railway was also constructed to transport the material to the bay. These investments led to Cardiff becoming a major world port until the early 20th century when it began its decline. This Gothic Revivalist building by architect William Frame opened in 1897 for the Bute Docks Company and was later used by the Cardiff Railway Company. The Pierhead Building owes its distinctive red color to glazed, terracotta bricks made from Etruia Marl clay. Locals call this landmark’s clock the Baby Big Ben. After a major restoration ending in 2010, the building became a history museum. Pierhead Building is part of the adjacent National Assembly.

Pierhead Pierhead St, Cardiff CF10 4PZ, UK

22 The Senedd National Assembly Building in Cardiff, Wales

The Seneed opened in 2006 as the debating chambers and committee rooms for the National Assembly for Wales. This group of 60 elected members was formed in 1998. However, they did not have unrestricted power to create Welsh legislative law until 2011. This impressive steel roofline stretches over a glass exterior on the Cardiff Bay waterfront. The Snedd was designed by architect Richard Rogers.

National Assembly for Wales, Cardiff CF99 1NA, UK

23 Cardiff Bay in Cardiff, Wales

Cardiff Bay was a natural inlet of the Bristol Channel. Prior to the 1980s, the waterway called Tiger Bay was mostly used for shipping docks. However, at low tide it became an ugly, unnavigable mudflat. In 2001, the 3,600 foot long Cardiff Bay Barrage was built as a dam to control water levels. The resulting 500 acre, freshwater lake was renamed Cardiff Bay. This success led to a complete transformation of the northern shoreline. On the right is the distinctive Pierhead Building.

Cardiff CF10 4PZ, UK

24 Merchant Seafarers’ War Memorial in Cardiff, Wales

This giant head lying on its side along the waterfront of Cardiff Bay immediately grabs your attention. Walk around it and you will discover it transforms into a ship’s hull. The dramatic and moving steel sculpture by Brian Fell is called the Merchant Seafarers’ War Memorial. This tribute to merchant seamen who died during World War II was installed in 1997. The visionary and fundraiser for its commission was William Henke.

Merchant Seafarer's Cardiff, CF10 4PZ, UK

25 Norwegian Church Arts Centre in Cardiff, Wales

The Norwegian Iron Church was built along the waterfront in 1868 to provide religious services to merchant seamen from Norway who traveled in and out of the Cardiff docks. For obvious reasons, they nicknamed it the Little White Church. After shipping declined, the church closed in 1974. It was disassembled in 1987, restored within Waterfront Park in 1992 and underwent a major refurbishment in 2011. Now it serves as a gallery called the Norwegian Church Arts Centre.

Norwegian Church Arts Centre, Harbour Drive, Cardiff Bay, CF10 4PA

26 Antarctic 100 Memorial in Cardiff, Wales

On June 15, 1910, the SS Terra Nova left Cardiff captained by Robert Falcon Scott. He and his crew, called the British Antarctic Expedition, arrived on the South Pole in January, 1912. This was 34 days after a Norwegian team led by Roald Amundsen achieved the same feat. The Polar party perished while trying to return. This tribute portraying an explorer covered with snow and ice is The Antarctic 100 Memorial. The sculpture was created by Jonathan Williams and erected along Cardiff Bay in 2013.

Norwegian Church Arts Centre, Harbour Drive, Cardiff Bay, CF10 4PA, UK

27 Love Me or Leave Me Alone in Cardiff, Wales

Norway is famous for its stave churches, a form of architecture characterized by its wooden posts, timber framing plus multiple tiered and sloping rooflines. Artists Ivan and Heather Morison were inspired by these medieval buildings when they created “Love Me or Leave Me Alone” in 2015. This unique, shingled structure serves as a food kiosk. It is located adjacent to the Norwegian Church Arts Centre in Waterfront Park.

Norwegian Church Arts Centre, Harbour Drive, Cardiff Bay, CF10 4PA