Weekend in Cardiff
I’ve always had a bit of a soft spot for Cardiff. This is the city where my mother was born, so I
always have a little sense of coming home, or at least a second home, when I return to Cardiff.
This has always been an industrial hub, the port for a massive coal-mining industry, and of course
the spiritual home of rugby. Cardiff is a surprising blend of the history of yesterday with the modern
vibrant city that it has become today.
If you are not familiar with Wales you can be forgiven for forgetting it’s long and proud history of
independence, national identity and distinct culture. Throughout history its fortunes have waxed
and waned with its neighbours, but in recent years there has been a strong resurgence of Welsh
nationalism which has seen a devolution of power and promotion of the Welsh language. The heart
of Cardiff is dominated by the impressive Cardiff Castle. While the original construction dates back
to the 11th Century (when the invading Normans used the foundations of an old Roman fort to
create the foundations of a new castle keep), like most castles in the UK it has been rebuilt and
renovated across the years. Today it has been restored and maintained and is a great starting
point for visitors wanting to learn more about the history of this country.
As a major shipping port, Cardiff Bay and its dockland areas became a busy, but fairly seedy part
of town. As the coal industry declined, much of the docklands district fell into disuse and disrepair.
In recent years however there has been a surprising transformation of the Cardiff docklands and
the entire Cardiff Bay area. Restaurants, shops, cafes – this exciting modern precinct has created
an outdoor style of living previously unseen in Cardiff. The centrepiece is the spanking new Wales
Millennium Centre – a theatre complex with a brilliantly modern design.
If you are vaguely interested in art and culture then the National Museum in Cardiff is deﬁnitely
worth a visit. It is surprising just how good their collection is of works from the Impressionist school.
This is the rebellious school of painting led by Renoir, Monet, and Pissarro that emerged in Paris in
the late 1800s. The collection of work that is now held by Cardiff’s museum was originally
assembled by two sisters – Gwendoline and Margaret Davies. These two remarkable women were
the granddaughters of a wealth industrialist who built much of the railway system in Wales and
made a fortune from coal. The Davies sisters were determined to use their wealth for social good
and they supported a huge range of cultural and educational initiatives in Wales. They also built
this phenomenal collection of art – together they bequeathed 260 works to this museum. It is well
worth checking out.
It may be my second home and I may be a bit biased, but Cardiff is a surprising city but it is easily
accessible from London and deﬁnitely worth exploring for a weekend mini-break.
Written by our friend Gareth who lives in London.