South Wales: Places to Explore


Photo: Matthew Dixon/iStockphoto


With a population of around 330,000, Cardiff is the largest and most important city in Wales. It's also one of the youngest capitals in Europe: although a settlement has existed here since Roman times, Cardiff wasn't declared a city until 1905, and didn't become the capital until 50 years later. This is an energetic, youthful place, keen to show its newfound cosmopolitanism to the world. Cardiff is experiencing something of a cultural renaissance with the opening of the Wales Millennium Centre in Cardiff Bay.

The historic market town of Brecon is known for its Georgian buildings, narrow passageways, and pleasant riverside walks. It's also the gateway to Brecon Beacons National Park. The town is particularly appealing on Tuesday and Friday, which are market days. You may want to purchase a hand-carved wooden "love spoon" similar to those on display in the Brecknock Museum.

For all its urban optimism, however, Cardiff is still a rather workaday town, with little to detain you for more than a day. See Cardiff Castle and the National Museum, wander Cardiff Bay, and maybe catch a show. Otherwise, it's a convenient base for exploring the nearby countryside.

Home to the Welsh Assembly and with a population of 306,000, Cardiff is financially, industrially, and commercially the most important city in Wales. It's also one of Europe's youngest and most vibrant capital cities, with an appealing blend of old and new. Traditional sights such as Cardiff Castle stand alongside new landmarks like the Millennium Stadium and Cardiff Bay, a onetime coal-exporting hub that is now filled with shops, restaurants, attractions, and exciting modern buildings like the Wales Millennium Centre.

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