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Cardiff For Newbies

Cardiff is hosting the 2017 UEFA Champions League final on 3 June. Although the city is overshadowed by the likes of Britain’s most popular destinations, namely London, Manchester and Liverpool, Cardiff, an ancient Roman fortification, is currently experiencing a moment of splendour. Indeed, it has a plethora of allurements to warrant you visiting the city, whether or not your team is due to file onto the pitch at the Millennium Stadium. In the following we reveal the most iconic spots in the Welsh capital.

Cardiff Bay
This is one of the city’s nerve centres and the economic driving force behind its development in the early 20th century. However, when the coal trade slipped into decline, the Cardiff docks turned into a derelict, forsaken precinct. In the 1990s, the Cardiff Council decided to revive Cardiff Bay, converting it into an area open to the public. It is now the favourite haunts of many a Cardiffian and is one of the most attractive areas in the city, boasting some of the best leisure and gastronomic amenities.

Llandaff Cathedral
One of the most emblematic examples of religious architecture in Wales. Built in the 13th century, Llandaff Cathedral is a huge, mesmerising Gothic construction, although some corners reveal vestiges of the Norman and later periods, notably the stunning “Christ” modelled by the American sculptor, Jacob Epstein, which hangs in the central nave. For those interested in paranormal phenomena, Llandaff Cathedral has spawned all manner of ghost stories, to the extent that they now run a “Ghost Tour” on which visitors are shown the spots where ghost sightings have taken place. Interestingly, not far from the Cathedral lies Llandaff Cathedral School, where Roald Dahl studied.

Cardiff Castle
Cardiff Castle
is a must-visit spot for all newcomers to the city, just as the Colosseum is in Rome, the Acropolis in Athens and the Eiffel Tower in Paris. Built on the site of a former Roman fortification, its origins go back to the 11th century. Although much of the original structure is still intact, in the 19th century the Marquess of Bute commissioned the architect, William Burges, to undertake extensive remodelling works, based on the Victorian and Neogothic precepts in vogue at the time, which turned the castle into one of the most opulent contemporary constructions.

Cardiff City Hall
Flanked by Cardiff Crown Court and the National Museum of Cardiff stands Cardiff City Hall, one of the most stunningly beautiful buildings in the city. Built in the early 20th century, even its exterior features extraordinary architectural beauty in the purity of its white limestone facings. However, don’t let its formidable appearance stop you from going inside. You can double check in reception, but usually you can visit all the rooms you find open. If you’re in luck, you will be treated to such sights as the Marble Hall with its collection of sculptures of illustrious figures from Welsh history, the Assembly Room and the Council Chamber.

National Museum of Cardiff
Next door to the Cardiff City Hall is the National Museum of Cardiff, the most important museum in the city. Like the neighbouring Cardiff Crown Court and Cardiff City Hall, this is a stunning Edwardian building on which construction began in 1912. Building work was interrupted by the outbreak of World War I and could not be completed until 1927. Admission is free (like virtually all British museums) and the interior houses a variety of exhibitions, ranging from different natural science disciplines to art – the highlight is their collection of Impressionist paintings, featuring such geniuses as Van Gogh, Monet and Cézanne.

Wales Millennium Centre
At the entrance to Cardiff Bay you will come across the Wales Millennium Centre, home to the Welsh National Opera. Opened in 1912, this modern building presents elements in slate, metal, wood and glass, all sourced in Wales. Inscribed above the main entrance are two poetic lines, written by Welsh poet Gwyneth Lewis. The first, in Welsh, reads “Creating Truth Like Glass From Inspiration's Furnace” and the second, in English, reads “In These Stones Horizons Sing”. Housed in the interior is the Donald Gordon Theatre, with a seating capacity of 1,900, and two adjoining rooms, which host opera recitals and extravaganzas, symphonic orchestras, ballet, theatre and contemporary music throughout the year.

Techniquest
Techniquest is the largest museum of science, technology and knowledge in the United Kingdom. Located on Stuart Street, a stone’s throw from Cardiff Bay, it stands out for its characteristic glass and steel structure. Striking a balance between education and entertainment, Techniquest is home to permanent and temporary exhibitions, as well as a theatre which hosts various science-oriented events, a planetarium and a centre of knowledge and technology dedicated to educating visitors in scientific principles through playful experiments.

Y Mochyn Du
After so much sightseeing, you will need to replenish your energy at some stage. And, where better to do so than in a typical Welsh pub? None comes more highly recommended than Y Muchyn Du (Black Pig, in Welsh). It lies some 20 minutes from the city centre, right at the entrance to Sophia Gardens and alongside the city’s main cricket stadium. However, once you get there, you will realise your journey has been worth it – walls plastered in rugby memorabilia, a Welsh-speaking clientele, traditional Welsh cuisine and a good assortment of local beers. In short, one of those venues that breathes authenticity.

The Backdrop for the Final
Football will be king on 3 June, but the National Stadium of Wales, also known as the Millennium Stadium, is one of the great temples of rugby, a sport about which the Welsh are passionate. The pride of Cardiff, the stadium was built in 1999 in time for the Rugby World Cup, and was the venue for the opening ceremony, the first and the last game, when Australia took the honours. With a seating capacity of 74,500, it is one of the world’s largest stadiums with a retractable roof, as well as one of the most striking and architecturally elegant anywhere on earth. Home to the Welsh rugby and football national teams, it is here that the new champion of European football clubs will be crowned.

Text by Oriol Rodríguez

Images by John Greenaway, David Ip, Michel Curi, John Mason, Jon Candy