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The capital and largest city of Wales. Cardiff is the UK’s 11th largest city. It is home to around 350,000 people in the city proper but it’s metropolitan area houses 1.5 million people.
In 1081 William the Conqueror constructed the Norman castle keep that still stands today. While its port has always been important, it acquired more prominence in the 19th century with the arrival of the coal industry. Cardiff rapidly expanded from a small town to a major city at this period.
Nowadays Cardiff is a bustling city with a vibrant and diverse economy. Its media industry is one of the best in the UK with the BBC’s flagship TV show Doctor Who being filmed and produced here. Visitors will be attracted to its fantastic shopping opportunities, fantastic cultural heritage and friendly gay scene.
For information on gay rights in the United Kingdom, please check out our Gay London City Guide page.
While Cardiff’s gay scene is relatively modest in size, the city more than makes up for it in atmosphere. A decent selection of Gay Bars, Dance Clubs, Cruise Clubs and Saunas are concentrated around Charles Street and Churchill Way. Most venues are in easy walking distance of each other.
In August, Cardiff plays host to Pride Cymru which is a family friendly festival of diversity on Cooper’s Field with a carnival feel. October sees the Iris Prize Festival – a 4-day queer film festival that attracts many international guests.
Cardiff Airport (CWL) is located 12 miles south west of the city centre. It has a modest selection of flights to European destinations with some seasonal services to the Caribbean and North Africa. Qatar Airways offer connections to more exotic destinations.
The T9 bus offers an express service from Cardiff airport to the city centre. Singles cost £5 Monday to Friday and there is free WiFi onboard. The service operates every 20 minutes in summer (30 in winter) from 4am to 11pm. The journey takes around 30 minutes.
Alternatively, for £1 you can take shuttle bus 905 to Rhoose Rail Interchange and catch a train directly to Cardiff Central. The services are hourly Monday to Saturday and every 2 hours on Sundays. Tickets cost £4.60 and the journey takes around half an hour.
Taxis can be flagged from outside the terminal building but it is also possible to reserve a taxi in advance to avoid waiting. Expect to pay in the region of £30 with journey times of around half an hour. Car hire is available from outside the terminal building with most major companies operating here.
Cardiff Central station is located in the heart of the city and is situated close to many of the major attractions. There are good links to Manchester and Birmingham as well as a service to London Paddington that only takes 2 hours.
The centre of Cardiff is compact and easy to explore on foot. Most sights are situated close to each other and are well-signposted to stop you getting lost.
Cardiff Bus operates the bus network in the city and the surrounding South Wales area. Singles cost £1.80 with ‘Day to Go’ passes costing £3.60. Try to have exact change as the drivers can be fussy. The main bus station is located in front of the train station.
Black cabs are plentiful in Cardiff and will have a white plate on the black. These cars can be flagged on the street or found at ranks. Minicabs can be ordered in advance and Uber is available in Cardiff. As in all cities, be wary of illegal cabs and ensure your driver puts the meter on.
A uniquely Cardiff way to get around. The Cardiff Waterbus takes you from the Millenium Stadium, Cardiff Bay and Penarth regularly in the summer. Tickets cost around £5
Cardiff has a great choice of hotels, from budget to luxury. A list of great-value hotels in Cardiff city centre, can be found on the Cardiff Hotels page.
Cardiff Castle – a fantastic sight encompassing all periods of Cardiff’s history. Here you can see Roman ruins, the Norman keep and the ornate early 20th Century interiors. Entry cost £12
Millennium Centre – this impressive performance venue hosts everything from dance to opera to West End shows. At 1pm there are free performances in the foyer.
St Fagan’s National History Museum – this open air museum is built in the grounds of St Fagan’s castle and features reconstructed buildings from all over Wales. You may not be able to complete it in one visit due to the sheer size of the site.
Victorian Arcades – Cardiff is home to may shopping arcades which are a great place to pick up designer goods and boutique homewear. Morgan Arcade and Castle Arcade are of particular note.
Millennium Stadium – home to the Welsh national football and Rugby teams, this stadium is the largest in Europe with a fully retractable roof. It also hosts outdoors concerts by international music acts.
Penarth – a beautiful seaside resort affectionately known as “The Garden by the Sea”. Perfect for a day-trip .
The Norwegian Church – a relic of Cardiff’s Norwegian sailor community. This church is also famous as the location where the iconic children’s author Roald Dahl was christened.
National Museum Cardiff – discover the history of Wales in this fascinating museum. You will also find works of art from by greats such as Van Gogh and Rodin here.
Cardiff is often windy and wet however you can get glorious sunshine in the summer months. Although winters can be grey, temperatures rarely drop below freezing. Unlike other British cities, Cardiff does not experience a summer rush of tourists so any time of year is good to visit as long as you’re prepared for the weather.
There are many festivals held throughout the year. The 1st March is the Welsh national holiday and the city is full for the St David’s Day parade. The Welsh Proms take place in July and attracts a varied programme of artists. Winter Wonderland held over the Christmas period has an ice rink and funfair set up outside the city hall.
In recent years, the UK has tightened its immigration procedures and introduced the use of biometrics. Full details can be found here
Most visitors from Europe, and countries such as the USA, Hong Kong SAR, Singapore and Taiwan do not require a visa – check here to see if this applies to you.
Most other visitors from Asia, South Africa and South America need to obtain a visa before travelling to the UK. You will normally be required to attend an interview at your local UK Embassy.
Entry is normally permitted for a period of 6 months, and you are free to travel anywhere in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. A UK visa is not valid for travel to other European countries.
The official currency of the United Kingdom is pound sterling (£, GBP), commonly known simply as the pound. Exchanging cash into British Pounds in the UK can be expensive. Most Asian travellers get a better rate by exchanging currency before travelling to the UK.
Visa & MasterCard and debit cards are accepted almost everywhere. American Express and Diners cards are widely accepted. The UK uses a ‘Chip and PIN’ system for all payments. If your card has a microchip, expect to be asked to enter your PIN number rather than sign. If you do not have a PIN, expect to be asked to show official photo ID.
Contact-less debit and credit card payments are becoming more popular for smaller purchases in coffee shops, car parks, grocery stores and on public transport.
Banks usually open between 09:30 and 16:00, although many in larger cities or major shopping areas will stay open a lot later.
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