City Guide: Cardiff

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On the banks of the River Taff in central Cardiff lie two iconic stadiums, Principality Stadium and its far older sibling Cardiff Arms Park.

On the banks of the River Taff in central Cardiff lie two iconic stadiums, Principality Stadium and its far older sibling Cardiff Arms Park.

A city shrouded in history, evidence suggests that the Welsh capital was first inhabited in 6000 BC (1500 years prior to the completion of Stonehenge), before the Romans built the infrastructure we see today.

Under Norman rule in the 11th century, Cardiff Castle became a focal point of the then bustling town, before it was finally granted city status by King Edward VII in 1905 and eventually became the Welsh capital in 1955.

Cardiff is a city bustling with passionate sports supporters and has a history of putting on a show. From Rugby World Cups to its role in London 2012, there are few cities in the world more centred around sport.

Main Attraction

Unsurprisingly in a city with so much history, you are hardly struggling for options when looking at attractions.

There is no more historic place than Cardiff Castle, where you can see its journey from Roman fort to Victorian palace and everything in between.

Just a stone’s throw away from both stadiums, the unique castle was turned into a Victorian paradise for the third Marquess of Bute, while it still included the wartime shelters and its Norman roots. It is a truly extraordinary time capsule of Welsh history, unique in that it is in such a central location.

If history is your thing, Llandaff Cathedral dates from around 1120 and stands as one of the oldest Christian sites in Britain.

A far more modern building is the Senedd, which was opened on St David’s Day in 2006 by Queen Elizabeth II, and houses the Welsh Parliament, allowing access to the inner chambers of Welsh politics in the public gallery.

Aside from the historic buildings, political hub and sporting amphitheatres, there is also the National Museum Cardiff, which is the place to see Wales’ national art, natural history and geology collections.

Food and Drink

Known for Welsh traditional dishes including Glamorgan sausages, Cawl and tatws pum munud, Cardiff is full of places to enjoy a sit-down meal, food on the go or a pre-match pint.

In fact, there are as many as 547 registered restaurants, cafes and bars in the Welsh capital, not including the vast array of delicious street food stands.

Located just a 19-minute walk away from Cardiff Arms Park is The Corporation Yard, the place to be for street food in the city centre, with new vendors each month.

If you are looking for a sit-down meal, there is the highly reputable Ciliegino Restaurant, where you can enjoy southern Italian delicacies before a short walk to the stadium for the match.

While if you are after a more traditional Welsh meal, Pitch Bar and Eatery is right next to Cardiff Central Station, where you can enjoy traditional and modern Welsh cooking – including their signature dish of Paul’s Nan’s Cawl.

And would it be a trip to Wales if you have not enjoyed a delicious Welsh rarebit? If you are a cheese lover, then there is nowhere better than Madame Fromage, located opposite Cardiff Castle for a traditionally cheesy Welsh meal.

There are plenty of pubs around the stadium, but again if you want to keep it local, The Old Arcade pub in Church Street is a traditional Welsh rugby Brains pub, just four minutes away from Cardiff Castle.

The Venue

Originally named the Great Park when behind the Cardiff Arms Hotel, Cardiff Arms Park as it is now known has played host to sporting events in the Welsh capital since the early 1800s.

Under the ownership of the Bute family, it became a hub for Cardiff Cricket Club from 1848, before Bute brought in the rugby ground in the south part of the land.

In 1881, the first stands were built, with a capacity crowd of 300, designed by architect Archibald Leitch, who also designed iconic stadiums Ibrox and Old Trafford.

By 1912, the stadium had a capacity crowd of 43,000, eventually rising to 60,000 by the mid-1950s after restorations had taken place following bad damage in 1941 when the Luftwaffe bombed both the new North Stand and the West terracing during the Blitz.

In 1966, the Arms Park hosted the world’s first ever floodlit match, between Cardiff Rugby and Barbarians FC.

It has hosted some of the biggest sporting events in the world, including the 1958 Commonwealth Games, where both the opening and closing ceremonies took place, as well as four matches in the 1991 Rugby World Cup, while musical giants including Tina Turner, U2, Michael Jackson and the Rolling Stones all performed there.

Nowadays, Cardiff Arms Park site sees only rugby union and lawn bowls taking place, with Cardiff Rugby Club playing their home matches there.

In 2013, the grass pitch was replaced by an artificial surface to allow for rugby to continue in adverse weather.

How do I get there?

Located in central Cardiff, Cardiff Arms Park is easy to get to for supporters, just a five-minute walk away from Cardiff Central station.

If you are driving, exit the M4 at junction 33, before following the Cardiff Link Road (A4232) and exit at the second junction, signposted Cardiff City Stadium and Away Fans.

You will then want to turn right onto the A4161 and shortly you will notice the floodights of the Arms Park.

Fans are advised that traffic can be very heavy in Cardiff, and your journey may take longer than anticipated, while there is no parking at the stadium itself, so it is suggested you check parking availability elsewhere.

Fun Facts

Despite being the capital city of Wales, Cardiff is only the UK’s 11th biggest city, with a population of 478,000, making it one of the smallest capital cities in Europe.

Cardiff was formerly known as Coalopolis during the 19th and 20th centuries when Cardiff experienced significant growth when becoming the largest international exporter of coal.

The Welsh capital is twinned with European cities Nantes in France and Stuttgart in Germany.

With more than five parks per 100,000 people, Cardiff ranks as the fourth greenest city in Europe, behind only Paris, Luxembourg and Dublin.