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Europe's funkiest capital
Europe's funkiest capital
St David's Hotel and Spa


Thursday, October 16, 2003
Once with the reputation of being a grimy city of disused docks, rusting railway lines and garbage tips, Cardiff has evolved into a multicultural city with an eye on the post-industrial future. It is Europe's youngest capital. With 25,000 of its population of 320,000 university students, it is a palpably youthful city.

Cardiff — or Caerdydd to be totally correct — has been the Welsh capital for just 48 years and has been reinvented. More than a place of coalmines, male choirs, rugby, Tom Jones and Shirley Bassey, it has many attributes which make locals very proud.

Smack bang in the centre of town is Cardiff Castle. Indications are that the site was first occupied by the Romans in the first century AD. The Earl of Warwick built his home there in the 1420s and the Herbert family extended it in the 17th century. A century later, the first marquis of Bute hired architect Henry Holland and his father-in-law, Capability Brown, the landscape genius, to put the house and grounds into good order.

The present castle was designed in the Gothic Revival style. Its first project was a clock tower built as a series of medieval bachelor apartments and completed in 1872.

Nearby is the Ancient Warrior shop, which specialises in armour, swords and tales of battle. If you want to test your archery talents, the Llandaff City Bowmen Society meets every Tuesday and Friday night and they have beginner's courses on offer.

Not far away, across Duke Street, is the Millennium Stadium. The three-tiered venue can hold 72,500, mostly rugby fans in full voice, who eat and drink in its seven restaurants and 22 public bars. The turf is grown in Glamorgan and is taken up when the stadium is booked for concerts or other functions. Guided tours are available and sports fans can sit in a VIP box or walk the tunnel to the pitch.

Cardiff is home to the world's oldest record store. Spillers was opened in 1894 by Henry Spiller, who took a chance on the new-fangled technology of recorded music. He sold flat discs, cylinders, sheet music and gramophones, which had been invented just two years earlier and were regarded by many people as a novelty with a short life. Nick Todd, the current owner, went there as manager 30 years ago and has kept the shop pretty much as it was.

Critical to the transformation of Cardiff has been the 20-year program of turning a vast, derelict dockland and industrial area into a thriving waterfront for business and leisure. The city has been united with the reborn bay with a 1.6-kilometre boulevarde.

The area mushroomed and has become far greater than originally planned. Its creative architecture and striking public art reflect a bond with the sea, boasting restaurants, entertainment, sports centres, luxury housing and prestigious offices, including the seat of the Welsh Assembly.


The southeast of Wales in the United Kingdom


St David's Hotel and Spa rooms begin at around $500 a night.
Cardiff Castle tours cost around $11 for adults and $7 for children.
Millennium Stadium tours run most days and cost around $12.
Llandaff City Bowmen Society has beginners' courses each Tuesday and Friday night; they cost around $45.
Qantas flies daily to London. Return economy airfares start at $1675 from Melbourne, $1682 from Perth, $1684 from Darwin and Brisbane, $1691 from Adelaide and $1695 from Sydney, per person. Prices include charges/taxes and are current at time of writing but may vary at time of booking. Seasonal surcharges and conditions apply.
Please note prices are valid at time of filming.

More information

The St David's Hotel & Spa
Havannah Street Cardiff Wales
Ph: 44 0 29 2045 4045
Fax: 44 0 29 2048 7056

Cardiff Castle
Castle Street Cardiff Wales
Ph: 44 0 29 2087 8100
Fax: 44 0 29 2023 1417

City Arms
10 Quay Street Cardiff Wales
Ph: 44 0 29 2022 5258
Spiller’s Record Store
36 The Hayes Cardiff Wales
Ph; 44 0 29 2022 4905

Millennium Stadium
Ph: 44 870 558 2582

Llandaff City Bowmen Society
St Fagans Cardiff Wales

Castle Welsh Crafts
1-3 Castle Street Cardiff Wales
Ph: 029 2034 3038

To book a flight visit or call 13 13 13.

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