Cardiff is the capital and largest city in the country of Wales. It is set on the shores of the Bay of Bristol just past the mouth of the River Severn, the longest (at about 220 miles) river in the UK. The Bay of Bristol separates the country of Wales from the counties of Cornwall, Devon, and Somerset in England. While it was once a heavily industrial city and one of the world's largest coal exporters, it has become a popular tourism destination with many summer festivals and a city center that has many pedestrian-only areas.
The Roman Empire established a fort here more than 2,000 years ago, and this soon became Cardiff Castle, one of the finest examples of medieval castles in the British Isles. There are vestiges of the original Roman fort around the castle walls. Its Norman castle keep is still intact and the Victorian castle apartments are quite beautiful. The castle is located right in the center of the city at the southern end of Cardiff Arms Park and near the main train station. Other landmarks include the Millennium Stadium, built for the 1999 Rugby World Cup and the largest stadium in Europe with a completely retractable roof. One of the oldest cathedrals in Europe, the Llandaff Cathedral, dates to 1107 and boasts spectacular Gothic architecture. Outside of the city is Castell Coch, a Gothic Revival castle built from 1871 to 1891. It is a bit of a fairy-tale structure, similar to those castles found along the Rhine River in Germany.
There are a number of Cardiff museums and galleries, including the National Museum of Wales with its excellent collection of paintings (most noted for the superb group of Impressionist works) and archeological exhibits and the Cardiff Museum chronicling the city's history. About two miles to the west of the city is St Fagans National History Museum, an extremely popular open-air museum of reconstructed buildings from all over the country. It is located on the grounds of St Fagans Castle, a stately manor house from the Elizabethan period. The gardens around the manor house are particularly beautiful. There is excellent shopping in the city, especially in the historic Victorian arcades that were built in the latter part of the nineteenth century. These are superficially similar to Covent Garden in London, with numerous shops, galleries, boutiques, and markets.
Twelve miles to the west of the city is the airport, the only major international facility in the country. It is set right on the coast and Cardiff Wales hotels in this area give you excellent access to this part of the coast and the surrounding countryside. Train service is excellent, and the main railway station is right in the city center. There are frequent trains from other cities within Wales as well as from Manchester and Birmingham in England. There are also frequent trains (departing approximately every half-hour) from London's Paddington Station. There are actually more than twenty railway stations in the city, and there are Cardiff Wales hotels near virtually all of them. Often, you will find hostels near rail stations, as backpackers and others on a budget often travel by train. Near the city center station at 11-15 Howard Gardens is the Nomad Backpackers Hostel. It is set in a row of Victorian townhouses. There is no curfew, no minimum two-night stay, and a surprising number of free facilities and services. The communal kitchen is fully equipped, and there is cable television, a game room, and free wireless high-speed Internet.
If you're looking for Cardiff Wales hotels with a bit more panache, try the St. David's Hotel and Spa at Havannah Street right on the waterfront. This is a beautiful five-star property with a luxurious full-service spa, an excellent restaurant and bar, and access to the marina and bay cruises.