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Cardiff, or "Caerdydd", in Welsh, is the largest city and most populous county of Wales, UK, having a population approximated at a number of nearly 325 000 inhabitants, during a recent estimate. It became a city in 1905 and proclaimed capital of Wales in 1955. Though, at first, it had a reputation of being a rough, industrial city, Cardiff has undergone dramatic changes, today, standing as a modern capital city, drawing numerous tourists with its beauty, history and culture.
Cardiff's city centre is positioned in the southern portion of the city, just north of Cardiff Bay, and it is bounded by the Valleys and South Wales rail lines to the east and south, by the historic civic centre, park, castle and university buildings to the north, and by River Taff to the west. However, Cardiff's recent growth has pushed the city centre beyond these boundaries.
Archaeological evidences show that the site where Cardiff stands today has been inhabited since 2000 years ago. Until the arrival of the industrial revolution and the rise of coal, Cardiff has continued to grow at a slow, but steady pace, for hundreds of years, turning into a major coal exporting port, at the time, the largest coal exporting port in the world. In the following period, Cardiff saw phenomenal growth in population, as well as in economy. Given the fact that it was always historically smaller than towns such as Merthyr and Swansea, Cardiff has managed to achieve a meteoric rise to become the beautiful capital city we see today.
The best time to visit Cardiff is during late spring, as the warm weather adds to the city's delights and allows people to make the most of their stay in the city, by exploring all the sites and areas, especially given the fact that most of the attractions found in Cardiff are outdoor oriented. Despite the fact that Cardiff started as a gritty and industrial city, today, its area boasts with appealing attractions and striking landmarks, such as the spectacular Wales Millennium Centre building or the National Assembly for Wales.
Cardiff Castle is, perhaps, the city's best known landmark. This large castle, based upon a Roman fort, was one of the homes of Marquis de Bute, in the 19th century. Tours of the Bute households are available, and the the Norman fort in the centre, as well as the Welsh regimental museum and excavated Roman ruins are open to the public. The regular adult fare is £8.95 without a tour and £11.95 with a tour.
Millennium Stadium is also considered "a must" for every Cardiff visitor. This 74 200-seat stadium plays host to the Wales national rugby and football teams. It has also hosted the FA Cup Final for some years, at the time when the Wembley Stadium in London was being redeveloped. Tours are available online or at the ticket desk. The regular adult fare is £6.50.
Another "must see" in Cardiff is the Wales Millennium Center, a wonderful piece of modern architecture. The futuristic center was opened in 2004, by the Queen, and hosts opera, dance and musicals throughout the year, with free entrance.
Cardiff Bay Visitor Centre, also referred to as simply the Tube, is the place to get information about the development of Cardiff Bay, the world's largest port, the centre featuring exhibits and displays that reveal the port's gradual growth. Entry is free.
The National Museum & Gallery of Wales is also worth checking out, featuring and excellent collection of paintings from various periods, including archaeological and geological exhibits, cafes and shops.
The Cardiff Museum is, perhaps, the first attraction one should visit, while exploring Cardiff, the museum showing the city's past and present times, revealing its history, focusing mainly on areas such as sports, industry, immigration and arts.
If you're into science, then be sure to check Techniquest on your "to see" vacation list. It is located near the Millennium Center and features more than 160 science and technology exhibits, dedicated for all ages. While here, be sure to also check out the Science Theatre and explore the Universe in the Planetarium. The regular adult admission fee is £7.00.