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Top 20 Most Popular UK Cities for International Visitors


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Wales Millennium Centre

Wales Millennium Centre facade with its complementary Welsh and English poems.

TF Duesing via Flickr

Cardiff, the capital of Wales and its largest city, has experienced a virtual renaissance. In a little over a decade its visitor numbers have increased by more than 50 percent. When the Millenniium Stadium, home of the Welsh national rugby union team and the Welsh national football team, opened in 1999, the city welcomed about 9 million foreign visitors. In 2009, that figure had risen to more than 14.6 million foreign visitors, with French and Irish rugby fans leading the way.

The rebirth of Cardiff includes redevelopment of the waterfront along Cardiff Bay. The Senedd, home of the Welsh National Assembly and designed by British architect Richard Rogers, opened there in 2006.

Nearby, the Wales Millennium Centre, opened in 2004, is a performance venue for theatre, musicals, opera, ballet, contemporary dance, hip hop, comedy, art and art workshops. It has two theaters and seven resident companies including the Welsh National Opera. Free performances take place in the center's foyer every day and visitors to the bars and restaurants can enjoy views of Cardiff Bay. The building is a striking landmark on its own, clad in Welsh slate, bronze colored steel, wood and glass, it is a reflection of the Welsh landscape.

The most famous features of the building, designed by Jonathan Adam, are the lines of poetry, made up of windows, that cross its facade. Written for the center by Welsh writer Gwyneth Lewis, the Welsh and English words are not translations of each other but are, in fact, two different short poems that complement each other. The words of the Welsh poem, "Creu Gwir Fel Gwydr O Ffwrnais Awen" (Creating truth like glass from the furnace of inspiration), are arranged beside the words of the English poem, "In these stones, horizons sing." At night, light from inside the center shines through the windows.

Not everything about Cardiff is brand new. Cardiff Castle began its life as a Roman garrison, about 2000 years ago. It has been a Norman castle keep and home to a variety of noble families. In the 19th centuries, the Marquess of Bute had the living quarters transformed into a Victorian fantasy castle with fabulous and opulent interiors. Today it belongs to the city of Cardiff and the castle, along with its surrounding parkland, is the scene of festivals and events throughout the year.

Cardiff's post millennial revival and its position as the seat of the newly devolved Welsh government means the hotel and accommodation selection is very good. Find out what hotels visitors are currently recommending and then check out the Cardiff deals on offer.

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