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How to get a one-day sampler of what the city has to offer
2000 years of history crammed into an eight acre site: Roman, Norman, Plantaganet and Victorian history. The highlight is the guided tour of the main castle building and the rooms outlandishly refurbished by the Bute family in the mid 19th century within the main Plantaganet era shell and topped with a series of towers and spires. The aim was to recreate a medieval gothic fantasy, and no expense was spared. The result is a series of rooms layered in gold, wood, marble, and murals. The tour lasts approximately 50 minutes, after which you can explore the Norman keep, visit the regimental museum in the former prison tower, and wander the grounds.
Part of the elegant Civic Centre which occupies a 60 acre parkland adjacent to Cardiff Castle. The museum is undergoing major refurbishment in 2007 so check the website in advance to see which galleries are open. The ground floor is devoted to exhibits about the natural history of Wales, from the Big Bang to the present day, complete with volcanoes, earthquakes, dinosaur fossils, and mammoths. The first floor highlight is an exquisite art collection containing renaissance and Tudor works and one of the best collections of French Impressionist artwork to be found in Europe outside Paris. Many of the works were bequethed to the museum by Welsh industrial Magnates who had a passion for the Impressionist movement. The collection includes works by Monet, Manet, Cezanne, Van Gogh, Renoir, Sisley. Several sculptures by Rodin are on display including The Kiss. The galleries also contain works by significant Welsh artists, including Augustus and Gwen John, Richard Wilson, Thomas Jones and Kyffin Williams.
These covered arcades (see the series of photos in the gallery on the Tripadvisor Cardiff page) form a compact network of narrow walkways filled with small independent traders and cafes. They could mirror the long gone street layout of medieval Cardiff. They lead off from St Mary Street which is immediately south of the Castle. You can find everything in them from antiques, second hand books, fashion, crafts, even fancy dress and an American deli. Grab yourself a bargain or even just grab some food here to take with you to picnic in Bute Park or St Fagans. Cardiff's lively indoor market is housed in a large hall over 100 years old and stretches between St Mary Street and the The Hayes. It opens at 8am Monday to Saturday with stalls of fresh fish, meat, cheese, fruit and vegetables, a baker's stall and a wonderfully odd selection of stalls selling everything from tourist gifts, wool and textiles, old books and collectors magazines, antique toys, old records, DVDs and videos, even pets. On the balcony you can get cheap cooked meals served speedily and with no fuss (a good place for a cheap cooked breakfast!).
100 acre parkland on the western edge of Cardiff which houses over 40 buildings rescued and restored, stone by stone, and authentically furnished, from all parts of Wales, to give you one of Europe's foremost open air museums. You can wander through the social history of Wales exploring farmhouses, miners' cottages, a school, shops, a chapel and church, bakery, pottery and many other buildings. The gardens around the Elizabethan mansion are a walk in themselves. In the main museum building there are other collections, including galleries about Welsh identity and costume.
End your day with a wander round the stunningly transformed Cardiff waterfront. In two decades the old dockland has been replaced by a huge freshwater lake impounded by a barrage, and lined with apartments, hotels, offices, parkland and restaurants - and the transformation is still only part way through, as you will see from the many cranes which dot around the bay's circumference. It is also home to the new National Assembly for Wales, and the Wales Millennium Centre, home to the Welsh National Opera and several other dance and performing arts companies. Choose from a range of pubs, restaurants and bars to eat.
The castle, market, arcades and museum are all within easy walking distance of each other. The castle is approximately 10 minutes walk north of Cardiff central railway/bus station along St Mary Street. The arcades and central market open out on to St Mary Street and the museum forms part of the group of white stone civic buildings adjacent to and easily visible from the castle. Public transport will be needed to get to St Fagans and the Bay (see section on public transport).
The traveline cymru website plans your complete journey anywhere in Wales. St Fagans can be reached by taking bus number 32 from platform B6 at Cardiff central station. It leaves at twenty minutes past each hour on weekdays, the journey is approximately 25 minutes. The return bus leaves St Fagans at 10 minutes to each hour. The bay can be reached by train every 15 minutes from Queen Street station (the journey is approximately 3 minutes). The Baycar is the large blue bendy bus which circuits the city centre en route to the Bay every 10-15 minutes throughout the day and can be picked up at various points near the castle and on St Mary Street, as well as at the rear of the railway station.