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By: Staff (justin) 2012.01.06

The capital of Wales, Cardiff, is at the southernmost tip of Wales, a two-hour National Express ride west of Bristol. Cardiff is undergoing major renovation as well, although it never had the dingy reputation Bristol did for a while. Cardiff is a comfortable, charming small city overflowing with options: clubbing, sports, nature walks and tours, castles, cathedrals, art galleries, museums, theater, and music. Although Cardiff has had 2,000 years of tumultuous history-Romans, Vikings, and Normans got this place started-it's not caught in the past. History is everywhere, but modern attractions abound. It's hard to escape the fact that you're in a different country-law requires all public signs printed in English and Welsh, and some pubs and public spaces require patrons to speak Welsh only.

Cardiff Castle

This place is the definition of wild. Come here if you'd like to see the fruits of a man with too much time and money on his hands. Although Cardiff Castle is actually three castles in one-Roman fort, Norman keep, and crazy, mock-Gothic fantasy pleasure palace it's for the latter that most people come to gawk. The Third Marquis of Bute rebuilt Cardiff Castle in the Victorian era to fit his every whim: each room represents something completely different from the last, and you're likely to get lost in the details. (Look up when entering the men's smoking room to catch the devil dripping out of the ceiling, trying to scare women away.)

Cardiff Bay

Cardiff Bay is Europe's biggest waterfront development in terms of space 2,718 acres-and money invested-over 2 billion pounds. Although not yet finished, it's already drawing loads of visitors, and for good reason: it has excellent shopping, restaurants, art exhibits, and open spaces along a large freshwater lake recently created by a barrier over the rivers Taff and Ely. While there, look for a small white church with a black roof. This is the Norwegian Church, the first Norwegian mariner's church built outside Norway. It was a home-away-from-home for expatriate Scandinavians from 1868 to 1950; the author Roald Dahl was baptized there.

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