TravelTraveler Magazine

Port of Call: Cardiff

Situated on the south coast of Wales, Cardiff was once one of Europe’s busiest ports and the largest exporter of coal in the world.

After a severe slump that lasted into the late 1980s, the Welsh capital has bounced back as a cultural hub — with an edge. The city’s smartly redeveloped waterfront has revived this town and helped propel it into the 21st century.

Check out three off-the-ship adventures in this city by the sea:

Arts of the World

Every two years for the past decade, the National Museum Cardiff has sponsored the prestigious Artes Mundi exhibition. Awarding the U.K.’s largest modern arts prize ($60,000), Artes Mundi takes entries from all over the world and selects a single contemporary artist whose work explores social themes. During Artes Mundi, Cardiff Bay vibrates with activity while competing entries are shown at the National Museum of Arts six new contemporary galleries.

There’s also an artist-curated film series at the Chapter Arts Centre and live music and theater performances at venues throughout the city. For art to take home, hop on over to Craft in the Bay, a Cardiff Bay gallery that sells modern Welsh jewelry and textiles made by local artisans.

Farm to Table

At the Wales Millennium Centre, a bustling performing arts complex, Ffresh Bar & Restaurant turns out inventive seasonal cuisine using only local suppliers, with entrées like Black Mountain smoked duck. Gaze out giant windows with views toward the bay while sipping a fizzy Welsh lemonade.

Meanwhile, the Potted Pig, located in a former bank vault, serves regional dishes, including Welsh rarebit and egg and soldiers (toast strips). 

Local Legend

Follow in the footsteps of beloved children’s book author Roald Dahl, creator of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. The writer was born and raised in Llandaff, a suburb of Cardiff, after his parents emigrated from Norway.

A blue plaque commemorates Dahl’s life and work at 11 High Street in Llandaff, a former confectionery shop where Dahl once placed a dead mouse in a candy jar. Walk along the public Roald Dahl Plass on the waterfront, and stop at the former wooden church where Dahl was christened. The building recently reopened as the Norwegian Church Arts Centre with its adjoining café, Norsk, offering Nordic nibbles such as sweet herring and gravlax.

Both can be reached by way of the Cardiff Bay Trail, a 6.2-mile route that takes walkers and cyclists around the bay and continues to the seaside resort town of Penarth.

This piece, written by Kristan Schiller, appeared in the May 2013 issue of National Geographic Traveler magazine.