Travel Tips

Christmas Cardiff Bay

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A pre Christmas trip to Cardiff bay, formerly known as Tiger bay was a lovely change from my usual sort of trip.


Cardiff bay has quite a chequered history. The industrial revolution towards the end of the 1700s stimulated the mining industry in South Wales. Fourth years later a number of docks were built and seafarers from all over the world settled in the area. It is thought 50 different nationalities or more set up home in Tiger bay. The communities mixed and married into each other, creating a unique ethnic and cultural heritage.

As the demand for coal fell after the second world war and the industries closed down one by one, what was once a thriving, cosmopolitan area became run down and deprived. Gambling dens, red light areas, and above average unemployment saw large numbers of people displaced, areas destroyed and the community broken up.

In the 1970s and 1980s, refugees from conflicts all over the world moved into Cardiff bay and a new multinational community sprang up. In the 1990s the bay began a transformation to a leisure and business hotspot.

What’s there?

A wander around and it soon becomes clear there’s something for everyone. A nature area has been created, the wetland reserve, which is home to some rare birds. Wandering up and around the waterline gives you wonderful views and great opportunities for photography over the bay, especially as the sun goes down and the lights come on. When I was there the temperature had been dropping to minus six overnight and there were layers of ice on the small marinas. 

Shopping? There are lots of shops of many varieties. Mainly based around the Mermaid quay. Bars aplenty, restaurants and coffee shops. The bay also offers boat trips, the techniquest science museum, the millennium centre and a shrine to Torchwood. Anyone remember that programme? Cardiff bay certainly does.

Staying at the Voco St David, a five star hotel right on the bay. I didn’t expect to get much sleep with it being in such a central location, but it was remarkably peaceful. The rooms overlook the water, each has a private balcony. It’s a very modern hotel, clean, lovely staff and the breakfast is amazing, as was the catered lunch. The downside is the cost of car parking, at £24 for 24 hours. 

After a visit to a few bars, which were busy, but plenty of staff to keep drinks flowing, dinner was at the Cote Cardiff bay. We ate off the Christmas menu. It was a bit limited, and the food was a bit too much for me. I may have a boring palate, but I think that these days chefs start with something great, add a few touches to make things interesting, then add a few more and completely ruin the dish. The regular menu has a variety of options though. 

It seems Cardiff bay has something for all ages, interests and age groups. Perfect for a short break and treating yourself.

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