These 5 iconic buildings will lure you to Cardiff Bay

WMC cover

If you’re not from the UK or into the sport of rugby, you might never have thought of visiting the Welsh capital Cardiff. But trust me, it’s one of the most overlooked capitals in Europe and it’s getting more and more interesting for each passing day.

I have gotten to know the city intensively through the last 9 years – and have been lucky enough to have lived in the city for different periods of this timespan. I have experienced Cardiff develop first hand and I’m very passionate about promoting this relatively undiscovered Welsh wonder.

One of the main parts of the city’s development has been the revival of the bay, which today is the symbol of the forces behind a city on the way up. Let me introduce you to some awesome buildings at Cardiff Bay, that alone will lure you to visit Wales.

“The Armadillo”

Wales Millennium Centre

Although the competition is tough, this one is the brightest shining pearl at the Bay. Literally. Because its cobber-clad roof sparkles in the sun at day – while the facade’s inscription lights up in the dark at night. Two poetic lines – one in Welsh and one in English, adorns the front of the curved rooftop that has given the building it’s funky nickname, “the armadillo”.

This cultural hub, which offers concerts, musicals and world class entertainment, is the epitome of Welsh pride. Opened in 2004, it was built with local materials from Wales and the many shades og slate is a very nice feature. The unique shape of this building makes it an iconic landmark for the city of Cardiff and for all of Wales.

It’s free to step inside where you’ll find cafeés and a tourist information point.

“The Funnel”

The Senedd

The home of the National Assembly for Wales is another superior piece of architecture at the waterfront in Cardiff. An intelligent building and also a beautiful artpiece in itself. With walls of glass it symbols transparency in Welsh politics, while the waves of the wooden roof imitates the sea.

Like Wales Millennium Centre, The Senedd is made with local materials and plenty of slate and wood. It’s extremely environmently friendly and energy efficient. A superb detail is the huge funnel that leads daylight down into the debating chambing in the bottom.

Don’t forget to check it out on the free guided tour.

“Baby Big Ben”

The Pierhead Building

The eye-catching red Pierhead Building is one of the most recognizable on the city’s “skyline” and the biggest piece of history at the bay. Finished in 1897 it was originally owned by the Bute Dock Company and later used as the administrative headquaters of Cardiff’s busy coal harbour.

Today it’s a part of the National Assembly for Wales like the Senedd – and offers free galleries and exhibitions. It’s full of interesting details, so take a closer look at this piece of French Gothic Renaissance architecture. The tower – or the building itself – has been nicknamed “Baby Big Ben”, and the original clockwork is now on display at St. Mary Street in downtown.

“Little White Church”

The Norwegian Church

This is another piece of Cardiff history and today a popular romantic spot overlooking the bay. But originally it was set on the sight were the Millennium Centre now thrones majestically, as it served Norwegian sailers away from home. It was clad in iron but later renovated and covered in white-painted wood, which gave it its the picturesque charm.

With time the building was almost lost due to lack of upkeep, but as a part of the bay’s development it was saved and restored at its current location. Today “the little white church” is a nice place to stop for a coffee while exploring the bay – or to visit the small upstairs gallery.

St Davids
“The Bird’s Nest”

St. David’s Hotel & Spa

This is neither historic or a cultural hotspot – but still this luxury spa hotel is an inconic part of the waterfront’s skyline, due to its rooftop looking like a giant bird watching over the bay.

Placed right on the edge of the water, this building offers some great views to the restaurant-packed Mermaid Quay complex, the harbour, the barrage and the suburb of Penarth.

Behind St. David’s Hotel you’ll find the Cardiff Bay Wetlands Reserve which offers nice walks among birds an smaller wildlife, that was “forced” to relocate due to the Bay’s development.

By Brian Schæfer Dreyer