As recently as ten years ago few people would have chosen to come to Cardiff for a short break or a business event, but two major developments have changed that. Firstly the old Cardiff docklands were transformed into the smart, Cardiff Bay, complete with a large freshwater lake, restaurants and visitor attractions; and secondly, the Millennium Stadium was built to host the Rugby World Cup in 1999.
ALong with these developments came dozens of hotels, including Wales' first 5 star hotel - the St. David's hotel and spa in Cardiff Bay. Now the choice of accomodation is fantastic. Here's a guide to a few of the best places to stay.
Park Plaza Greyfriars Road, Cardiff, www.parkplaza.com
This four star 129 room hotel is just minutes away from Cardiffs cultural highlights and within a stones throw of the citys main shopping area. With original Welsh art in each room and leisure facilities that include a 20m pool, this is a hotel that aims to please the eye as well as weary feet. (rooms around £70 per night)
The St. David's Hotel and Spa Havannah Street, Cardiff Bay +44 (0)2920 454045, www.thestdavidshotel.com
Cardiffs original five star hotel offers 132 rooms all overlooking either Cardiff Bay or the inner harbour and the waterfront. Guests can also enjoy alfresco dining in the summer at Tides restaurant as well as the luxury spa facilities. Prices range from £165 to around £600 for a residential spa break.
Jolyons 5 Bute Crescent, Cardiff Bay, +44 (0) 2920 488775 www.jolyons.co.uk
Commanding stunning views of the new Wales Millennium Stadium, the citys first boutique hotel offers six glamorous rooms, decorated with an eclectic blend of furniture and style. Nestling just below is Bar Cwtch, a cosy wine bar that also serves traditional Welsh breakfasts and lunches. Rooms start from £75 for a single up to £125 for the suite.
Saco Apartments, Cathedral Road, 0845 122 04 05 www.sacoapartments.co.uk
Offering an alternative to standard hotel rooms, these five star graded one and two bedroom apartments overlook Sophia Gardens and Glamorgan County Cricket Ground, and are just a few minutes away from the city centre. The apartments feature a large living/dining area, fully equipped kitchen including dishwasher, master bedroom with king size beds and separate bathroom. High speed internet access and free parking is also available. (rooms availale for around £80 per night)
The Royal Hotel, St. Mary Street
The four star Royal Hotel, which is famed for hosting a farewell dinner for Captain Scott before he set sail on his ill-fated expedition to the Antarctic in 1910, reopened in 2005 after extensive refurbishment. All 64 contemporary bedrooms feature either LCD or plasma screen televisions, DVDs and CD players, award-winning hypnos beds, and 100% Egyptian percale cotton bed-linen. (Rooms start around £65 per night)
NosDa Backpackers, Riverside, www.nosda.co.uk
The Cardiff Backpackers has always been popular with those on a budget, and now the team behind the hostel have opened another venue, directly opposite the Millennium Stadium. Nosda (which means good evening in Welsh) offers a mix of dorms and private rooms, most with en-suite bathrooms, but still with budget travellers in mind. Below the rooms is Tafarn, a Welsh cantina offering all kinds of locally produced and well priced food, and in the basement is Tafod, the underground sound lounge which hosts regular live music nights. (rooms start around £23 per person per night).
There are plenty of other hotels in and around Cardiff of course, and most are just a short walk from the attractions, shops and restaurants. The web site www.visitcardiff.com lets you see what's available and book online.
It's important to be aware of events taking place at the Millennium Stadium, however. On event weekends the hotels tend to bump up their prices, rooms have to be booked for a minimum of 2 nights and they get booked up months in advance of major events.
Book a trip during the week, however, and you're likely to be able to get a great deal. Hotels like the Vale Hotel often offer spa and golf packages at great prices for instance.