Cardiff grew very rapidly into a large town, before becoming a city, during the 18th/19th Centuries.
Primarily it was a port exporting huge quantities of coal, iron, and later, steel, all over the world.
Coal that had been mined in the deep mines of the industrialised Valleys, less than 20 miles to the north of Cardiff.
Without the mining valleys of South Wales, Cardiff, as a city, would not exist.
Its prosperity was mainly generated by the coal-mines and iron works of the industrial hive of activity a few miles to the north, which attracted migrant workers from Spain, Ireland and the West of England, as well as all parts of rural Wales.
In the 18th and 19th Centuries, the area known world-wide as the "Valleys", with a capital "V", was the Klondike of Europe.
From the earliest of these years, Merthyr Tydfil, at the upper reaches of the River Taff, which meets the sea at Cardiff, had grown into the largest town in Wales and the leading iron-working centre in the world.
Multi-cultural Cardiff has a tradition of diversity
As Cardiff grew, in response to rapid industrialisation, it also attracted a great many immigrants, especially from the West of England, just across the Bristol Channel, and Ireland.
Great numbers came from the latter during the terrible Irish potato famine years of 1846-47, when the stark choice in the West of Ireland, especially was "Emigrate or starve!" Cardiff, as one of the nearest accessible ports to Ireland, attracted the Irish poor by the thousand. The influence can still be seen in the city today.
It is said that Cardiff's unique accent has evolved from a mixture of Welsh and Irish. It is certainly different from the very pronounced Welsh accent of the Valleys only a few short miles away.
The wealth that was created in Cardiff is reflected in its civic buildings at Cathays Park, in the City Centre, which are amongst the finest municipal buildings in the UK.
Adjacent to these magnificent Portland Stone buildings, which include the National Museum of Wales and Cardiff University, stands imposing Cardiff Castle, right at the heart of the city.
Cardiff Castle dates back to Roman and Norman times (it has a Norman Keep), but it was largely rebuilt by the immensely wealthy Marquis of Bute in the 19th Century.
This Scottish industrialist made a huge fortune in South Wales, but, to his credit, he has certainly left Cardiff with an impressive architectural legacy.
Ironically, his name was, for years, also associated with the seedier side of Cardiff in Bute Street, the dock-lands red-light district. That has now been greatly gentrified with the vast improvement and investment in Cardiff Bay. More about that later!
Two hundred yards across the road from Cardiff Castle stands another Welsh architectural icon, the famed Millennium Stadium, where several recent top soccer matches, including F.A Cup finals, have been held.
With its fantastic sliding roof and removable pitch, other top events, such as pop concerts, can also be held here, whatever the weather.
One of the most recent was the Tsunami Relief Charity Concert to raise money for the Indian Ocean disaster of Boxing Day 2004. It featured a galaxy of top stars from the world of entertainment.
It was at this magnificent stadium, on March 19th 2005, that the Welsh national rugby team beat Ireland to clinch the Six Nations Grand Slam for the first time ever.
The last Welsh Grand Slam, in 1978, involved Five Nations. There can be no sporting ground in the world with a finer location than Cardiff's Millennium Stadium.
The stadium is smack in the middle of the city, with umpteen pubs, bars, hotels, cafes and restaurants all around it.
Even the main shopping streets are only a stone's throw away!
What more could one ask for on a sporting week-end? Cardiff, on rugby international day, takes on a carnival atmosphere, particularly if Wales are winning!
On the western fringe of Cardiff is the Welsh Folk Museum at St Fagan's. All aspects of Welsh history and culture are captured here, with whole historic buildings having been dismantled and brought in from all over Wales and rebuilt at St Fagan's. A great day out!
In recent years, as intimated earlier, there has been a huge improvement to the Docks area of Cardiff, with the development of the Cardiff Bay Barrage to form a fresh-water lake at the mouth of the River Taff.
This has eliminated the unsightly mud flats, tainted by tonnes of coal-dust, that was exposed by the very high tidal range of the Severn Estuary.
All around Cardiff Bay, smart new hotels, bars, restaurants and tourist attractions [such as Techniquest] have opened and blocks of expensive flats have sprung up as the area has boomed and shaken off its down-market past.
The latest attraction to open in Cardiff Bay, is also a modern architectural icon, clad in Welsh slate, copper and wood.
It is the uniquely-designed Wales Millennium Centre, which provides a new centre for the Arts in Wales.
It gives a much-needed new home to Welsh National Opera and Urdd Gobaith Cymru, the Welsh League of Youth.
It also provides a large sumptuous venue for world-class Arts performers to appear in Wales.
In fact, it is the Welsh equivalent of the Sydney Opera House. Let's hope it does for Wales what the latter has done for Australia!
The Wales Millennium Centre, in addition to
St David's Hall, Cardiff
International Arena (CIA), New Theatre, Sherman Theatre, Millennium Stadium and even Cardiff Castle, provides Cardiff and Wales with an excellent, extensive choice of venues for various entertainment events on all scales.
Allied to the growing number of good hotels in the city [available on visit-the-world.co.uk], this makes Cardiff an ideal location for a week-end break.
With its main shopping streets located near to Cardiff Castle and several big hotels, including the Hilton, Marriott, Angel and Holiday Inn nearby, Cardiff is very compact. Cathedral Road, with its numerous bed and breakfast guest houses, is also within a stone's throw of the City Centre.
The Centre also has several covered shopping arcades, making shopping for those holiday gifts, jewelry (or even jewellery) etc. a painless experience ... whatever the weather! Especially if the husband is well out of the way, watching a football match at the Millennium Stadium!
Travel to Cardiff is easy, with the M4 passing close by.Cardiff Airport is just to the south west of the city, at Rhoose.
The railway station is also very close to the Millennium Stadium and the bus station is right next to the railway station. Ideal!!