Why is Cardiff the Capital of Wales?

Why is Cardiff the Capital of Wales?
Why is Cardiff the Capital of Wales?

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Wales, as you know, is part of the United Kingdom. It is really a country within a country. Of course, while London is the capital of the United Kingdom, Wales has its own capital city. So, what is it? Let’s take a look!

What Is the Capital of Wales?

Cardiff is the capital city of Wales.

Where Is the Capital of Wales Located?

Where Is the Capital of Wales Located?
Where Is the Capital of Wales Located?

Cardiff is located in the south of the country. It is a little over 42 miles from the border with England. 

Brief History of Cardiff

Norman Keep, Cardiff Castle, Autumn, Cardiff, Wales, UK
Norman Keep, Cardiff Castle, Autumn, Cardiff, Wales, UK

Cardiff, like all of the capital cities in the United Kingdom, has had extensive settlement over the years. There is evidence that people were living around Cardiff in 6000 BC. Although, of course, it didn’t go by the name Cardiff then.

Before the Romans invaded Great Britain in 60 AD, Cardiff was occupied by the Celts. Well, technically a tribe called the Silures. However, the Romans came and took their land. Eventually, this community became part of the Roman community. We don’t actually know too much about what happened when the Romans were here. While there is archeological evidence, we don’t really have a ton of information before we get to the 1000s when the Normans invaded Great Britain.

1081 is arguably when Cardiff really started to develop into the area that it is today. William I built a castle there, now known as Cardiff Castle. Although, sadly, it was burned down in the 1400s. This means that not all of the castle is original (but it is still old!)

Over the coming years, Cardiff would be at the center of many different wars. Civil wars. Invasions. You name it, it probably happened around Cardiff. Laws were introduced that made Cardiff its own borough, etc. We could write an entire book on what was happening around this time, and we don’t think we could really do it justice in a brief history of Cardiff.

By the end of the 18th Century, the area around Cardiff became peaceful and it has remained that way since (outside of a couple of bombs hitting the area during World War II). This allowed Cardiff to develop a trade network, get linked up with London, and see a growth in population.

Interestingly, up until 1905, Cardiff wasn’t even a city. It was a borough. In 1905, Cardiff was made into a city. It was made into a capital city later on, which leads us neatly onto our next section. 

When Did Cardiff Become the Capital of Wales?

View of City Hall of Cardiff - Wales, Great Britain
View of City Hall of Cardiff – Wales, Great Britain

Cardiff became the capital city of Wales in 1955. It attempted to become the capital in 1950 but failed the vote. There were many people that were opposed to Cardiff becoming the capital city. They felt that it was too close to England, and this meant that the population there wasn’t truly Welsh. Yep. This type of xenophobia was still happening in the 1950s, and there are many important buildings that were never built in Cardiff for this reason (e.g., the National Library of Wales). 

Why is Cardiff the Capital of Wales?

Up until the 1950s, there wasn’t a defined capital of Wales. There were various places where the government had sat, but this moved around. Although, it didn’t really matter too much at this point. All of the big decisions for Wales were happening in London. Wales didn’t really need a major seat of government. 

In the early 20th Century, Wales decided it needed an actual capital and put it to the vote. Under 50% of people voted for Cardiff, so the issue was put to bed for a while, although multiple successive governments did pledge to name the capital of Wales.

In 1955, the government decided enough was enough. Wales needed a capital, and it wasn’t going to be put to the vote. The Labour government at the time said that Cardiff was the capital, and that was that.

Now, there are many reasons why people would argue that Cardiff was made the capital. Some may say because of its history. Some may say because of trade and proximity to England. However, the real answer is that it was used to buy votes.

At the time, Cardiff was a heavy Labour area. Most of the politicians elected there were Labour. Labour decided to pay them back and name Cardiff the capital.

So, that’s it. Cardiff becoming the capital of Wales isn’t exactly a riveting story. It is a modern capital that became the capital due to politics.

Best Places to Visit in Cardiff 

Cardiff may be far smaller than London, but that doesn’t mean this capital city doesn’t have a lot going for it. Let’s go through some of our favorite places to explore in the capital of Wales, shall we?

Cardiff Castle

We mentioned this before, this is an Ancient Medieval Castle. While some of the castle is in ruins, there is still a lot to explore here and, of course, it plays a vital role in the history of the city. 

Millennium Stadium

This is now known as the Principality Stadium. Various sporting events and music events are held here throughout the year. There may not always be something on, but if you are around the stadium when the rugby is on (a national pastime for Wales), you absolutely need to go and catch it.

Victorian Shopping Arcades

Just like London, Cardiff has a Victorian shopping arcade. This beautiful piece of architecture is full of awesome shops to explore.

Cardiff Bay

Cardiff Bay is absolutely beautiful, particularly when the sun is setting. If you are a fan of Doctor Who and Torchwood, then you may even recognize some of the sights around the area (the outside set for the Torchwood building is here). 

National Museum Cardiff

If you want to learn more about the history of Wales, in particular the area surrounding Cardiff, then a trip to the National Museum Cardiff may be in order. There are some great artefacts here and a ton of enjoyable information to absorb.

See Also

Capital Cities 

Hi and welcome to my travel blog! Based in London, I work in investment banking in a quantitative field and although I am not part of the travel industry, I have a ton of passion for travel. My blog is a reference guide for my fellow travelers with the same passion as me. Hopefully the blog is easy to navigate and my aim is to bring the most relevant and interesting information before you begin your journey!