Around 18 million people visit Cardiff every year, but how much do you really know about the Welsh capital? From the oldest record shop in the world to an award-winning toilet, here are a few interesting facts about Cardiff we bet you haven’t heard before.
Interesting facts about Cardiff
1. Cardiff is one of Europe’s smallest capital cities
It’s also one of its newest capital cities. It officially became a city on 28 October 1904 and the capital city in 1955. Today, it’s the largest city in Wales, 11th largest city in the UK and the most important administrative, shopping, and cultural centre in the country. It’s also the headquarters for a wide array of national organizations and government departments.
2. Cardiff is home to the oldest record store in the world
Spillers Records is the oldest record shop in the world. Dating all the way back to 1894, it’s been in business for over 125 years. Located along the historic Morgan Arcade, the shop first specialised in phonographs, wax phonograph cylinders and shellac photograph discs. They also sold and repaired musical instruments. These days they sell an eclectic mix of records and CDs, as well as tickets for live music across the city.
3. Cardiff is known as the City of Arcades
Cardiff is known as the “City of Arcades” for good reason. It has the highest concentration of Victorian, Edwardian and contemporary indoor shopping arcades in Britain. These house over 100 independent cafes, bars and shops right in the heart of the city. Castle Arcade and High Street Arcade are two of the most famous.
4. There used to be a peculiar chair in Cardiff
In the 18th century, the authorities fixed a chair to the end of a long piece of timber and suspended it over the water on the Taff. They forced people to sit on it as a punishment. For instance, in 1739 a woman called Elizabeth Jones was “chaired” for being “a common narrator or scandal-monger, eavesdropper and hearkened after news”. Seems like a hefty punishment for gossiping.
5. You can visit an award-winning toilet in Cardiff
The Wales Millenium Centre has won “Loo of the Year” awards – twice! The Loo of the Year Awards and Attendant of the Year Awards, which dates back to 1987, identifies the best in Britain. It’s widely recognised as the standard-setter for all those who provide ‘away from home’ facilities for staff, customers and visitors.
The building also won a top award for its sustainable development and has been named as one of Britain’s top arts venues.
6. Cardiff actually has two castles
Most people who know anything about Cardiff have heard of Cardiff Castle. Built over 2,000 years ago, it’s been occupied by everyone from the Romans to the Normans to Cardiff’s citizens during World War II.
But, fewer people know about Morgraig Castle. Built more than 600 years ago, local experts only re-discovered the castle in the early 1900s. No one knows exactly who built the castle, but it was likely either Gilbert de Clare of the Lord of Sneghennydd. It sits on the crest of Graig Llanishen ridge to the north of Cardiff, on the border between the medieval Welsh Lordship of Senghenydd and the English Lordship of Glamorgan.
7. There are several hidden tunnels underneath the city
There’s a centuries-old friars tunnel, which once connected the Blackfriars Friary in Bute Park to Greyfriars Road. There are hidden canals running under the city’s main shopping district. There’s even a tunnel running from Stadium House to Cardiff Castle, built in the late ’70s by the British Post Office to carry cables.
While we’re at it, there are hundreds of bodies beneath the city too. Take a stroll next to St John’s Church and you might spot metal numbers. These refer to burial vaults underneath the ground. The street is nicknamed “Dead Man’s Alley”.