Cardiff, (or Caerdydd in Gaelic) isn’t just the capital of Wales: it’s also the center of the universe.
At least according to the iconic UK TV series, “Dr. Who”, for which Cardiff serves as the setting and shooting location, as well as its ultra-popular and very queer spin-off, “Torchwood” (starring out actor John Barrowman).
The city has certainly received a huge, enduring shot of visibility thanks to those shows (both shows was available on South Africa’s BBC DSTV channels), notably Cardiff Bay’s architecturally striking, ultra-modern inner harbor developments like the Wales Millennium Center and the Richard Rogers-designed Senedd.
Fortunately, there are no literal alien invaders here, and Cardiff is a fabulous, compact gem boasting a diverse mix of modern and ancient architecture and attractions, from its 2000-year-old namesake castle – occupying the city’s north end – to sparkling 21st Century shopping, entertainment and office complexes, some of which are still in progress. Queen Street is the main shopping strip, while Mermaid Quay entails a hopping Bayside restaurant and retail complex.
There is an embracing of both new and old in all facets of Welsh life. You can find haute modern and fusion cuisine as easily as classic regional staples like the meatloaf-esque Faggots and dense, pancake-meets-scone Welsh cakes. The world’s first record store still exists here, and so does large modern media shop, HMV. Public signs (and many menus, websites, etc) are generally written in both English and Welsh: some 20% of the population speaks the tongue while efforts are being made to increase that number. Lately, the Arabic population has swelled thanks to an influx of homeowners from Dubai.
All queer folk party in the same venues, and gay nightlife can be found around Charles Street, Mill Lane and Bute Terrace (and don’t forget a late night fish & chips stop on Caroline Street for last-call cruising). Since most bars close by midnight, people tend to head out around 9pm.
The city’s gay pride celebration, aka the Cardiff-Wales Mardi Gras, takes place in late August. Queer short films are screened and celebrated at the annual Iris Prize Festival. The bi-annual Artes Mundi competition sees three months’ worth of international contemporary artwork exhibitions. Believe us, you are NOT the only queer in the village here!