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Cardiff Bay
  • Welsh: Bae Caerdydd
  • Cardiff Bay or The Bay
Cardiff Bay is located in Cardiff
Cardiff Bay
Cardiff Bay
Principal area
Country Wales
Sovereign state United Kingdom
Post town CARDIFF
Postcode district CF10
Dialling code 029
EU Parliament Wales
Welsh Assembly
  • Cardiff South & Penarth
Website Cardiff Harbour Authority Visit Cardiff Bay
List of places
51°27′47″N 3°09′50″W / 51.463°N 3.164°W / 51.463; -3.164

Cardiff Bay (Welsh: Bae Caerdydd) is the area of water created by the Cardiff Barrage in south Cardiff, the capital of Wales. It is also the name commonly given to the surrounding areas of the city. Cardiff Bay is also used as a metonym for Welsh politics, because it is the location of the Senedd (the Welsh Parliament). According to Cardiff Council, the creation of Cardiff Bay is regarded as one of the most successful regeneration projects in the United Kingdom.

Cardiff Bay is supplied by two rivers (Taff and Ely) to form a 500-acre (2.0 km2) freshwater lake around the former dockland area south of the city centre. The 'bay' was formerly tidal, with access to the sea limited to a couple of hours each side of high water but now provides 24-hour access through three locks.


Cardiff Bay played a major part in Cardiff’s development by being the means of exporting coal from the South Wales Valleys to the rest of the world, helping to power the industrial age. The coal mining industry helped fund the building of Cardiff into the Capital city of Wales and helped the Third Marquis of Bute, who owned the docks, become the richest man in the world at the time.

As Cardiff exports grew, so did its population; dockworkers and sailors from across the world settled in neighbourhoods close to the docks, known as Tiger Bay, and communities from up to 45 different nationalities, including Norwegian, Somali, Yemeni, Spanish, Italian, Caribbean and Irish helped create the unique multicultural character of the area.

After the Second World War most of the industry closed down and became derelict. But, in 1999, new life was injected into the area by the building of the Cardiff Bay Barrage, one of the most controversial building projects of the day but also one of the most successful.

Notable buildings

Pierhead Building and Senedd, Cardiff Bay
Pierhead Building (left) and Senedd (right)

St David's Hotel

The St David's Hotel & Spa is a 5-star luxury hotel with commanding views of the bay and Penarth. Built by Rocco Forte in 2000, the hotel was sold in 2007, to Principal-Haley hotels.

The Pierhead Building

The Pierhead was built in 1897 and designed by William Frame, who studied under William Burges It was formerly the headquarters of the Bute Dock Company.

The Senedd

The Senedd is the Welsh Parliament building which includes the debating chamber and committee rooms.

Wales Millennium Centre

Wales Millennium Centre 16-08-2005
The Wales Millennium Centre, seen from Roald Dahl Plass

The Wales Millennium Centre is home to the Welsh National Opera.

Norwegian Church

The Norwegian Church Arts Centre, is a rescued historic wooden church that was rebuilt in 1992 and operates as a registered self funded not for profit charity. It is managed by Cardiff Harbour Authority and is as a venue for small concerts, art exhibitions, conferences, meetings and celebrations. When living in Cardiff as a child, the famous children's author Roald Dahl attended this church.

Craft in the Bay

Norwegian Church Cardiff Bay
Norwegian Church from the water

A refurbished Victorian dockside building houses Craft in the Bay, the home of the Makers Guild in Wales.


Techniquest is an educational science & discovery centre, which also includes a science theatre and planetarium.

Roald Dahl Plass

Mermaid Quay Cardiff Bay 001
Mermaid Quay

Roald Dahl Plass is a large open amphitheatre style plaza frequently used as a venue for carnivals and festivals all year round.

Mermaid Quay

Mermaid Quay comprises a mix of restaurants, bars, cafés, shops and services located on the waterfront.

The Tube (Cardiff Bay Visitor Centre)

Dismantled in 2010, this unique building "single-handedly put Cardiff on the architectural map", housing exhibitions and visitor information.

Water-based attractions

  • Cardiff Bay Barrage – accessible via the Water Bus and by road, and free to explore and also has guided tours.
  • Cardiff Bay Wetland Reserve – which has rare birds and a boardwalk leading to a viewing platform.
  • Cardiff Bay Yacht Club – located at the Cardiff International Sports Village, RYA Training centre and one of the largest yacht clubs in the UK
  • Cardiff International Pool.
  • Cardiff International White Water.
  • Cardiff Rowing Centre – located in Channel View Centre.
  • Cardiff Sailing Centre – A council run watersports & RYA Training Centre based on Cardiff Bay Barrage.
  • Cardiff Waterbus – which offers a public transport service and tourist cruises.
  • Ice Arena Wales – ice rink in the Cardiff International Sports Village.
  • Queen Alexandra Dock.

Commercial and residential

Red Dragon Centre, Cardiff Bay
Red Dragon Centre, Cardiff Bay
  • Style-conscious shops, bars and restaurants at Mermaid Quay.
  • Cardiff Bay Retail Park
  • Mischief's Cafe Bar, a cafe bar and live music venue.
  • The Coal Exchange, formally a music venue, but due to be developed into a hotel and museum.
  • The Mount Stuart, a Wetherspoons Pub situated in an 1880s, former dock building.
  • Cardiff International Sports Village, which includes Ice Arena Wales and Cardiff International Pool.
  • The Red Dragon Centre (formerly Atlantic Wharf Leisure Village), a leisure and entertainment complex.

Appearances in the media

Roald Dahl Plass - Cardiff
Roald Dahl Plass and the Wales Millennium Centre are often used in external shots of the Torchwood Hub in Doctor Who and Torchwood.

Cardiff Bay was used as the high-tech urban setting for the Doctor Who episode "Boom Town" and the show's spinoff, Torchwood, whose makers deliberately avoided stereotypical portrayals of Wales in order to portray Cardiff as the modern urban centre it is today. In Torchwood series, there is a giant secret base underneath the bay, named "The Hub", from where the Torchwood team works. There is also a lift from the hub into the plaza with a perception filter making anyone who stands on the spot "not noticed". In the third series of Torchwood entitled "Children Of Earth", Cardiff Bay was the centre of a bomb explosion, destroying the Torchwood Hub and Cardiff Bay. Roald Dahl Plass features prominently. In the episode "Utopia", the Plass is home to a rift that the Doctor uses to refuel his TARDIS. The Doctor Who episode "The Runaway Bride" made use of office buildings in Cardiff Bay.


Cardiff Bay railway station is northeast of Mermaid Quay and is served by shuttle services to Cardiff Queen Street railway station. Cardiff Bus operates the following services to the bay:

  • 1 – Bay Circle clockwise: Grangetown-Leckwith-Canton-Fairwater-Llandaff-Gabalfa-Heath-Penylan-Roath-Tremorfa-Central Station
  • 2 – Bay Circle anticlockwise: as above but reversed
  • 6 – Baycar: Queen Street station via Central Station
  • 8 – City Centre via Grangetown
  • 11 – Pengam Green via Central Station and Tremorfa
  • 35/36 – Gabalfa via Central Station, Cathays and Heath

The bay lies off the A4232 before the Butetown tunnels and is linked to the city centre by Lloyd George Avenue, Bute Street and the Central Link Road.

The Pont y Werin pedestrian and cycle bridge opened in July 2010, completing a six and a half-mile circular route around Cardiff Bay and Penarth.

A cycle hire system, similar to those in other large cities, launched in September 2009, and includes 70 bikes and 35 hire points (initially seven) around the centre and the south of the city. The current stations are: Central Station; Cardiff Bay Station; County Hall; Cardiff Bay Visitors’ Centre; Churchill Way; City Hall and eastern Queen Street. It is necessary to register before using bike. The first half an hour is free after which a small hourly fee is payable.


Panorama of the Cardiff Bay in March 2008
Panorama of the Cardiff Bay in March 2008

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