Cardiff is the capital and largest city in Wales and the eleventh-largest city in the United Kingdom. The city is the country's chief commercial centre, the base for most national cultural and sporting institutions, the Welsh national media, and the seat of the National Assembly for Wales. The unitary authority area's mid-2011 population was estimated to be 346,100, while the population of the Larger Urban Zone was estimated at 861,400 in 2009. The Cardiff metropolitan area makes up over a third of the total population of Wales, with a mid-2011 population estimate of about 1,100,000 people. Cardiff is a significant tourist centre and the most popular visitor destination in Wales with 18.3 million visitors in 2010. In 2011, Cardiff was ranked sixth in the world in National Geographic's alternative tourist destinations.
The city of Cardiff is the county town of the historic county of Glamorgan (and later South Glamorgan). Cardiff is part of the Eurocities network of the largest European cities. The Cardiff Urban Area covers a slightly larger area outside the county boundary, and includes the towns of Dinas Powys and Penarth. A small town until the early 19th century, its prominence as a major port for the transport of coal following the arrival of industry in the region contributed to its rise as a major city.
Cardiff was made a city in 1905, and proclaimed the capital of Wales in 1955. Since the 1980s, Cardiff has seen significant development. A new waterfront area at Cardiff Bay contains the Senedd building, home to the Welsh Assembly and the Wales Millennium Centre arts complex. Current developments include the continuation of the redevelopment of the Cardiff Bay and city centre areas with projects such as the Cardiff International Sports Village, a BBC drama village, and a new business district in the city centre.
Sporting venues in the city include the Millennium Stadium (the national stadium for the Wales national rugby union team), SWALEC Stadium (the home of Glamorgan County Cricket Club), Cardiff City Stadium (the home of Cardiff City football team), Cardiff International Sports Stadium (the home of Cardiff Amateur Athletic Club) and Cardiff Arms Park (the home of Cardiff Blues and Cardiff RFC rugby union teams). The city was awarded the title of European City of Sport twice, due to its role in hosting major international sporting events: first in 2009 and again in 2014. The Millennium Stadium hosted 11 football matches as part of the 2012 Summer Olympics, including the games' opening event and the men's bronze medal match.
The centre of Cardiff is relatively flat and is bounded by hills on the outskirts to the east, north and west. Its geographic features were influential in its development as the world's largest coal port, most notably its proximity and easy access to the coal fields of the south Wales valleys. The highest point in the authority is Garth Hill 307 metres (1,007 feet) above sea level.
Cardiff is built on reclaimed marshland on a bed of Triassic stones; this reclaimed marshland stretches from Chepstow to the Ely Estuary, which is the natural boundary of Cardiff and the Vale of Glamorgan. Triassic landscapes of this part of the world are usually shallow and low-lying which accounts and explains the flatness of the centre of Cardiff. The classic Triassic marl, sand and conglomerate rocks are used predominantly throughout Cardiff as building materials. Many of these Triassic rocks have a purple complexion, especially the coastal marl found near Penarth. One of the Triassic rocks used in Cardiff is "Radyr Stone", a freestone which as it name suggests is quarried in the Radyr district. Cardiff has also imported some materials for buildings: Devonian sandstones (the Old Red Sandstone) from the Brecon Beacons has been used. Most famously, the buildings of Cathays Park, the civic centre in the centre of the city, are built of Portland stone which was imported from Dorset. A widely used building stone in Cardiff is the yellow-grey Liassic limestone rock of the Vale of Glamorgan, including the very rare "Sutton Stone", a conglomerate of lias limestone and carboniferous limestone.
Cardiff is bordered to the west by the rural district of the Vale of Glamorgan—also known as The Garden of Cardiff - to the east by the city of Newport, to the north by the South Wales Valleys and to the south by the Severn Estuary and Bristol Channel. The River Taff winds through the centre of the city and together with the River Ely flows into the freshwater lake of Cardiff Bay. A third river, the Rhymney flows through the east of the city entering directly into the Severn Estuary.
Cardiff is situated near the Glamorgan Heritage Coast, stretching westward from Penarth and Barry - commuter towns of Cardiff - with striped yellow-blue Jurassic limestone cliffs. The Glamorgan coast is the only part of the Celtic Sea that has exposed Jurassic (blue lias) geology. This stretch of coast, which has reefs, sandbanks and serrated cliffs, was a ship graveyard; ships sailing up to Cardiff during the industrial era often never made it as far as Cardiff as many were wrecked around this hostile coastline during west/south-westerly gales. Consequently, smuggling, deliberate shipwrecking and attacks on ships were common.
Cardiff lies within the north temperate zone and has an essentially maritime climate (Köppen: Cfb), characterised by mild weather that is often cloudy, wet and windy. Summers tend to be warm and sunny, with average maximum temperatures between 19 and 22 °C (66 and 72 °F). Winters tend to be fairly wet, but rainfall is rarely excessive and the temperature usually stays above freezing. Spring and autumn feel quite similar and the temperatures tend to stay above 14 °C (57 °F)—also the average annual daytime temperature. Rain is unpredictable at any time of year, although the showers tend to be shorter in summer.
The northern part of the county, being higher and inland—for example, The Garth (Welsh: Mynydd y Garth), about 7 miles (11 km) north west of Cardiff city centre, (elevation 1,007 feet (307 m))—tends to be cooler and wetter than the city centre.
There are seven NHS hospitals in the city, the largest of which is the University Hospital of Wales. The University Hospital of Wales is the third largest hospital in the UK and deals with most accidents and emergencies. The University Dental Hospital, which provides emergency dental treatment, is also located on this site. Llandough Hospital is located in the south of the city.
The city's newest hospital, St. David's Hospital (built behind the former building) is located in the Canton area and provides services for the elderly and children. Cardiff Royal Infirmary is located on Newport Road, near the city centre. The majority of this hospital was closed in 1999 but with the West Wing remaining open for clinic services, genitourinary medicine and rehabilitation treatment. Rookwood Hospital and Whitchurch Hospital are also located within the city, along with Rookwood Hospital and Velindre Cancer Centre. All hospitals in Cardiff are administered by the Cardiff and Vale University Health Board, with the exception of the Velindre site which is run by a separate trust. In addition Spire Healthcare has a private hospital in the city which is located in Pentwyn.
Cardiff has many cultural sites varying from the historical Cardiff Castle and out of town Castell Coch to the more modern Wales Millennium Centre and Cardiff Bay. Cardiff was a finalist in the European Capital of Culture 2008. In recent years Cardiff has grown in stature as a tourist destination, with recent accolades including Cardiff being voted the eighth favourite UK city by readers of the Guardian. The city was also listed as one of the top 10 destinations in the UK on the official British tourist boards website Visit Britain, and US travel guide Frommers have listed Cardiff as one of 13 top destinations worldwide for 2008. Annual events in Cardiff that have become regular appearances in Cardiff's calendar include Sparks in the Park, The Great British Cheese Festival, Cardiff Mardi Gras, Cardiff Winter Wonderland, Cardiff Festival and Made in Roath.
Cardiff is the Welsh base for the main national broadcasters (BBC Cymru Wales, ITV Wales and S4C). A locally based television station, Made in Cardiff, is also based in the city centre. Major filming studios in Cardiff include the BBC's Roath Lock Studios and Pinewood Studios Wales.
Several contemporary television programmes and films are filmed in and/or set in Cardiff such as Casualty, Doctor Who, Merlin, Sarah Jane Adventures, Torchwood, The Valleys, Upstairs Downstairs and Sherlock.
The main local newspaper, the South Wales Echo and the national paper the Western Mail are based in Park Street in the city centre. Capital Times, Echo Extra and the South Wales edition of Metro are also based and distributed in the city. There are also a number of magazines based in the city including Buzz magazine, Primary Times and a monthly papur bro, or Welsh-language community newsletter, called Y Dinesydd (The Citizen).
A number of other radio stations serve the city and are based in Cardiff, including Capital FM (South Wales), Heart (South and West Wales), BBC Radio Wales, BBC Radio Cymru, Nation Radio, Radio Cardiff, Smooth Radio (Wales) and Xpress Radio.
Google Street View is available throughout Cardiff. The introduction of this was controversial at the time, but an online poll has since voted the Millennium Stadium to be one of six locations in the UK to be specially photographed and made available on Google Street View as a 360-degree virtual tour.