Cardiff Bay has become one of the world’s biggest regeneration projects, the downbeat dereliction of the old docks having been almost completely transformed into a designer heaven. In years gone by, when the docks were some of the busiest in the world, the area was better known by its evocative name of Tiger Bay, immortalized by local lass Shirley Bassey.
The Bay area now comprises three distinct parts, situated either side of Roald Dahls Plass, the main square named after the Cardiff-born children’s author (1916–90): on the eastern side the civic precincts around the glorious Wales Millennium Centre, to the west the shiny millennium waterfront, including the Mermaid Quay retail and leisure complex, and, set back from the water’s edge, the suburb of Butetown.
Wales Millennium Centre
The mesmerizing Wales Millennium Centre is a vibrant performance space built in 2004 for theatre and music. Likened by critics to a copper-plated armadillo or a great snail, the WMC soars gracefully over the Bay rooftops, its exterior swathed in Welsh building materials, topped with a stainless-steel shell tinted with a bronze oxide to resist salty air.
Guided tours of the building allow complete backstage access, as well as intimate views of the main auditorium, the acoustically sensational Donald Gordon Theatre. The ground floor houses a visitor centre, the main box office, a music shop, souvenir shop, bar and brasserie.