Inhabited for over 6,000 years, Cardiff is one of the UK’s oldest settlements. Today, it is the capital of Wales, known for its docks, historic castle and proud sporting tradition. Learn about what to see and do in this UK town and discover how the new UK ETA for Cardiff may affect your trip in this guide for travellers.
Cardiff’s Early History
Neolithic burial chambers indicate that Cardiff has been inhabited for at least 6,000 years. However, it first came to prominence during the Roman invasion. The Silures, an early Welsh tribe, resisted the Romans at first and raised a settlement at Cardiff in the mid-first century. Their victory was not to last, and the Romans conquered Cardiff within 20 years. Its location was deemed important, as it marks the point where two rivers meet the sea, so a large fort was raised here.
Cardiff’s strategic location has, at times, served as a disadvantage. This was the case in post-Roman Cardiff when the port was repeatedly plundered by Viking raiders. A castle was finally raised on the site of the old Roman fort in the 12th century. This castle was held by Anglo-Normans, and the native Welsh rose in rebellion against them on several occasions. Notably, Owain ap Gruffydd — the last Welsh-born Prince of Wales — attacked in 1404. He seized Cardiff Castle and burned much of the town to the ground, then largely made of wood. His rebellion was thwarted by the English, and the town was rebuilt in the following years.
The Growth of the Docks
Cardiff grew steadily over the following centuries, but it was not one of the largest towns in Wales. Its boom truly came after the Cardiff docks were built at the start of the 19th century. In 1815, a regular boat service was established between Cardiff and Bristol, and the town grew rapidly. Rich in coal, Wales flourished during the Industrial Revolution, and Cardiff became its main port. Migrants poured into the city, with workers from England, Ireland and beyond coming to find their fortune in Cardiff. By 1881, Cardiff had become the largest town in Wales. It was not to be named the Welsh capital until 1955, which was deemed a controversial decision due to its large non-Welsh population. Prior to this, Wales did not have an official capital.
Top Places to Visit in Cardiff
Built on the site of a 3rd-century Roman fort, the current Cardiff Castle was constructed in the 12th century. Its strategic location on high ground, right at the heart of the city, played a key role in the conflicts between the Anglo-Normans and the Welsh. Later, it became a private residence for the nobility. Today, the castle houses a museum. Here, visitors can learn about the history of Cardiff and the castle itself, as well as Welsh soldiers through the centuries.
Cardiff owes its growth to its location, sitting at the mouth of the Rivers Taff and Ely. Cardiff Bay continues to be an important part of the city. A stroll around the bay will allow visitors to admire the historic Pierhead Building and the Senedd Building, where the Welsh parliament meets. There’s also the Millennium Centre, where the Welsh National Opera performs. The bay area has no shortage of restaurants, shops and regular special events. A restored Norwegian church, which Roald Dahl attended as a child, can be seen in the bay.
Established in the 12th century, Llandaff Cathedral stands on the site of an earlier, smaller church. It has been damaged several times over the centuries: it has suffered during Welsh rebellions, the English Civil War, the Great Storm of 1703 and the Blitz of the Second World War. The cathedral has been restored and renovated several times. The most significant renovations were in the decades following World War II. These renovations tried to maintain the original Mediaeval and Gothic architecture, but they used more local Welsh materials in the construction process. Inside, ancient saints and early Welsh kings are buried. The cathedral is known for its choral tradition, which continues to this day. Regular choir performances take place here.
Cardiff’s iconic stadium opened in 1999. It is particularly associated with rugby, Wales’ most popular sport, and is the home of the Welsh international team. Wales has a long, proud history of playing rugby. In 1905, the tradition of singing national anthems before matches began in Cardiff when the Welsh team faced off against New Zealand’s All Blacks. The New Zealand team performed their traditional haka to intimidate their hosts, and the Welsh responded by spontaneously singing their national anthem. Football matches also take place here, including the final of the 2017 Champions League. Millennium Stadium hosts regular concerts and special events, as well as sports matches, and has become a major landmark in Cardiff.
The UK ETA for Cardiff
The UK is introducing a new ETA(Electronic Travel Authorisation) system. This programme, which comes into effect in 2024, is based on existing systems in the United States and Canada. It aims to digitalise the UK’s border control processes and will give the government greater oversight over entries and departures to the country.
UK ETA Eligibility
The new ETA programme will affect citizens of the 92 countries who currently do not need a visa to enter the UK. The visa waiver system is being discontinued, and these travellers will now have to apply for an ETA prior to entry.
Travellers who plan to spend less than six months in the UK will need to apply for the new UK ETA for Cardiff. This includes those who are travelling for holidays, visiting friends or family, studying for short-term periods or coming on business trips. Visitors who want to spend longer than six months in the UK or are planning to work in the country will still need to apply for a visa.
The UK ETA Application System
As this is a digital system, travellers can only apply for the ETA online. It is essential that they complete the application process in advance of travelling. Travellers should be prepared to show their ETA to their carrier at the airport, port or station before beginning their journey. Carriers can deny boarding to passengers who do not have an approved UK ETA for Cardiff.
The ETA application process will require travellers to enter personal information, including contact details, date of birth, employment status and so on. They will also need to have a valid biometric passport. A list of published ETA requirements can be found here, and travellers are advised to check these requirements before beginning their application.
Travellers will also have to provide information about their plans while in the UK. For example, they might be asked for a short itinerary of their trip or share the address at which they’ll be staying in the country. They will also have to disclose information about their past, such as a criminal record, immigration offences or membership of a proscribed group or organisation.
The ETA application can take up to 72 hours to process, so travellers should leave enough time before beginning their journey. They will also need to pay a non-refundable fee as part of the application process. Until this fee has been paid, the application will not be processed.
Travelling With the UK ETA for Cardiff
Travellers with a UK ETA for Cardiff will be able to move freely around the United Kingdom. There is no internal border control between Wales, England, Scotland and Northern Ireland, so no additional paperwork is required. However, visitors who wish to travel internationally should be sure to look into the entry requirements for any other countries they plan to visit. This includes the Republic of Ireland.
A Journey to Cardiff With the UK ETA
Cardiff is a city that blends ancient history with modernity. Many visitors come for its historic cathedral and castle, while others flock to the city to watch rugby matches or concerts. Whatever your reason for travelling, the new UK ETA will allow you the freedom to explore all of Cardiff. Visit the historical monuments, go for a stroll around the bay or discover hidden treasures all around the city. Use Cardiff as your starting point to explore Wales or enjoy a break from bustling city life.