March 27, 2019
What’s life like in these two Welsh cities? From culture to the schools, let’s take a look at what makes life in Cardiff and Newport so great.
Both cities have a long history, with evidence of Iron Age and Roman fortresses found in both Cardiff and Newport. Cardiff began to expand rapidly from the 1830s when a dock was built, and when it was linked with the Taff Vale Railway, it became the main port for coal exports from the nearby coal-mining valleys. Between 1840 and 1870, Cardiff’s population grew at a rate of almost 80% per decade. The East Moors Steelworks were also an important industrial power for Cardiff, although when it closed in 1978, Cardiff suffered population loss – but this was reversed in the 1990s when it was one of only a few cities outside of London where the population grew during the decade.
Newport was also an important port for coal, and for some 20 years between 1830 and the 1850s, it exported more coal than Cardiff. The city was thriving during the late 19th and early 20th centuries, with the Alexandra Docks opening in 1875 and the Alexandra South Dock opening in 1892 as the largest masonry dock in the world. Newport has continued to flourish ever since, with the opening of the nearby M4 motorway and the Severn Bridge making it a well-connected hotspot in Wales.
Cardiff is growing in popularity as a tourist destination and in 2008 the city was a finalist for European Capital of Culture. There’s plenty to keep culture vultures entertained all year round, whether you prefer going to the theatre or watching live music. The city has played host to the National Eisteddfod (the most important of the country’s eisteddfods, which are competitions of poetry, music and other arts) several times, most recently in 2018. It’s also played host to the BBC Cardiff Singer of the World competition, a prestigious biennial event for opera singers, since 1983.
There are several great venues in the city for the arts, including the Wales Millennium Centre which hosts opera, ballet, dance, comedy and musicals, as well as smaller music venues such as the Chapter Arts Centre.
Newport also has a clutch of good music venues, as well as many works of civic art dotted around the city, including twelve painted murals by German painter Hans Feilbusch at the Newport Civic Centre, and a 40-foot high steel sculpture, Wave, by Peter Fink which sits on the west bank of the River Usk.
Whichever city you choose, you’ll be spoiled for choice when it comes to eating and drinking options.
Cardiff is renowned for its nightlife, with the majority of bars and clubs located in the city centre around St Mary’s Street – although there’s also a good selection of places to go in Cardiff Bay. You won’t go hungry on a night out, either. Just off St Mary’s Street, Caroline Street is known locally as “Chippy Lane” or “Chippy Alley” thanks to the number of chip shops and fast food joints lining the street. It’s so well-known that it was even mentioned in an episode of the hit show Gavin and Stacey.
If it’s a sit-down meal you’re looking for, you’ll find plenty of choice in Cardiff, including many independent restaurants. The Potted Pig, located in a former bank, serves up modern Welsh fare, whilst you can tuck into authentic Syrian cuisine at Shaam Nights.
Over in Newport, the drinking and dining scene is just as rich. The Cellar Door is Newport’s first micropub. It opened in 2017 in a former computer shop and is the perfect place for a catch up over a pint, and there are often gigs taking place in an intimate space too. Tiny Rebel is a brewery and bar in the city and we hear that they serve some of the best pizza in town, too. You can also take brewery tours and see how it all works.
There’s something for everyone when it comes to shopping in Cardiff: you’ll find high-street names, luxury boutiques and big shopping centres in the city. The most unique aspect of shopping in Cardiff, however, are the seven arcades that date back to Victorian and Edwardian times. They’re home to over 100 independent shops, cafes and bars in the heart of the city centre, and are well worth exploring.
Newport is also good for shopping, with a range of big-name retailers and smaller independent shops. Newport Arcade dates back to 1869 and today you’ll find a host of boutique shops, and there’s also a great selection of lovely boutique businesses in nearby towns such as Caerleon.
Both cities have excellent schools for children of all ages. In Cardiff, there are 98 state primary schools (2 of which are bilingual and 15 Welsh-medium schools) and 19 state secondary schools including 3 Welsh medium. There are also highly-regarded independent schools, including Cardiff Sixth Form College which was the top-rated independent senior school in the UK in 2013, based on the percentage of A* and A grades and Advanced Level. Cardiff is also home to the largest Welsh-medium school in the country, Ysgol Gyfun Gymraeg Glantaf. Here, 68% of pupils come from homes where Welsh isn’t the primary language spoken at home.
There are also excellent schools in Newport. At secondary level, there are eight English-medium state comprehensive schools and one English-language independent comprehensive as well as a Welsh-medium secondary school in the suburb of Brynglas.
Newport is the furthest east of all Welsh cities and its proximity to the England/Wales border makes it a popular choice for commuters, especially to Bristol. Train services to/from Bristol stop at Newport roughly 2-3 times per hour, and the journey takes an average of 39 minutes by train. There are also around six trains per hour to Cardiff as well as five hourly buses. If you’re going further afield, there are four trains to London every hour.
Cardiff Central train station is the biggest in Wales with nine platforms that see over 12.5 million passengers coming into and leaving the station every year. It’s a busy transport hub with regular services to Newport, Bristol, Birmingham, Manchester and London. Cardiff Queen Street station is the second busiest in Wales, and it’s the hub for the Valley Lines that connect Cardiff to the South Wales Valleys.
Cardiff Airport, located 10 miles west of the city in the village of Rhoose, is the only international airport in Wales, flying around 1.66 million passengers annually to other parts of the UK and beyond.
If you need advice for first-time buying in Cardiff or Newport – or if you’re looking for a reliable mortgage broker in South Wales – don’t hesitate to contact us today.
We’re experts on all things mortgage-related (and our services are always 100% free).
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