- The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new lands but seeing with new eyes. Marcel Proust
The suburbs of Swansea, Wales' second-oldest town, extend as far as the lovely Gower Peninsula. A port at the mouth of the River Tawe, the city grew in size thanks to the export of iron, coal and copper (the latter once so important that it leant Swansea its nickname of 'Copperopolis'). Now an important trading center, university town and industrial base, Swansea is also a big draw for tourists thanks to its vibrant cultural life.
Shopping in Swansea Market
Whenever Wales' largest market is held in Swansea, the whole town pulses with visitors out to experience the brightly colored stalls with all manner of food products. Delicacies include varieties of strong Welsh cheese, mussels from nearby Burry Bay, and laver bread made from seaweed and served with oatmeal. Although markets have been held in the streets of Swansea since the Middle Ages, much of today's market is held indoors (and has been since the 1700s). Afterwards, wander the wide Kingsway at the heart of the town center, as well as the main shopping areas along Union Street, Oxford Street, High Street, Princess Way and Portland Street.
Swansea boasts many magnificent parks, but its Clyne Gardens are famed for colorful displays of rhododendrons and azaleas. This superb botanical gardens - once part of the old Swansea Castle - consists of 47 acres of parkland and gardens. The grounds feature more than 2,000 species of plants (including over 800 variety of the aforementioned rhododendrons). A lovely gazebo is a park highlight, and was built by an old admiral in order to keep an eye on ships entering Swansea Bay. Other features to check out are the bamboo-filled Japanese garden, an artificial lake and waterfall, as well as the 1908 Clyne Chapel.
Swansea Festival of Music and the Arts
The cultural life of Swansea, which counts the eloquent poet Dylan Thomas (1914-1953) among its sons, is always lively, with the theater and the arts well supported. The Swansea Festival of Music and the Arts, the high-point of the town's social calendar, takes place every October at a variety of venues around town, including Brangwyn Hall, St Mary's Church, The Grand Theatre, Taliesin Arts Centre and The Mission Gallery. This popular annual festival includes various large-scale concerts by world-famous orchestras, as well as local musical talent, theatrical productions, opera performances and art exhibits. Another popular Swansea event is the Gower Festival, a two-week festival offering nightly performances of choral and chamber music.
National Waterfront Museum
The architecturally stunning National Waterfront Museum is a must-see when in Swansea. Highlighting over 300 years of industry and innovation in Wales, this fun museum uses hi-tech displays and exhibits to show just how important the region was to the development of Britain. Highlights of the museum's 15 themed galleries are old steam-powered machines and engines, as well as maritime related artifacts.
Glynn Vivian Art Gallery
The Glynn Vivian Art Gallery has a fabulous collection of Swansea pottery and porcelain, as well as European and Oriental ceramics and glass paperweights. It includes works by Welsh artists such as Augustus, Gwen John and Ceri Richards, as well as Masters such as European such as Monet. And it's affiliated with the much-celebrated Tate galleries.
The Mumbles and Swansea Bay
The Mumbles, a headland that's part of wide Swansea Bay, is a wonderful place to walk and explore. Thanks to its long promenade, piers, cafés, restaurants and numerous entertainment facilities, it's a popular destination for locals and tourists alike. On a hill above the Mumbles lie the ruins of 13th century Oystermouth Castle with its gatehouse, great hall and chapel. A prominent lighthouse stands on Mumbles Head, the two cliffs from which the area has gained its name.