There's no Soho in Cardiff, but you can find many interesting places to go after dark.
St. David's Hall is one of Britain's leading centers of music, offering an extensive program, including visits by international conductors, soloists, and orchestras. Top rock and pop artists also appear there. The most outstanding local troupe is the Welsh National Opera, which Punch magazine acclaimed as "the world's best opera company."
The Red Dragon Centre, Hemingway Rd., Leisure Village, outside Cardiff (tel. 029/2025-6261), is a lively center for shopping, entertainment, and dining. There's so much going on here in an ever-changing scene that if you drop in, you are likely to find some venue to amuse you. There's an array of amusements for children, so it's very much a family affair. Live entertainment takes place almost every night in one of the Centre's clubs.
For information about after-dark diversions, pick up a brochure from the Cardiff tourist office, "Cardiff 2009," which is revised annually. In it you'll find a selective rundown of the city's most worthwhile entertainment.
The Performing Arts
Built at the cost of £106 million, the Wales Millennium Centre has made its debut at Cardiff Bay (tel. 029/2063-6400; www.wmc.org.uk), the home base for seven leading cultural organizations, including the Welsh National Opera and the Dance Company of Wales. Set against a backdrop of Welsh slate walls and a golden roof, the 1,900-seat auditorium overlooks the waterfront. Right from the beginning, it has established itself as one of the world's leading venues for the performing arts, attracting companies from all over the world, including the Australian Ballet. The center houses the Donald Gordon Theatre and the Weston Studio, plus an array of places to dine, drink, and watch free entertainment. Ticket prices vary, depending on the attraction. On our last visit, for example, prices began at £10 for the cheapest seat in the house, going up to £40.
St. David's Hall (or Neuadd Dewi Sant in Welsh), the Hayes (tel. 029/2087-8889; www.newtheatrecardiff.co.uk), was designed in an octagonal format of shimmering glass and roughly textured concrete; it is the most comprehensive forum for the arts in Wales. A number of world-class orchestras appear regularly, along with popular music stars -- everybody from Tina Turner to Welsh-born Tom Jones. Dance, films, and classical ballet, among other events, are also presented.
The hall maintains an information desk for the sale of tickets throughout the day. It also has dining facilities, plus a changing exhibition of art. Prince Charles laid the hall's cornerstone, and the Queen Mother officially opened the arts center in 1983. The top-notch acoustics are attributed to its interior arrangements of a series of interlinked sloping terraces, any of which can be opened or closed for seating depending on the size of the audience.
Instant confirmed bookings for events are available by phone with a Visa or MasterCard daily 10am to 6 or 8pm, depending on the concert schedule. The box office is open Monday to Saturday 9:30am to 8pm (but only until 5:30pm on days when there's no performance). On Sunday, the box office opens 1 hour before the start of a scheduled performance. Ticket prices depend on the event. Take bus no. 1 or 2.
Cardiff's main repertory theater, Sherman Theatre, Senghennydd Road (tel. 029/2064-6900; www.shermantheatre.co.uk), is on the campus of the University of Wales. It has two auditoriums -- the Main Theatre and the more intimate Arena Theatre. More than 600 performances a year are staged here, including drama, dance, and Welsh folkloric performances. The box office is open Monday to Saturday from 10am to 8pm (until 5:30pm, if no performance is scheduled). The cost for most tickets is £12 to £15 for adults, or £10 to £11 for students and children. Take bus no. 70, 78, 80, or 82.
Finally, Chapter, Market Road, in Canton (tel. 029/2030-4400; www.chapter.org), is an arts center complete with a theater; two movie facilities; three galleries and artists' studios; video, photography, and silk-screen workshops; a dance studio; a bookshop; two bars; and a cafe. Its box office is open Monday to Friday 11am to 8:30pm, Saturday 2 to 8:30pm, and Sunday 3 to 8:30pm. Take bus no. 17, 18, or 31.
The hottest action is likely to be found at Clwb ifor Bach (the Welsh Club) at 11 Womanby St. (tel. 029/2023-2199; www.clwb.net), whose activities spread across three levels. The top floor rocks to live bands, including some of the best in Wales, such as Bullet for My Valentine, Lostprophets, and Super Furry Animals. There's something different happening every night the club is open. Cover ranges from £3.50 to £8, and the club rocks Wednesday to Monday, usually from 7:30pm to either 2 or 3am.
Liquid, St. Mary's St. (tel. 029/645-464; www.liquidclubs.com), has the best sound and lighting systems, with striking visuals. Management plays all the best funk, house, electro, R&B, whatever, with the town's best DJs. Charging from £5 to £12 entrance fee, Liquid pours over Friday and Saturday 9:30pm to 5am.
Pubs & Bars
A traditional favorite is the Pub at Hamon's Restaurant, in the Thistle Hotel, Park Place (tel. 0871/3769011), a cozy pub and bistro format. Stained-glass windows evoke Victorian nostalgia. You can also come here for a pub dinner. Take bus no. 8 or 9.
More modern and attracting a younger crowd, Salt, Stuart Street, Mermaid Quay (tel. 029/2049-4375), is a two-story bar that serves some of the best cocktails in town. Take bus no. 8.
A hangout for rugby fans, City Arms, 10 Quay St. (corner of Quay and Womanby sts.; tel. 029/2022-5258), attracts sports enthusiasts and is the most likely venue for any pop star or celebrity visiting Wales. Take bus no. 50, 51, 52, 70, 71, or 72.
Exit Club, 48 Charles St. (tel. 029/2064-0102; www.exitclubcardiff.com), is a hot spot that is usually crowded and cruisy. Its precincts accommodate the Richard Burton or Dylan Thomas wannabes of the 21st century. Surveying the dance floor of heavy-drinking hot guys, one patron claimed, "You want to get 'em before they're too pissed." There's no cover before 9:30pm; after that hour, you pay from £2 to £5. The club is open Sunday to Thursday 8pm to 2am, Friday and Saturday 8pm to 3am. Sunday is cabaret night.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.