Wales's second largest city, initially sprang up around its Norman castle.

Swansea harbour bridge

Swansea Harbour Bridge © Beki Benney

Swansea became a boom town during the 18th-century, growing rich from the local metal smelting industries. The heart of the city was destroyed in WWII by heavy bombing, which swept away much of its ancient heritage. However, the old castle ruins can still be found in Castle Bailey Street and the remains of an 14th-c fortified manor house still stand in Wind Street. The city's 15th-c parish church (St Mary) was rebuilt in 1955 and the restored Old Guildhall now houses the Dylan Thomas Centre.

In 1919, the former Technical College became Swansea university and now occupies several key buildings in the town. The city centre has been remodeled many times over the years and the old docks have recently been transformed into an ultra modern marina complex. You can often see swans swimming in the sea around the marina area, however, the name Swansea actually derives from the Norse terms 'Sweyn' and 'ey', which means an inlet or an island.

The jewel in Swansea's crown is the magnificent wide sandy bay that sweeps around the coastline to the Mumbles, located at the edge of the beautiful Gower Peninsular. Not only is the city blest with beautiful green flag beaches, some 900 acres of landscaped parkland can also be found within its boundaries. Included in the 50 or so parks and gardens are the lovely Clyne Gardens, Singleton Botanic Gardens, Victoria Park and Brynmill Park. Yet more greenery can also be found at Swansea's Plantasia; a giant glass pyramid, which houses a tropical rainforest, complete with primates, lizards and snakes.

Swansea's friendly town centre has a mix of big stores and plenty of independent specialty shops. The undercover market is famous for its traditional fare and is the place to buy home baked goods, Welsh cakes and fresh fish.

The city also boasts a number of excellent museums. The Maritime and Industrial Museum near to the marina, tells of Swansea's industrial and seafaring past, and the nearby Swansea Museum houses a collection of local porcelain and Nantgarw pottery.

Just to the west of Swansea lies the Gower Peninsula. A popular destination for surfers and walkers, and also with naturalists, who flock to see its rich flora and fauna. This area also produces many traditional sea foods, such as Pen-clawdd cockles and Laver Bread, sold in the city's bustling market.

Tourist Information Centre:

Plymouth Street, Swansea, Wales SA1 3QG - Tel: 01792 468321

What to see and do in Swansea

Dylan Thomas Statue SwanseaDylan Thomas Centre

The statue of Dylan Thomas sits on the waterfront, looking out across the sea. The nearby centre is home to a must-see exhibition, providing a detailed insight into the life and works of this charismatic Welsh poet. The annual 'Dylan Thomas Festival' is also hosted here every autumn.

The birthplace of Dylan Thomas, at 5 Cwmdonkin Drive (close to Cwmdonkin Park ), is the main focal point for his worldwide fan base. Also open to the public, this Edwardian villa is decorated in fine period style.

National Waterfront Museum

Old wharf building converted into a museum with a range of exhibits covering Swansea's long maritime history. Exhibits include vintage vehicles, locomotives and a train from the Mumbles Railway that once ran along the seafront in the early 20th-c.

Swansea Museum

Wales' oldest museum. Displays a fine collection of local porcelain and Nantgarw pottery. Also a number of art treasures by Welsh artists.

Swansea Castle

Although mostly in ruins today, the castle once dominated the town and harbour area. Unfortunately it was destroyed during the Civil War in 1647 and has never been the same since. In the past it has served its time as a Norman mint, a medieval bishop's palace and later a Victorian debtors' prison.

Swansea Marina

Swansea Marina

Swansea's new award-winning marine quarter incorporates a modern leisure centre and marina and is the place to be to enjoy all kinds of water sports, including Britain's first indoor surfing centre. The rejuvenated waterfront development has a sophisticated shopping mall, restaurants, leisure facilities and luxury apartments. Vessels of all types flock here, not just for its ideal location on the Bristol channel but also for the harbour's blue flag status.

The water sports centre has facilities for kayaking, kite surfing and paddle boarding. In addition to this world class water sport scene are facilities for football, rugby and volleyball on the beach.

The MumblesMumbles Beach

Popular seaside resort just to the west of Swansea, with a excellent beach, small pier and facilities for a variety of water based leisure activities. Once a busy oyster and fishing port, it is now a lovely mix of seaside attractions and shopping facilities. The streets near the seafront are lined with boutiques, bistros and art galleries. Italian ice cream parlours are also a specialty here.

In 1807 a horse-drawn tramway was opened between Swansea and the Mumbles, as the first passenger carrying railway in the world, but sadly closed in 1960.

Mumbles Head provides fine views of Swansea Bay and is the ideal starting point for pleasant walk to Bracelet Bay along the coast.

Oystermouth Castle

This handsome well preserved fortress stands on a low grassy mound near the Mumble's seafront. Built in 1280 as a secure but comfortable stronghold for the Braose family (the Norman Lords of the Gower). Its pale limestone walls still stand in fairly good repair and include a gatehouse, chapel and great hall.

Places to Visit Near Swansea

Afan Forest Park

Beautiful Woodland filled with walking and cycle trails. One of Britain's top places for mountain biking and its maze of trackways and forest trails has worldwide appeal. There are also a number of family friendly walks.

The Gower Peninsula

This unique peninsula is a combination of dramatic coastline and gently rolling countryside that provides some of the most beautiful and unspoilt scenery in Wales. The cliffs that fringe the excellent southern beaches are considered to be among the finest in Britain. The rich agricultural landscape of the interior is scored by numerous thickly-wooded valleys that provide excellent walking territory. The the 39 mile stretch of coastal path that runs around the perimeter of the Gower, forms one of the most spectacular stretches of the 870 mile long Wales Coast Path.

Surfers have been coming the Gower since the 1960s, when it became Britain's first surfing destination. Plenty of other traditional watersports are also available today including kitesurfing, windsurfing, kayaking and water skiing.

Ancient remains found here point to the Gower's one-time colonization by the Celts and Romans, and reminders of later times are everywhere in the shapes of ruined castles.

The Gower Heritage Centre, located at its centre (just off the A4118), provides an informative picture of life on the peninsula in days gone by.

Kenfig Pool And Dunes

Just north of Porthcowl a wilderness alongside Swansea Bay, with over 1000 acres of dunes and a large freshwater lake. Supports a wide range of flowering plants, waterfowl and wildlife.

Oxwich National Nature Reserve

Beautiful nature reserve that runs alongside a picturesque crescent-shaped sandy bay, backed by dunes, marshes and woodland. The area supports hundreds of varied species of flowering plants, birds and butterflies. The visitor centre provides information on the many walks and trails in the reserve. Regular guided walks in summer.

Located 11 miles south-west of Swansea, in the centre of Gower region.

Map of Swansea


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