Swansea by the Bay

By | Category: Travel destinations

Swansea National Waterfront Museum (image courtesy & copyright City and County of Swansea)

Swansea National Waterfront Museum (image courtesy & copyright City and County of Swansea)


The ruined castle in Swansea is overshadowed by a large metal clad skyscraper. Next to the castle is a vacant building plot surrounded by fencing and written on that it says 260 shops, 90 places to eat, 30 hair and beauty salons and 45 pubs and clubs.
Do not be put off by this.
Swansea has much more to offer the day tripper, the weekend visitor or anyone who spends a week there. Sometimes it seems Swansea is the place you pass through to get to the beautiful Gower. But linger and have a look at a city that has transformed itself over the last 20 years. It still has a shop called The Sheep Shop, its museum is still in an old Victorian building (more of that later) but so much else has changed. Go down to the bay and visit the National Waterfront Museum. The word “waterfront” is a bit of a misnomer. Yes it is by the water but it isn’t devoted to the sea or maritime subjects. It’s more, I think a museum devoted to the social life of the past and how workers got on with their lives. Officially it is the museum for industry and innovation in Wales, part of the National Museum of Wales and therefore entry is free. There is machinery that helped Swansea become a powerhouse in copper during the industrial revolution and items show what workers had to deal with. The museum is very modern and interactive in that children can pass their hands across everyday items and they get put into a supermarket basket. Up pops an explanation of that product. There are 100,000 objects in the collection but they can display only 1,000. They certainly don’t cramp the exhibits and the museum is light and airy. Somewhere there is a lot of storage! Outside you can walk alongside the marina and there are moored a lightship, Helwick, a tug, Canning, and a pilot cutter, Olga. (part of Swansea Museum) There are also quayside restaurants probably for those who yachts are tied up in the marina and coffee shops. The day I was there, sunny and warm, this was an ideal setting for a drink and a snack. You couldn’t have done that in the old days! (For more see www.museumwales.ac.uk/en/swansea/)
Walking along the quay eventually after passing a number, very large number of boats you can get to the Dylan Thomas Centre. It’s small but full of audio exhibits so you can hear not only the voice of Thomas himself but also Richard Burton reading different poems and, of course, Under Milk Wood. Books and manuscripts, magazines and posters make up much of the rest of the exhibition. The centre has one other thing going for it. It has a great second hand book area wrapped around a coffee shop.
I mentioned earlier the Swansea Museum and its old Victorian nature. In fact it became a museum in 1841 so it is one of the earliest that there must be. Don’t miss the Collections Centre opposite the Liberty Stadium because this is where you can see a wider array of vehicles, lifeboats and the old maritime collection. One thing to remember is that this is only open on Wednesdays. Upstairs is the mummy of Hor, an Egptian priest but I was told, that he caused no trouble at all by one of the guides. Just lies there keeping an eye on the place. Not even any ghostly moves at night! that’s the old, the very old. But a current exhibition is bang up to date. It is called Skin Deep and explores the world of body painting which mostly involves tatooing. As someone called Rachel wrote in the comments book, “great to see something for us young 1’s” This exhibition is quite an eye opener if you have never had a tattoo. The time it takes; the changing designs across the ages and the comments from the tatooists themselves made me stay longer than I planned. On a TV screen you can see some of the work including one created for an American tourist. Not content with a fridge magnet, a tacky souvenir or even a postcard she settled on a tattoo to reflect her enjoyment of a visit to the UK. In almost a circle emblazoned on her lower back there is a tube train with a sheep and a mackerel. Underneath is written the motto of on our royal coat of arms, Honi Soit Qui May Y Pense. (Who did she meet on her holiday?) This could be a brand new tourist souvenir business; tattoos to reflect where you’ve visited! There is no dedicated museum website, the council one is www.swansea.gov.uk/index.cfm@articleid=26102

Swansea Indoor Market (image courtesy & copyright City and County of Swansea)

Swansea Indoor Market (image courtesy & copyright City and County of Swansea)


But Swansea isn’t all museums. It also has the biggest indoor market (about 100 stalls) with clothes stalls, food, books, pet items and nick-nacks. There is an array of different Welsh cheeses and, of course you can buy lava bread and local cockles. (www.swanseaindoormarket.co.uk) For more modern shopping then the Quadrant is where you’ll find the usual shops you find in shopping centres wherever you are. Much of the shopping area is pedestrianised with cobbled walkways.

Swansea University (image courtesy & copyright City and County of Swansea)

Swansea University (image courtesy & copyright City and County of Swansea)


But Swansea also has the sea. Go down to Swansea University and just across from there you’ll find a place to lounge on the sand., there can’t be many university students who only have to leave their grounds and then find themselves within 50 yards of a beach. Swansea even has trained people on one bus route who also act as information providers.to visitors.
So Swansea has water, a marina, shops, museums and is the entrance to the Gower. Oh, and it’s the cleanest city in Wales.
Isn’t that enough to encourage you to go there? And after you’ve be been don’t forget to log onto www.swanseabaytourismawards.co.uk to nominate your best visitor attraction, best accommodation supplier and all the other remaining 12 categories. Remember without you there is no tourism. So encourage those that gave good service and a good holiday..

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