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Official Review by Gary Foxall, Stadium Journey Special Correspondent
The Millennium Stadium, located in the heart of Cardiff, is the National home to both the Welsh Rugby Union and Welsh football team, although the latter have lately played games elsewhere in Wales due to small attendance.
The stadium was opened in June 1999 and was built to replace its predecessor the Cardiff Arms Park Stadium on the same site. The Arms Park itself was one of Britain’s top stadiums at the time it was demolished. There is a smaller rugby stadium outside of the arena that was home to Cardiff Blues before they moved to the new Cardiff City Football Stadium.
Millennium Stadium has an all seated capacity of 74,500 and was the first in Britain to be built with a retractable roof. The stadium consists of three tiers with the exception of the North Stand which is a two tier structure. The venue has hosted many of the pop world’s biggest performers and the 1999 Rugby World Cup. In addition it was used for all of the English FA Cup Finals, League Cup Finals and Playoff games whilst Wembley was being rebuilt over a seven year period.
Millennium Stadium has also hosted a convention of people with the famous Welsh name of Jones. When it was announced that London would host the 2012 Olympics, the Millennium Stadium was quickly named as a football venue hosting both men’s and women’s including Team Great Britain games and the bronze medal game.
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Food outlets in the stadiums concourse sell burgers, pies, hot dogs, sweets, hot and cold drinks and alcohol. Items purchased here can be expensive, but the food is of decent quality for a sports venue and service is quick for a venue of this stature.
Having attended over thirty football games ranging from Cup Finals to Internationals at the Millennium Stadium, I can personally state that it is an excellent stadium for atmosphere. When the roof is closed it gets even better. Having thought that I had seen everything in Cardiff the atmosphere at my last visit for the Team Great Britain versus South Korea Men's Olympic Football Quarter Final Tie was something totally different. Similar to the other Team GB football games, there was a totally different feel to attending a club or England football game. Team GB games saw a mass of Union Jack waving supporters which made attending a sporting event at the Olympics feel like you were watching a Royal Wedding.
The capital city of Wales offers everything that a Soccer, Rugby or Cricket supporter could wish for. Excellent sporting facilities, excellent bars and restaurants, excellent shopping, river walks, and a Castle are all within twenty minutes' walk of each other. The city also offers plenty of choice of both budget and executive hotels.
Outside of the city, the valleys and coastline of Wales are well worth exploring, making a sporting visit to the city ideal for combining into a vacation.
The neighbourhood surrounding Millennium Stadium is a mixture of old and new development with the Retail Park being ideal for whiling away an hour before kick-off. However, most visitors tend to head for the city centre or Cardiff Bay. Cardiff Bay, as it is now renamed, is the regenerated area of the Docks previously named Tiger Bay, the area of Cardiff where a young Shirley Bassey was raised and one which gains a mention in the Ian Dury song "Hit Me With Your Rhythm Stick". This area of the city has museums, small shops and bars and is popular amongst locals and visitors.
The City Arms, outside the stadium just off Westgate Street, and The Prince Of Wales, a Wetherspoon's Outlet in Westgate Street, are the most popular public houses by the stadium but these are naturally busy leading up to a big event.
For eating, Caroline Street has a number of Chip Shops and Kebab Shops for those looking for fast food. Everything you need is within a ten minute walk of the stadium, this includes many of the High Street restaurants and the Bella Italia can be recommended. There are also many other fine eating houses in Cardiff Bay which is a brisk fifteen minute walk and again I can personally recommend the Pearl of the Orient (Chinese cuisine).
Welsh Rugby supporters are known for being some of the most passionate in the sport and tickets to an international at the Millennium are difficult to obtain. Unfortunately Welsh football fans do not appear in as great numbers and small attendances have forced the F.A. of Wales to play games at smaller venues including the Cardiff City Stadium just down the road. However Wales's supporters are loyal and despite never qualifying for major tournaments their small but vocal band do their best to create an atmosphere at any venue they play in.
Millennium Stadium is easily reached by car exiting Junction 33 of the M4 motorway which runs between Swansea and London. Take the A4232 towards Cardiff and exit for the B4267 passing Cardiff City Stadium and heading towards the city centre. Alternatively, any signs for the city centre will take you to the stadium. Parking is available at any of the city centre car parks and will cost you between £5 and £8 on a match day. Cardiff Railway Station is directly outside the Millennium and trains run from here to most cities in England and Wales. Cardiff has its own airport approximately eight miles from the centre.
Any visit to the Millennium Stadium is money well spent. The venue is an excellent and comfortable stadium to watch sports in particular and its location in the heart of the city with all of its amenities directly outside makes a visit to watch an event last one if not two days. Although Wembley is an excellent stadium, any football supporter whose club played in a final at the Millennium will tell you it was a much more enjoyable day out than one in North London.
Stadium tours priced at £7.50 are available on most days of the week and last just over an hour. The stadium has a huge electronic scoreboard at the south end of the arena and all areas of seating have small television screens in front of them.
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10-12 Quay St
Cardiff, Wales CF10 1EA
029 2022 5258
81-83 Saint Mary St
Cardiff, Wales CF10 1FA
029 2064 4449
6 High St
Cardiff, Wales CF10 1AW
029 2039 9466
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