Swansea (Welsh: Abertawe, "mouth of the Tawe") is a city and county in South Wales, situated on the coast immediately to the east of the Gower Peninsula. The name Swansea is believed to come from "Sweyn's Ey" ("ey" being a Germanic word for "island") and to have originated in the period when the Vikings plundered the south Wales coast.
Swansea is Wales's second city, and it grew to its present importance during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, becoming a centre of heavy industry. However, it did not enjoy the same degree of immigration as Cardiff and the eastern valleys.
The local government area is some 378 kmē in size, including a large amount of open countryside, towns like Gorseinon and Loughor, and the Gower Peninsula. The population in mid-2004 is about 225,000, 13.4% of which were Welsh speakers at the 2001 census, as compared with 11% for the capital city, Cardiff.
The Gower Peninsula, to which the city proper is considered the gateway, is Britain's first area to be designated an area of outstanding natural beauty. The coastal landscape of the Gower Peninsula as a whole is impressive. The wide sandy beaches at Langland, Caswell and Limeslade are the most popular with swimmers and tourists with children, whereas the wide and calm waters of Swansea Bay tend to attract the water-sport enthusiast. Coastal paths connect most of the Gower bays and Swansea Bay itself, and hikers can enjoy breathtaking views throughout the year. The north of Swansea, whilst little known on the tourist map, has some of the most outstanding countryside in the country, with unparalleled panoramas of the breathtaking Welsh mountains. Felindre, a district in north-west Swansea, hosted the National Eisteddfod in 2006.
As part of a coastal region, Swansea experiences a milder climate than the mountains and valleys inland. This same location, though, leaves Swansea exposed to rain-bearing winds from the Atlantic: figures from the Met Office make Swansea the wettest city in Britain.
The South Wales Coalfield reaches the coast in the Swansea area. This had a great bearing on the development of the town.
The former fishing village of Mumbles (located on the western edge of Swansea Bay) has excellent restaurants and coffee shops, and is a great place to pick up a local souvenir. In addition, the vista of Swansea Bay is perhaps most spectacular when viewed from the promenade at Mumbles. The nearby village of Oystermouth is home to the ruins of 12th Century Oystermouth castle.
In addition to being a holiday resort, Swansea is also a commercial centre, and the recently regenerated dock areas are home to some cutting-edge hi-tech industries. One of the most well-known employers in Swansea is the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency. Whilst the city itself has a long history, many of the city centre buildings are post-war as much of the centre was destroyed by World War II bombing in the so-called Three Nights' Blitz. Within the city centre, sites worth a visit are the ruins of Swansea Castle, the Marina, the Glynn Vivian Art Gallery, Swansea Museum, the Dylan Thomas Centre, the Environmental Centre, and the Central Market, which is the largest covered market in Wales. It backs onto the Quadrant shopping centre which was built in the 1970s.
Wind Street is the city's main watering hole and also the location of many chain restaurants. Many of these buildings were originally banks, with one being the old central Post Office and thus they are substantially larger than some of the other city centre pubs. Discos and clubs line the Kingsway and this street is one of two hubs of central Swansea nightlife, the other being the aforementioned Wind Street. St Helen's Road connects the city centre with the Brynmill area, and has many Indian and Bangladeshi restaurants and shops on it: convenient when walking back from the Kingsway to Brynmill in the evening.
Swansea was granted city status in 1969, to mark Prince Charles's investiture as the Prince of Wales. It obtained the further right to a have Lord Mayor in 1982.
Many areas of the city have seen changes within the early part of the 21st century. The Wales National Pool, of Olympic size, was completed. A new multi-million pound National Waterfront Museum officially opened in October 2005. Out-of-town retail parks increased in the first years of the new century. In addition to the Enterprise Park, there arose new developments at Fforestfach and next to the Liberty Stadium in Landore.
Swansea's diverse and interesting past has helped weave a city of character and charm, which has produced many famous personalities. On the literary stage, the poet Dylan Thomas is perhaps the most well known. He was born in the town and grew up at 5 Cwmdonkin Drive, Uplands. There is a memorial to him in the nearby Cwmdonkin Park. The actress Catherine Zeta-Jones is probably the most famous of the city's recent cultural exports, and she maintains close links with the city. Author Mary Balogh, singer/songwriter Mal Pope, MP Michael Heseltine, scriptwriter and producer Russell T. Davies and entertainer Sir Harry Secombe were also born and raised in the city, as was the current Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams.
Perhaps the city's most celebrated personality is Jack - a black Labrador. During his seven years of life, he managed to save twenty-seven people from drowning in the murky waters of Swansea docks. There is a monument to commemorate Jack's gallant efforts on the foreshore near the St. Helen's stadium. People from Swansea are known locally as Swansea Jacks, or just Jacks. The source of this nickname is not clear. Some attribute it to Swansea Jack, the life-saving dog. Others point to Swansea's long history as a port and the use of the word jack to indicate a sailor.
Rugby: Swansea RFC
Swansea is on the South Wales Main Line
Swansea is on the West Wales Line
Youth Hostel: Swansea Bunkhouse
Museum: Dylan Thomas Centre
Museum: National Waterfront Museum
Museum: Swansea Museum
Theatre: Dylan Thomas Theatre
Theatre: Patti Pavillion
Theatre: Swansea Grand Theatre
Taliesin Arts Centre