Cardiff is the capital, largest city and most populous county of Wales. The city is Wales' chief commercial centre, the base for most national cultural and sporting institutions, the Welsh national media, and the seat of the National Assembly for Wales. According to recent estimates, the population of the unitary authority area is 336,200, while the wider metropolitan area has a population of over 1.4 million, almost half of the total Welsh population. Cardiff is a significant tourism centre and the most popular visitor destination in Wales with 18.3 million visitors in 2010.
Cardiff has a strong nightlife and is home to many bars, pubs and clubs. Most clubs and bars are situated in the city centre, especially St. Mary Street, and more recently Cardiff Bay has built up a strong night scene, with many modern bars & restaurants. The Brewery Quarter on St. Mary Street is a recently developed venue for bars and restaurant with a central courtyard. Charles Street is also a popular part of the city.
Domestic and international air links to Cardiff and South & West Wales are provided from Cardiff Airport (CWL), the only international airport in Wales. The airport is situated in the village of Rhoose, 10 miles (16 km) west of the city. There are regular bus services linking the airport with the Cardiff Central Bus Station as well as a train service from Rhoose Cardiff International Airport railway station to Cardiff Central.
The majority of Cardiff's shopping portfolio is in the city centre around Queen Street and St. Mary Street, with large suburban retail parks located in Cardiff Bay, Culverhouse Cross, Leckwith, Newport Road and Pontprennau, together with markets in the city centre and Splott. A major £675 million regeneration programme for Cardiff's St. David's Centre was completed in 2009, which has provided a total of 1,400,000 square feet (130,000 m2) of shopping space, making it one of the largest shopping centres in the United Kingdom. The centre was named the international shopping centre of the year in 2010 by Retail Leisure International (RLI).
The Castle Quarter is a commercial area in the north of the city centre which includes some of Cardiff's Victorian and Edwardian arcades: Castle Arcade, High Street Arcade and Duke Street Arcade, and principal shopping streets: St Mary Street, High Street, Castle Street and Duke Street. Development of the area began in February 2010 and is expected to be completed by July 2011. Cardiff Council says that work to create the Castle Quarter as a pedestrian friendly environment for High Street and St Mary Street is designed to enhance the city centre.
Cardiff is sixth best city in the United Kingdom for shopping, according to a poll in November 2009, surpassing other cities such as Bristol, Leeds, Edinburgh and Newcastle upon Tyne.