Swansea is a city you have most likely heard of, though admittedly, probably for the wrong reasons. A city known as the home of the Ospreys and not much else in truth. However, being hidden away on a South Wales peninsula has its benefits. Quietly, away from public eye, Swansea has been changing and growing, and now this change is set to make itself known in a big way with Swansea holding a strong bid to become the 2021 UK City of Culture.
So in my small bid to make that become a reality here is a student’s take of Swansea, one year in. Highlights include, a midnight steak house, performing at The Grand Theatre and of course, the beach!
For any trip to Swansea the experience is incomplete without a visit to the Gower Peninsula. Adventuring a mere mile or two to the West brings the weighty rewards of Mumbles town, where the arcade/pier combo will surely evoke a childlike giddiness and the fish and chips are a must. Just beyond the hill lies the Gower, the UK’s first designated area of outstanding natural beauty (AONB) and it’s not hard to see why. Pile as many friends into a Ford KA as you can and head to one of the stunning beaches and bays for a genuinely unforgettable trip. Three Cliffs Bay is a personal favourite, I’ve watched many a sunset fade from there.
Swansea’s cultural growth is flag-shipped, in my opinion, with its theatre and poetry. I will accept my own bias here however as a student who is reading English Literature. The Grand Theatre hosts boutique productions through to some of the biggest names and a vast array of smaller venues, such as the Volcano Theatre, provide an insight into a cultural tradition that has been nestled in Swansea for a very long time, built on community and persistence.
The next thing to sink your teeth into in Swansea is the food. A wide array of brilliant choice. To name but a few - Las Iguanas for that Brazilian experience, or perhaps Steak by Night, a quirky restaurant that remains open till the wee hours for a strange but charming dining experience. I’ve found that steak always tastes better after midnight. Who knew?
Night life is not to be ignored either. Wind Street (affectionately dubbed Wine Street) hosts all the clubs and bars you’d expect, with a number of intriguing niche bars too if that’s more what takes your fancy. Any student worth their salt will also experience Sin City at some point during their university career. A truthfully disagreeable looking club that hides great magnetism.
And this is exactly where Swansea’s charm lies, in its ambiguous nature. The thriving docks were the target of German bombs in the Second World War and much of the city centre was reduced to rubble in a three day blitz. It was rebuilt in the style of the period, concrete and imposing which translates today as grey and uniform. Yet amongst all the reminders of the recent past it’s impossible to miss the spots of intrigue, full of character. A Norman castle upon a hill, the dignified dwellings of the Uplands community, a theatre born from an abandoned supermarket space. Swansea is contradictory. Full of tradition and innovation, a rich history forged by the sea and its trade intertwined with innovators, movers and shakers. All possessed by people with a love of the city evident to see. UK City of Culture 2021, I wouldn’t be surprised.