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Wales is home to seven multi-sized cities that are scattered around the country. So, what are these cities in Wales and why are there now seven?
The seven cities in Wales are: Cardiff, Swansea, Bangor, St Davids, Newport, St Asaph and Wrexham. Cardiff, also the capital of Wales, is the oldest city in Wales, and Wrexham is the newest addition to this list. Wrexham was awarded city status in 2022 as part of Queen Elizabeth II’s Platinum Jubilee celebrations.
Keep on reading to learn more about each individual city, and discover what sites of interest you can explore when you visit these locations.
How Many Cities Are There in Wales?
As of 2022 there are seven cities in Wales. Here are the names of these cities in chronological order:
- St Davids
- St Asaph
It has taken over a 100 years for this list to grow to seven cities (from 1905 to 2022), and most of the cities you see listed were awarded ‘city status’ as part of the Queen’s many Jubilee celebrations.
Wrexham is Wales’ newest addition, and it was given city status in 2022 as part of the Platinum Jubilee. It is now known as Wales’ seventh city and is the fourth most populated city in Wales.
Interestingly, Wrexham tried to become a city three times before actually winning the title in 2022. It failed to win the prestigious award in 2000, 2002 and 2012.
In 2012, Wrexham actually missed out to St Asaph, which is Wales’ sixth city.
A Guide to the Cities in Wales
Cardiff – Caerdydd
Location: South-East Wales
City status: 1905
Name of cathedral: Llandaff Cathedral
Cardiff is the oldest city in Wales and was awarded city status in 1905 by Edward VII. The city was given this honour because it had contributed to the coal industry and, in turn, the economy.
Tourists and locals visit the capital city of Wales because the area is packed full of culture, entertainment and awe-inspiring architecture.
Nestled in the heart of the city you’ll find Cardiff Castle. This enchanting 11th-century mediaeval castle has a rich history that spans 2000 years. It’s surrounded by impenetrable Roman walls, has Rapunzel-worthy towers, and in the summertime artists perform in the grounds.
Outside the castle, you’ll stumble onto walkways that are lined with big-named stores, eateries, 19th-century arcades and street performers.
Just a short walk from here you’ll find Cardiff Bay, one of the most significant locations in Cardiff. It’s known for being the home of the Senedd – where the Welsh government resides – and the Wales Millennium Centre, known by locals as the ‘armadillo’.
The enormous, copper-coloured, hull-shaped landmark that is the Centre, was designed to reflect two important industries in Wales – the steel from South Wales and the slate of North Wales – and is mainly associated with theatre work.
Fun Fact: Dr Who and Torchwood were filmed in Cardiff Bay.
Swansea – Abertawe
Location: South-West Wales
City status: 1969
Name of cathedral: St Joseph’s Cathedral/Swansea Cathedral
An hour west of Cardiff you’ll find Wales’ second largest city by population, Swansea city.
Swansea became a city when Prince Charles visited the town during his investiture tour in 19691 (source: BBC). Up until his visit, Swansea, also known as Copperopolis historically, was a town that specialised in heavy industries, like copper and transportation.
Sadly, it’s because of Swansea’s impressive ports and prosperous industries that it got bombed badly during World War II. The bombing that took place in February 1941 was one of the worst air attacks that Wales had ever suffered.
By the end of the attack a lot of Swansea’s city centre had been levelled and 227 people had died2 (source: BBC). Most of Swansea had to be rebuilt and you can still see these post World War II structures today.
Of course, this historically mucky industrial world is just a veil masking the true beauty of what Swansea has to offer. A few miles out of the heart of the centre you’ll come to the Gower Peninsula, an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.
The Gower is home to several award winning beaches, all of which can be visited all year around. Rhossili Bay beach in particular has won renown throughout the world, winning many accolades including TripAdvisor’s Travellers Choice Award. As well as being known as ‘the supermodel of British beaches’ by The Independent.
Fun Fact: Swansea was the home of famous poet Dylan Thomas. Visiting the Dylan Thomas Museum is now one of Swansea’s top activities.
Location: North Wales
City status: 1974
Name of cathedral: Bangor Cathedral
The city of Bangor is mostly known as one of Wales’ ‘University Cites’. And rightly so, the famous Bangor University is situated in the centre and it welcomes thousands of students every year.
In addition to this, Bangor is sometimes referred to as the ‘oldest’ city in Wales, but this isn’t strictly the case. The Council that ran Bangor during Queen Victoria’s reign called Bangor a city. And for many years this way of thinking continued, but eventually, it dwindled out. It wasn’t until 1974 Queen Elizabeth II granted official city status to Bangor3 (source: Bangor City Council).
The city is also located near to one of Wales’ oldest landmarks – the Menai Suspension Bridge. The bridge, designed by Thomas Telford, was finished in 1826 and connected Anglesey to mainland Wales. Pre-bridge building, ferries would cross the perilous Menai Strait to take Londoners to Holyhead, so they could get on a boat over to Ireland!
One of the latest developments in Bangor is its Pontio Arts and Innovation Centre. The grand building, which is part of the university, stands six levels high, has multiple theatres, a cinema and plenty of eateries. It welcomes visitors of all ages, all year around!
Fun Fact: Garth Pier is the second longest pier in Wales. It’s 460m long.
St Davids – Tŷ Ddewi
Location: West Wales
City status: 1994 (Letters Patent given in 1995)
Name of cathedral: St Davids Cathedral
As part of the Queen’s Ruby Jubilee, St Davids was officially named a city because of its strong Christian roots. To this day it’s the smallest city by population in Wales4 (source: National Geographic).
This tiny city, which runs alongside the River Alun, attracts visitors from all over the world. And the 12th century cathedral, where Saint David, the patron Saint of Wales was laid to rest, is one of the main attractions.
Saint David, or Dewis Sant, as he’s known in Wales, was a religious gentleman who went about Wales preaching about Christianity. He is honoured on St David’s Day in Wales – March the first.
In addition to the cathedral, you can also visit Cadw’s The Bishop’s Palace, which is a stone’s throw away from the St Davids Cathedral. This mediaeval setting was the home of Bishop Henry de Gower, who turned the site into a majestic house between 1338-1347.
And for the more adrenaline-loving visitors, there are many activities, like coasteering, that you can try out as you’re so near the coast!
Fun Fact: According to legend, Dewi Sant could perform miracles! One of these miracles happened when he was preaching to a crowd and someone commented that they could not see him. This comment was noted, and the next minute the ground beneath Dewi Sant’s feet started to rise up. The whole crowd could see and hear Dewi Sant in the end.
Newport – Casnewydd
Location: South-East Wales
City status: 2002
Name of cathedral: Newport Cathedral/St Woolos Cathedral
Newport is the first city you reach after crossing the Prince of Wales Bridge (The Severn Bridge).
This gateway into the country is the third largest city in Wales by population, and was named a city in 2002 as part of the Queen’s Golden Jubilee.
Newport is known for its historical coal exportation that rivalled that of Cardiff in the 19th century. It’s also remembered for its steel making, and for its Transporter Bridge that opened in 1906 and can still be visited today.
In addition to this, Newport’s five-star Celtic Manor Resort, hosted both the Ryder Cup in 2010 – a golfing tournament – and the 2014 NATO Summit.
Newport’s location is also popular with visitors to Wales because you can conveniently travel to different landmarks from this area. For example, you can stay on the M4 and travel west to Pembrokeshire. Or you can go up through the heart of Wales towards the Brecon Beacons National Park.
Fun Fact: The Cefn Flight of Locks in Newport is a series of 14 canal locks that raise the water level in the Monmouthshire-Brecon canal up around 49m in just half a mile.
St Asaph – Llanelwy
Location: North-East Wales
City status: 2012
Name of cathedral: Cathedral Church of Saints Asaph and Cyndeyrn
St Asaph, situated on the River Elwy, is the second smallest city in Wales by population, and it became a city during the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee in 2012.
Located just south of Rhyl, St Asaph is home to the UK’s smallest cathedral. And it just so happens that this cathedral houses the first Bible that was translated into Welsh.
The Bible was translated by William Morgan from Hebrew and Greek into Welsh in 1588, and can be seen on display today.
Just a short drive north of St Asaph is the concentric Rhuddlan Castle. Its build was completed in 1282 and Edward I resided in the guarded castle for years. It was around this time that Edward I started executing the Statute of Rhuddlan.
The Statute of Rhuddlan was a basic set of English common laws that the people in Wales had to live by. This legal system lasted until Henry VIII’s reign, and once he came into power he abolished the Statute and created The Laws In Wales Acts 1535 and 1542.
Fun Fact: North Wales International Musical Festival is held every September in St Asaph’s Cathedral. The eight-day long event was started by William Mathias in 1972.
Wrexham – Wrecsam
Location: North-East Wales
City status: 2022
Name of cathedral: Cathedral Church of Our Lady of Sorrows/St Mary’s Cathedral
Wrexham is one of Wales’ historical market towns that became a city as part of Queen Elizabeth II’s Platinum Jubilee celebrations.
Located near the border of England, Wrexham is home to Wales’s oldest football team, and the world’s third oldest professional club in the world – Wrexham A.F.C.
In addition to its sporting success, Wrexham also hosts FOCUS Wales. This is a multi staged event where new and upcoming performers get to go on stage and showcase their talents to live audiences.
If you travel a few miles south of Wrexham you’ll find Pontcysyllte Aqueduct in Llangollen, which is a World Heritage Site. This mammoth feat of engineering was created in 1805 by a team of people, including Thomas Telford. Its structure features several arches that span 307m and it’s still in operation today.
Fun Fact: Wrexham A.F.C’s ownership was taken over by two Hollywood stars in 2020 – Ryan Reynolds and Rob McElhenney!
Cities in Wales by Population
Although Wales has seven cities, the population of each city varies greatly. Cardiff is the largest city in Wales by population with 362,400 residents, this is followed by Swansea (238,5000, and Newport (159,600). St David’s is the smallest city in the whole of of the UK by population with just 1,390 residents.
This table gives a rundown of the cities by latest population figures:
|Bangor||18,560||ONS via City Population|
|St Asaph||3,355||Denbighshire Council|
|St Davids||1,390||ONS via City Population|
Cities in Wales by Area
Wales is home to some of the world’s smallest cities by population, but which city is actually the smallest in terms of area.
Cardiff is the biggest city in Wales by area at 71.4km2, this is followed by Swansea (49.1km2) and Newport (34.7km2).
This is based on the built-up area sub-divisions as measured by Nomis (part of ONS) which is the most accurate way to compare the cities.
Here’s a comparison table of the sizes of each city using the Nomis data:
|City||Built-Up Area Size||Source|
|Cardiff||71.4km2||ONS via Nomis|
|Swansea||49.1km2||ONS via Nomis|
|Newport||34.7km2||ONS via Nomis|
|Wrexham||16.2km2||ONS via Nomis|
|Bangor||4.0km2||ONS via Nomis|
|St Asaph||1.3km2||ONS via Nomis|
|St Davids||0.6km2||ONS via Nomis|
Cardiff, Swansea, Newport, and Wrexham all sit within local authorities that go by the same names which can cause some confusion. When you look at the overall size of the local authorities, Wrexham is actually the largest at 503.8km2, followed by Swansea (379.7km2), Newport (190.5km2), and Cardiff (140.4km2)5 (source: Nomis, ONS).
Is Wales a Country or a City?
Wales is not a city, it’s a constituent country that’s part of the United Kingdom.
What Are the 3 Major Cities in Wales?
The three major cities in Wales are Cardiff, Swansea and Newport. They are known as major cities because they have the biggest populations.
How Many Towns Are There in Wales?
There are 146 towns in Wales (source: Wikipedia). However, you should keep in mind that the size of each town varies, and local villagers sometimes view their ‘large villages’ as ‘small towns’.
Which is bigger, Cardiff or Swansea?
Cardiff is bigger than Swansea in size and population. In area, Cardiff is 71.4km2,compared to Swansea at 49.1km2. By population, Cardiff has 362,400 residents whereas Swansea has 238,500 residents.
Kieren is the founder and editor-in-chief of Wales Guidebook. Originally from rural Mid-Wales, he has lived all over the country from Cardiff to Wrexham. A true Welshman, Kieren created this site to share his passion for Wales and help others discover this beautiful country.