Famous poet Dylan Thomas once called Swansea the "Ugly Lovely town". Another poet, David Hughes, called it "The graveyard of ambition". Both phrases are apt to this deprived but much loved city. You see, Swansea has a charm. It's hard to spot at first, but if you take the time it's hard not to fall in love with it. Here's my top 10 wonderful things to do in Swansea and the surrounding area. 1. Build sandcastles on a beach.
Swansea is the gateway to the Gower Peninsula, our shining gem. Every turn of the coast line reveals another beautiful sandy beach. The most popular of which is Caswell Bay. Caswell has a steam running through it, chip shops and ice creams, and rock pools to explore. Its waters are gently sloping and safe for children.
2. Sunset at Rhossili.
Rhossili, another Gower beach, is our only west facing bay. It's hard to reach - get ready for a long flight of stairs, but its long sandy shores are worth it. The cliffs are shaped like a serpent which give the area the name "Worm's head". The head part gets cut off by the tide. You can watch the sunset from the worm, from the beach or, as us locals do, from the Worm's Head Hotel with a beer in hand.
Legend has it Joe was an Italian who set off on a boat to New York. Getting off the boat he wondered where the bright lights were, why he couldn't see sky scrapers. Silly Joe had got off at Swansea by mistake. Luckily he was better at making ice cream than he was at travelling, so he decided to stay and set up an ice cream parlour. Today his parlours are famous for their uniquely smooth and creamy ice cream. I pity those who have not experienced the joys of their chocolate north pole.
4. Drinking in the Uplands. The Uplands has recently become the place for relaxed drinks in Swansea. With live music venues like The Uplands Tavern and hip bars like Noah's Yard (Noah changes the name above the door every day so this might confuse you but it's next to the Tavern), as well as after-hours pool bars, this is where to go if you chat with the locals.
5. A stroll down Mumbles.
On a sunny day (you might be lucky) it is possible to walk right around Swansea bay and end up in lovely Mumbles. There you can find a pier and Verdi's cafe and Ice cream parlour. Mumbles also has a picturesque ruined castles with views down over the bay, and an array of shops, posh restaurants and old man pubs.
If drinking and partying is your thing, then Wind Street is the place for you. There is actually a bit of confusion with the name Wind street - most locals pronounce it WIne Street - which is far more apt. Here you can find huge banks which have been converted into bars, as well as clubs. If you want to fit in, expect to go full on Essex with your outfit. The boys are muscled, the girls are dark brown and not wearing much.
In stark contrast to Wind Street, you'll find peace and tranquillity in the beautiful Clyne Gardens. Go in spring when the rhododendrons are blooming. Find the princess tower, cross pretty Japanese bridges and picnic on the lawn.
There are many great restaurants in Swansea. A few of my favourites are: Maes Yr Haf - 5*food in the heart of Gower. This restaurant is nestled by the woods and serves local produce such as lamb, mackerel, lava bread (seaweed - a traditional Welsh delicacy) and beetroot. Pant-Y-Gwydr - a rustic French restaurant with hearty portions of sensitively cooked food. Fairy Hill. An 18th century house in a hidden valley. This hotel/restaurant serves welsh beef, salt-marsh lamb, sea bass and lobsters from the bays. Plus the name sounds magical.
9. Surf. Swansea is a surfer city. Caswell, Rhossili and Llangeneth are all popular. Don't know how? Well, you can get a lesson with one of the local surf schools. If the sea is just too cold and you want to start in relative safety pop down to the leisure centre where they have a surf machine and instructors are on hand to help you learn to ride a wave.
Visit the Glynn Vivian Art Gallery to see the work of some wonderful Welsh artists including Ceri Richards, Gwen and Augustus John and Alfred Janes. The National Waterfront museum is a sparkly new space which charts the history of Welsh industry. In comparison Swansea museum itself couldn't be more of a dinosaur. It even houses it's own mummy - strange but true.