The Senedd building, since 2006 the seat of the Senedd, the Welsh Parliament.
Map of Wales
Map of Wales with current capital and other cities mentioned in the article marked.

The current capital of Wales is Cardiff. Historically, Wales did not have a definite capital. In 1955, the Minister for Welsh Affairs informally proclaimed Cardiff to be the capital of Wales. Since 1964, Cardiff has been home to government offices for Wales, and since 1999 it has been the seat of the Senedd.


Between the end of Roman rule and the conquest by Edward I in the late 13th century, Wales was usually divided between four kingdoms. There were only brief periods where the land was dominated by a single ruler, most notably by Gruffydd ap Llywelyn in the 11th century.[1] Rather than being based in a fixed location, Welsh kings would maintain an itinerant court,[2] as was the norm in medieval Europe.

In the past, multiple places have served as a seat of the government of Wales, including:

The ecclesiastical capital of Wales is St Davids, the resting place of the country's patron saint, Saint David.

In the 19th century, Cardiff grew to become the largest settlement in Wales, due to its role as a port for exporting coal from the South Wales Valleys. By 1881, it had overtaken both Swansea and Merthyr Tydfil to become the country's most populous urban area,[6] and in 1905, it received city status.[7] In subsequent years, an increasing number of Welsh national institutions were founded in the city, including the National Museum of Wales (chartered in 1907), Welsh National War Memorial (unveiled 1928), and the Registry Building (1903) of the University of Wales. However, the National Library of Wales (chartered 1907) is located in Aberystwyth.[8] This was partly because the library's founder, Sir John Williams, did not think that Cardiff was a Welsh city in character.[9] The investiture of the Prince of Wales, a ceremony revived in 1911, takes place within the shell of Caernarfon Castle in northwest Wales. Since 1920, the election of the Archbishop of Wales has taken place in Llandrindod Wells, chosen for its central location.[10]

In the 20th century, Welsh local authorities debated where a new capital of Wales should be, with 76 out of 161 opting for Cardiff in a 1924 poll, organised by the South Wales Daily News.[11] The authorities were mostly split between Cardiff and Caernarfon, with a smaller faction supporting Aberystwyth. The discussions stalled and progress was not made until 1950.[11]

Recognition of Cardiff

The government of the Labour Prime Minister, Clement Attlee, had not named a capital of Wales during his government. Attlee noted that a number of cities made claims to the status, and that the Council for Wales and Monmouthshire did not raise what he considered to be a "domestic issue" with the Government.[12] In his inaugural speech as Lord Mayor of Cardiff, George Williams argued that Cardiff should be considered the capital of Wales.[13] David Llewellyn was elected MP for Cardiff North in 1950 and also campaigned for recognising Cardiff. Campaigning for Cardiff stepped up and the city took steps to promote its 'Welshness'. The stalemate over which city should be the new capital was broken when Cardiganshire County Council decided to support Cardiff and, in a 1955 poll of local authorities, 134 out of 161 voted for the city.[11]

On 20 December 1955, Gwilym Lloyd-George, then Minister for Welsh Affairs and Home Secretary, proclaimed that Cardiff was the capital of Wales, in a reply to a Parliamentary question from David Llewellyn. Lloyd-George said that "no formal measures are necessary to give effect to this decision"[14] The Encyclopedia of Wales says that the decision to recognise the city as the capital of Wales "had more to do with the fact that it contained marginal Conservative constituencies than any reasoned view of what functions a Welsh capital should have".

Government institutions

Cardiff only became a centre of national administration with the establishment of the Welsh Office in 1964, which later prompted the creation of various other public bodies such as the Arts Council of Wales and the Welsh Development Agency, most of which were based in Cardiff.

In a 1997 referendum, Wales narrowly voted in favour of establishing the National Assembly for Wales (now known as the Senedd), although only 44% supported the proposal in Cardiff.[15][16] Due to the relative lack of support for the Assembly locally, and disagreements between the Welsh Office and Cardiff Council over where it should sit, there was a brief period of speculation that the Assembly would be established elsewhere.[17][18] However, the Assembly eventually located at Tŷ Hywel in Cardiff Bay in 1999. It has been based there ever since, moving to its present building in 2006.[19]


  1. ^ K. L. Maund (1991). Ireland, Wales, and England in the Eleventh Century. Boydell & Brewer Ltd. pp. 64–67. ISBN 978-0-85115-533-3.
  2. ^ The Welsh King and his Court, T. M. Charles-Edwards, Morfydd E. Owen, Paul Russell (2000), p.326-7
  3. ^ Burton, Janet (2019) "Authority and Conflict at the Cistercian Abbey of Strata Florida." Welsh History Review, 29 (3).
  4. ^ "Owain Glyndwr Centre in Machynlleth reopens". BBC News. 18 June 2013. Retrieved 21 December 2013.
  5. ^ Carradice, Phil (7 November 2012). "The Council of Wales and the Marches". Retrieved 21 December 2013.
  6. ^ Thompson, Francis Michael Longstreth (1993). The Cambridge Social History of Britain, 1750–1950. Cambridge University Press. p. 311. ISBN 978-0-521-43816-2.
  7. ^ Beckett, J.V. (2005). City Status in the British Isles, 1830–2002. Ashgate Publishing Ltd. p. 2. ISBN 978-0-7546-5067-6. Retrieved 2 October 2008.
  8. ^ "About NLW". National Library of Wales. Retrieved 21 December 2013.
  9. ^ Davies, John; Jenkins, Nigel; Baines, Menna; Lynch, Peredur I. (17 April 2008). Davies, John (ed.). The Welsh Academy Encyclopedia of Wales. Cardiff: University of Wales Press. ISBN 978-0-7083-1953-6.
  10. ^ Doe, Norman (5 March 2020). A New History of the Church in Wales: Governance and Ministry, Theology and Society. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 9781108603201 – via Google Books.
  11. ^ a b c Prof. Martin Johnes (2012). "Cardiff: The Making and Development of the Capital City of Wales". Contemporary British History. 26 (4): 509–28. doi:10.1080/13619462.2012.676911. S2CID 144368404.
  12. ^ "Capital City (Hansard, 13 June 1950)". Parliamentary Debates (Hansard). 13 June 1950. Retrieved 20 December 2018.
  13. ^ "Capital City: 13 Jun 1950: House of Commons debates". TheyWorkForYou. Retrieved 20 December 2018.
  14. ^ Hansard 20 December 1955 vol 547 cc310-1W
  15. ^ Jones, J. Barry; Balsom, Denis (2000). The road to the National Assembly for Wales. Cardiff: University of Wales Press. ISBN 0-7083-1492-9. OCLC 44411917.
  16. ^ "Wales: The Post-Nation" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 8 April 2008. Retrieved 20 May 2008.
  17. ^ "Where To Now for the Welsh Assembly?". BBC Wales. 25 November 1997. Retrieved 20 May 2008.
  18. ^ "Welsh Assembly Accommodation" (PDF). 2 October 1997. Archived from the original (PDF) on 28 May 2008. Retrieved 20 May 2008.
  19. ^ Owen, Twm (19 December 2021). "Architect Richard Rogers who designed the Senedd has died". The National. Retrieved 19 December 2021.