Granted city status in 1969, Swansea is second only to Cardiff in terms of population in Wales (230,000). Swansea expanded rapidly in the C18th and C19th with the coming of the Industrial Revolution with heavy industry based on local coal predominating and with the port being of great importance.
Most of the buildings in the centre of the city are relatively modern as much was destroyed by bombing in 1941; however it does include the remains of a late C13th castle with a distinctive arcaded parapet reminiscent of the Bishop's palaces at Lamphey and St David's; it can only be viewed externally.
The city centre has changed dramatically in recent years with shopping centres and the largest covered market in Wales together with a number of major attractions. Formally Swansea's South Dock, the Marina lies at the heart of the city's redeveloped and award winning Maritime Quarter. The industrial and maritime history of Wales is told in the superb National Waterfront Museum located in Swansea's Maritime Quarter which opened in 2005 in an original waterfront warehouse linked to a new, ultra-modern slate and glass building; it uses interactive technology married with traditional displays to tell the story of industry and innovation in Wales, now and over the last 300 years.
Adjacent is Swansea's Leisure Centre, known simply as the LC. Swansea Museum on Oystermouth Road is a treasure house of the ordinary and the extraordinary from Swansea past and present. The Tramshed on Dylan Thomas Square displays memorabilia from the street trams of Swansea and the famous Mumbles railway that ran around the edge of the bay from Swansea town centre to Mumbles pier.
The Museum has many boats in its collections and three of these are kept floating in Swansea Marina by the Tramshed; these include a lightship, a tug boat and a pilot cutter. The Dylan Thomas Centre in the Maritime Quarter near to Swansea's museums has a permanent exhibition on Dylan Thomas and his life and is also home to many literary events throughout the year, including the annual Dylan Thomas Festival during October and November.
2014 marks the centenary of Dylan Thomas' birth, and many events are planned throughout the year to celebrate Swansea's most famous son. Brangwyn Hall, located within the Guildhall, is a major concert venue regularly used by the BBC National Orchestra of Wales and choirs from around the country; it houses the British Empire Panels, the work of Sir Frank Brangwyn.
The Egypt Centre, a Museum of Egyptian Antiquities, is based on the University of Wales, Swansea's campus; there are over 4,500 items in the collection, most of them collected by Sir Henry Wellcome from excavations at Armant, Armana, Esna, Mostagedda, etc. Cwmdonkin Park is an urban park situated in the Uplands area of Swansea; it has a bowling green, children's play area, water gardens, tennis courts and a bandstand.
The park was an important source of inspiration to the poet Dylan Thomas who featured it in his work; he was born in Cwmdonkin Drive. Plantasia is a tropical haven of wonderful plants and animals situated in the heart of the city and featuring insects, reptiles, fish and monkeys plus bananas, pineapple plants, prickly cacti and giant bamboo.
South-west of the city centre is Clyne Valley Country Park and within its 700 acres is a very varied landscape ranging from open and wooded hillsides, steep gorges and quarries to meadowland and wet valley floor which provides a range of habitats for a great diversity of plants and animals. Until recently the Valley was an important area of industrial activity and much of this heritage is still visible within the Park.
Margam Country Park is an estate of around 850 acres located 2 miles east of Port Talbot. Now owned by the local council, it is known for its peacocks, deer (which have existed on the site since at least Norman times), aviaries with rescued birds of prey and the rare breed Glamorgan cattle. Within the Park stand the ruins of Margam Abbey (built in 1147) including the large twelve-sided chapter house dating from the C13th.
The Park is also the location of Margam Castle, a Tudor Gothic mansion house built by the owner of the estate in the early C19th. Sculptures and artwork are places along the paths which connect the house with the Orangery, which was completed in 1793.