Principality Stadium is the home of the Welsh Rugby Team and one of the most iconic stadiums in the world but you do not have to be Welsh or a rugby fan to enjoy this experience.
Before the tour begins, visitors gather to enjoy a short 4-minute film that sets the scene. The film captures the magnificence of the multi-purpose event venue with dynamic footage and high-octane music that gets the adrenaline pumping.
Since opening in 1999, the Stadium has become a world-class venue playing home to major sporting events and music artists. From Madonna and U2 to Rugby World Cups, Olympic events, and recently The UEFA Champions League Final in the summer of 2017.
After the film, whilst your goose bumps settle the tour guide reminds us not add a ‘The’ ahead of Principality Stadium as one does not say ‘The Twickenham’ do they? In fairness, it’s a good point. The former Millennium Stadium has been known by its new name since January 2016 after the building society came on board in a 10-year naming deal.
It is not named after ‘a principality’ as in a country ruled by a Prince, it’s worth pointing this out as am often asked this question by visiting friends.
Whenever the ‘p-bomb’ is dropped it causes a stir, in fact, in 2008 the Welsh Government issued a statement on this very issue: “Wales is not a principality. Although we are joined with England by land, and we are part of Great Britain, Wales is a country in its own right.”
I digress, call it what you will this stadium is phenomenal and exudes a palpable passion that you get to witness first hand as the tour progresses.
Sir Tasker Watkins
The total cost of the stadium was £121 million, constructed on time and to budget.
Instrumental in achieving this was one of the finest Welshmen of the 20th century, Sir Tasker Watkins.
Sir Tasker’s statue greets you as you embark on the tour from the main Westgate Street entrance. The 9ft statue stands proudly outside welcoming home fans and visiting friends with equal respect, a theme that is at the heart of rugby and the Welsh capital.
Sir Tasker was president of the Welsh Rugby Union for 11 years until 2004; a truly remarkable man he was also honoured with a Victoria Cross for acts of heroism during World War Two. For those who had the pleasure of meeting the great man will recognise the leaning stance and if you look closely you can see his Glamorgan Wanderers rugby tie.
Behind The Scenes
The tour enters the stadium through the players’ entrance and the excitement of being ‘behind the scenes’ mounts.
Our experienced tour guide points out the names of all the Welsh International Players from the past through to the present day, relaying stories that will go down in rugby folk law.
For instance the story behind the first Welsh International Team to face England in 1881. Many of the team had not played together before and short of men, two were plucked from the crowd, a far cry from the modern professional game!
There is a plot twist involving the two players plucked from obscurity but the best way to find this out is to go on the tour – no spoilers here.
Fun facts and anecdotes continue throughout and are delivered with just the right mix of knowledge and humour.
The Press Conference Suite is the next highlight where the worlds of rugby and journalism meet, aptly named the Ray Gravell Press Conference Suite after the legendary Ex International and Broadcaster. Don’t be shy, sit in Gatland’s seat, take selfies, ask questions. At the risk of sounding like a pre-match team talk – you get as much out as you put in!
It’s then on to the national squad’s changing room known as The Dragon’s Lair. It is in here where you truly understand that this is a full on experience not just a tour. After finding out why the home team moved to the South changing room a recording of a booming Welsh voice delivers a rousing team talk edited together from real pre-match pep talks. If you don’t get goose bumps or even shed a tear are you even alive?
You then get the chance to run out of the player’s tunnel surrounded by a sound effect that mimics the roar of the 74,000 strong crowd. Again don’t be shy, run out onto the hallowed turf as if you are about to take on the might of your arch enemy or a rock star who’s about to preform to thousands of adorning fans. Take your time, be in the moment, and take selfies after you have fully experienced this once in a lifetime opportunity (unless of course you book another tour!).
Who would ever believe that a retractable roof could be so damn interesting? How long does it take to close? How much does it cost to close? Who decides whether it’s open or closed?
The tour guide gladly answers all these questions as we take in the view of the pitch from the President’s Box, an area normally reserved for Royalty. There is something oddly amusing about sitting in the same seat the Queen has sat in (it’s front row, second chair in, in case you were wondering).
The tour takes about an hour and is a great way start to any day sightseeing in Cardiff. Tours of Principality Stadium are available throughout the week and are £12.50 for adults & £9.00 for 5-16 year olds to book click here
Why not gift this experience for Christmas? Principality Stadium Tours E-Vouchers are the perfect gift for family members or friends and can be redeemed against future Stadium Tour bookings.
Cardiff is a very compact city and can easily be explored on foot, with the majority of attractions, shops, restaurants and hotels all within a few minutes of each other check out www.visitcardiff.com for more ideas.