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Swansea (Welsh: Abertawe, "mouth of the Tawe") is a city and county in Wales. It is in the historic county boundaries of Glamorgan. Situated on the South Wales coast, the county area includes the Gower peninsula and the Lliw uplands. Swansea is the third most populous county in Wales after Cardiff and Rhondda Cynon Taff; and the second most populous city in Wales after Cardiff. According to Census 2001 data, Swansea was the 34th largest settlement in the United Kingdom, and the 25th largest urban area Swansea grew significantly during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, becoming a centre of heavy industry.

The name Swansea is often said to come from "Sweyn's Ey" ("ey" being the Old Norse word for "island"), but as there is no island at Swansea, a more likely explanation is that it comes from "Sweyn" (a corruption of the Viking name "Sven") and "sey" ("sey" being an Old Norse word that can mean "inlet"). Consequently it is pronounced Swan's-y [ˡswɒnzi]) not Swan-sea. The name is to thought to have originated in the period when the Vikings settled along the South Wales coast (Swansea is thought to have developed from a Viking trading post).

The founder of Swansea is believed to be the Viking King of Denmark Sweyn Forkbeard who in 1013 conquered the Anglo-Saxons of Wessex and Mercia, and who controlled a vast empire including Southern England, Denmark and Norway. The earliest known form of the modern name is Sweynesse used in Swansea's first charter, which was granted sometime between 1158-1184 by William de Newburgh, 3rd Earl of Warwick. The charter gave Swansea the status of a borough, granting the townsmen, called burgesses certain rights to develop the area. A second charter was granted in 1215 by King John. In this charter, the name appears as Sweyneshe. The town seal which is believed to date from this period names the town as Sweyse. Swansea was granted city status in 1969, to mark Prince Charles's investiture as the Prince of Wales. The announcement was made by the prince on 3 July 1969, during a tour of Wales. It obtained the further right to have a Lord Mayor in 1982.

Similar to the west of Britain, Swansea has a temperate climate. As part of a coastal region, Swansea experiences a milder climate than the mountains and valleys inland. This same location, though, leaves Swansea exposed to rain-bearing winds from the Atlantic: figures from the Met Office make Swansea the wettest city in Britain.

The beaches at Langland, Caswell and Limeslade are used by swimmers and tourists with children, whereas Swansea Bay tends to attract water-sport enthusiasts. Coastal paths connect most of the Gower bays and Swansea Bay itself, and can attract hikers to the countryside views throughout the year. Although little known on the tourist map, areas north of Swansea offer various panoramas of mountain landscapes. The former fishing village of Mumbles (located on the western edge of Swansea Bay) has a Victorian pier and a number of restaurants, pubs and coffee shops. The promenade at Mumbles offers a panoramic view of Swansea Bay.

On the Waterfront, Swansea Bay has a five mile (8 km) sweep of coastline which features a beach, promenade, children's lido, leisure pool, marina and maritime quarter featuring the newest and oldest museums in Wales - the National Waterfront Museum and Swansea Museum. Also situated in the maritime quarter is the Dylan Thomas Centre which celebrates the life and work of the author with its permanent exhibition 'Dylan Thomas - Man and Myth'. The centre is also the focal point for the annual Dylan Thomas Festival (27 October - 9 November). The SA1 Waterfront area is the latest development for living, dining and leisure. Swansea Bay, Mumbles and Gower are home to various parks and gardens and almost 20 nature reserves. Clyne Gardens is home to a collection of plants set in parkland and host to 'Clyne in Bloom' in May. Singleton Park has acres of parkland, a botanical garden, a boating lake with pedal boats, and crazy golf. Plantasia is a tropical hothouse pyramid featuring three climatic zones, housing a variety of unusual plants, including several species which are extinct in the wild, and monkeys, reptiles, fish and a butterfly house. Other parks include Cwmdonkin Park, where Dylan Thomas played as a child, and Victoria Park which is close to the promenade on the seafront.

Swansea has a range of outdoor activities like swimming, sailing, water skiing, surfing, sea angling, canoeing, rowing, hiking and cycling. Part of the Celtic Trail and the National Cycle Network, Swansea Bay provides a range of traffic-free cycle routes including routes along the seafront and through Clyne Valley Country Park. The Cycling Touring Club CTC has a thriving local group in the area [4]. Swansea Bay, Mumbles and Gower have a selection of golf courses. Swansea also attracts surfing, windsurfing, kitesurfing, kite buggying, sailing, canoeing, waterskiing and fishing enthusiasts.

Prior to closure in 2003, Swansea Leisure Centre was one of the top ten visitor attractions in the UK. It has been redeveloped as an indoor waterpark and was officially opened by Queen Elizabeth II on 7 March 2008. The Wales National Pool is based in Swansea.

Swansea has a range of bars, clubs and restaurants within the city centre. The majority of bars and clubs are situated on Wind Street, which has a large number of mainstream chains with different atmospheres and music genres such as Varsity, Walkabout and Aspers Casino. There are clubs situated on the Kingsway such as Jumping Jaks, Flares and Escape. Oceana opened their largest UK venue on Swansea's Kingsway in April 2008.

There are also alternative bars and clubs located in the city centre, with some having live music from local bands. The Office, Sin City, Crowleys, Milkwood Jam and Inferno are the rock clubs sometimes playing live music. There is also a Jazz club, Jazzland.

The gay club and bar scene in Swansea is mostly based along High Street. Venues include the clubs Hush and 2-10 and the bars Champers, The Kings and Exchange, which is located on The Strand nearer Wind Street.

Oxwich Bay on the Gower peninsula was named the most beautiful beach in Britain by travel writers who visited more than 1,000 around the world in search of the perfect sands (2007). The Travel Magazine praised Oxwich for "magnificent and unspoilt" scenery and as a "great place for adults and children to explore". It boasts over three miles (5 km) of soft, golden sands, making it the ideal family getaway. Not surprisingly, The Guardian voted it one of Britain's top 10 sandy beaches (2007). The Independent newspaper hailed Rhossili Bay as "the British supermodel of beaches" (2006) and the best beach in Britain for breathtaking cliffs (2007), whilst The Sunday Times listed it as one of the 25 best beaches in the world (2006). Thanks to its clear air and lovely golden sand, this romantic stretch of sand was voted the best place in the UK to watch the sun set (Country Living magazine 2005) and one the top romantic spots in the country (The Guardian 2007). Nearby Llangennith Beach, with its soft sands, consistent beach break and great facilities, was listed as the best place to learn how to surf in Britain by The Observer (2006) and one of the 10 'classic surfing beaches by The Guardian (2007). Gower also claims Britain's Best Beach, Three Cliffs Bay. The Gower landmark topped the BBC Holiday Hit Squad nationwide competition (2006) and was voted Britain's best camping beach by The Independent thanks to its superb setting and quiet location (2007). Three Cliffs Bay also made the final of the ITV series Britain's Favourite View - the only nomination in Wales and backed by singer Katherine Jenkins. Nearby Brandy Cove came sixth in an online poll to find the UK's top beach for the baby boomer generation (2006). Beaches which won 2006 Blue Flag Beach Awards are: Bracelet Bay, Caswell Bay, Langland Bay, Port Eynon Bay and Swansea Marina (one of the few Blue Flag Marinas in Wales). All of these beaches also won a Seaside Award 2006. Limeslade was awarded the Rural Seaside Award and the Green Coast Award. Other Green Coast Awards went to Pwll Du, Rhossili Bay and Tor Bay.

Wording courtesy of http://www.wikipedia.org/

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