The second largest city in the UK, Birmingham is a unique and exciting destination. The city has evolved from its industrial past to become bigger, better, and bolder than ever.
Exceptional shopping centers, world-class galleries, great festivals and events, and an amazing network of canals and waterways - Birmingham offers visitors a pleasant surprise at every turn.
What Birmingham lacks in historic attractions, it more than makes up for with art galleries like the Barber Institute of Fine Arts, Ikon, and Aston Hall and museums and cultural centers like the Thinktank, the Museum of the Jewellery Quarter, and Cadbury World.
Whether you're planning a family vacation or a romantic city break, there are lots of excellent reasons to consider a stay in Birmingham.
Where else would you find a contemporary landmark right next door to a Victorian church built on a 13th-century site? The iconic Selfridges department store building is the gateway to the Bullring Shopping Centre and it's adjacent to St Martin in the Bull Ring, the city's oldest church.
If you enjoy contrasts, you'll love the Custard Factory, a network of colorful buildings next to a 40-ft green wooden man. Its unique blend of art galleries, venues, and retail spaces includes a glassmaker, a craft brewery, a '50s-style beauty salon, and an award-winning audio shop. After a busy day, end your visit at the Mockingbird Cinema.
Birmingham has an amazing 571 parks, more than any similarly sized European city. Ten are recipients of Green Flag Awards and five Premier Parks - Cannon Hill Park, Kings Heath Park, Sutton Park, Lickey Hills Country Park, and Handsworth Park - are outstanding. 250-acre Cannon Hill is one of the most popular and it's a great mix of conservation and formal areas, woodland, and sports grounds where you can enjoy activities like tennis, bowls, and boating.
It's true. There are more canals in Birmingham than Venice and, considering the city is landlocked, that's quite impressive. The city's waterways also include picturesque lakes and reservoirs where you can fish, sail, or windsurf or try your hand at canoeing or kayaking.
There are bars to appeal to all tastes whether you're looking for a trendy hipster hang out like the Church Inn, a friendly LGBT pub near Hurst Street, or a cool music pub like the Hare & Hounds or the Flapper. The city is also home to another type of bar - the chocolate bar. Visit Cadbury World and discover all you ever wanted to know about the UK's favorite chocolate brand and its fascinating history.
Birmingham's renowned classical concert hall remains the hub of culture in the city. The venue has staggering acoustics and puts on cutting edge productions year-round. The Repertory Theatre and the Library of Birmingham complete the trifecta of institutions for art and knowledge, inviting tourists for a variety of shows and events. Nearby, the Hall of Memory is a moving War Memorial preserved since the 1920s.
This pedestrian square is at the center of the city, and from the architecture to the contents of the buildings, tourists will not be disappointed. Statues and fountains dot the square, while the Birmingham Town Hall looks over the social scene down below. Visitors make their way between the cafés and the Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery, where a gorgeous collection of local art is to be found alongside internationally renowned artists. Walk Colmore Row to reach the equally epic Birmingham Cathedral.
Considered one of the best free attractions in all of Europe, this small independent museum was once the family-run jewelry studio of Smith and Pepper. The workshop is perfectly preserved and a historical emblem of the entire jewelry district, inviting visitors to step back in time and learn about the industry. An intimate look into the daily life of craftsmen in England's jewelry capital is accentuated by a dazzling display of the incredible work produced in those very streets.
Back in the Middle Ages, this part of Birmingham was the site for regular markets. Today, two new shopping centers have maintained that history into the present day. The Bullring is now the busiest shopping center in the United Kingdom, welcoming tens of millions of patrons each year. Even if you aren't in the market for anything, the futuristic architecture is worth checking out.
This museum houses the works of countless masters, and that's only the half of it. Within the Art Deco building of the University of Birmingham, visitors can also enjoy a theater host to exciting programming. Anyone is invited to be a student at these events, and tourists would be remiss not to take advantage. Alongside more classical collections of oil paintings and etchings, the museum also holds a unique coin collection that includes Roman and Byzantine treasures.
The city enjoys four distinct seasons and each is an excuse to discover Birmingham in a different light, something that will appeal to art enthusiasts. However, the summer season from May to the end of August is the best time to plan a vacation, particularly if you want to visit the beautiful parks or stroll by the canals. Christmas is popular too, thanks to the city's amazing range of shopping malls and stores.
You can fly to Birmingham Airport (BHX) from most UK cities and many international capitals. The airport is in Solihull, which is eight miles east of the city center. There is a free Air-Rail link to nearby Birmingham International Rail Station and from there you can catch a connection to New Street Station in the heart of Birmingham. The journey takes 15 minutes and a single fare is £3. The number 900 bus will also take you into the city and a single ticket costs £2.20. Taxis are available from outside the terminal building and the fare is £22.
Rail travelers will arrive at Birmingham New Street Station in the city center. The station is well served by public transport; there is a taxi rank at the end of the walkway leading to the main entrance and a bus stop right next to it.
It's relatively easy to reach Birmingham by car thanks to its proximity to several motorways and A roads. The most convenient routes include the M5 and M42 and the M6 motorway, which features the famous Spaghetti Junction or Gravelly Hill Interchange.
National Express and Megabus run frequent services to Birmingham from cities such as London, Glasgow, Bristol, and Cambridge. You'll arrive at Hill Street Station, which is just 10 minutes from New Street Rail Station and the Bullring Centre.
There is accommodation to suit every budget in Birmingham, from hostels like Birmingham Central Backpackers and Hatters to upmarket hotels like Hotel du Vin or superior serviced apartments like Staying Cool. Other luxury options include Radisson Blu, the Marriott, and the Crowne Plaza while popular mid-range hotels such as Ibis and the Hilton Garden Inn in the Brindleyplace development are ideal for family vacations or business trips. Expect to pay £45 per night for a mid-range hotel.
City Centre - much of the city center from Broad Street to the Bullring is pedestrianized. Landmarks include the Bullring Centre, St Martin's Church, the Symphony Hall, the International Convention Center (ICC) and the Town Hall, a Class I listed building.
The Jewellery Quarter - this exciting area boasts the highest concentration of businesses in Europe. It's also home to the largest Assay Office in the world and over 12 million pieces of jewelry and silverware are hallmarked here each year.
Brindleyplace - close to Broad Street and west of the city center, Brindleyplace is an impressive canal side development and part of the city's extensive renovation scheme. Visit the National Sea Life Centre, the Ikon art gallery, or the Crescent Theatre.
Edgbaston and Moseley - upmarket residential districts in the southwest of the city. Edgbaston is home to Edgbaston Cricket Ground while Moseley, known for its excellent restaurants and bars, is where many of the city's celebrities live.
It's easy to get around Birmingham using the city's public transport system. Buses can be boarded at several central departure points including Bull Street, Moor Street, Priory Queensway, and Colmore Row. There is an exact fare policy and single city center journeys start at £1. Day Saver Passes can be purchased for £4.40 and they can also be used on the city's metro tram system, a light railway that runs to Wolverhampton and covers areas like the Hawthorns and the Jewellery Quarter.
Traditional black taxis can be hailed on the street and there is a rank directly in front of the entrance to New Street Station and Grand Central shopping center. Other taxi ranks can be found by the Bullring, opposite Birmingham Snow Hill station and outside Moor Street station. Minicabs are widely available and you can either walk into local offices or book in advance by phone. A typical 10-minute journey costs £5-6 in a black taxi and £5 in a minicab.
Birmingham's roundabouts and roads can be tricky but since many of the main routes in the center of town are one way, it won't take long to catch on. A vehicle of your own can be a real plus, particularly if you plan large-scale shopping sprees or trips and outings. Parking is available close to most major attractions as well as at the Bullring Shopping Centre and at the airport.
The Bullring Centre is one of the largest shopping malls in the UK with over 160 shops, including Selfridges, and 25 restaurants. Other shopping malls include the Mailbox where you can browse the latest designer fashions in Harvey Nichols and the Mailbox, home to the John Lewis department store and Foyles bookstore. Try the Oasis in Corporation Street for alternative clothing or spend the day having a custom piece made for you in the Jewellery Quarter.
The city's supermarket chains include Morrison's, Tesco, Waitrose, Aldi, Lidl, and Sainsbury's and convenient neighborhood grocery shops and 7-11 stores open late in most areas. Expect to pay £1.80 for a dozen eggs and £0.96 for a liter of milk. For baby food and toiletries, try Boots, Lloyd's, and Superdrug.
The city's famous Balti Triangle from Ladypool Road to Stratford Road is the place for lovers of South Asian cuisine. Popular Balti houses include Al Frash Balti, Adil's, and Grameen Khana. For a special curry, try award-winning restaurant Lasan or treat yourself to the finest cuisine at one of Birmingham's Michelin-starred restaurants like Simpsons in Edgbaston or Carters of Moseley. Expect to pay £10 - 15 for a meal in a good basic restaurant.