City trip to Birmingham
Birmingham is the city of Peaky Blinders, a BBC hit series about a criminal family that was active in the town at the end of the 19th century. The people of Birmingham are called Brummies.
They will tell you that there is not much left of the city districts from the last century. Many of the Peaky Blinders work areas, the back-to-backs (slums), have been demolished. In addition, the centre of the city was largely wiped out by bombing during the Second World War.
After London, Birmingham is the second-largest city in the United Kingdom. The Midlands’ social, cultural, financial, and commercial centre.
Neighbourhoods in Birmingham
Although modern architecture dominates the centre today, some historic buildings in the centre, around the canal network and the Jewelry Quarter, have been preserved. The architectural highlights include iconic high-rises such as The Cube, the Bullring shopping centre and the most extensive public library in Europe. In the Southside, you will find the Chinese Quarter, Digbeth with murals, Gay Village and Back to Backs.
Birmingham city centre
Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery
The Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery (BMAG) is housed in a Grade II listed building in the city centre. The colossal building houses more than 40 galleries with art, archaeological and ethnographic objects.
The entrance is free. The museum is located in Chamberlain Square.
My favourite building in Birmingham is the spectacular library in Centenary Square. From the outside, the building looks a bit like a beehive.
On the ground floor, you enter an ample modern space. Then, with a glass elevator in the middle of the building, you can go up to the fourth floor. Here you will find a psychedelic Harry Potter library.
On the seventh floor is a ‘secret garden’, a terrace with benches, greenery and a view over the city.
You have an even better view from the ninth floor but can’t go outside. Here you will also find the ‘Shakespeare memorial room. This room houses the Shakespeare collection of John Henry Chamberlain. The room has an Elizabethan style with carvings and marquetry decorated with birds, flowers and foliage.
The entrance is free.
Birmingham Tourist Office
The Birmingham Tourist Office is on the ground floor of the library. Here you can get a handy city map with the canal network and the Jewellery Heritage Trail.
Birmingham Canal Network
Along the canals of Birmingham, you will find the best places in the city. Cosy terraces, trendy restaurants, unique bridges and houseboats brighten the waterways.
Ikon is a centre for modern art. The gallery has rotating exhibitions featuring work by artists from around the world and various media.
Admission is free entry.
Address: Brindleyplace, off Broad Street
The cube contains a hotel and several restaurants with a view over the city.
Hotel Indigo is a modern four-star hotel with unparalleled five-star panoramic views. Each of the 52 en-suite rooms is located on floor 23 or 24 of The Cube.
The roundhouse is a curious monument from 1874 that was used, among other things, as storage and horse stables. Today it is a multifunctional (round) building with a restaurant, terrace and a small museum.
Canal House is a wooden building with a vintage chic interior. You can eat well in the restaurant upstairs, outside or in the cafe downstairs.
In addition, they have a billiard table.
Address 12 Bridge Street.
Jewellery Quarter Heritage trail
In the northwest of Birmingham is the jewellery quarter. If you urgently need gold, diamonds or other gems, this is the place.
Jewellery Quarter Heritage trail
Gold and silversmiths have been clustering together for two hundred years in this district. Until 1970, these were the main suppliers of the retail trade. From 1970, jewellers opened shops here for private individuals. Most houses are built in red brick, some in Art Deco.
Significant points of interest along this route include:
The south side of Birmingham refers to the southeast of the city. Here is the central station, major shopping centres, Chinatown, gay city, back and Digbeth.
The Bullring is a gigantic shopping centre and central train station in one—something like Hoog Catharijne in Utrecht, but different.
The complex also connects the city’s south side and the centre.
South of the station is Chinatown. To call it a town is perhaps a bit of an exaggeration. It is mainly one street decorated with typical Chinese red ornaments. This is the place to eat or score an acupuncture session.
In Digbeth, you will find many murals. This is because it has traditionally been an industrial district that the city council is now renovating. It intends to transform old factories into apartments, shop premises, offices and art facilities. Unfortunately, at the time of writing (March 2022), this idea is more of an ambition than a reality.
Birmingham Royal Ballet
The Royal Ballet of Birmingham is directed by Carlos Acosta (who made the film ‘Yuli’ and the book).
Back to Backs
Birmingham Back to Backs (Court 15) are the last industrial workers’ houses from the 19th century. The neighbourhood at 50-54 Inge Street and 55-63 Hurst Street is now a National Trust historical museum.
Restaurants & Pubs
- The Alchemist on Brindley Place is a lively place to eat and drink.
- Shakespeare’s Inn on Summer Row is adjacent to the Ibis Hotel. A super English place for a full English breakfast, a pub meal or a pint.
- Canal House on Bridge Street is dining surrounded by vintage chic in a pretty spot overlooking the water.
Ibis Style is located a stone’s throw from the central station and the library. The rooms are spacious and have an excellent price/quality ratio, especially for a family with small children. You can drink free coffee, tea or chocolate milk. The staff are friendly.
The breakfast buffet is not good. So I wouldn’t add that. Next to the Ibis is the Shakespeare’s Inn. Here you can have a full English Breakfast or walk 100 meters in the other direction to the Tesco local. There they sell fresh bread and fruit.
The air conditioning in my room was very noisy and was set to freezing cold. This one couldn’t get out. But after I grumbled at the reception, I was immediately given another room. Apparently a known problem.
Birmingham with kids
Cadbury World is where Roald Dahl allegedly found his inspiration for Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Also, the place to buy chocolate at factory prices. But be wiser than me, don’t be fooled; a visit to Cadbury World is only fun if you are (very) young at heart. About six years, I estimate.
In contrast, Bournville, the village founded by the Cadbury family, is ‘quintessential English’.visit the Selly Manor Museum for a collection of 16th and 17th-century furniture and household artefacts.
From Central Station, take the train to Bournville. A return ticket costs £3.20.
At the Sealife Center, you will face strange underwater creatures in the UK’s only 360° Ocean Tunnel, home to sharks, rays and a giant green sea turtle!
Legoland is the ultimate indoor playground. It is located downtown, near the Sealife centre.
Adventure at Bear Grylls
Go wild at this Bear Grylls-inspired adventure centre.
- Hold on tight as you make your way through the highest open-air climbing course in Europe.
- Test your skills in the Shooting Zone, Archery Zone, Climb Zone and iFly experience.
Public Transport in and out Birmingham
Birmingham has an extensive bus network of National Express West Midlands. Suppose you pay with a debit/credit card. In that case, the system will automatically calculate your most favourable rate (single/return/day rate). This is then debited the next day.
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