Birmingham for First-Timers

Photo by Visit England/Diana Jarvis

Shopping, industrial heritage, canals, chocolate, curry, culture in Birmingham

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You’ll love the vitality of Birmingham, England’s dynamic, multicultural second city (after London) and a shopping, entertainment, arts, dining and nightlife capital. Buoyed by the image-conscious IT and arty set who live and work in and around the city centre, Birmingham has a fresh, switched-on feel. Find contemporary galleries, retail and entertainment complexes, the ‘wedding cake’ library building, grand Victorian buildings, industrial heritage and more canals than Venice as local ‘Brummies’ love to tell you.

Birmingham’s International Airport makes it a handy gateway to England from the US, Europe and beyond.  It is less than an hour’s drive from Warwick and Stratford-upon-Avon and close to the calm of the rural Midlands. Stay in a central city hotel for easy access to the sights, or Edgbaston, home to Birmingham’s Botanic Gardens and the famous cricket ground, and with B&Bs and boutique hotels.

Start the Day

Birmingham is big on coffee, breakfast and brunch. Saint Kitchen, St Paul’s Square, serves single origin Extract Coffee and delicious hot chocolate. All-day breakfasts and lunch menu with quinoa salads, flatbreads with chipotle glazed pulled pork. Yorks Café and Coffee Roasters on Stephenson Street near Grand Central serves coffee, breakfast and brunch.

All about Shopping

Birmingham is synonymous with shopping so you can easily spend the day checking out complexes such as the Bullring and Grand Central, part of the redeveloped New Street Station and home to one of England’s favourite department stores, John Lewis. The stylish  Mailbox complex houses the Harvey Nichols (of London fame) department store and designer labels such as Paul Smith. Resorts World, Birmingham is an integrated entertainment and leisure complex.

Lunch Break

Food-wise, Birmingham has it all. Find true fine dining at Adams Restaurant  (one of several in the city with Michelin stars ) with an 8-course tasting menu and a weekday lunch menu. Bodega Bar & Cantina serves Latin American while Peel & Stone Bakers specialise in slow-baked breads and pastries with a changing daily lunch menu at  Harborne Street (also at Water Street in the Jewellery Quarter).

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Easy Afternoon

Still in the mood for shopping? Birmingham is big on independents along streets such as Coolmore Row. Delve into historic arcades such as Piccadilly Arcade for shops such as eclectic Smithsonia, family-run and crammed with gifts and collectables.

Mid-afternoon, take a walk to the Jewellery Quarter packed with jewellers in more than 200 heritage-listed buildings in this fascinating conservation area. Next, discover Gas Street Basin at the heart of the canal network with brightly painted narrowboats, warehouse cafes and bars such as Tap & Spile and gastropubs.

More Things To Do in Birmingham

Cadbury World is fun for families with interactive tours including a 4D chocolate cinema experience, chocolate making demonstrations, the world’s biggest Cadbury shop and a jungle to illustrate the origins of cocoa beans.

Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery displays centuries of history and culture. Exhibits include the world’s largest public collection of Pre-Raphaelite art, the most highly valued hoard of Anglo-Saxon gold, and a whole collection of Egyptian mummies and coffins.

The Library of Birmingham is not just a stylish face but a place to see collections as diverse as  USA Postcards from the ‘golden age’ of USA railways to [email protected] Library, one of the world’s best collections of Shakespeariana.

The Black Country Living Museum is the ‘home’ of Peaky Blinders with scenes from all five seasons of the iconic gangster drama shot here.

Thinktank science museum is dynamic with exhibitions exploring Birmingham’s industrial heritage, a hands-on science garden, and a planetarium offering a glimpse into space.

The British Motor Museum has over 300 British cars and iconic motoring treasures.

Library of Birmingham, Photo by Visit England/Diana Jarvis

Evening Entertainment

Birmingham has a huge bar, club, dining  and nightlife scene. It also has go-to venues for top musicals, concerts, shows and performance including the Birmingham Hippodrome, The REP and Symphony Hall. (Book ahead.)

Britain’s oldest working cinema is The Electric, a cinema and sound recording studio in Southside Birmingham, showing quality mainstream, classic, foreign and independent films in great surroundings, think sofas, bar and waiter service.

At A Glance

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