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Birmingham is a major city and metropolitan borough in the West Midlands of England. It is the largest and most populous British city outside London, with a population in 2014 of 1,101,360. The city is in the West Midlands Built-up Area, the third most populous urban area in the United Kingdom, with a population of 2,440,986 at the 2011 census. Birmingham is the second most populous metropolitan area in the UK with a population of 3.8 million. This also makes Birmingham the 9th most populous metropolitan area in Europe.
A medium-sized market town in the medieval period, Birmingham grew to international prominence in the 18th century at the heart of the Midlands Enlightenmentand subsequent Industrial Revolution, which saw the town at the forefront of worldwide advances in science, technology and economic development, producing a series of innovations that laid many of the foundations of modern industrial society. By 1791 it was being hailed as "the first manufacturing town in the world". Birmingham's distinctive economic profile, with thousands of small workshops practising a wide variety of specialised and highly skilled trades, encouraged exceptional levels of creativity and innovation and provided a diverse and resilient economic base for industrial prosperity that was to last into the final quarter of the 20th century. Perhaps the most important invention in British history, the industrial steam engine, was invented in Birmingham. Its resulting high level of social mobility also fostered a culture of broad-based political radicalism, that under leaders from Thomas Attwood to Joseph Chamberlainwas to give it a political influence unparalleled in Britain outside London, and a pivotal role in the development of British democracy. From the summer of 1940 to the spring of 1943, Birmingham was bombed heavily by the German Luftwaffe in what is known as the Birmingham Blitz. The damage done to the city's infrastructure, in addition to a deliberate policy of demolition and new building by planners, led to extensive demolition and redevelopment in subsequent decades.
Today Birmingham's economy is dominated by the service sector. The city is a major international commercial centre, ranked as a beta− world city by the Globalization and World Cities Research Network; and an important transport, retail, events and conference hub. Itsmetropolitan economy is the second largest in the United Kingdom with a GDP of $121.1bn (2014), and its six universities make it the largest centre of higher education in the country outside London. Birmingham's major cultural institutions – including the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, the Birmingham Royal Ballet, the Birmingham Repertory Theatre, the Library of Birmingham and the Barber Institute of Fine Arts – enjoy international reputations, and the city has vibrant and influential grassroots art, music,literary and culinary scenes. Birmingham is the fourth-most visited city in the UK by foreign visitors.
Birmingham's sporting heritage can be felt worldwide, with the concept of the Football League and lawn tennis both originating from the city. Its most successful football club Aston Villa has won seven league titles and one European Cup with the other professional club being Birmingham City.
People from Birmingham are called Brummies, a term derived from the city's nickname of Brum. This originates from the city's dialect name, Brummagem, which may in turn have been derived from one of the city's earlier names, Bromwicham. There is a distinctive Brummie accent and dialect.
|POPULATION :||• City 1,101,360|
• Urban 2,440,986
• Metro 3,701,107
|FOUNDED :|| Settlement c. 600|
Seigneurial borough 1166
Municipal borough 1838
Metropolitan borough 1 April 1974
|TIME ZONE :||Time zone GMT (UTC+0)|
Summer (DST) BST (UTC+1)
|AREA :|| • City 103.39 sq mi (267.77 km2)|
• Urban 231.2 sq mi (598.9 km2)
|ELEVATION :||460 ft (140 m)|
|COORDINATES :||52°28′59″N 1°53′37″W|
|SEX RATIO :||• Male: 49.3|
• Female: 50.7%
|ETHNIC :||57.9% White (53.1% White British)|
4.4% Mixed Race
|AREA CODE :||0121|
|POSTAL CODE :||B|
|DIALING CODE :||+44 121|
|WEBSITE :||Birmingham City|
Birmingham, in the West Midlands, is Britain's second-largest city. Known in the Victorian era as the "City of a Thousand Trades" and the "Workshop of the World",Brum as locals call the city, is enjoying a 21st-century resurgence as a great shopping and cultural destination.
Birmingham (the h is silent, and, in the local dialect, the g is hard, as in Birming-gum) was at the heart of the UK's industrial revolution, and its wealth was built upon the multitude of trades that were spawned. This led to a massive canal network, with more miles of canals than Venice or Amsterdam (though they're very different types of canal).
Much of the city centre was destroyed during the Second World War, and the replacement buildings added little to the city. However, since the 1990s, Birmingham has been undergoing a radical change and many of the post war buildings have been replaced. The majority of the city centre is now pedestrianised, and the canals cleaned up to make for attractive walkways. Locals credit the City Council for the recent transformation, as the city retains its industrial heritage while now appearing modern and forward looking.
The city's notable associations are as diverse as HP Sauce, Tony Hancock, Cadbury's chocolate, The Lunar Society (whose members included James Watt and Matthew Boulton), Black Sabbath, UB40, Jasper Carrot and the Spitfire and the Mini (car, not skirt).
Birmingham has many literary associations - not only JRR Tolkien, but also Washington Irving, who wrote Rip Van Winkle while lodging here with his sister's family, and Conan Doyle, who bought a violin in Sherlock Street while a medical student in Birmingham. The authors Jim Crace, Judith Cutler and David Lodge are also residents.
The nearby locations of Shropshire, Warwick, and Stratford-Upon-Avon provide more of the stereotypical images of "olde" England. However, Birmingham has many of its own tourist attractions, has an extremely lively night life, and the shopping is arguably one of the best outside of London.
Pre-history and medieval
Birmingham's early history is that of a remote and marginal area. The main centres of population, power and wealth in the pre-industrial English Midlands lay in the fertile and accessible river valleys of the Trent, the Severn and the Avon. The area of modern Birmingham lay in between, on the upland Birmingham Plateau and within the densely wooded and sparsely populated Forest of Arden.
There is evidence of early human activity in the Birmingham area dating back 10,000 years, with stone age artefacts suggesting seasonal settlements, overnight hunting parties and woodland activities such as tree felling. The manyburnt mounds that can still be seen around the city indicate that modern humansfirst intensively settled and cultivated the area during the bronze age, when a substantial but short-lived influx of population occurred between 1700 BC and 1000 BC, possibly caused by conflict or immigration in the surrounding area. During the 1st-century Roman conquest of Britain, the forested country of the Birmingham Plateau formed a barrier to the advancing Roman legions, who built the large Metchley Fort in the area of modern-day Edgbaston in AD 48, and made it the focus of a network of Roman roads.
Birmingham as a settlement dates from the Anglo-Saxon era. The city's name comes from the Old English Beormingahām, meaning the home or settlement of the Beormingas – indicating that Birmingham was established in the 6th or early 7th century as the primary settlement of an Anglian tribal grouping and regio of that name. Despite this early importance, by the time of the Domesday Book of 1086 the manor of Birmingham was one of the poorest and least populated in Warwickshire, valued at only 20 shillings, with the area of the modern city divided between the counties of Warwickshire, Staffordshire and Worcestershire.
The development of Birmingham into a significant urban and commercial centre began in 1166, when the Lord of the Manor Peter de Bermingham obtained a charter to hold a market at his castle, and followed this with the creation of a planned market town and seigneurial borough within his demesne or manorial estate, around the site that became the Bull Ring. This established Birmingham as the primary commercial centre for the Birmingham Plateau at a time when the area's economy was expanding rapidly, with population growth nationally leading to the clearance, cultivation and settlement of previously marginal land. Within a century of the charter Birmingham had grown into a prosperous urban centre of merchants and craftsmen. By 1327 it was the third-largest town in Warwickshire, a position it would retain for the next 200 years.
The principal governing institutions of medieval Birmingham – including the Guild of the Holy Cross and the lordship of the de Birmingham family – collapsed between 1536 and 1547, leaving the town with an unusually high degree of social and economic freedom and initiating a period of transition and growth. By 1700 Birmingham's population had increased fifteenfold and the town was the fifth-largest in England and Wales.
The importance of the manufacture of iron goods to Birmingham's economy was recognised as early as 1538, and grew rapidly as the century progressed. Equally significant was the town's emerging role as a centre for the iron merchants who organised finance, supplied raw materials and traded and marketed the industry's products. By the 1600s Birmingham formed the commercial hub of a network of forges and furnaces stretching from South Wales to Cheshire and its merchants were selling finished manufactured goods as far afield as the West Indies. These trading links gave Birmingham's metalworkers access to much wider markets, allowing them to diversify away from lower-skilled trades producing basic goods for local sale, towards a broader range of specialist, higher-skilled and more lucrative activities.
By the time of the English Civil War Birmingham's booming economy, its expanding population, and its resulting high levels of social mobility and cultural pluralism, had seen it develop new social structures very different from those of more established areas. Relationships were built around pragmatic commercial linkages rather than the rigid paternalism and deference of feudal society, and loyalties to the traditional hierarchies of the established church and aristocracy were weak. The town's reputation for political radicalism and its strongly Parliamentarian sympathies saw it attacked by Royalist forces in the Battle of Birmingham in 1643, and it developed into a centre of Puritanism in the 1630s and as a haven for Nonconformists from the 1660s.
The 18th century saw this tradition of free-thinking and collaboration blossom into the cultural phenomenon now known as the Midlands Enlightenment. The town developed into a notable centre of literary, musical, artistic and theatrical activity; and its leading citizens – particularly the members of the Lunar Society of Birmingham – became influential participants in the circulation of philosophical and scientific ideas among Europe's intellectual elite. The close relationship between Enlightenment Birmingham's leading thinkers and its major manufacturers – in men like Matthew Boulton and James Keir they were often in fact the same people – made it particularly important for the exchange of knowledge between pure science and the practical world of manufacturing and technology. This created a "chain reaction of innovation", forming a pivotal link between the earlier Scientific Revolution and the Industrial Revolution that would follow.
Regency and Victorian
Birmingham rose to national political prominence in the campaign for political reform in the early 19th century, with Thomas Attwood and the Birmingham Political Union bringing the country to the brink of civil war during the Days of May that preceded the passing of the Great Reform Act in 1832. The Union's meetings on Newhall Hill in 1831 and 1832 were the largest political assemblies Britain had ever seen. Lord Durham, who drafted the Act, wrote that "the country owed Reform to Birmingham, and its salvation from revolution". This reputation for having "shaken the fabric of privilege to its base" in 1832 led John Bright to make Birmingham the platform for his successful campaign for the Second Reform Act of 1867, which extended voting rights to the urban working class.
Birmingham's tradition of innovation continued into the 19th century. Birmingham was the terminus for both of the world's first two long-distance railway lines: the 82 mile Grand Junction Railway of 1837 and the 112 mile London and Birmingham Railway of 1838. Birmingham schoolteacher Rowland Hill invented the postage stamp and created the first modern universal postal system in 1839. Alexander Parkes invented the first man-made plastic in the Jewellery Quarter in 1855.
By the 1820s, an extensive canal system had been constructed, giving greater access to natural resources and fuel for industries. During the Victorian era, the population of Birmingham grew rapidly to well over half a million and Birmingham became the second largest population centre in England. Birmingham was granted city status in 1889 by Queen Victoria. Joseph Chamberlain, mayor of Birmingham and later an MP, and his son Neville Chamberlain, who was Lord Mayor of Birmingham and later the British Prime Minister, are two of the most well-known political figures who have lived in Birmingham. The city established its own university in 1900.
20th century and contemporary
Birmingham suffered heavy bomb damage during World War II's "Birmingham Blitz". The city was also the scene of two scientific discoveries that were to prove critical to the outcome of the war. Otto Frisch and Rudolf Peierls first described how a practical nuclear weapon could be constructed in the Frisch–Peierls memorandum of 1940, the same year that the cavity magnetron, the key component of radar and later of microwave ovens, was invented by John Randall and Henry Boot. Details of these two discoveries, together with an outline of the first jet engine invented by Frank Whittle in nearby Rugby, were taken to the United States by the Tizard Mission in September 1940, in a single black box later described by an official American historian as "the most valuable cargo ever brought to our shores".
The city was extensively redeveloped during the 1950s and 1960s. This included the construction of large tower block estates, such as Castle Vale. The Bull Ring was reconstructed and New Street station was redeveloped. In the decades following World War II, the ethnic makeup of Birmingham changed significantly, as it received waves of immigration from the Commonwealth of Nations and beyond. The city's population peaked in 1951 at 1,113,000 residents.
Birmingham remained by far Britain's most prosperous provincial city as late as the 1970s, with household incomes exceeding even those of London and the South East, but its economic diversity and capacity for regeneration declined in the decades that followed World War II as Central Government sought to restrict the city's growth and disperse industry and population to the stagnating areas of Scotland, Wales and Northern England. These measures hindered "the natural self-regeneration of businesses in Birmingham, leaving it top-heavy with the old and infirm", and the city became increasingly dependent on the motor industry. The recession of the early 1980s saw Birmingham's economy collapse, with unprecedented levels of unemployment and outbreaks of social unrest in inner-city districts.
In recent years, many parts of Birmingham has been transformed, with the redevelopment of the Bullring Shopping Centre and regeneration of old industrial areas such as Brindleyplace, The Mailbox and the International Convention Centre. Old streets, buildings and canals have been restored, the pedestrian subways have been removed and the Inner Ring Road has been rationalised. In 1998 Birmingham hosted the 24th G8 summit.
Birmingham has a temperate maritime climate, like much of the British Isles, with average maximum temperatures in summer (July) being around 21.3 °C (70.3 °F); and in winter (January) around 6.7 °C (44.1 °F). Between 1971 and 2000 the warmest day of the year on average was 28.8 °C (83.8 °F) and the coldest night typically fell to −9.0 °C (15.8 °F). Some 11.2 days each year rose to a temperature of 25.1 °C (77.2 °F) or above and 51.6 nights reported an air frost. The highest recorded temperature, set during August 1990, was 34.9 °C (94.8 °F).
Like most other large cities, Birmingham has a considerable urban heat island effect. During the coldest night recorded, 14 January 1982, the temperature fell to −20.8 °C (−5.4 °F) at Birmingham Airport on the city's eastern edge, but just −12.9 °C (8.8 °F) at Edgbaston, near the city centre.
Birmingham is a snowy city relative to other large UK conurbations, due to its inland location and comparatively high elevation. Between 1961 and 1990 Birmingham Airport averaged 13.0 days of snow lying annually, compared to 5.33 at London Heathrow. Snow showers often pass through the city via the Cheshire gap on north westerly airstreams, but can also come off the North Sea from north easterly airstreams.
Extreme weather is rare but the city has been known to experience tornados – the most recent being in July 2005 in the south of the city, damaging homes and businesses in the area.
Climate data for Birmingham
|Record high °C (°F)||15.0|
|Average high °C (°F)||6.7|
|Average low °C (°F)||1.4|
|Record low °C (°F)||−20.8|
|Source #1: Royal Dutch Meteorological Institute|
|Source #2: National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration|
Birmingham is located in the centre of the West Midlands region of England on the Birmingham Plateau – an area of relatively high ground, ranging between 500 and 1,000 feet (150–300 m) above sea level and crossed by Britain's main north-south watershed between the basins of the Rivers Severn and Trent. To the south west of the city lie the Lickey Hills, Clent Hills and Walton Hill, which reach 1,033 feet (315 m) and have extensive views over the city. Birmingham is drained only by minor rivers and brooks, primarily the River Tame and its tributaries the Cole and the Rea.
The City of Birmingham forms a conurbation with the largely residential borough of Solihull to the south east, and with the city of Wolverhampton and the industrial towns of the Black Country to the north west, which form the West Midlands Built-up Area covering 59,972 ha (600 km2; 232 sq mi). Surrounding this is Birmingham's metropolitan area – the area to which it is closely economically tied through commuting– which includes the former Mercian capital of Tamworth and the cathedral city of Lichfield in Staffordshire to the north; the industrial city of Coventry and the Warwickshire towns of Nuneaton, Warwick and Leamington Spa to the east; and the Worcestershire towns of Redditch and Bromsgrove to the south west.
Much of the area now occupied by the city was originally a northern reach of the ancient Forest of Arden, whose former presence can still be felt in the city's dense oak tree-cover and in the large number of districts such as Moseley, Saltley, Yardley, Stirchley and Hockley with names ending in "-ley": the Old English -lēah meaning "woodland clearing".
Birmingham grew to prominence as a manufacturing and engineering centre, but its economy today is dominated by the service sector, which in 2012 accounted for 88% of the city's employment. Birmingham is the largest centre in Great Britain for employment in public administration, education and health; and after Leeds the second largest centre outside London for employment in financial and other business services. It is ranked as a beta- world city by the Globalization and World Cities Research Network, the third highest ranking in the country after London and Manchester, and its wider metropolitan economy is the second-largest in the United Kingdom with a GDP of $121.1bn (2014 est., PPP). Two FTSE100 companies (Severn Trent and IMI plc, which is currently a FTSE250 company) have their corporate headquarters within Birmingham, with two more based in the wider metropolitan area, together forming the largest concentration outside London and the South East. With major facilities such as the National Exhibition Centre and International Convention Centre Birmingham attracts 42% of the UK's total conference and exhibition trade.
Manufacturing accounted for 8% of employment within Birmingham in 2012, a figure beneath the average for the UK as a whole. Major industrial plants within the city include Jaguar Land Rover in Castle Bromwich and Cadbury in Bournville, with large local producers also supporting a supply chain of precision-based small manufacturers and craft industries. More traditional industries also remain: 40% of the jewellery made in the UK is still produced by the 300 independent manufacturers of the city's Jewellery Quarter, continuing a trade first recorded in Birmingham in 1308.
Birmingham's GVA was £24.1bn (2013 est.,), and the economy grew relatively slowly between 2002 and 2012, where growth was 30% below the national average. The value of manufacturing output in the city declined by 21% in real terms between 1997 and 2010, but the value of financial and insurance activities more than doubled. With 16,281 start-ups registered during 2013 Birmingham has the highest level of entrepreneurial activity outside London, while the number of registered businesses in the city grew by 1.6% during 2012. Birmingham was behind only London and Edinburgh for private sector job creation between 2010 and 2013.
Economic inequality within Birmingham is greater than in any other major English city, and is exceeded only by Glasgow in the United Kingdom. Levels of unemployment are among the highest in the country, with 14.4% of the economically active population unemployed (Dec 2013). In the inner-city wards of Aston and Washwood Heath, the figure is higher than 30%. Two-fifths of Birmingham's population live in areas classified as in the 10% most deprived parts of England, and overall Birmingham is the most deprived local authority in England in terms of income and employment deprivation. The city's infant mortality rate is high, around 60% worse than the national average. Meanwhile, just 49% of women have jobs, compared to 65% nationally, and only 28% of the working-age population in Birmingham have degree level qualifications in contrast to the average of 34% across other Core Cities.
According to the 2014 Mercer Quality of Living Survey, Birmingham was placed 51st in the world in, which was the second highest rating in the UK. This is an improvement on the city's 56th place in 2008. The Big City Plan aims to move the city into the index's top 20 by 2026. An area of the city has been designated an enterprise zone, with tax relief and simplified planning to lure investment.
The City of Birmingham metropolitan borough as it stands today encompasses a very large array of former towns and villages surrounding the original town of Birmingham, that have been incorporated into it over the years. As a result, the City Council is the largest regional body in the EU, with 120 councillors representing 10 so-called constituencies (districts), further divided into 40 wards. Therefore, even if a point of interest is officially in Birmingham, it can be located quite far away from the actual city centre, in what can appear a separate small town or even countryside. Addresses are often given including the name of ward or constituency to help locate them. Do not assume than any place with a Birmingham address is easily accessible once you are in the city.
Some of the more known districts and wards of Birmingham include Aston (home to the Aston Hall and Aston Villa football team) Edgbaston(where the main campus of University of Birmingham is located), Longbridge (with the MG factory) and Selly Oak (secondary campus and student town). The city centre of Birmingham officially falls into the ward of Ladywood, which itself has little to do with the actual centre.
Other areas in the metropolitan borough include Perry Barr, Sutton Coldfield and Moseley.
The centre of Birmingham is confined by a motorway ringroad officially called A4540, also called the Middle Ring Road. There was also the Inner Ring Road, or rod 4400, which was viewed as an urban planning failure and parts of it were dismantled and redeveloped. The extant part is now road A38 and runs across the city centre, partially underground. The very central point of Birmingham is arguably marked by the huge New Street railway station, with tracks leading to it bisecting the centre. Next to the New Street station is the huge Bullring shopping centre, which is also an orientation beacon and leads up all the way to another railway station called Moor Street.
The Birmingham city centre can be divided into several areas of different characteristics:
Core City Centre - extends northwestwards of the New Street station, inside the confines of the A38 and includes much of the surviving pre-war historic buildings of Birmingham, a number of important institutions and the historically prime addresses such as New Street or Colmore Row
Westside - extend southwest of New Street and beyond the former Inner Ringroad, and includes much of the remaining canals in central Birmingham. Alongside them much new development took place in recent decades, including civic buildings such as the International Congress Centre or Library of Birmingham, as well as multi-functional commercial projects such as Brindleyplace or The Mailbox
Eastside - the area southeastwards of the New Street station, or more precisely behind the nearby Moor Street station. This formerly industrial area which included the long-disused Curzon Station as well now contains large swathes of unused, cleared land that undergoes redevelopment as parts of large urban planning projects. Some of them are already finished, but many are still to commence, giving this part of town a modern yet unfinished appearance
Southside - the part southeast of New Street station retains a more traditional ambiance with small buildings along narrow streets. Parts of it are occupied by Birmingham's Gay Village and Chinese Quarter.
Deritend and Digbeth - the area directly eastwards of the Bullring centre contains much industrial and pre-industrial architectural heritage, and it has become a hub for everything creative and a rather pleasant area, which also includes Birmingham's Irish Quarter.
Jewellery Quarter - true to its name, workshops in the quarter still produce 40% of UK's jewellery, and it includes the country's largest Assay Office. As such, it retained its 19th century appearance lost by other industrial parts of Birmingham and became a tourist attraction itself.
Gun Quarter - north of Jewellery Quarter and for decades known for firearms manufacturing, but now not seeing much commercial or municipal interest and of little interest to tourists as well.
The national dialling code for the city is 0121, followed by a three digit area code, followed by a four digit number. A fully specified Birmingham number will be in the format 0121 000 0000. The minimum requirement is 000 0000 within the national dialling code area.
BT payphones are dotted around the city, and most will take both cash and credit/debit cards. International calls are by no means cheap. There are no telephone centres, so if you're going to be making lots of calls home a pre-paid phone card may be a good option.
All GSM mobile networks have excellent coverage in all areas of the city.
All public libraries, notably the new (opened 2013) Library of Birmingham, provide free internet access, though the connection can be slow and you may have to queue for a terminal; and you need a library membership card for access.
It is also possible to get online from some BT payphones in the city centre (look for the ones with light blue broadband signs on them).
Wi-Fi is available in a number of cafes (including most of the city centre independents and chains) and other places.
- Cafe Bebo, Paradise Forum (By the Central Library). Quiet cafe with free wi-fi (password is on blackboard by door).
- Dot Comm Cafe, 212 Broad Sreet, . M-Sa 10AM-2:30AM, Su 10AM-4PM. Noisy cafe surrounded by clubs. £2 (free access with food costing £4 or more).
- Truly Everything, The Pavilions, 38 High Street, . Standard Internet lounge.
- Express Internet, 181 Brighton Road, Moseley, B12 8QN, .Mon-Sat 8AM-9PM, Sun 9AM-6PM. Internet lounge part of Express Mini Mart. £1 per hour.
Prices in Birmingham
MARKET / SUPERMARKET
|Beer (domestic)||0.5 l||€1.50|
|Bottle of Wine||1 bottle||€8.30|
|Dinner (Low-range)||for 2||€28.00|
|Dinner (Mid-range)||for 2||€59.00|
|Dinner (High-range)||for 2||€|
|Mac Meal or similar||1 meal||€5.95|
|Beer (Imported)||0.33 l||€3.60|
|Beer (domestic)||0.5 l||€3.60|
|Coctail drink||1 drink||€9.00|
|Men’s Haircut||1 haircut||€11.50|
|Mobile (prepaid)||1 min.||€0.16|
|Pack of Marlboro||1 pack||€10.00|
|Toilet paper||4 rolls||€2.20|
CLOTHES / SHOES
|Jeans (Levis 501 or similar)||1||€66.00|
|Dress summer (Zara, H&M.)||1||€36.00|
|Sport shoes (Nike, Adidas)||1||€68.00|
|Local Transport||1 ticket||€2.60|
55 € per day
Estimated cost per 1 day including:
- meals in cheap restaurant
- public transport
- cheap hotel
227 € per day
Estimated cost per 1 day including:
- mid-range meals and drinks
Transportation - Get In
Birmingham Airport, (IATA: BHX) is a major airport situated just outside the city, in Solihull, about 8 miles east of central Birmingham, serving the city and the rest of the West Midlands region with frequent domestic and international flights. There are several direct arrivals a day from all major UK and European destinations, and one or two from more far-flung places such as Delhi, Dubai (twice daily), Amritsar, Islamabad, Ashgabat,New York and Toronto.
A free people mover, Air-Rail Link, connects the airport passenger terminal with Birmingham International rail station between 05:15 and 02:00; it runs every two minutes and the journey time is less than two minutes. From Birmingham International rail station trains run to New Street Station every 5–15 minutes from around 06:05 (Su 08:45) to 23:15. The journey takes 10–20 minutes depending on whether you get an express or local (stopping) service and costs £2.50 one-way (express service - Virgin Trains only) or £3.60 one-way for a ticket valid on any service.
Bus service 900 runs every 20–30 minutes between Birmingham and Coventry via the airport from around 04:50 (Su 07:00) to midnight, takes around 25 minutes and costs £2.20 one way; the ticket is not valid for transfers. Bus service 97A provides an hourly service through the night for a 24 hour service. A day ticket (Daysaver) for all NXWM buses is available for £4.20, but it can also be purchased for €5 on any airport service. Exact change is required. If a group is travelling together, a Group Daysaver for £8 will cover up to 5 people for unlimited journeys for a day.
National Express coaches serve the airport every half hour during the early hours of the morning which is very handy for morning flights, as the trains don't usually start until later in the morning. The fare varies depending on whether it is booked in advance, although tickets can be purchased on the coach subject to seats being available.
A taxi from the airport to central Birmingham will take around 20–30 minutes and will cost around £22.00.
The National Exhibition Centre is adjacent to the airport and can be accessed by the Air-Rail Link via Birmingham International Station.
Birmingham is a major hub of Britain's rail network. The main station is Birmingham New Street, which sees the vast majority of long-distance trains calling in Birmingham. There are half-hourly services (M-Sa daytime) from Bristol, Shrewsbury, Cardiff,Weston-super-Mare, Edinburgh, Glasgow, London, Manchester, Oxford, Sheffield and stations in between.
Allow plenty of time to find your train at New Street station as it is huge and very confusing, and although most of the modernisation project has finished, you can still expect to see some changes if you visit infrequently. Most platforms (tracks) are divided into sections (e.g. Platform 4A, 4B and 4C) and it's not uncommon for two trains bound for different destinations to depart from the same track, so make sure you wait in the right area, labelled on screens above the platform, and board the right train! New Street Station is notorious for last-minute platform changes so it's advisable to wait close to the stairs and keep close attention to the information screens and PA announcements as you may need to make a quick dash to the opposite side of the station with only 3 minutes until departure!
Other important stations are Birmingham Snow Hill and Birmingham Moor Street, both on the so-called Snow Hill line, which mainly sees local traffic within the West Midlands. The exception is Chiltern Railways' service from both stations to London Marylebone, which rivals London Midland's and Virgin Trains' service from Birmingham New Street to London Euston.
New Street and Moor Street are a 5 minute walk apart, and Snow Hill is around 10 minutes walk from each.
Do not get off your train at Birmingham International unless you are going to the airport - this station is outside the city and serves the airport and NEC.
Timetables can be checked at National Rail Enquiries (premium rate phone number from mobiles: 08457 48 49 50) and tickets can booked on-line or over the phone through the train operator. Train tickets can be purchased online from Birmingham based retailer, takethetrain.co.uk who do NOT charge any booking fee.
Intercity buses, unless clearly stated otherwise, will terminate at the newly rebuilt and modernised Birmingham Coach Station. The City Centre is around a 5 minute walk from the station along the slightly tatty Digbeth High Street, but people need not be alarmed as the Selfridges Building and skyline are clearly visible to guide you in the correct direction. If you arrive at night (or have large amounts of luggage), consider getting a bus or taxi as the Digbeth area is not a very pleasant part of the city and is home to many pubs and other nightlife, which may intimidate strangers.
Birmingham Coach station has a booking office, two cafés, shop and other basic facilities. There are currently toilets (30 pence), vending machines (available 24 hours), and an information desk.
There are half-hourly (or more frequent) services from London (service 420), and services from most major cities (including Bristol, Cambridge, Cardiff, Edinburgh,Glasgow, Manchester, Oxford and Sheffield) every two hours.
If you are taking the coach to an airport (such as for your journey home), leave at least two, preferably three hours early, as coach trips have been known to face significant delays if mechanical or personnel problems are encountered. National Express promises only to get you to the destination within the same day and will take no responsibility if the service runs late (the optional National Express insurance covers only your personal safety and your possessions).
Birmingham is well sign-posted and surrounded by motorways; the M42, the M5, and the M6 which includes the infamous Spaghetti Junction (Gravelly Hill Interchange). Once in the West Midlands:
- From the north, Birmingham is served by A-roads.
- From the north-east, use the M1, M42 and M6.
- From the east, use the M6.
- From the south-east, use the M40 and M42.
- From the south, Birmingham is served by A-roads.
- From the south-west, use the M5 and M42.
- From the west, Birmingham is served by A-roads.
- From the north-west, use the M6.
Birmingham City Council operated car parks are available throughout the city, a list is accessible online.
The M5 will take you to the south-west, either the M42 then M40 or the M6 then M1 will take you to London and the south-east. In the other direction the M1 will take you to Leeds and the north-east. The M6 will also take you towards the north-west,Manchester and Scotland, or, via the M54, to north Wales.
Due to its industrial heritage, Birmingham has an extensive canal network and is on both the "Worcester & Birmingham" and "Grand Union" canals. Visitors travelling by narrowboat can choose from several tourist moorings, managed privately or by Canal & River Trust. Although the moorings are very busy in spring and summer, call ahead for availability.
- Birmingham Canal Information Centre, 42A Gas St, +44 121 632 6845 ([email protected]).
- Birmingham Canal Navigations provides a highly detailed 1:30,000-scale colour map of the network.
Transportation - Get Around
On foot in the City Centre
Birmingham's City Centre is partially pedestrianised, and most things to see and do can be reached on foot. Birmingham walking directions can be planned online with the walkit.com walking route planner.
Visitors would enjoy the delightful walk from the International Convention Centre (ICC) and the Symphony Hall on the top of Broad Street to the Bull Ring shopping complex, which takes around twenty minutes and may involve only one easy surface road-crossing. From the ICC, you walk east by the Repertory Theatre and Library of Birmingham in Centenary Square; then through the Paradise Forum to Chamberlain Square; with the Museum and Art Gallery to your left and the Class I listed building, the Town Hall, on your right, you make your way to the spacious Victoria Square. At Victoria Square, you will find the Town Hall to the west, the Council Offices to the north, and the Post Office to the South; the path you want to the Bull Ring is east, down New Street, which is a pedestrianized street lined with shops, stores, and kiosks. About five blocks down New Street, you will come to a signal at Corporation Street, the only road crossing you need to make on this walk. A few blocks later, New Street will turn into Rotunda Square. Bearing south towards St. Martin's Church, you will find the 21st-century Bull Ring Shopping Complex to your left and right.
Birmingham has a large canal network. In the city centre, extensive development has enhanced the environment and level of amenities around these canals, making them excellent pedestrian routes in their own right. Visitors would enjoy the peaceful ten-minute car-free canal stroll from Brindleyplace, National Sea Life Centre, and Sherborne Wharf, all next to the ICC, eastward under Broad Street, through the Gas Street Basin, to The Mailbox (the former Royal Mail's Birmingham head office turned into shops and restaurants).
Other walks in the City Centre include the wheelchair accessible summer Floral trail from The Mailbox to St Paul's Square, which in turn is the beginning point of another walk, the historic Jewellery Quarter in Bloom trail, where one can visit the Chamberlain Clock or St Paul's Church.
Birmingham City Council produces an excellent cycling and walking map of the area. You can pick one up from any local library, tourist information office, leisure centre or bike shop.
Birmingham is not a particularly cycle-friendly city, especially when compared to the rest of Europe, but it is possible to get around without too much trouble. There are plenty of places to lock a bike up in the city centre, but few cycle lanes and lots of pedestrians. Unless you are touring the UK, the best use for a bike in Birmingham is to explore the extensive local canal network, such as the canal trail leading to the historic New Smethwick Pumping Station.
Road and cycle path maintenance in the area is far from perfect, and it is not uncommon for trees and parked cars to obstruct the right-of-way. The standard of driving is as bad as in other cities, so exercise extreme caution on main roads and at night. The canal network can be accessed in the city centre from the Broad Street/Gas Street area, or at most road crossings elsewhere. The towpath is generally well-maintained to within a few miles of the city, and after that tends to be packed earth with plenty of mud and embedded bricks. A permit from British Waterways (free) is needed for towpath cycling.
The Sustrans National Cycle Network Route 5 (Oxford to Derby) passes through Birmingham from the south to the north-west. The local stretch is known as the Rea Valley Route, there is also the Cole Valley Route to the east.
By public transport
Bus, train and Metro all come under the authority of Network West Midlands (Part of Centro, the PTE of Birmingham and surrounding area), their website is the best source for all information required on public transport in the region .
Birmingham City Council has public transportation information available online as well.
There is no central bus station for local services. Buses depart instead from one or more of five interchanges in the city centre (principally Bull Street/Priory Queensway, Snow Hill, Moor Street, Paradise Circus and New Street). Bus stop maps are available from libraries, tourist information offices and the Network West Midlands (NWM) office at New Street Station.
Route maps and timetables are available from the outlets mentioned above, and there are extensive online versions on the National Express West Midlands and NWM websites. If you do not have a lot of time to spare tracking down which buses serve which areas, you can use the Traveline Midlands Journey Planner (0870 608 2608).
Single fares are currently £1.90 (short hop) or £2.20 for NXWM services, and transfers are not allowed. There are no return tickets, but you can buy an all-day pass for NXWM buses, known as a 'Daysaver', for £4.20. Alternatively, a Group Daysaver will cover up to 5 people all day for £8. All these tickets may be purchased on the bus. NXWM buses do not give change, so make sure you have the exact amount required for the fare ready, so you do not hold up the queue behind you. A cheaper all-day "Plusbus" ticket, valid on all operators' buses as well as the Midland Metro tram and costs £3.10, can be purchased at the same time as a train ticket from outside the West Midlands county. Most routes operate until around midnight and start between 4AM and 6AM in the morning, but services 97A (to Chelmsley Wood and Birmingham Airport) and 50 (to Moseley and Druids Heath) operate 24 hours a day.
National Express West Midlands operates a shop in the Pavilions Shopping Centre (opposite Moor Street Station) which sells weekly and four weekly tickets, as well as smartcards with five Daysavers at a reduced rate of £4 each. There are also numerous NXWM agents located in shops around the city which sell bus passes.
Birmingham's bus system is roughly radial, with frequent services in and out of the city centre from most locations especially along the main radial routes. Additionally there are two useful circular routes, the Inner Circle, service 8A/8C, and the better known service 11A/11C, the Outer Circle (the A and C refer to anticlockwise and clockwise directions) which can be useful while travelling between different areas while avoiding the City Centre. There are also numerous services linking many suburbs, hospitals and shopping centres, which are generally less frequent and in some cases have no or poor evening or Sunday services. Compared to London, Birmingham has fewer bus lanes, which can result in much slower journeys at peak periods.
There is an extensive overland rail network serving most of Birmingham and the West Midlands area, operated mainly by London Midland.
Route maps and timetables are available from libraries, tourist information offices, railway stations and the Traveline Midlands Journey Planner (0870 608 2608). You can take bicycles, pushchairs and wheelchairs on board without prior reservation, and there is usually a designated carriage.
Fares vary with distance, but you can expect to pay between £2 and £5 for a day return to a local destination. Fare-dodging is rife, and there has been a crackdown recently with ticket barriers at some stations (New Street, Snow Hill, Moor Street, Five Ways and University) and on-board checking. The penalty for not having a valid ticket is a £20 on-the-spot fine (which can be contested in court, but is rarely worth the hassle).
From New Street station, the cross-city line runs between Lichfield Trent Valley in the north and Redditch in the south, stopping notably at Sutton Coldfield (for Sutton Park), Aston (for Aston Hall), University (for the University of Birmingham), Bournville (for Cadbury World) and Barnt Green (for Lickey Hills). Local services also run to Hereford(via Worcester and Malvern), Leamington Spa, Northampton (via Birmingham International Airport, Coventry and Rugby), Nuneaton, Shrewsbury (via Wolverhampton), Stafford (via Walsall), Stratford-upon-Avon, Tamworth and Warwick. Additional services to these areas run from Snow Hill and Moor Street stations (they are on the same line), and you may not be able to catch a specific train from New Street.
Birmingham has a single tram line, the Midland Metro, running between Bull Street and Wolverhampton, via the Jewellery Quarter, West Bromwich, Wednesbury and Bilston. Plans are afoot to extend the service to Five Ways, via the City Centre and along Broad Street.
The Metro runs from roughly 6:30AM–11:30PM Monday-Saturday, and 8AM-11PM Sundays and bank holidays. Fares vary with distance, but expect to pay around £2 for a single, £3.50 for a return and £4.50 for a day pass (combined bus/train/Metro passes are also available). Full route, timetable and fare information is listed on the Midland Metro website, and there is additional information on the NWM website.
By water bus
Water buses and taxis operate out of the canal offices in Gas Street Basin (underneath Broad Street). They also provide tours of the area. Obviously, they are limited to the local canals and are significantly slower than other forms of transport.
Birmingham's city centre is partially pedestrianised and has several unintuitive one-way systems. A car is a viable way of getting around the city and other areas, but a good map or sat-nav is essential.
Birmingham City Council produces a map of city centre car parks (available from tourist information offices). Expect to pay £1-1.50 per hour in Pay & Display areas and more on street meters. Parking attendants patrol popular areas regularly, so expect a fine if you return late or a clamp if you're parked illegally.
Car hire is possible both in the city centre and at the airport.
Motorcycles and mopeds are becoming increasingly popular in Birmingham as a way of avoiding rush hour traffic jams, and usually enjoy free parking in city centre car parks. Although not a lot of car parks have bike areas, there are a number of bays around the centre but none of them have any rails to lock your bike to.
Birmingham has an abundance of taxi ranks all over the city, the best-served being New Street Station. Both hackney carriages and private hire vehicles are easy to find, but you should exercise caution and not get into an unmarked car or one you haven't booked.
Friday and Saturday nights are the busiest times due to clubbers going home in masses, and there can be waits of over an hour if you're somewhere busy like Broad Street.
Popular providers include:
- AFJ Minibuses, Birmingham Minibus hire available 24 hours a day.
- Taxis Birmingham, has an online booking system.
- Airports Direct, 24hr airport taxis to and from Birmingham Airport.
- Jewels Airport Transfers, London Airport Taxi and Airport Transfers - £5.00 Off on All Airport Transfers, +44 20 3322-7723.
- Castle Cars, 13 Oak Tree Ln, Selly Oak, +44 121 472-2222.
- Elite Radio Cars, Omnibus Garage, Harborne Ln, Selly Oak, +44 121 415-5000.
- Falcon Cars, 211 Monument Rd, +44 121 555-6050.
- TOA Taxis, 100 Vivian Rd, Harborne, +44 121 427-8888. All major credit cards accepted with onboard Chip & Pin facilities.
- Big Yellow Taxi LTD, Carpenter Rd, 32 B15 2JH, +44 121 440-7117.
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Since the beginning of the 21st century Birmingham has developed enormously as a regional shopping centre, with the old Bull Ring complex (once a notorious 1960's eyesore) being demolished to make way for a large shopping centre that includes Selfridges.
The city and suburbs have the usual assortment of supermarkets, newsagents and corner shops. The city centre is especially well-served, with three Tesco, two Sainsbury's and one Co-op outlets.
- Bullring. A great place to pick up cheap food (including fresh fruit and veg).
- Pavilions. Immediately adjacent to the Bullring and home to the largest Waterstones, Marks & Spencer and HMV stores in the region.
- The Mailbox. Home to the region's only Harvey Nichols, as well as many other designer boutiques.
- Grand Central. Located directly above New Street Station. The Mall at the Grand Central features a large new (as of 2015) John Lewis Store and provides a fast link from the Debenhams side of the Bull Ring directly into New Street Station, with relatively little pedestrian traffic.
- Martineau Place. Martineau Place is a small, recently developed shopping centre, which holds a Gap, H&M, O'Neill Store and Freespirit, as well as an obligatory Starbucks Coffee House.
- Great Western Arcade. A traditional shopping arcade built in 1875 over the Great Western railway line, which cut through the city. It has an ornate entrance on the Temple Row side, and a less impressive one from Colmore Row and a clock with carillion. There is a mixture of all kinds of shops, all pleasantly fitting within the late 19th-century theme with their decorations.
- Picadilly Arcade, New Street. A historic shopping arcade with painted plafonds and a potpourri of specialist premises right next to the New Street station.
The principal shopping streets are New Street, High Street and Corporation Street. All include the usual assortment of high street chain-stores and discount outlets. Birmingham's High Street has become run down as of late, holding mainly discount stores, due to the attraction of the Bull Ring to larger name stores. However, New Street, going towards Victoria Square has many upmarket stores.
- Bull Ring Markets, The Bull Ring, , e-mail:[email protected]. Indoor Market: M-Sa 9AM-5:30PM, Rag Market: Tu Th-Sa 9AM-5PM, Open Market: Tu-Sa 9AM-5PM. The markets comprise the original trading centre that Birmingham was built upon. There are hundreds of stalls, and you'll be able to get everything from food to underwear to gaffa tape relatively cheaply.
- New Street Farmers' Market, New Street (in the City Centre). The market is held on the first and third Wednesday of every month, plus the second Wednesday in December. Other such markets are held in the suburbs of Moseley and Sutton Coldfield.
- The Frankfurt Christmas Market. Every Nov/Dec, the city centre hosts this unique Christmas market which is the largest such market outside of Germany and Austria.
- Nostalgia & Comics, 14-16 Smallbrook Queensway, . M-W 9:30AM–5:30PM, Th-Sa 9AM-6PM, Su noon-4PM.Comics, graphic novels, manga and the usual alternative oddities. Ideal if you want to catch up on your favourite series while on the road.
- Oasis, 112-114 Corporation St, . M-Sa 10AM-5PM. A large and intertwining collection of several small retailers over four floors, specialising in goth and alternative clothing and accessories.
- The Jewellery Quarter. To the north of the city centre, specialises in jewellery and contains many small workshops and retailers.
- Day In, The Arcadian Centre, . Chinese supermarket with a wide range of Asian foods.
- One Earth Shop, 54 Allinson St, Digbeth, . M-Sa 10AM-5PM. Specialty vegan wholefoods and other ethical essentials.
Birmingham is the balti capital of England, as the balti was invented here in 1977. The much-promoted "balti triangle" covers around 50 restaurants on Ladypool Road and Stratford Road in Sparkbrook (often referred to as Little Somalia), about 2 miles south of the city centre. Travel West Midlands has a deal with eight of the larger eateries whereby you can get a 15% discount for travelling by bus, pick up a Balti Triangle by Bus leaflet for full details. A taxi to the area will take around 10 minutes and cost £5. Although the area looks a bit run-down, there is little crime as the abundance of restaurants ensure that the streets are always busy.
Birmingham has a large student population, and the usual cottage industries have sprung up in campus areas to cater for their lack of cash. There are around a dozen cheap eateries in the Selly Oak area of Bristol Road, mainly Indian but also Chinese, Italian and English.
The usual fast food chains, kebab shops and burger vans are also scattered around the city and surrounding areas.
- Simply Baguette, Corporation Street (opposite The Square Peg). You simply cannot miss out on this gem if you are travelling on a budget. A variety (and a big one at that) of baguettes ranging from 50-75p. An absolute bargain.
- Wok Delight, .
- Canalside Cafe, 35 Worcester Bar, Gas St, .Daily 9AM-4PM. Fairly small cafe with a good range of organic and vegetarian foods. Excellent in the summer, as it's (unsurprisingly) right on the canalside. £3-12.
- Edwardian Tea Rooms, Chamberlain Square (inside Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery), . M-Th Sa 10AM-5PM, F 10:30AM-5PM, Su 12:30PM-5PM. Authentic Edwardian cafe in the heart of the museum. The food is a lot better than the price suggests. £3-12.
- Cafe Face, 519 Bristol Rd, Selly Oak, . M-Su 8AM-6PM. Absolutely excellent cafes, big helpings not shy on the cheese, garlic mayonnaise and chilli sauce if you were to order them. Excellent reputation for their roasted vegetables or jacket potatoes. £3-7.
- Whats Cooking: Rooster Chicken (Rooster House), Bottom of Harrow Road. 11AM-4AM. Delicious, slightly suspect chicken in huge quantities but don't order off the board or you'll be waiting all day £3.
The mid-range chain eateries are much the same as the ones you'd find in any British city, and you'll rarely be more than a few hundred yards away from one.
- Big Wok, 5 Wrottesley St, , e-mail:[email protected]. Daily noon-11:30PM. All-you-can-eat fixed price Chinese buffet restaurant. Expensive drinks. Very popular with students and locals. Lunch £5, dinner (after 5PM) £9.
- Cafe IKON, 1 Oozells Square, Brindleyplace, .M noon-11PM, Tu-Sa 11AM-11PM, Su 11AM-6PM. Modern cafe attached to the art gallery with efficient and friendly staff. Excellent muffins. £6-20.
- Cafe Soya, Unit 2, Upper Dean St, . Popular Chinese and Vietnamese place and not exclusively vegetarian, despite the name. £6-20.
- Celebrity Balti Restaurant, 44 Broad St (above the Brasshouse pub), . Decent Indian dishes. £12-35.
- Chez Jules, 5a Ethel Street, New Street, B2 4BG (Located near to the back entrance of New Street Station, just off New Street between the Town Hall square and the Bull Ring), , fax: , e-mail: [email protected]. Mon-Sat 12:00-15:00 and 17:00-23:00, Closed Summer Sunday, Sunday 12:00-15:00 during other seasons.. Good French food, with a more rustic feel than the nearby branch of the Cafe Rouge chain. Large bench seated tables for groups, and a more intimate area for couples. £15-30.
- Chung Ying Cantonese Restaurant, 16-18 Wrottesley St (off Hurst St), . THE Chinese Restaurant in Birmingham, established since 1981. Opposite Arcadian Centre. £10-35.
- Chung Ying Garden, 17 Thorp St (off Hurst St), , e-mail: [email protected]. Large, well-known Cantonese place. Huge menu, always full of Chinese people. Also offers private rooms for groups, karaoke and disco. £10-40.
- The Green Room, Arcadian Centre, Hurst St, , e-mail: [email protected]. M-W 11AM-11PM, Th 11AM-midnight, F Sa 11AM-2AM, Su noon-12:30AM. Varied contemporary menu, chilled-out atmosphere. Popular with the theatre crowd. £10-30.
- Kinnaree Thai Restaurant, 22 Water Front Walk, Holliday Wharf Building, Birmingham B1 1SN (Located across from the Qube, at the rear of the Mailbox), . Elaborately decorated in the Thai style, with similarly dressed and attentive staff. Views over the canal. Food nice, many items spicy £15-30.
- The Kitchen Garden Cafe, 17 York Road, Kings Heath.Picturesque area in the middle of a busy and bustling part of Birmingham. Quality vegetarian options and excellent service. This is one of those places that, in time, will only get better.
- Pasta Di Piazza, 11 Brook St (St. Paul's Square), . Daily noon-midnight. Upmarket Italian place, can be a bit crowded.£12-30.
- Shangri-la Chinese Restaurant, 51 Station Street, B5 4DY (On the southern side of Birmingham New Street Station), , e-mail: [email protected]. Su-Thu 11:00-23:00 Fri-Sat 12:00-24:00. Catering to both British and expatriate Chinese communities the food is of good quality, and the service unobtrusive (you may have to wave for attention). Though they do have plates, ask to keep your bowls and chopsticks for a more authentic experience. Try the hot Chinese tea, the spring rolls (with spicy dipping sauce) or the vegetarian lettuce wrapped to start, the side of Shangri-la noodles (fried, dry with various meats), and the sizzling steak (in strips, with sauce and vegetables). It will be ample for two. £15-25.
- Thai Edge, 7 Oozells Square, Brindleyplace, , e-mail: [email protected]. Daily noon-2:30PM and 5:30PM-11PM. Contemporary Oriental surroundings. Wide range of Thai dishes. £12-40.
- V2, 73-75 Pershore St, . Home-style Chinese cooking, popular with the local Chinese community. Clean and bright inside with trendy decor.
- Varsha, .
- Wagamama, Bullring plaza, (under Borders), B5 4QL, . M-Sa Noon-11PM, Su12:30PM-10PM. Birmingham's restaurant of the Wagamama chain, tidy and minimal inside with a good, varied noodle menu. Specials change frequently and there are a few good vegetarian dishes. Can get busy, with a typical wait from 10-15 minutes during peak shopping times.
Birmingham has quite a few upmarket places, mainly due to the number of high-rolling businesspeople that drift in for conferences and other dealings.
- Aria Restaurant, 2 Bridge St (In Hyatt lobby), . Daily 6:30AM-10:30PM. 3-course pre-concert table d'hôte menu.
- Rectory Bar & Restaurant, 50-54 St Pauls Square, . Ideal venue for both drinking and dining with a fabulous reputation for food. Quality steaks, fresh fish, set price menu and superb wine list. The bar is vibrant every weekend and is open to 1AM. It's a stylish place but friendly and attracts a great mix of people. £15-20.
- Metro Bar & Grill, 73 Cornwall St, . Seasonal seafood, pasta, salads and cocktails. £15-40.
- Opus Restaurant, 54 Cornwall St, , e-mail:[email protected]. Fresh seasonal produce with an unpretentious feel. Michelin Star quality without the price. £15-40.
- The Jam House, 1 St. Paul's Square, , e-mail: [email protected]. Varied menu and live music most nights.£20-50.
- Turners, 69 High Street, Harborne, B17 9NS, . One Michelin star. Lunch from £40, Dinner £50 - £208.
- Purnell's, 55 Cornwall St, . One Michelin star.~£30-70.
Vegetarian and vegan
Considering its size, Birmingham does not have a wide range of vegetarian-specific places to eat. All the eateries mentioned above will have vegetarian options, but the Indian and Chinese places tend to have better variety. If you are vegan ask for your balti/curry to be cooked without ghee (clarified butter). Naan breads are generally not vegan whilst rotis are.
- Jyoti, 569-571 Stratford Rd, Hall Green (4 miles south of the city. #5 or #6 bus), . Tu-F 6PM-9:15PM (last orders), Th F noon-2:30PM, Sa Su 1PM-9:15PM (last orders), closed M. Excellent Indian food, but relatively small portions. Extremely popular, so book ahead. £5-20.
- The Warehouse Cafe, 54 Allison St, . Tu-F noon-12:30PM, Sa noon-3PM, F Sa 6PM-9PM. Wholesome organic vegetarian and vegan fare. Closely linked with Friends of the Earth. £5-20.
- Chennai Dosa, 169-171 Hagley Road, .Edgbaston. A popular restaurant serving South Indian cuisine, which is known for it's Dosas. Has vegan options. £5-10.
- Mr Singh's All Vegetarian Pizza, 103 Cornwall Rd, . Handsworth Wood. Vegan and vegetarian pizza restaurant. £5-10.
Selly Oak is in South Birmingham and has its own train station with frequent services from Birmingham New Street. It can also be reached by buses, which stop along the Bristol Road. The University of Birmingham is located close by, and hence the majority of residents in Selly Oak are students, who live in terraced houses mainly in a rather poor state.
The shops and services on Bristol Road cater for the student population. There are many take-aways / junk food places, letting agents, off-licenses, cheap restaurants and pubs.
- The Soak. Very cheap and decent food available, as well as a wide range of drinks.
- The Bristol Pear. Again part of the Scream chain but much smaller than the Gun Barrels. Cheap drinks.
- Khanum. Indian restaurant. Very good. Cheap. You can bring your own wine. As of summer 2013 Khanum has been refurbished as 'Chick-in' selling fried chicken with a fast food type front end. Curry of the same quality can still be purchased.
- Chamon. Indian restaurant. Pretty good. Cheap. You can bring your own wine.
- Sheratton. Indian restaurant, pretty good you can bring your own wine. They give you big discount.
- Cafe Eastern Delight. Pretty Indian restaurant. You will have about 5 waiters behind your back if you eat there.
- Suzen's Noodle Bar. Food often too oily. Cheap.
- Rimini. Italian restaurant. Prices higher than usual in the area, but quality of food and presentation is usually better than most local restaurants. You can bring your own wine.
- Pizza Land / Mama Wia / Luciano's All little shops that serve very cheap (but good) pizza cooked by people who probably get paid less than the national minimum wage.
- Selly Sausage. Popular cheap student restaurant. Good for paninis, pancakes, omelettes and the like. Host of "the campus mate" - a dating section by the local student newspaper.
- Kebab Land. Name says it all.
Sights & Landmarks
Birmingham doesn't have a reputation for being especially picturesque, but there is a lot of interesting architecture in the city centre that the shops and crowds sometimes obscure. For such a (relatively) large population centre, the countryside (in the form of country parks) is surprisingly close.
The West Midlands region has been the hub for automotive production and development ever since the advent of the automobile, and even today two automobile factories remain operational within the city limits of Birmingham, both offering factory tours. There is also a chocolate factory for some sweeter treats.
- Jaguar Castle Bromwich Assembly, Chester Road, Castle Vale, , e-mail:[email protected].The north of Birmingham hosts Jaguar's Castle Bromwich Assembly plant, which makes most Jaguar's models, and especially the high-end ones. Factory visits are available, and have to be pre-booked by specifically contacting the Visitors Centre by phone or email.
- MG Birmingham (Longbridge Assembly) (There is not much in the way of public transportation options, and the area is not quite walkable. Arriving by car is recommended.), , e-mail:[email protected]. Tours start 1.00pm every Thursday and last 2 hours. The MG company, whose name derives from "Morris Garages", now owned by the Chinese SAIC concern, is the heir to the rich heritage of British Leyland and BMC. The factory had produced a number of storied Austin and Morris vehicles before becoming the hub for the Rover brand production, as it replaced the former two. In the next chapter of its history, the MG brand in turn was revived and replaced Rover as the fate of the company changed. As MG is not present in most Western countries, many visitors may be unaware that the company is still trading and assembling a new generation of vehicles at the Longbridge plant.
The site tours include not only the factory, but also the MG Museum, a preserved office of Lord Austin, the Technical Centre where new MGs are developed and the Sales Centre, where one can get acquainted with the current MG lineup and even have a test drive (should be pre-arranged when booking the tour). £5 per person.
- Cadbury World, Linden Rd, Bournville B30 2LU (train to Bournville), . Opening times vary enormously but tend to be daily 10AM-4PM in the spring, summer and autumn. Huge chocolate factory south of the city centre. Tour includes the history of chocolate and the Cadbury company, plus a brief look at some of the factory floor. Some free chocolate, plus relatively cheap mis-shapes in the shop. £13.90 (concessions £10.50, children £10.10. Combined train and entry tickets available).
- Land Rover has its main assembly plant in nearby Solihull.
Birmingham's population is very diverse, and communities from just about any country in the world can be found somewhere. This is turn has led to numerous centres for all the world's major religions.
- Birmingham Cathedral (St Philip's Cathedral), Colmore Row, , e-mail:[email protected]. M-F 7:30AM-6:30PM (5PM from late Jul to early Sep), Sa Su 8:30AM-5PM. Church of England cathedral, built between 1709 and 1715 and the centre of the Diocese of Birmingham. Grade 1 listed building in the UK, designed as a parish church in the Baroque style by Thomas Archer. Contains four spectacular pre-Raphaelite stained glass windows.
- Birmingham Peace Pagoda, Osler St, Ladywood, . Situated in a remote residential corner of Birmingham, the gold-roofed pagoda is a sight to behold. The pagoda is designed as symbol of peace, compassion and the noble exemplary qualities of the Buddha.
- St Chad's Cathedral, St Chad's Queensway, . M-F 8AM-5PM, Sa 9AM-5PM, Su 9AM-1PM. Catholic cathedral built in 1841 and designated a Minor Basilica in 1941. Contains the Shrine of St. Chad.
- St Martin in the Bull Ring, Bull Ring (between the shopping complex and the markets). 10AM-5PM. St. Martin is the parish church of Birmingham, or "The Cathedral of the Bull Ring", as some would say. The first church was probably Norman, but was rebuilt in the 13th century. As it stands today, most of the church dates from 1875, though inside you can see the 1325 effigy of the Lord of the Manor Sir William de Bermingham. The church is a Grade II* listed building in the UK.
- St. Paul's Church.
- St. Thomas' Church and Peace Gardens.
Birmingham holds a wealth of architectural heritage from different eras, including also buildings with no touristically viable function. Some of them are listed below.
- BT Tower, Lionel St. Cimpleted in 1966, it is the tallest structure in Birmingham at 152 m, and serves solely as the support for some 80 transmission antennas mounted atop it. It has no viewing platform or other accessible floors at all, but it can serve as a landmark and orientation point as it is clearly visible from many parts of town. Its square profile sets it apart from many other similar structures in the world
- Library of Birmingham, Cambridge St / Centenary Square. Mo-Fr 8AM-8PM, Sa 9AM-5PM, Su 11AM-4PM. The new ziggurat-shaped library building at Centenary Square was opened in September 2013 to replace the very controversial brutalist Birmingham Central Library in Paradise Circus, which incidentally employs an inverted-ziggurat design and is scheduled to be demolished as of 2014. It is the single largest public library in the UK and one of the largest in the whole of Europe. The project, which involved years of planning and preparation and a major architectural contest, was hailed as the cornerstone of Birmingham's urban revival. The building was designed by the Dutch firm Mecanoo architecten, and took four years to be completed. It includes an intricate facade decoration, despite the very simple form of the building, as well as a number of innovative sustainable solutions. To explore the building take the lift to the top (9th) floor to see the Shakespeare Memorial Room, a fine wooden panelled library, which was originally in the city's library built in 1882. There is also a viewing window to look over the city. There are outside garden spaces on the 7th and 3rd floors which give different city views. The four lower floors house the public library, laid out in an impressive style. Free.
- Bell Edison Telephone Building (The Exchange), 17 & 19 Newhall Street. It is a signature, Grade-I-listed, building for the red-brick-and-terracota Victorian style prevalent in the late 19th century in Birmingham, which lacked natural stone and battled sooting problems due to air pollution. It is also a symbol of modernisation of Birmingham, as it was originally built to house the Central Telephone Exchange for Birmingham, and the logos of the Bell-Edison company are still visible within the building. As the telephone exchange relocated many decades ago, the building now houses office and a bar.
- Birmingham Back to Backs, 55-63 Hurst Street/50-54 Inge Street, B5 4TE, e-mail:[email protected]. Tours need to be booked a few days in advance, usually open daily except Mon, 10:00 (or 13:00 Tu-Th) - 17:00. Last surviving set of these 19th-century cramped, working-class houses in Birmingham, restored and preserved by the National Trust. £8.55.
- The Old Crown, 188 High St, Deritend. The Old Crown lays claim to being the oldest building in Birmingham (allegedly standing there since 1368), and retains a timber-framed construction, rare to find in the city. Saved from demolition multiple times, it remains an operational pub until today.
- Curzon Street station. The Curzon Street station was the original main railway station of Birmingham, offering connections to London since 1838 and to Liverpool and Manchester since 1839. It was quickly overshadowed by the original Birmingham New Street station built in 1854, and saw less and less traffic ever since, becoming a goods station only in the 20th century, before being put completely out of use in 1996 with its tracks later dismantled.
The only surviving remainder is the solitary small station entrance building, which is Grade I listed and quite elegant in form. As of 2014, it stands next to an open plot of land resulting from the removal of station tracks, platforms and other infrastructure, which is awaiting redevelopment. The building is not open for visiting and only occasionally hosts arts events and such.
- Rotunda. The Rotunda is the only surviving part of the original Bull Ring centre, originally devised as a 25-storey office building in a round shape, from which it dervies its name. In many ways, it was a groundbreaking and daring engineering and architectural feat when it was constructed in the 1960s, and because of its significance it became Grade II listed. In the 2000s, as the Bullring centre was redeveloped, the Rotunda was thoroughly refurbished into a residential tower with 232 luxury apartments. Those on floors 19 and 20 are available for short term stays via Staying Cool, who operates them. The building is not accessible to the public.
- Hall of Memory. Mon - Sat 10:00 - 16:00. A war memorial built in 1925, as a memorial to the 12,320 Birmingham citizens killed in the first world war. free.
- Town Hall.
- Council House.
- Singers Hill Synagogue.
- Birmingham School of Art(Birmingham Institute of Art and Design), Margaret Street. Built in 1885 in High Victorian red brick style as a new seat for the Birmingham School of Art, the building retains its original function as its original occupier survived several educational institution mergers and is now the Birmingham Institute of Art and Design within Birmingham City University. The building itself is Grade I listed.
- Victoria Law Courts (Magistrates' Court), Corporation Street. A prime example of Birmingham's red-brick-and-terracota architecture, covered not only with deep red terracota on the outside, but also with rich terracota decorations on the inside. Located in the grand Corporation Street among other buildings similar in style. First opened in 1891, it continues to house a court of law, the Birmingham Magistrates' Court.
- Methodist Central Hall, 196-224 Corporation Street. The hall was built in 1904 in a similar red-brick-and-terracota style to the Victoria Law Courts it faces. It is distinguished by its tall tower. It also retail premises at street level, some with original shop fronts. The building ceased to perfom its original function and has been converted into a very large night club. It is Grade II listed.
- Hudson's Coffee House, 122-124 Colmore Row. The former coffee house is a rare, Grade I listed, example of a wall-to-wall townhouse in the Arts & Crafts style. It was originally built to house offices of the Eagle Insurance Company in 1900.
- Red Palace, 1-7 Constitution Hill. A thin corner building in the red-brick-and-terracota style was originally devised to house industrial workshops, with incorporated machinery and infrastructure. The building, distinguished by its ornamental tower at the very corner, ended up housing consecutive ethnic restaurants, most recently Syrian.
Parks and nature
There are small parks and green spaces all over the city and suburbs, and the countryside is only about thirty minutes away in any direction. The country parks and nature reserves usually contain a wealth of information about local flora, fauna and conservation efforts.
- Birmingham Botanical Gardens & Glasshouses, Westbourne Rd, Edgbaston (#22, #23, #24 or #29 bus), , e-mail:[email protected]. M-Sa 9AM-7PM, Su 10AM-7PM (Closes at 5PM or dusk Oct-Mar). Large botanical gardens with a huge range of plants and workshops throughout the year. £6.10 (concessions £3.60, family tickets available).
- Birmingham Nature Centre, Pershore Rd, B5 7RL (#45 or #47 bus, adjacent to Cannon Hill Park), , fax: , e-mail: [email protected]. Daily 10AM-5PM Apr-Oct, Sa Su 10AM-4PM Nov-Mar. Six-acre centre with lots of animals and birds, including deer, otters, owls and two rare Red Pandas. £1.70 (concessions £1.10, children free).
- Cannon Hill Park, Pershore Rd (#45 or #47 bus), , e-mail: [email protected]. Well-maintained park with flowerbeds, tennis, bowling and water features. Contains tea rooms and the Midlands Arts Centre. Free admission.
- Lickey Hills Country Park, Rednal (train to Barnt Green or #X62 bus), , e-mail: [email protected].Popular park (heathland, coniferous forest and deciduous forest) covering over 200 hectares with a visitor centre, pub and golf course. Best visited in the spring (for bluebells) or autumn (for bilberries and turning leaves).Free admission.
- Moseley Bog & Joy's Wood Nature Reserve (Bus 2, 3, 3a), , e-mail: [email protected]. A small woodland area that is said to be the Inspiration for Fangorn Forest in the Lord of The Rings. The area is well looked after with a series of wooden platforms and walkways creating pathways to follow. A visit can also be linked in with Sarehole Mill, another haunt of young Tolkien approx 5 minutes walk away. free admission.
- National Sea Life Centre, Brindleyplace, . , (info line)10AM-6PM (last admission 4PM M-F, 5PM Sa Su). Large sea life centre with a multitude of aquatic animals, including piranhas, turtles, sea horses, rays and otters. Feeding demonstrations throughout the day. £9.95 (concessions £6.95, family tickets available).
- RSPB Sandwell Valley, 20 Tanhouse Ave, Great Barr, B43 5AG(Train to Hamstead; No 16 bus; or signposted from local roads), , e-mail: [email protected]. Tu-F 9AM-5PM, Sa Su 10AM-5PM (closes at dusk in winter). A bird reserve on the border with Sandwell which organises regular guided walks, talks and family activities. free entrance.
- Sutton Park, Sutton Coldfield (train to Sutton Coldfield or #66A bus), , e-mail:[email protected]. Enormous (over 900 hectare) park including heathland, wetland, marshes, woodland and lakes. Designated an English Nature National Nature Reserve in 1997. Lots of activities on offer including golf, angling, cycling and bird watching.Free admission.
- Winterbourne House and Garden, 58 Edgbaston Park Road, Edgbaston, B15 2RT (on the University of Birmingham campus).
- Woodgate Valley Country Park, Bartley Green (#23 bus), , e-mail:[email protected]. 450-acre meadow, hedgerow and woodland park containing Woodgate Valley Urban Farmand Hole Farm Trekking Centre. Best visited in spring and summer when there are hundred of wild flowers and butterflies. Free admission.
- Eastside City Park.
Museums & Galleries
For a place with a strong industrial heritage, Birmingham does not have the large range of historical attractions you may expect, however, this is offset by the arts being extremely well-represented.
- Aston Hall, Trinity Rd, Aston(Train to Aston or Witton or #7 bus), , e-mail:[email protected]. Restored Jacobean mansion built between 1618 and 1635, containing period rooms and artwork. Cannon damage from the English Civil War is still visible. The Hall was visited by Arthur Conan Doyle and Washington Irving, inspiring the latter's 'Bracebridge Hall'. Aston Hall by Candlelight is a popular Christmas event that takes place every two years (even numbers) where the whole grounds are lit by candles for 17th-century festivities (fee charged). Free entrance.
- While you're in the area make your way down to 14 Lodge Road, birthplace of Ozzy Osbourne. This is a private house (so please respect the occupants' privacy) but a popular photo-spot for heavy metal fans. Lodge Road is about 1/2 a mile from Aston Hall and runs between Witton Road and Trinity Road. Most crime in Aston occurs after dark so you should be fairly safe during the day. You'll also experience the inspiration behind Black Sabbath's grim early lyrics!
- Barber Institute of Fine Arts, University of Birmingham, Edgbaston B15 2TS (on the University of Birmingham campus, off Edgbaston Park Rd, train to University or #61, #62 or #63 bus), , fax:, e-mail: [email protected]. M-Sa 10AM-5PM, Su noon-5PM. Small gallery with an excellent eclectic permanent collection, including many pre-Raphaelites. Good Britain Guide gallery of the year 2004. Free (donations welcome).
- Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery, Chamberlain Square B3 3DH(Central), , e-mail:[email protected]. M-Th Sa 10AM-5PM, F 10:30AM-5PM, Su 12:30PM-5PM. Large museum with some local history, several temporary exhibitions and large permanent collection including an extensive collection of Pre-Raphaelite paintings. Home to part of the stunning Anglo-Saxon hoard, the largest hoard of Anglo-Saxon gold metal work discovered in the UK in 2009. Includes the Gas Hall and Waterhall Gallery of Modern Art. Free (donations welcome).
- IKON Gallery, 1 Oozells Square, Brindleyplace B1 2HS (off Broad St), , fax: , e-mail: [email protected]. Tu-Su 11AM-6PM.Small gallery with two or three temporary modern and conceptual art installations. Excellent cafe (see below). Free (donations welcome).
- Lapworth Museum of Geology, University of Birmingham, Edgbaston B15 2TS (on the University of Birmingham campus, off Edgbaston Park Rd, train to University or #61, #62 or #63 bus). Closed for refurbishment until October 2015.
- Sarehole Mill, Cole Bank Rd, Hall Green B13 OBD (#4, #5, #6 #11 buses), , fax: , e-mail:[email protected]. Apr-Oct, T-Su 11:30AM-4PM (closed Mondays except Bank Holidays). Built in 1765, Sarehole Mill is a fine example of one of more than fifty water mills that existed in Birmingham at one time. Matthew Boulton used the Mill for making buttons and for metal rolling until he moved his operations to Soho in 1761. In the late 1890s Sarehole was the childhood haunt of Hobbit author J.R.R. Tolkien, and famously influenced 'The Shire' in The Lord of the Rings. Check the website for special events. A short 5 minute walk away is Moseley Bog a woodland said to have inspired Fangorn Forest.Adults £3, Concessions £2, Under 16 free, Free on first Sunday of month.
- Royal Birmingham Society of Artists, 4, Brook Street (Off St. Paul's Square. Metro: St. Paul's Square). Independent art gallery. Free entrance.
- Soho House, Soho Ave, Handsworth, B18 5LB (Located off Soho Rd, Buses: 74, 78 and 79, Metro: Benson Road (there is a steep uphill walk to the house)), , e-mail:[email protected]. 8 Apr-29 Oct, Tu-Su 11:30AM-4PM (closed Mondays except Bank Holidays). The elegant home of industrial pioneer Matthew Boulton, who lived at the house from 1766 to 1809. Here, he met with some of the most important scientists, engineers and thinkers of his time - the Lunar Society. Free entrance.
- Thinktank, Millennium Point, Curzon St (directions), , e-mail: [email protected]. Daily 10AM-5PM (last admission 4PM). Science museum with lots of hands-on activities, vehicles and industrial machines, however it must be noted that the activities all smell of their popularity. IMAX cinema (see Cinema section) in the same building. £6.95 (concessions £5, children £4.95. Family and IMAX combination tickets available).
- Museum of the Jewellery Quarter, 75-79 Vyse Street, Hockley, Birmingham, B18 6HA, .Tuesday-Saturday 10:30-16:00 (last admission one hour before), closed Sunday and Monday except Bank Holiday Mondays.Jewellery workshop abandoned in working condition, later reopened as a museum. Visits are by tour, lasting approximately one hour. Worth seeing, especially in the context of the wider, still working commercial jewellery quarter. Free, though donations are requested.
Things to do
Concerts, theatre shows and other events are comprehensively listed and reviewed on Birmingham Alive!.
The live music scene in Birmingham is vibrant and varied, and something can be experienced just about any night of the week. Libraries, tourist information offices and music-related bars and shops will stock copies ofThe Fly or "Ryan's Gig Guide" free publications with exhaustive listings of every music event going on in the city and surrounding area.
- Symphony Hall, Broad St, , e-mail: , (box office)[email protected].Internationally renowned concert venue with two to four classical concerts per week. Also offersSounds Interesting free pre-concert talks. £7.50-40 (price varies with seating. Some £5 tickets available 1 month in advance. Student standbys £3.50 from 10AM / 1PM on performance day).
- CBSO Centre, Berkley St (off Broad St), , e-mail: , (ticket line)[email protected]. Modern rehearsal facilities for the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra (CBSO). Concerts usually once a week, including Centre Stage intimate chamber music. £5-12.
- The Institute, 78 Digbeth, . , (ticket line)Having recently undergone a huge and lengthy restoration, The Institute (formerly the HMV Institute) is the new name for the old Sancutary and Barfly venues in Digbeth. Focusing on Alternative, pop and urban music The Institute has 3 arenas hosting gigs from local and touring bands. The venue also hosts regular club nights. Tickets £6-25 (price varies with band fame).
- O2 Academy Birmingham, 16-18 Horsefair, Bristol St, , e-mail: , (info line)[email protected]. Relocated from its previous Dale End location, O2 Academy is a large music venue hosting many gigs from local and touring artists. The Venue has 3 separate arenas, O2 Academy, Academy 2 and Academy 3 and each venue may be open consecutively with up to 3 different gigs on some nights. The venue mainly focuses on alternative rock and indie. Weekend Gig tickets usually allow entry to the club night going on afterwards. £6-25 (price varies with band fame).
- Flapper and Firkin, Cambrian Wharf, Kingston Row (near the National Indoor Arena), . M-Th noon-11PM, F Sa noon-midnight, Su noon-10:30PM. Friendly pub, popular with students. Live music Th-Sa from 8:30PM, usually underground rock, punk and indie. £4 (£3 with promotional flyer).
In addition to the main venues mentioned below, there are several small theatres scattered around the city and the suburbs; pick up a What's On guide from a library or tourist information office for full listings.
- Alexandra Theatre, Station St., .Edwardian theatre showing pre- and post-West End plays and musicals. £6-50 (price varies with seating).
- Birmingham Hippodrome, Hurst St, , e-mail:[email protected]. Large, recently refurbished theatre showing varied performing arts, including ballet, musicals, comedy, opera and drama. Home of the Patrick Centre for the Performing Arts and the Birmingham Royal Ballet. Preferred venue for the Welsh National Opera. £6-50 (price varies with seating. Concessions £3-5 off or £10-15 student & seniors (plus non-student/senior friend) standby 24 hours in advance. 3%-6% transaction fee if not paying by cash).
- Crescent Theatre, 20 Sheepcote St (off Broad St), . Box office M-F 4:30PM-7PM, Sa noon-7PM. Independent local theatre company performing both old and modern plays. £7-12 (concessions £1-1.50 off).
- Midlands Arts Centre (MAC). See Cinema. £5-20.
- Old Rep Theatre, Station St, , e-mail:[email protected]. Home of the Birmingham Stage Company, puts on both professional and amateur productions. £5-15.
- Repertory Theatre, Centenary Square, Broad St, , e-mail: [email protected]. Well-established theatre putting on classical and modern plays. Supports new work through The Door. £5-15.
- Old Joint Stock Theatre, 4 Temple Row West.Located in a beautifully located original 1864 building that was originally built as a bank, this intimate (only 95 seats) theatre hosts both guest performances as well as two resident companies, a Musical Theatre Group and a regular Theatre Group. It also serves as the main venue for the comedic Foghorn Improv. Downstairs is a pub located in the preserved Victorian bank hall with a glass dome and lavish decorations.
Birmingham's cinemas are quite reasonably priced due to stiff competition for the student market. Don't expect a huge range of "alternative" films, as even the independent places screen mainstream blockbusters to keep their revenues up.
- The Electric Cinema, 47-49 Station St, , e-mail: [email protected]. Daily, doors open 30 minutes before the film starts. The oldest still-operating cinema building in the UK (opening in 1909), famous for its Art Deco interiors, home baking and cocktail bar. The cinema now features sofa seating, waiter service and the best in intelligent mainstream and independent films. £6 (concessions £4, sofa seat £10).
- mac (Midlands Arts Centre), Cannon Hill Park, Edgbaston/Moseley(#1, #45 or #47 bus), , e-mail:[email protected]. M-Sa 9AM-11PM (Su 10:30PM). The mac, located in the leafy suburb of Edgbaston has a small but perfectly formed arthouse cinema. £6 (concessions £4.50).
- The Giant Screen, Millennium Point, Curzon St., , e-mail: [email protected]. Daily 10AM-5PM. Part of the Thinktank science museum. 2D and 3D films shown on an enormous (five story) screen. Some mainstream films, mainly documentaries. £9.60 (concessions £7.60, children under 16 £7.60, family and joint Thinktank tickets available).
- AMC, 220 Ladywood Middleway, Broadway Plaza, . Daily 10AM-1AM. A large modern multiplex showing recent mainstream films. £5 (£3.50 concessions and before 6:30PM).
- Cineworld, 181 Broad St, . Daily 10AM-1AM.A large modern multiplex showing recent mainstream films. £5.50 (£3.50 concessions and before 6:30PM, family tickets available).
- Odeon, New Street, . Cinema showing mainstream films, near to Bullring shopping centre and New Street station. You can't really call it much of a multiplex. It is a 1930s building with very few screens and the seats are so close together your legs hurt after the advertisements. £5.20 (£4 before 5PM M-F).
- Vue, 29 Star City, . Multiplex within the Star City entertainment complex north east of the town center (which also boasts restaurants, bars, nightclubs, bowling and a large casino). The cinema offers 24 screens, including 3 gold class screens with larger, more comfortable seats, at-seat service, free popcorn and a bar. £5.70-6.60 (£8-15 for gold class).
- Birmingham International Film Society.
Council-run leisure centres are liberally scattered throughout Birmingham, typically offering swimming pools, sports courts, fields and exercise equipment, all available at much lower prices than you'd expect to pay at privately-run gyms. There's also plenty of golf courses, both municipal and private, across the city including the world famous Belfry complex.
- Villa Park, B6 6HE, , e-mail:[email protected]. Home of Aston Villa F.C. Birmingham's most successful football club having won 7 FA Cups, 7 league titles, and one European Cup. £25-35, capacity 42,786. Accessed with the Number 7 bus from the City Centre, or a train to Witton (don't be fooled, this is next door to the stadium) or Aston, a fairly long walk from the stadium, just follow the crowd, from New Street station.
- St Andrews, B9 4NH, , e-mail:[email protected]. Home of Birmingham City F.C. Birmingham's other main football club. Less successful than Aston Villa, with only 2 League Cups to their name, City have nonetheless maintained a strong fan base throughout the years. £15-30, capacity 30,016. Accessed from Bordesley train station, catch a train from Birmingham Moor Street, opposite the Bullring.
- Edgbaston Cricket Ground, B5 7QU, 0870 062 1902 (non-geographic number), e-mail: [email protected]. Home of Warwickshire County Cricket Club Edgbaston hosts both county cricket matches and international test matches throughout the summer months. £6-15 for Warwickshire games and £20-70 for Internationals, capacity 25,000. This is walkable from the City Centre, however, for a warwickshire Mid-week Day game, don't be at all surprised if you're the only one there.
- Alexander Stadium, Stadium Way, Perry Barr, B42 2LR, , e-mail: [email protected]. The Alexander Stadium, situated in Perry Barr, is Birmingham's only large athletics stadium and plays host to international meets and trials to decide the English/British teams for major events as well as being the base for the Birchfield Harriers athletics club. The stadium's various sporting facilities are also open to public use. £1-2, capacity 7,000.
- Edgbaston Priory, Sir Harrys Rd, Edgbaston, B15 2UZ, , e-mail: [email protected]. Edgbaston Priory is the main tennis club in Birmingham, with 29 tennis courts, 10 squash courts, 2 swimming pools and a gym available to the public. Every June the club also hosts the DFS Classic , a woman's tennis tournament that acts as a warm-up for Wimbledon. DFS Classic tickets £8-20.
- The Belfry, Lichfield Rd, Sutton Coldfield, B76 9PR, 0870 900 0066 (non-geographic number), e-mail: [email protected]. The Belfry Golf Club runs three courses just to the north east of Birmingham, including the world famous Brabazon course which has been used for the Ryder Cup and continues to play host to tournaments on the PGA European Tour. Green fees £25-140, tournament spectator tickets £7.50-20.
- Grand Prix Karting, Adderley Rd South, B8 1AD, . Large go-karting centre just east of the city centre. £10-50.
- The Ackers, Golden Hillock Rd, Small Heath, B11 2PY, , e-mail: [email protected]. The Ackers is an outdoor activity centre offering a range of activities, ranging from kayaking and archery to rock climbing and dry slope skiing. Prices vary depending on activity. Skiing/snowboarding sessions £11 for one hour.
- Birmingham Speedway, Aldridge Rd, Perry Barr, B42 2ET, . Open W 7:45PM. (Perry Barr Stadium). Come and see Premier League speedway racing every Wednesday.
- Drayton Manor, B78 3TW, , e-mail:[email protected]. Located just outside Tamworth inStaffordshire, is the fourth most popular theme park in the UK, with 35 rides set in 280 acres of land as well as a 15 acre zoo. To get to the park during school holidays simply catch the special E22 bus in the mornings (typically just before 9 and 10) from Carrs Lane stop DK (near the Pavilions Shopping Centre). A return ticket should cost £10. Outside of school holidays you'll need to catch bus 110, which runs every half hour from Bull Street stop BF (near Snow Hill station) and get off at Fazeley. The return fare is £4. If you're unsure of where exactly the stop is (and it's easy to miss) ask the driver to signal you when you need to get off. Admission £18.95-20.95.
Festivals and events
Birmingham hosts some of the largest events, exhibitions and conferences in the country, which may or may not be of interest to a visitor.
- National Exhibition Centre(NEC), Marston Green, Solihull(train to Birmingham International or #900 bus), , e-mail:[email protected]. A huge exhibition centre, staging more than 180 exhibitions each year in 21 halls totalling 200,000 square metres. Also includes a 12,000-seat arena hosting national and international sporting and entertainment events. Free-£40 (price varies with event).
- Barclaycard Arena (National Indoor Arena), King Edwards Rd., B1 2AA, , e-mail: [email protected]. A fairly large, modern arena hosting many national and international sporting and entertainment events. £6-50 (price varies with event and seating).
- International Convention Centre (ICC), Broad St, , e-mail: [email protected]. A modern convention centre sharing a building with Symphony Hall.
- The Custard Factory, Gibb Street. Self-styled "Birmingham's Creative Quarter" this eclectic venue plays host to various events, as well as club nights on weekends and some weekdays in what was an actual custard factory in its former life. On bigger nights the large pool at the centre of the venue is drained and turned into a dancefloor with a heated marquee over it.
Dress code restrictions are rather common in Birmingham clubs, so be careful to check out each club's policy. Many clubs refuse to admit large groups of males in case of trouble, so go individually or in small groups. The usual excuse that door-staff give is that someone in the party is wearing the wrong type of shoes/coat/trousers etc. The general rule of thumb is no effort, no entry. This usually means shoes, not trainers, and a shirt, not a T-shirt. At the same time being dressed like that can be a hindrance, if you go to one of the cooler bars. It's best to check with someone who's been to the particular bar before. There are a number of areas in the city centre, which are defined below, but other areas to look for a night out are Moseley, Harborne and Selly Oak.
If you are looking for the average drink, virtually any pub or bar will do. If you are a real ale aficionado, there are several excellent pubs to visit, where dress restrictions do not usually apply. Highlights include The Wellington (Bennets Hill), The Shakeseare (Summer Row), another The Shakeseare (Lower Temple Street), The Old Contemptables (Edmund Street, near Snow Hill Station), and the Post Office Vaults (New Street).
- Bull, 1 Price St, B4 6JU, . Quiet and comfortable pub, in the Gun quarter.
- Figure of Eight, 236 Broad St, B1 2HG, .Large city centre pub belonging to the Wetherspoon chain.
- Bacchus, Burlington Arcade, . Cheerfully insane ornate, gothic style cellar bar beneath The Burlington Hotel. Discretely hidden just off the bustling New Street. Bacchus is a relaxing oasis away from the buzz of the City Centre. A range of real ales is available. Over 21s only
- Craven Arms, Upper Gough Street, . Situated out of the rear of the Mailbox complex, has great traditional blue tiled exterior.
- Edmunds Lounge Bar and Eatery, 106-110 Edmund Street, . Popular venue in the financial part of town, great food available every day. Known for quality pub food from local suppliers. £8-12.
- The Malt House, 74 King Edwards Road, B1 2NX (Sandwiched between the ICC and the NIA along the canal), .12AM-11PM. Make no mistake this is a chain pub serving standard food and drinks. However, when the sun is shining it is difficult to find a nicer place to drink along Birmingham's canals as there is a plethora of outdoor seating. Visited by Bill Clinton during his Birmingham visit.
- Old Fox, 54 Hurst St, .
- Old Joint Stock, 4 Temple Row West, B2 5NY (Faces St. Philips cathedral), . Superbly decorated pub in a former bank, Grade II listed. Multi-award winning establishment. Sells mainly Fullers' brand.
- Old Royal, 53 Church St,B3 2DP, . Single bar with large-screen TV. The pub is popular with office workers.
- The Queens Arms, 150 Newhall Street, . A great place to watch live sport and the venue of the best quiz night in Birmingham every Thursday night. It's just £1 to enter and there's no limit on the size of the teams. A great night out for seasoned quiz-goers and first-timers alike. Homemade pizzas and a sausage selection giving a fresh choice every day, also has two for one offers every weekday. Great place for traditional ales and a Cask Marque award winner. £5-12 per dish.
- The Wellington, Bennets Hill (Just of Colmore Row), . An outstanding and frequently-changing selection of well-kept real ales, lagers, ciders and perry (the current list can be viewed on-line), run by knowledgeable CAMRA members. No food served, but condiments, cutlery and crockery are available to people bringing their own.
- Wetherspoon's, Unit 31, Paradise Place, B3 3HJ (Under Central Library, between Chamberlain Square and Centenary Square), . Part of the eponymous Wetherspoon chain. Also handy for International Convention Centre, art gallery and museum.
In the middle of Birmingham's rather small Chinatown, this is an open at the centre shopping arcade which is mostly used by Chinese super markets and restaurants. Right in the middle though, its all bars. It tends to be a bit quieter and less rowdy that broad street and has some of the better clubs in the city. The dress code around here is extremely strict in regard to logos on clothes, they are a definite no! Most of the bars are interchangeable, but recommended are:
- Sobar. Supposedly a noodle bar, as evidence by a small noodle based menu. Really this is just a pretty decent bar. It stocks the standard beers and drinks as well as a number of rarer Asian beers. Has a number of extremely comfortable sofas.
- Bamboo. One of the best, but also one of the most pretentious clubs in Birmingham. Its not cheap but is still the place to be seen. The dress code here is very hard to define, they want "cool".
Broad Street, the No 1 party street of Birmingham, has a large range of clubs, bars and pubs. This is a good location for a decent English Friday night. However, at the same time it is one of the more rowdy areas, and if trouble happens it will normally be on this road. The chances of this affecting you are slim. Just of to the side of this road is Brindleyplace, a classier and better area of bars, clubs and restaurants. Recommended bars are:
- Revolution. Chain vodka bar. A cut above the normal broad street crowd, though it does get crowded. Great range of Vodka's.
- The Works. Big 3 room club, with a variety of music. Great for kids. Over 23's will feel ancient in here.
- The Pitcher and Piano. Canal side bar with a decent range of beers. Perfect for a nice lunch time drink in the summer months, sitting outside by the canal.
- The Prince Of Wales, King Edward St (behind the I.C.C. 2 minutes from Broad St). Victorian pub with decent menu & many types of fine ales, worth a visit for the beer!
Birmingham has a large Irish community and many Irish pubs. Most of the city centre ones are spread along Digbeth High Street beginning with The Bullring Tavernnear the Bull Ring and finishing withThe Rainbow near Camp Hill.
Some recommendations in Digbeth are:
- Anchor, 308 Bradford St, . Victorian pub near Digbeth Coach Station. Grade II listed.
- Woodman, 106 Albert St, . Grade II listed. Opposite the Thinktank at the Millennium Point.
- Every two weeks an indie night called Panic! is held at the Sanctuary in Dibgeth.
- For a more eclectic mix of music and people take a look at the Medicine Bar in the Custard Factory just off the A34 in Digbeth (it's the big blue building).
- Just around the corner is a club called Air, host to nationally recognised nights such as Godskitchen.
The Custard Factory, Gibb Street, Hosts a range of nights, from Drum n Bass to Electro, not to be missed. The Rainbow Pub, An eclectic pub that hosts a variety of nights, one of the best places in Birmingham and is soon to be shut down. Also visit the Rainbow Warehouse, around the corner which is big on the rave scene and often joins with the Rainbow pub to host street parties such as S.L.A.G.
Birmingham has a vibrant and visible gay scene centred around Hurst Street. Every Spring Bank Holiday this area, often referred to by locals as the Gay Village, hosts a gay-pride festival while its bars and clubs attract people from across the Midlands all year round. Hurst Street is well policed and homophobic attacks are rare, though the local fundamentalists may try to 'save your soul'. Birmingham is as gay friendly as Manchester, Brighton, and Blackpool. Birmingham has a large number of gay venues, the best being the Village, Eden, Equator, The Loft Lounge and the Queens Arms. The Fountain and Bolts are men only bars.
The Jewellery Quarter
Many of the more up-market bars and restaurants are located around St. Paul's Square in the Jewellery Quarter. This is also home to the Jam House, Birmingham's premier jazz club.
- The Vault. Open Thursday till Saturday, 5PM till late. A upscale restaurant bar occupying the vaulted underpinnings of an imposing Victorian building with signature exposed brickwork, bespoke furniture, polished wooden flooring.
- Vertu Bar. Regularly showcases live music on a Thursday evening and showcases various nights including ‘Rizen’ on a Friday where the house DJ plays funky and electro house.
Harborne was once a separate village, is now a mainly residential area a bit North of Birmingham University. The old village center, along Harborne High Street, now has a lot of pubs with a mixed crowd; students, faculty and others. There's a tradition among the crazier students; try to have a half pint in every pub in Harborne in one evening. With over 20 pubs and several km of walking involved, and the limited opening hours of British pubs, this takes some doing.
- The Bell, 11 Old Church Rd, . Next to St Peter's Church, this cosy and quiet pub gets busy because of its attraction.
- The Plough, 21 High St, B17 9NT. Cosy, moderately priced, popular with medical and nursing students. pizza £10 -14, wine from £4.60 per glass.
- The Junction, 212 High Street, Harborne, .An odd V shaped pub as the name suggests on the junction of the High Street and Vivian Road. A really nice pub sells some real ales and good selection of lagers. Sells good pub grub as well.
- The Bartons Arms, 144 High St, Astown, B6 4UP (On A34 north of City Centre, and on many bus routes, including #8, inner circle), . Comprehensive Thai menu and bar snacks. Recently refurbished after previously lying derelict. Noted for its near-original and highly elaborate Victorian interior, and for being one of Ozzy Osbourne's old haunts.
The city hosts some of Britain's most popular clubs and events. Student nights are especially fun, with cheap drink and entry offers and busy clubs. Do not miss out on visiting at least one of these brilliant events:
- Gatecrasher, Broad Street. Now the biggest club in Birmingham.
- Ramshackle. Giving visitors a brilliant experience of the UK and International indie scene combined with fantastic prices. Held at the 2000+ capacity Carling Academy, Dale End.
- Snobs. Very similar to Ramshackle; with DJs offering more focus on up and coming music, also with a 60's room. "Big Wednesday"'s are big with the large student population Birmingham has, with shots at just £1 each all night.
- Oceana. The new super club boasts 5+ bars, 2 huge dance floors, and a roof top seating area, all new within the last 2 years. An amazing experience, if a little expensive on popular nights. A good night to go is a Wednesday.
- Risa, Broad Street. One of the most popular clubs among students in Birmingham. However it is being gradually taken over by clubs like Oceana. Still it is good fun on Monday and Wednesday night.
- Rococo Lounge, Broad Street.Best for R'n'B on Broad Street. Get there early on Sundays. Cheap drinks promotion.
- Indi Bar (based in Arcadian Centre, China Town). Dance and R'n'B. Guest DJ's
- Nightingales, Hurst Street. Birmingham's most famous gay club. Often has guest performers
- Rainbow Warehouse. A warehouse club next to the Rainbow pub in Digbeth which hosts a variety of underground events playing Dubstep, Drum & Bass, Breakbeat, and Techno. Check for events.
- PST. Located in Digbeth, PST is a private members club offering underground reggae nights. Check for events.
- Hare & Hounds. A live music venue located in the Kings Heath district, which has earned it's reputation hosting nightly events including artists and DJs across almost all musical genres.
- Bull's Head. A live music venue located in the Moseley district, the upstairs transforms into an intimate club environment open til 2AM on Fridays & Saturdays.
Things to know
- Brasshouse Language Centre, 50 Sheepcote St (off Broad St), . M-F 9:15AM–8:30PM, Sa 9:15AM-1PM (holidays M-F 9:15AM-4PM). Specialist language centre offering courses in over 30 languages, from beginners up to degree level. Also offers TEFL, residential courses and distance learning.
- There are also regular workshops at places such as the Midlands Arts Centre (see Cinema) and the Country Parks .
The vast number of shops, bars and restaurants in the city centre means that there is rarely a shortage of menial job vacancies. You will often see positions for minimum wage service or retail positions advertised in windows. There are also a lot of temping agencies able to find temporary office, driving and other jobs for travellers packing suits and CVs.
- Birmingham Broad Street Jobcentre, Centennial House, 100 Broad St, .
- Birmingham City Jobcentre Plus, 65-77 Summer Row, Ladywood, .
Safety in Birmingham
As with the rest of the UK, in any emergency call 999 or 112 (from a landline if you can) and ask for ambulance, fire or police when connected. For non-emergency police matters, such as reporting crimes after they have occurred, lost property, etc.) call 101.
In general, Birmingham is a safe city. However, like most large cities, there are some good and bad areas. Certain suburbs (see below) have had their share of gun crime problems, but these are extremely unlikely to affect you unless you make yourself part of the larger drug gang problem. Avoid any offers of cheap drugs as you might be lured into a secluded place and then robbed.
Muggers in Birmingham tend to operate in groups of two or three, typically one will ask you a question (to judge whether you are local or likely to hit back) while the others move in behind you so they can force you to the ground. If you find this happening to you, then move to the side, so you have a clear escape path and cannot be grabbed from the rear.
The city centre is well-policed. The only trouble you might witness is a small scuffle on the Broad Street nightlife quarter as the nightclubs turn out in the early hours of the morning. However, take care at either end of Broad Street where the traffic flow speeds up.
It is advisable to stay away from the city centre when football matches between the city's two professional teams occur. Aston Villa and Birmingham City have a violent and raw hatred for each other, and violent clashes between supporters of both teams are a common occurrence on match days. On other days, when the teams are playing at home against other teams, it is a little less unlikely for major violence to occur in the city centre, but you may encounter pubs full of chanting football supporters, and this may be intimidating (and really annoying) for tourists.
As usual, common sense will keep you safe, avoid walking alone in deserted or poorly-lit areas, especially at night, keep your wits about you at cash machines, and do not get into unmarked taxis. Private hire cars must be pre-booked; black cabs may be hailed. The only higher crime-rate areas that tourists might want to visit are Aston and Sparkbrook: even these are fairly safe during daylight. Canal towpaths at night, if relatively near a road access point, can also be hazardous.
Birmingham, like many other large cities, has relatively high incidences of STDs compared to the rest of the UK. Having unprotected sex is very dangerous.
Avoid people in New Street, near the junction with Ethel Street, who offer you a free "stress test" as they are trying to recruit you into the Church of Scientology.
- City Hospital (A&E), Dudley Rd (#80, #82 or #87 bus), . Daily 24 hours.
- Steelhouse Lane Police Station, Steelhouse Ln, 0845 113 5000, e-mail:[email protected]. Daily 24 hours.