Birmingham, in the West Midlands, is Britain's second largest city (by local authority district). 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.
Areas of Birmingham
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 consitutency 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.
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.
|Daily highs (°C)||6||8||10||13||16||19||21||22||18||13||9||6|
|Nightly lows (°C)||0||0||2||3||6||10||11||12||9||6||3||1|
See the 5 day forecast for Birmingham at the Met Office
- 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.
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.
Wikivoyage has a guide to Rail travel in the United Kingdom
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).
- Megabus, 0900 160 0900 (premium rate number), . Serves London and Scotland.
- National Express, 0870 580 8080, .
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.
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 (firstname.lastname@example.org).
- Birmingham Canal Navigations provides a highly detailed 1:30,000-scale colour map of the network.
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.
- On Your Bike, 33-40 Bradford St, ☎ +44 121 666-6933, fax: +44 121 666-6388, e-mail: email@example.com. M,W,F,Sa 10AM-6PM, Th 10AM-7PM, Tu,Su closed.
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 .
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, 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.
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.
Museums and art 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), ☎ +44 121 327-0062, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. 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), ☎ +44 121 414-7333, fax: +44 121 414-3370, e-mail: email@example.com. 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), ☎ +44 121 303-2834, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. 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), ☎ +44 121 248-0708, fax: +44 121 248-0709, e-mail: email@example.com. 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), ☎ +44 121 777-6612, fax: +44 121 236-1766, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. 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)), ☎ +44 121 554-9122, e-mail: email@example.com. 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), ☎ +44 121 202-2222, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. 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, ☎ +44 121 554-3598. 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..
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, ☎ +44 24 7620-5716, e-mail: email@example.com. 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.), ☎ +44 121 251-6533, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. 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), ☎ +44 845 450 3599. 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, ☎ +44 121 262-1840, e-mail: email@example.com. 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, ☎ +44 121 455-0650. 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, ☎ +44 121 236-2251. 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.
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: firstname.lastname@example.org. 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.
- 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), ☎ +44 121 454-1860, e-mail: email@example.com. 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), ☎ +44 121 472-7775, fax: +44 121 471-4997, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. 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), ☎ +44 121 442-4226, e-mail: email@example.com. 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), ☎ +44 121 447-7106, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. 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), ☎ +44 121 454-1199, e-mail: email@example.com. 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, ☎ +44 121 643-6777, +44 121 633-4700 (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), ☎ +44 121 357-7395, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. 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), ☎ +44 121 355-6370, e-mail: email@example.com. 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), ☎ +44 121 421-7575, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. 450-acre meadow, hedgerow and woodland park containing Woodgate Valley Urban Farm and Hole Farm Trekking Centre. Best visited in spring and summer when there are hundred of wild flowers and butterflies. Free admission.
Concerts, theatre shows and other events are comprehensively listed and reviewed on Birmingham Alive!.
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), ☎ +44 870 909 4133, e-mail: email@example.com. 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)..
- National Indoor Arena (NIA), ☎ +44 870 909 4133, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. King Edwards Rd. 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, ☎ +44 121 200-2000, e-mail: email@example.com. 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.
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 of The 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, ☎ +44 121 200-2000, +44 121 780-3333 (box office), e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Internationally renowned concert venue with two to four classical concerts per week. Also offers Sounds 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), ☎ +44 121 616-6500, +44 121 780-3333 (ticket line), e-mail: email@example.com. 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, ☎ +44 121 633-8311, +44 870 907 0999 (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, ☎ +44 121 622-8850, +44 905 020 3999 (info line), e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. 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), ☎ +44 121 236-2421. 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, ☎ +44 870 607 7533. Station St. Edwardian theatre showing pre- and post-West End plays and musicals. £6-50 (price varies with seating).
- Birmingham Hippodrome, Hurst St, ☎ +44 121 870 730 1234, e-mail: email@example.com. 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), ☎ +44 121 643-5858. 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, ☎ +44 121 303-2323, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Home of the Birmingham Stage Company, puts on both professional and amateur productions. £5-15.
- Repertory Theatre, Centenary Square, Broad St, ☎ +44 121 236-4455, e-mail: email@example.com. 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, ☎ +44 121 643-7879, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. 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), ☎ +44 121 440-3838, e-mail: email@example.com. 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, ☎ +44 121 202-2222, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Millennium Point, Curzon St. 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, ☎ +44 870 755 5657. Daily 10AM-1AM. A large modern multiplex showing recent mainstream films. £5 (£3.50 concessions and before 6:30PM).
- Cineworld, 181 Broad St, ☎ +44 871 200 2000. Daily 10AM-1AM. A large modern multiplex showing recent mainstream films. £5.50 (£3.50 concessions and before 6:30PM, family tickets available).
- Odeon, ☎ +44 871 224 4007. 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, ☎ +44 871 224 0240. 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, ☎ +44 871 423-8100, e-mail: email@example.com. 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, ☎ +44 871 226-1875, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. 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 (), . 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, ☎ +44 121 344-4858, e-mail: email@example.com. 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, +44 121 440 2492 (), . 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 (), . 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, ☎ +44 121 327-7700. Large go-karting centre just east of the city centre. £10-50.
- The Ackers, Golden Hillock Rd, Small Heath, B11 2PY, ☎ +44 121 772-5111, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. 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, ☎ +44 870 840 7410. Open W 7:45PM. (Perry Barr Stadium). Come and see Premier League speedway racing every Wednesday.
- Drayton Manor, B78 3TW, ☎ +44 870 872 5252, e-mail: email@example.com. Located just outside Tamworth in Staffordshire, 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.
- Brasshouse Language Centre, 50 Sheepcote St (off Broad St), +44 121 303 0114, . 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 (see Parks and nature).
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, +44 121 480 3800.
- Birmingham City Jobcentre Plus, 65-77 Summer Row, Ladywood, +44 121 237 8300.
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.
- 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, ☎ +44 121 303-0300, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. 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, ☎ +44 121 643-0143. 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, ☎ +44 121 233-4488. 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.
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, 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, ☎ +44 121 357-0018.
- Canalside Cafe, 35 Worcester Bar, Gas St, ☎ +44 121 248-7979. 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), ☎ +44 121 303-2834. 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, ☎ +44 121 415-4651. 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, ☎ +44 121 666-6800, e-mail: email@example.com. 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, ☎ +44 121 248-3226. 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), ☎ +44 121 643-8969. Decent Indian dishes. £12-35.
- Chez Jules, 5a Ethel Street, New Street, Birmingham 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), ☎ +44 121 633-4664, fax: +44 121 633-4669, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. 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), ☎ +44 121 622-5669. THE Chinese Restaurant in Birmingham, established since 1981. Opposite Arcadian Centre. £10-35.
- Chung Ying Garden, 17 Thorp St (off Hurst St), ☎ +44 121 666-6622, e-mail: CYG@chungying.co.uk. 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, ☎ +44 121 605-4343, e-mail: email@example.com. 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), ☎ +44 121 665-6568. 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), ☎ +44 121 236-5858. Daily noon-midnight. Upmarket Italian place, can be a bit crowded. £12-30.
- Shangri-la Chinese Restaurant, 51 Station Street, Birmingham B5 4DY (On the southern side of Birmingham New Street Station), ☎ +44 121 616-2888, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. 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, ☎ +44 121 643-3993, e-mail: email@example.com. Daily noon-2:30PM and 5:30PM-11PM. Contemporary Oriental surroundings. Wide range of Thai dishes. £12-40.
- V2, 73-75 Pershore St, ☎ +44 121 666-6683. Home-style Chinese cooking, popular with the local Chinese community. Clean and bright inside with trendy decor.
- Wagamama, Bullring plaza, (under Borders), B5 4QL, ☎ +44 121 633-6033. 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.
- Woktastic, Paradise Place, B3 3HJ (Located just outside Paradise forum on the same side as the theatres and ICC), ☎ +44 121 236-3130, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. M-Sa 12PM-11PM Su 12PM-10PM. Japanese, surprisingly given the name. Fluorescent, authentic, accommodating, great £7-10.
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), ☎ +44 121 643-1234. Daily 6:30AM-10:30PM. 3-course pre-concert table d'hôte menu.
- Rectory Bar & Restaurant, 50-54 St Pauls Square, ☎ +44 121 605-1001. 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, ☎ +44 121 200-1911. Seasonal seafood, pasta, salads and cocktails. £15-40.
- Opus Restaurant, 54 Cornwall St, ☎ +44 121 200-2323, e-mail: email@example.com. Fresh seasonal produce with an unpretentious feel. Michelin Star quality without the price. £15-40.
- The Jam House, 1 St. Paul's Square, ☎ +44 121 200-3030, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Varied menu and live music most nights. £20-50.
- Turners, 69 High Street, Harborne, B17 9NS, ☎ +44 121 426-4440. One Michelin star. Lunch from £40, Dinner £50 - £208.
Vegetarian & 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), ☎ +44 121 766-7199. 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, ☎ +44 121 633-0261. 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, ☎ +44 121 454-1111. 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, ☎ +44 121 552-3529. Handsworth Wood. Vegan and vegetarian pizza restaurant. £5-10.
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 Somerfield outlets.
A great place to pick up cheap food (including fresh fruit and veg) is the Bull Ring Market (see Buy).
- Day In, The Arcadian Centre, +44 121 622 6182. Chinese supermarket with a wide range of Asian foods.
- One Earth Shop, 54 Allinson St, Digbeth, ☎ +44 121 632-6909. M-Sa 10AM-5PM. Specialty vegan wholefoods and other ethical essentials.
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.
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, ☎ +44 121 333-6757. Quiet and comfortable pub, in the Gun quarter.
- Figure of Eight, 236 Broad St, B1 2HG, ☎ +44 121 633-0917. Large city centre pub belonging to the Wetherspoon chain.
- Bacchus, Burlington Arcade, ☎ +44 121 616-7991. 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, ☎ +44 121 643-6756. Situated out of the rear of the Mailbox complex, has great traditional blue tiled exterior.
- Edmunds Lounge Bar and Eatery, 106-110 Edmund Street, ☎ +44 121 200-2423. 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), ☎ +44 121 633-4171. 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, ☎ +44 121 622-5080.
- Old Joint Stock, 4 Temple Row West, B2 5NY (Faces St. Philips cathedral), ☎ +44 121 200-1892. 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, ☎ +44 121 200-3841. Single bar with large-screen TV. The pub is popular with office workers.
- The Queens Arms, 150 Newhall Street, ☎ +44 121 236-3710. 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), ☎ +44 121 200-3115. 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), ☎ +44 121 214-8970. 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 Tavern near the Bull Ring and finishing with The Rainbow near Camp Hill.
Some recommendations in Digbeth are:
- Anchor, 308 Bradford St, ☎ +44 121 622-4516. Victorian pub near Digbeth Coach Station. Grade II listed.
- Woodman, 106 Albert St, ☎ +44 121 643-1959. 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 centered 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, A upscale restaurant bar occupying the vaulted underpinnings of an imposing Victorian building with signature exposed brickwork, bespoke furniture, polished wooden flooring. Located in the Jewellery Quarter, open Thursday till Saturday, 5PM till late.
- 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, ☎ +44 121 427-0931. Next to St Peter's Church, this cosy and quiet pub gets busy because of its attraction.
- The Plough, near the East end of the high street Birmingham, cosy, moderately priced, popular with medical and nursing students.
"The Junction" on the High Street. 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, Newtown, B6 4UP (On A34 north of City Centre, and on many bus routes, including #8, inner circle), ☎ +44 121 333-5988. Birmingham Pub Of The Year in 2004, and CAMRA-supported venue. 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. now the biggest club in Birmingham, is on Broad Street.
- 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. located on Broad Street, is 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. best for R'n'B on Broad Street. Get there early on Sundays. Cheap drinks promotion
- Indi Bar. dance and R'n'B, based in Arcadian Centre, China Town. Guest DJ's
- Nightingales. Birmingham's most famous gay club, located on Hurst Street. 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.
If you want a more social feel to your stay why not try one of the hostels the city has to offer.
- Birmingham Central Backpackers, 58 Coventry St, ☎ +44 121 643-0033. Digbeth. Birmingham's only independent hostel features a central location only streets from The Bull Ring, and next to the nightclubs of Digbeth. Beds in a shared dorm can be found for as little as £9 if you've got a sharp eye out and both breakfast and various foods in the evening are included, making it the West Midlands only half-board hostel. It is in the oldest part of the city, right near where the original manor house once stood. The area can look a little uninviting (this is what you will find outside the very centre of this industrial city), but the hostel makes up for it by being socially inviting (films/football can be watched and they have a Wii, playstation and xbox) and, as mentioned, still being close to The Bull Ring. They offer nightly events such as quiz night, beer tasting, movie nights and disco, and the common room is probably the best around.
- Hatters Birmingham, 92-95 Livery Street, ☎ +44 121 236-4031. Jewellery Quarter. Less than a 10 minute walk to the centre, Hatters Birmingham have upped the norm in hostel accommodation boasting all ensuite rooms and, finally, after eight long months of waiting (yet advertising that it was there) they've got a common room. Beds start from £14.50 and includes bed linen & a free light breakfast which is served all day
- Bilberry Hill Residential Centre. — for groups looking for accommodation in the scenic Lickey Hills, but with easy access to the centre.
There is ample choice of hotels in the economy sector in Birmingham.
- Campanile, Chester St. If you are travelling by car and on a budget, Campanile is your friend wherever you go - the rooms could not be more simple, but the locations are usually very convenient at motorway junctions. In Birmingham, it is north of town, where the A4540 ringroad meets the A38, which goes straight into the city, and has the added benefit of being located over the Birmingham and Fazeley Canal lock.
- Comfort Inn, Station Street. Comfort Inn is a brand of non-standardized properties where price often trumps modern comforts, and this hotel is no exception. It also boasts a location right in front of the New Street station.
- Hampton by Hilton Birmingham Broad Street, Broad Street. Contemporary 3 star hotel offering 285 stylish rooms, free WiFi and complimentary breakfast.
- Hampton by Hilton Birmingham City North, 98-104 Constitution Hill. The new Hampton brings some colourfulness to Birmingham's economy hotel market, merging new with old as it is located in a building dating back to 1910. Its name honestly describes its location northwest of the city centre.
- Holiday Inn Express Birmingham Oldbury, Oldbury M5, Jct 2. Where comfort meets great value rates, all guests receive free WiFi in public areas and a complimentary breakfast to set you up for your day.
- Holiday Inn Express Birmingham-Snow Hill, 1 Snow Hill Plaza. The tall tower with 224 rooms has relatively large common areas and everything expected of a Holiday Inn Express, including free WiFi and breakfast included in the room price. It replaces the older property which now became the ibis Styles.
- ibis Birmingham Bordesley. The slightly out-of-town ibis is more of an option for motorists, situated at a large roundabout of the A45 circling the city. It is one of the older ibis hotels in the UK.
- ibis Birmingham Centre, Ladywell Walk. A standard and slightly dated ibis hotel in the very centre of the city
- ibis Birmingham Holloway Circus, 55 Irving Street,. This is an older ibis whose suburban style belies its location close to the business district and the Holloway Circus evoked in the name.
- ibis Budget Birmingham Centre (formerly Etap Hotel), Great Colmore Street. Offering perhaps the cheapest hotel stays in Birmingham, the ibis Budget is a chain hotel optimized for low costs, with very simply appointed rooms with just enough space.
- ibis Styles Birmingham Centre (formerly Holiday Inn Express and Lionel Street Hotel), 65 Lionel Street. Located east of the core city centre on Lionel Street, it is a former Holiday Inn Express property that became and ibis Styles after some very light refreshment. As in all ibis Styles, breakfasts and free WiFi are included in the room price, which can be very attractive, compensating for the less central location.
- Paragon Hotel. Despite the imposing Victorian presence, this hotel in the southeastern corner of Birmingham offers very attractive rates. This comes not only at the expense of a relatively remote location, but also standards of the worn rooms, which fall deeply behind the expectations one might have experiencing the common areas.
- Premier Inn Birmingham City, 3-6 Waterloo St. As typical as a Premier Inn gets, it is situated in a nondescript 1970s building with simple rooms - but just around the corner from to the St. Phillip's cathedral.
- Premier Inn Birmingham City Centre (New Street), Pinfold Street. There is no shortage of Premier Inns in Birmingham. This one is next to the New Street railway station.
- Premier Inn Birmingham Broad Street (Canal Side), Bridge Street. This Premier Inn serves the ICC and faces a canal.
- Premier Inn Birmingham Central East. There is nothing "central" about this motel-style Premier Inn at the junction of M38 and M4045, which faces a similar Campanile across the canal, but if you are a motorist, you will enjoy its convenient location and free parking.
- Premier Inn Birmingham Broad Street (Brindley Place), 80 Broad Street. The Premier Inn at Brindley Place is the chain's most up-to-date property, with a marked difference in fittings over the other ones in town.
- Travelodge Birmingham Central.
- Awentsbury Hotel, 15 Serpentine Rd. Selly Park (close to the university). Offers mid-range B&B in a quiet environment within 10 minutes walk from the university.
- Britannia Hotel. City centre (close to the university). Offers mid-range accommodation for business and travelling guests.
- Castle Bromwich Inn, 1200 Chester Road, ☎ +44 121 694-6700, fax: +44 121 694-6701, e-mail: email@example.com. A former Holiday Inn Express by the M6 motorway in Castle Bromwhich, west of Brimingham
- Bloc Hotel, Caroline Street. The Bloc Hotel offers ultrasmall rooms (10 sqm) all wrapped in minimalistic, modern decor, which can appeal to design enthusiasts.
- Hotel at Conference Aston, Aston St. Situated on the Aston University grounds, the Conference Aston is a convention centre with an on-site hotel. Hotel guests can enjoy the facilities of the Woodcock Sports Centre across the road, including a full-sized Victorian swimming pool
- Copthorne Hotel, Paradies Circus. One of the hotels serving the ICC and a monument to the era in hospitality mercifully gone by.
- Hilton Garden Inn Birmingham Brindley Place, 1 Brunswick Square, Brindleyplace. Southwest of the centre at Brindleyplace, the Hilton Garden Inn offers simple modern comforts in its four-star rated facility. WiFi is free and Neutrogena toiletries are provided.
- Holiday Inn Birmingham City, Smallbrook Queensway. An old Holiday Inn in an office/commercial area of the centre
- Jurys Inn, 245 Broad Street. A huge and hotel in a concrete block, catering to business visitors of the ICC. Enjoys solid reputation despite a complete lack of charm.
- nitenite, 18 Holliday Street. The property brands itself as a boutique hotel, where postmodern common space appointments are meant to make up for the ultrasmall (7 sqm) cabins that serve as ensuite rooms.
- Novotel Birmingham Centre, 70 Broad Street. The familiar white-and-light-wood Novotel rooms await in what is not quite the centre, but rather the Brindleyplace complex.
- pentahotel Birmingham, Ernest Street / Holloway Head. This relatively new mid-range property is swamped in pentahotel's hallmark purple lighting and entices with a potpourri of postmodern appointments. Both standard and "comfort" rooms are small (12 sqm)
- Ramada Birmingham, 160 Wharfside Street. The Ramada is a part of the Mailbox multi-use complex, where you will find multiple restaurants, shopping opportunities and service outlets. The hotel faces a canal, which provides for nice views and ambiance, but the rooms are in dire need of redecoration.
- Staybridge Suites, Martineau Place. A rare occurrence of IHG's extended-stay brand outside of North America, the Staybridge Suites Birmingham offers studios and apartments with kitchenettes and other long-stay facilities, including on-site gym. Breakfasts are included in room rates.
- Swallow Plough & Harrow Hotel, 135 Hagley Rd, Edgbaston, ☎ +44 121 454-4111, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Near the International Convention Centre, National Indoor Arena and the Bull Ring Shopping Centre.
- Thistle Birmingham City Centre. The conservatively-styled - and little outdated - Thistle faces St. Chad's Cathedral over a busy thoroughfare.
- Crowne Plaza Birmingham City Centre, Holliday St. As nondescript as a Crowne Plaza gets, this hotel was originally built to serve the ICC next door. Despite having been updated since, it still has a somewhat sombre presence.
- Crowne Plaza Birmingham NEC Hotel, Pendigo Way, National Exhibition Centre, ☎ +44 871 942 9160. Near Birmingham Airport.
- Hyatt Regency Birmingham, 2 Bridge St (in the city centre), ☎ +44 121 643-1234. Linked directly to the International Convention Centre (ICC) and is 5 minutes from the National Indoor Arena (NIA).
- Hotel Indigo Birmingham, 200 Wharfside Street. It is hard to miss Hotel Indigo's unique, jigsaw-style facade and the glazed extravaganza of its top-floor Marco Pierre White restaurant. Inside are colorful rooms with all the modern comforts, a spa, said restaurant and a bar with a view - all with a price to match. The building, aptly named the Cube, sits next to the Mailbox.
- Hotel La Tour Birmingham, Albert Street. This stylish hotel caters for the luxury end of the four-star market, with an a la carte restaurant with open kitchen and in-room "media hubs" that let one connect their devices to the room's display and sound facilities.
- Macdonald Burlington Hotel, 126 New Street. An luxury hotel in Edwardian style and history to back it, directly facing the New Street station.
- Malmaison Birmingham. The Malmaison is an upscale property with an on-site spa, brasserie and wine cellar. It is located within the Mailbox multi-purpose centre.
- Birmingham Marriott Hotel, 12 Hagley Rd (in the city centre), ☎ +44 870 400 7280.
- Radisson Blu Hotel Birmingham, 12 Holloway Circus, ☎ +44 121 654-6000. The Radisson is located in a blue glass tower, with views over Birmingham's city centre, and is one of the few truly modern high-end hotels in the city.
- Hotel du Vin, Church Street. Offering a dark take on its lush Victorian common spaces, the Hotel du Vin brands itself as lifestyle accommodation, with a number of facilities to match, including a cigar lounge.
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, +44 121 643-6999. 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, +44 121 632-6156. Standard internet lounge.
- Express Internet, 181 Brighton Road, Moseley, B12 8QN, +44 121 449-1599. internet lounge part of Express Mini Mart. Mon-Sat 8AM-9PM, Sun 9AM-6PM. ONLY £1 per hour.
Birmingham grew to be a very multicutural population centre, so apart from Christian, religious services for many other faith groups are provided within the city.
- Birmingham Buddhist Centre, 11 Park Rd, Moseley (#1, #35 or #50 bus), ☎ +44 121 449-5279, e-mail: email@example.com. A centre run by the Friends of the Western Buddhist Order.
- Birmingham Central Mosque, 180 Belgrave Middleway, Highgate (#35 bus), ☎ +44 121 440-5355. Daily noon-30 minutes after Isha (exact time of Isha varies with the seasons). Built in 1969, Birmingham was the second purpose-built mosque in the UK (the first was Woking). The working capacity is 2500, though this is expanded during special events such as Eid. Tour groups should book at least two weeks in advance.
- Birmingham Central Synagogue, 133 Pershore Rd, ☎ +44 121 440-4044, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. M Th from 7:15AM, Tu W F from 7:30AM, Sa from 9:30AM, Su from 8:30AM. Large modern orthodox synagogue, popular with students.
- Ramgarhia Sikh Temple, Graham St, ☎ +44 121 235-5435.
- The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Harborne Ward, Lordswood Road, ☎ +44 121 427-9291. Typical meetinghouse, with services at 10AM on Sundays.
- Shree Geeta Bhawan, 107-117 Heathfield Rd, Lozells (#46 bus), ☎ +44 121 523-7797. M-Sa 9AM-1PM and 5PM-8PM (Tu 9PM), Su 9AM-8PM. Hindu temple, opened in 1967.
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. 0 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), +44 121 554 3801. Daily 24 hours.
- Steelhouse Lane Police Station, Steelhouse Ln, 0845 113 5000 (email@example.com). Daily 24 hours.
- Virgin Trains is the main operator of trains between London and Birmingham with trains every 20 minutes and a journey time of around 1 hour 20 minutes. They are operated by fast (up to 125 mph) and modern Pendolino trains. These can be cheap if you get an Advance fare from £5 single, but if you are buying tickets on the day or there are no cheap tickets left, it may be worth using one of the two other operators listed below. Chiltern Railways and London Midland run frequent half-hourly/hourly services between Birmingham and London. These take noticeably longer than Virgin Trains, 1 hour 40 minutes - 2 hours 20 minutes, but cheap flexible tickets at around half of the Virgin Trains price can be bought at any time. For example an Off-Peak adult return ticket from London to Birmingham costs £23 (Super Off-Peak) with London Midland, £28.90 (Super Off-Peak) with Chiltern Railways, but £50.50 with any operator, including Virgin Trains.
- Both Megabus and National Express run several services an hour to London, and competition has lowered the cheapest fares to £1 or less.
Exploring by car.
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.