Birmingham (England)

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.

The northern part of Birmingham's city centre

Understand

Birmingham is known for its canals

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

Colmore Row in the core city centre
Digbeth High Street
Jewellery Quarter

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:

 Climate Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
 
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
Precipitation (mm) 56 48 52 48 55 57 47 67 54 53 59 66

See the 5 day forecast for Birmingham at the Met Office

Get in

Map of Birmingham and vicinity
City centre map

By plane

  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.

By train

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.

By coach

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).

The Gravelly Hill Interchange in Birmingham, England - the original Spaghetti Junction

By car

The start of the Birmingham Canal at Gas Street Basin, central Birmingham

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:

Birmingham City Council operated car parks are available throughout the city, a list is accessible online .

By boat

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.

Get around

On foot in the City Centre

Selfridges buillding at The Bullring
The Chamberlain Clock in the Jewellery Quarter, commemorating Joseph Chamberlain's visit to South Africa in 1903.

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.

By bicycle

Canal trail passing by New Smethwick Pumping Station

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.

Bicycle hire:

By Public Transport

Bus, Train and Metro all come under the authority of Network West Midlands (Part of Centro, the PTE of Birmingham and surrounding area), their website is the best source for all information required on public transport in the region .

Birmingham City Council has public transportation information available online as well.

By bus

Map of major bus routes

All areas of Birmingham are well-served by bus routes, operated almost exclusively by National Express West Midlands (NXWM) with some competition from smaller providers, notably Diamond Buses.

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.

By train

Rail map

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.

By tram

The Jewellery Quarter station with the rail and Metro lines.

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.

By car

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.

By motorcycle

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.

By taxi

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:

See

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.

Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery

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.

  • 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!
IKON Gallery in Brindleyplace
The Jewellery Quarter Museum

Factory visits

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.

Entrance gate to Jaguar Castle Bromwhich Assembly

Land Rover has its main assembly plant in nearby Solihull.

Religious buildings

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.

St Philip's Cathedral
St. Martin's, surrounded by the Bullring

Other architecture

Birmingham holds a wealth of architectural heritage from different eras, including also buildings with no touristically viable function. Some of them are listed below.

The Library of Birmingham
Back to Back houses
Birmingham Town Hall

Parks and nature

A canal in the Eastside City Park

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.

Do

Concerts, theatre shows and other events are comprehensively listed and reviewed on Birmingham Alive!.

National Indoor Arena seen from the sealife centre

Events

Birmingham hosts some of the largest events, exhibitions and conferences in the country, which may or may not be of interest to a visitor.

Inside the Symphony Hall

Live music

The Institute

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.

The Birmingham Hippodrome

Theatre

The Rep - Birmingham Repertory Theatre

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.

The Electric Cinema in Station Street

Cinema

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.

Sports

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.

Theme Parks

Learn

There are also regular workshops at places such as the Midlands Arts Centre (see Cinema) and the Country Parks (see Parks and nature).

Work

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.

Buy

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.

Shopping centres

Inside the Great Western Arcade
Corporation Street from New Street

Shopping streets

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.

The Bullring outdoor market

Markets

Specialty stores

Eat

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.

Restaurants at the canal side of The Mailbox

Budget

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.

Statue of Boulton, Watt and Murdoch in Broad Street

Mid-range

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.


The Birmingham Canal Navigations between the International Convention Centre (left) and Brindleyplace (right)

Splurge

Birmingham has quite a few upmarket places, mainly due to the number of high-rolling businesspeople that drift in for conferences and other dealings.

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.

Self-catering

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).

Selly Oak

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.

Drink

General

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).

The Mailbox viewed from the front, across The Queensway inner ring road

City centre

The Birmingham Council House at night, during the Frankfurt Christmas Market

The Arcadian

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:

Broad Street is regarded as the centre of nightlife in Birmingham

Broad Street

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:

Late night swans on a Birmingham canal

Digbeth

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:

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.

The Missing Bar

Hurst Street

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.

Harborne

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 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.

Newtown

Canal in Brindleyplace on New Year's Eve

Clubbing

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:

A line of geese swim across a pool of reflected lights from the Mailbox restaurants.

Sleep

Hostels

If you want a more social feel to your stay why not try one of the hostels the city has to offer.

The Paragon hotel was the only Rowton House, or a long-stay hotel for working men of low means, built outside of London. Designed by an architect specializing in army barracks, it retains its original ambiance.

Budget

There is ample choice of hotels in the economy sector in Birmingham.

Mid-range

One of the city's surviving brutalist architecture monuments, the Jurys Inn is Birmingham's largest hotel with 445 rooms

Splurge

The Radisson is inside Birmingham's tallest building

Connect

Telephone

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.

Internet

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.

Cope

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.

Stay safe

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.

Go next

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.

This article is issued from Wikivoyage - version of the Tuesday, February 16, 2016. The text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike but additional terms may apply for the media files.