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Complete travel guide to Birmingham, UK.

PLACES TO SEE


Birmingham is one of the underrated cities in the UK, with more things to do than one can imagine, so I am writing a complete guide to Birmingham, to help all the people who are visiting for the first time. I have been living here for 3 years so I can take you to a lot of places to see in the city, but I imagine that for people visiting for a couple of days, a long list will not necessarily be the most helpful thing. So, to help visitors to see our beautiful city, I compiled a list of top things to see for a first-time visitor to Birmingham, with some extras for people spending more than 2-3 days here.

Because a lot of places to see are in the city centre, you can easily see them by walking around. It is a route easy to do by walking, but in order to enjoy everything around, I suggest doing it in 2 days, not only one.

Must see places in Birmingham that I personally suggest (for more information about each place, I will link their own websites in the titles):


Place to see in Birmingham, UK:

Other useful information:



1. DIGBETH AND THE CUSTARD FACTORY


Digbeth was known as the industrial quarter of Birmingham but now is the home of street art and graffiti, a creative and cultural area with pubs and shops surrounded by breath-taking art. It’s my favourite spot in the whole city, that’s one of the reasons it is the first on the list, and I could spend hours admiring the art and taking photos there.


Digbeth quarter in Birmingham UK

 

This new shopping area is the most crowded place in the city centre, mainly because it is composed of: a big shopping centre, including Selfridges that people are attracted to, not only for shopping but for the unique design of the building; the Grand Central, the biggest train station in Birmingham, that has an amazing design, with shops and restaurants to enjoy while waiting for the train; the markets with fruits, vegetable and stands; the Saint Martin Church which is a piece of art, the original parish church and it creates a unique view, an old church between 2 newly designed parts of the shopping centre.

If you get to Bullring it is a must to take a photo with the bull in front of the shopping centre, just between Zara and Hollister.


BULLRING, SELFRIDGES AND ST MARTIN CHURCH in Birmingham UK

 


Chinatown is one of the most alive places in the city centre, surrounded by Asian shops, restaurants, architecture, building facades and decorations typical to the Asian community and is definitely a place that will give you a little taste of China. For a Chinese food lover like me, this is a paradise to eat proper food made by Chinese people, and also, the shops help you find a lot of unusual ingredients if you like cooking at home.


CHINESE QUARTER in Birmingham UK

 


Anywhere you go around the city centre you will find beautiful arcades that hide authentic shops and places to eat. The design of these arcades is unique and different for every one of them, and the best part is that the shops and pubs are not big chains but small businesses that you can’t find on the high street.


Arcade in Birmingham UK

 


The Council House situated in Victoria Square is the focal point of Birmingham’s city centre. The building is designed in a Victorian Gothic style, with the statue of Queen Victoria standing just in front. The whole place is rich in architecture, and it shows the character of the old Birmingham before all the new buildings started to appear everywhere around. I love to see the old side of Birmingham before they began to build all the new companies around, and I think Victoria Square and Gas Street Basin are the best places to see the character of the city.


Victoria Square in Birmingham UK

 


If you are into culture or art, this is the place to get lost for a couple of hours. The museum has a lot of expositions from the Pre-Raphaelites, the Staffordshire Hoard, and the history of Birmingham to different objects and arts from cultures like the Greek, Romans and Ancient Egypt. I would definitely recommend after your visit to stop for a coffee or tea in the Edwardian Tearooms, the design is so impressive and authentic, sometimes it’s even hard to find an empty table.


BIRMINGHAM MUSEUM AND ART GALLERY in Birmingham UK

 


One of the good things about Birmingham is that you can find a lot of things to see within walking distance, like The Library of Birmingham. The Library was recently built, it has a stunning and modern design and even a better view of the city when you go on top, on one of the terraces.


 THE LIBRARY OF BIRMINGHAM UK

 


I know it’s not a proper attraction, but did you know that Birmingham has more miles of canals than Venice? The best part is that you can have a stroll around the city centre on the side of the canals, it’s full of history (the old buildings in the city centre) and fun (you will find everywhere pubs and clubs, boat trips and people having fun). It is definitely one of the best places for holiday photos!


 



National Sea Life Centre is a big aquarium with 60 displays, situated in Brindley place, an area with pubs and restaurants. It is a lovely place to spend time, especially with the family, I am sure the children will absolutely love the place. They also offer different experiences all year round.


 


The Jewellery Quarter is heaven for jewellery lovers, either shoppers or creators, with a lot of shops with high-quality jewellery and an old look of the streets and buildings that keep the character of the city. You can also find in this area the Jewellery Museum and the Pen Museum.


 


Aston Hall is a top-rated attraction in Birmingham because of the style that it has, created in Jacobean style, rich in culture and history. The house now features period rooms with stunning furniture, recreated interiors and paintings from Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery. It is also surrounded by a big park perfect for a stroll after visiting the main attraction and a lot of great spots for taking perfect photos.


Aston hall in Birmingham UK

 


If you love flowers and nature as much as I do, this is the best place to visit in Birmingham. They offer stunning glasshouses showing tropical rainforest to arid desert, a playground, tearoom and garden gift shop all surrounded by some of the most beautiful gardens in the UK.


 


This is my personal favourite park in Birmingham, for two reasons: 1. It is stunning, especially in the spring-summer season, when it’s full of flowers, and 2. You can find anything you want in one park, from a small pond where you can take boat trips to places to play different sports to the MAC (Midlands Art Centre hosting theatre, dance, music and comedy performances, plus cinema and workshops) and the small coffee shop inside.


Canon Hill Park in Birmingham UK

 


Located in Bournville, at the Victorian Chocolate factory, it is half an hour from the city centre, but the experience is worth the time. Chocolate? I mean, to be honest now, who doesn’t like chocolate? The tour is very informative and interactive, and you get to taste a lot of chocolate. Book a tour of the chocolate factory and enjoy some free chocolate and a crazy experience. Even if it’s basically designed for children, but me and my friends enjoyed it more than the kids there! It’s easier if you book your tickets in advance and you have guaranteed entry.


Cadbury World in Birmingham UK

 

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EXTRAS

(if you spend more than 2-3 days in Birmingham, I have some extras just for you):


  1. Black Country living museum - an open-air museum of rebuilt historic buildings in Dudley.

  2. Thinktank museum – a science museum located in the Millennium Point, offering ten galleries of historical artefacts, modern interactive and fantastic futuristic facts

  3. Dudley Castle and zoo – It is a great place to spend the day, having to go through a zoo to get to the Castle and the view is worth the trip.

  4. Wildlife Conservation – a place with a unique collection of animals from across the world, including Red Pandas, lemurs, reptiles, meerkats, otters, birds, wallabies and a large collection of monkeys.

  5. Kingsbury water park – just outside of Birmingham, this water park has 15 lakes in the park, and it’s renowned for its birdlife, and it’s very popular among bird watchers.

  6. English heritage – Follow the English Heritage around the West Midlands for beautiful gardens and fairy-tale castles, spectacular ruins and Roman cities.

  7. Edgbaston Reservoir – It is a beautiful park with great views for a walk but also, the reservoir is used for leisure activities, including sailing, windsurfing, canoeing, kayaking and rowing.

  8. Ikon Gallery – is a gallery of contemporary art, and it’s perfect for art lovers.

  9. Tolkien Trail – known from the Lord of the rings and the Hobbit, Follow in the footsteps of J.R.R. Tolkien to see what inspired this imaginative author to create the world where our favourite Hobbit heroes lived.


There are a lot more interesting places in the city, but these are my favourites, and I thought of sharing them with you. For most of the paid attractions, I would definitely recommend booking the tickets in advance because, in the UK, it makes your life easier by making sure you will get to see the place and not have to wait hours in queue.



Streets of Birmingham UK

 


TRANSPORT, ACCOMMODATION, EATING AND DRINKING, SHOPPING, TIPS AND TRICKS


WHY AND WHEN TO VISIT BIRMINGHAM?


Birmingham is one of the fastest-growing cities in the UK, attracting more visitors every year. The city has its historical beauty, and world-class venues, including the biggest number of Michelin-starred restaurants outside of London. It’s located in the middle of the UK, and this is the best place for connections to other cities, and it’s a chocolate lovers' paradise by having the original Cadbury World factory in Bournville. Brummies are some of the friendliest people in the UK, and the city overall is very inviting and has something for everybody.

The best time to visit Birmingham is from April to September. The weather is perfect most of the time, not too rainy like the autumn and sunny most of the time (because of global warming, the UK has become a nice warm place). It is also good to visit, not only because of the weather but the fact that the city comes to life. All the pubs around the canals put their tables outside waiting for customers, people enjoy drinking and eating outside, the city is full of beautiful flowers, and it‘s full of events in nature like cycling and boat trips.

Another nice time to visit Birmingham is at Christmas time when the German Christmas market is taking over the city.


The Canal House in Birmingham UK

 

TRANSPORT


Birmingham Airport and East Midlands Airport are the main air hubs.

Regarding the transport in the city, it will only depend on the length of your stay. For travellers who stay for less than 5 days, I would definitely recommend common transport. Most of the things you will see are around the city centre within walking distance, so for the others, taking the bus, tram or train is the most efficient way of getting around. With the bus, check West Midlands, everything is made easier by their app, where you can see exactly when the bus will come, where it takes you and also buy tickets (most of the time is actually correct!). For trips between the towns and villages, check the Trainline website or the National Express. If you stay longer, renting a car may be a solution, or getting an Uber. I find the taxis more expensive than Ubers, and it also makes everything easier.


 

BEST PLACES TO STAY


I would definitely recommend staying around the city centre, especially if you're coming for a short visit. Taking the bus from places around the periphery of the city takes more than 30 minutes, and if you go at rush time, you can spend even more than 1 hour in a bus full of annoyed people. The top 3 hotels that I would personally recommend would be:

  • Hyatt Regency

  • Hotel du Vin

  • Malmaison

All these hotels have something special and different about them. If you are on a budget or just prefer something cheaper, I would recommend:

  • Ibis hotel

  • Comfort Inn

  • Bloc Hotel

These suggestions are all around the city centre. If you are flexible and want to know more, check with the widget below and book a place that suits you:


 

EATING AND DRINKING


Birmingham is the city with the biggest number of Michelin-starred restaurants outside London. At this moment, there are 7 restaurants: Adam’s; Purnell’s; Simpsons; Carters of Moseley; Peel’s; The Cross; Le Champignon Sauvage;

I think food it’s a matter of taste, so most of these places are my personal recommendations. If you come to the UK, you need to try their English breakfast, the afternoon tea, the fish and chips and the Sunday roast.


  • For the best English breakfast in the city, I would recommend The High Field, Edgbaston, and for a vegan breakfast, Wayland’s Yard.

  • For the afternoon tea, an amazing place that knows how to properly do it is Harvey Nichols in the Mailbox, and for vegans who want to enjoy some tea/coffee and cakes, a great place is 3 Three’s in the city centre.

  • For lunch/ dinner, depending on your preference for food, you can have one of my favourite Japanese cuisine at Wagamama, try some world food at Giraffe, or enjoy a great lunch with a view of the canals at Pitcher and Piano if you are craving some junk food you need to try the Handmade Burgers, they have amazing vegan burgers, if you want to try food from Brazil, Mexico, Argentina, Peru and beyond, you need to try Las Iguanas, they do great desserts as well, or if you feel like having some Italian food try Bella Italia. These are just some examples of the great cuisine that the city has. There is a wide variety of Indian, Chinese, Spanish, Italian, Caribbean food and so on, vegan and vegetarian friendly.


If you are in the mood for some coffee, you need to try the classic British coffee at Costa. For the best view try Starbucks in the Bullring, in the city centre.


To go out to drink, the best area is Broad Street, where you can find tens of pubs aligned for people to pop in and enjoy. One of my favourite places is the Gin Vault, situated on the side of the canal, it’s a very cosy and nice place, with a menu full of possibilities, especially for Gin lovers.



 

SHOPPING


The biggest shopping centre is the Bullring, but also as a part of the shopping experience, the Selfridges, the New Street and the Grand Central, it is easy to find shops everywhere in this area. Now the biggest Primark in the world opened just near the Bullring, so even better, that’s a heaven for shoppers. The only problem is that it’s always crowded, from people going to work, people travelling in the Grand Central, shopping and having lunch, this place is always full and may not be a pleasure to keep waiting in lines to try something on or paying. Around the city centre, there are some great arcades with shops and the Mailbox, another place with good shops and pubs.

Another big shopping centre where you find all the good shops is INTU in Merry Hill, a little outside of Birmingham, but for me, it is great because it’s not crowded, not noisy and the road there is a pleasure.


 

TIPS AND TRICKS:


  • Don’t forget your umbrella! It is the UK, after all.

  • Get a bus pass, it will save you a lot of money.

  • Book tickets to attractions online beforehand to avoid spending hours in queues.

  • Always look on the right when you cross the street.

  • Almost everywhere ask for tap water, it’s free.

  • Make sure you don’t forget to get travel insurance. The prices are high in the UK for doctors and hospitals.

  • Say please, sorry and thank you. English people will say these three words even if they don’t actually mean it, but they feel offended if somebody else doesn’t use them.

  • Smoke outside. Smoking is not permitted in closed spaces in the UK.

  • Leave a tip if you are happy with the service; usually, 10% is just fine.

  • Enjoy all the green spaces in the city.


If you are interested in some events coming up in the period you are here, check the Visit Birmingham website.


Birmingham Library UK

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