The UK’s second biggest city is finally getting the attention it deserves. Now it’s one of the world’s hottest city destinations.
Birmingham‘s industrial landscape has been reclaimed and revamped for the 21st century. Check our top suggestions for things to see and do while you’re there.
1. Cadbury World
It’s the closest you’ll ever get to feeling like Charlie in Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory, Cadbury World in Bourneville celebrates the city’s connection to the famous chocolate-making family. From humble beginnings in 1824 selling cocoa and drinking chocolate from a grocer’s shop, the Cadbury family revolutionised chocolate-making in the UK and ultimately built the expansive factory in which the attraction now sits. It’s a sure-fire winner if you’re travelling with children; expect to get hands on with interactive exhibits while experiencing the chocolate-making process in action.
2. ‘Middle Earth’
The Cadbury family are not the only people of world-wide renown to have roots in Brum. Writer JRR Tolkein also started his own ‘unexpected journey’ in Birmingham. The Lord of the Rings author spent much of his childhood in and around the city and, while New Zealand is cashing in on the film franchise locations, you can visit the real inspiration for The Hobbit and ‘the Shire’ around Sarehole Mill firsthand. You can choose to make your own way to Middle Earth but there are private bus tours that run throughout the year with guides who bring the fantasy novels to life.
3. The UK’s Venice
One way to explore Birmingham city centre – without wearing out the treads on your shoes – is by boat. Believe it or not, there are more canals here than in Venice, although travel is by a traditional canal barge rather than a gondola. On an hour-long cruise, you’ll see the blend of historic buildings and contemporary architecture showing the city’s evolution over the centuries. You’ll also travel through the Gas Street Basin, more peaceful now than in the past when it would have been filled with the noise and smells of cargo being unloaded from similar barges; from chocolate to coal.
4. The Jewellery Quarter
The Bull Ring – the bizarre, pimply-looking building that houses a shopping centre complete with Selfridges – is as good a place as any to start indulging in some retail therapy. Or if you’re feeling expansively romantic, head to the city’s Jewellery Quarter, where over 100 jewellers still operate in an area with over 250 years of heritage. Even if you’re not enjoying a romantic city break, the listed Georgian buildings around St Paul’s Square are well worth admiring.
5. Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery
Get lost in Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery‘s 40 gallery spaces, exhibiting some of the country’s most precious artefacts. As well as displaying the largest hoard of Anglo-Saxon gold ever recovered in the UK, there are hauls of Roman and Egyptian treasures and a floor dedicated to the history of Birmingham and its people. And it’s all free of charge.
6. Eastside City Park
The first major park to be opened in the city for 130 years, Eastside City Park cuts its way through the urban sprawl from the city centre to the Eastside area. A tranquil haven amid the whirl of a modern metropolis, it’s flanked by the Thinkthank Science Museum at Millennium Point which should definitely be your next pitstop.