You can travel all around the world and pick your favourite places while a tourist, but what happens when you have to go an live in a place for quite some time? Some people forgot to be a tourist in their own city or country.
Fact: They think they know everything about the place where they “work” but it’s not really true is it? And what about knowing more about some cities in your own country? This leads me to this post and probably the beginning of a new travelling series in the UK here on the blog.
Birmingham is situated in the West Midlands and the Midlands is a region that is exactly that: The Middle of the Country (England) and it’s city centre is constituted by Quarters. You have the city centre divided into quarters and among them, the most known are the Jewellery Quarter (where the Queen’s jewellery and past Royalty, were and are made), Chinese Quarter, Irish Quarter (now called Digbeth), Financial Quarter/District (Colmore Row), etc.
Planning your travelling is the first thing to do. Hotels in Birmingham are easy to find out and to book for as long as you wish to stay; Birmingham can be reached via Train, Car, Coach and even through Canals via boat (if you own one), there are good and excellent ways to reach and get around the city.
Places to Visit: City Centre
New Street Station
Birmingham New Street is the largest and busiest of the three main railway stations in the Birmingham City Centre, England. It is a central hub of the British railway system. It is a major destination for Trains services from London Euston, Glasgow and Edinburgh and the national hub of the CrossCountry network – the most extensive in Britain, with long-distance trains serving destinations from Aberdeen to Penzance.
The station is named after New Street, which runs parallel to the station, although the station has never had a direct entrance to New Street except via the Grand Central shopping centre. Historically the main entrance to the station was on Stephenson Street, just off New Street and the original New Street station opened in 1854.
The Bull Ring is a major commercial area of central Birmingham. It has been an important feature of Birmingham since the Middle Ages, when its market was first held. Two shopping centres have been built in the area; in the 1960s, and then in 2003; the latter is styled as one word, Bullring.
The area was first known as Corn Cheaping in reference to the corn market on the site. The name Bull Ring referred to the green within Corn Cheaping that was used for bullbaiting. The ‘ring’ was a hoop of iron in Corn Cheaping to which bulls were tied for baiting before slaughter. The joining of the two words in the 21st-century development of the area to form Bullring caused controversy amongst some residents and other people who were angry at the change of what was described as a “historic spelling.”
Bullring Shopping Centre was masterplanned and designed mainly by Benoy, and is a beautiful design building made with a mix between iron and polished aluminium with 2 buildings joined in the lower ground, letting people go through the markets towards the city centre and High street.
Fun Fact: You can find the Bullring wallpaper on any computer!
Even if you are just being a tourist and not buying Fresh produce for your home, It’s worth a visit.
These Markets are legendary as they are in the same place they were originally (of course modernized along the years). Birmingham’s wholesale food markets date from 1166, when the Lord of the Manor Peter de Birmingham obtained a royal charter permitting him to hold a market at “his castle at Birmingham”, though later members of the de Birmingham family claimed that markets in Birmingham had been held since before the Norman Conquest.
It was this market that provided the first impetus to the growth of Birmingham as a commercial town from the twelfth century onwards. Until the 19th century, the markets were held throughout the streets of the centre of the town: a cornmarket (now Bullring) and Welsh and English markets selling cattle are recorded in 1553, with butchers shambles and a fish market recorded from the eighteenth century.
The New markets, Rag Market and Meat and Fish market, were remodelled in the 2000s. You can see and find many things as well as eat from the stalls.
Victoria Square is a pedestrian public square and is home to both the Town Hall and the Council House, and directly adjacent to Chamberlain Square. The square was formerly known as Council House Square, and had a tramway running through it. It was renamed on 10 January 1901, to honour Queen Victoria. She died just 12 days later. A marble statue, donated by Henry Barber and designed by Thomas Brock, was erected and unveiled; it was later recast in bronze.
The square is often considered to be the centre of Birmingham and is the point from where local road sign distances are measured. It is a short walk from St. Philip’s Cathedral on Colmore Row and is on the main pedestrian route between the Bull Ring and Brindleyplace areas.
Every Christmas, Victoria Square forms the centrepiece for the Frankfurt Christmas Market and Craft Fair and with the city’s official Christmas tree. The market’s wooden huts sell items such as jewellery, artwork, ornaments, clothing and German food.
Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery
Being very Biased here, the place that I loved to work some years ago, and with my passion for History and Art being fulfilled to the max, this Museum is a must see. Make sure you have a couple of hours spared for this museum has a bit about everything. Best of all: is Free entrance!
The entrance has stairs but you can go on the back and ask one of the museum staff to let you go through the lift. Either way, don’t forget to see the magnificent statue in the entrance. And of course, enjoy a Tea in the Edwardian Tea room and on your way there see the magnificent industrial room!
With a 1st floor filled with the Birmingham history and places where children can enjoy and gather knowledge of the town and world history, a lot is to be seen and touched, because interactivity is key for learning.
The middle ground floor you can find several aisles with the special exhibition, going through the Saxons with the Staffordshire Treasure, And then following the history of the Art between several periods, From Neanderthals to Egyptians, to the Baroque or Impressionism, a bit about everything for delight of History lovers and with very known paintings in the exhibition.
The lower ground floor you can find seasonal exhibitions, make sure to check because some of these can be free, otherwise, a small admission can be charged. Make sure you talk to the volunteers at the desk and say Hi from me, as I miss my teams very much.
Open on 3 September 2013, it replaced Birmingham Central Library. The library, which is estimated to have cost £188.8 million, is viewed by the Birmingham City Council as a flagship project for the city’s redevelopment. I
It has been described as the largest public library in the United Kingdom, the largest public cultural space in Europe, and the largest regional library in Europe with more than 2,414,860 million visitors ( fact from 2014) making it the 10th most popular visitor attraction in the UK.
Either you are the Queen or the Royals, you will always be welcomed at the Jewellery Quarter. Either to look at the beautiful jewellery and history that this Quarter has, or simply to relax and unwind, the Jewellery Quarter is the largest European business concentration of jewellery trading, with 40% of the UK jewellery being produced here.
Jewellery Quarter was founded on the 1553 and has been the birthplace of many pioneering advancements in industrial technology, making Birmingham where the Industrial Revolution started! The future started in Birmingham and spread to the rest of the world.
70% of the Crown Jewels (guarded in the Tower of London, London) came from Birmingham and the Jewellery Quarter contains one of the best Jewellery schools in the world!
Canals and Brindley Place
Birmingham, as I said at the beginning, is the centre of the country, and the Second biggest city in England. Because of its dimension, population and its history in trading, the Canals are still operative. If you have a narrow boat, the type of boat used to travels in the UK canals, you can travel all around the UK through the canals.
When you reach Birmingham, most of the boats go straight to the Marina situated in the middle of the city, near the Birmingham Library, called Brindley Place.
Brindley place is situated in the middle of the city, with many restaurants, pubs, and places to stay. It was remodelled and one of the newest places in town to live in, since is situated and near everything.
Places to visit within the Brindley Place: the REP (where you can find many events such as Theatre, Operas, The Birmingham Philharmonic sessions, Ballet, etc), the Sea Life Birmingham, The Legoland Discovery Centre, and much more. If you walk through the canal and through the marina, you will see the places where the TV Show Peaky Blinders were filmed (since the TV show is actually telling the story about Birmingham) and you will get to the posh Mailbox, where you can find lots of Restaurants and High Fashion from Harvey Nichols.
The Custard Factory is the UK’s leading destination for Creative and Digital Businesses, Independent Shops and Alternative Culture outside London. Set in 15 acres of beautifully restored Victorian Factories, just five minutes walk from the Bullring, it is the heart of Birmingham’s buzzing creative and digital district.
What to expect to see here: Music and lots of Vintage and retro things!
History: Opened in 1837 by the owner Alfred Bird, a qualified chemist and druggist, ingeniously invents instant egg-free Custard powder to cater to his wife Elizabeth’s allergy to eggs and yeast. He employed thousands of people and supplied the British Armed Forces in the World War I… After that, a lot of history went by and now it’s the most Kitch place you can visit. Fun agenda all year, expect lots of Art, exhibitions and music; or why not set your business offices in their buildings.
Places to Have a Fun Day: Attractions
Brummies know how to have fun! Some of the UK most Top rated attractions are situated in this city. One of them is Drayton Manor Park!
Situated just 30 minutes from the City Centre, in Tamworth, this park is the home of the most loved Blue train in the World and has its own land: Thomas Land!
With Thomas Land, DMP also is home to some thrilling rides, a Zoo, it’s own Castle and a lovely lake. Trains are the main feature and let’s not forget the fun characters we can find along the day such as the Fat Controller. A 4D cinema is also one of the attractions and depending on the season or holiday, the park changes to create the perfect environment and create a more involving experience. We simply love to go there as a family. Online you can catch some pretty good tickets deals. An absolutely best day ever on this Park!
You cannot resist and go a bit outside the city (30 minutes by car) and check the brilliant Warwick Castle, full of story and beautiful surroundings to spend a majestic day. They have the Falconer’s Quest Show in which you can see more on this post and prepare to be amazed by it.
See Warwick Castle website, you can find the events prepared for the specific date so keep checking online about them. Bring your princes and princesses to the castle and have fun with activities, museums, gardens, food and drinks and why not venture in the Dungeons (10+) or the Horrible Stories Maze (any age).
Cadbury World, in Bourneville, is one of the best places for any chocoholic to be taken. People all over the world come to visit it and fun fact: one of my readers, she is from Dubai and she came over to visit Cadbury World with her family and told me how much fun they had and great it was!
Best of all, Cadbury World is set to delight guests of all ages this year, as it launches a series of exclusive live shows featuring the much-loved Cadbury Characters this 2019!
The popular Character Breakfast are back on the menu this year and will be available to enjoy every weekend and throughout the school holidays. There will also be more opportunities to meet and greet your favourite characters in late January when the Bournville-based attraction launches its new Character Afternoon Teas. You can choose from the English Breakfast or why not be delighted with some American pancakes while you have fun with the Characters such as Freddo or Bertie.
You can also explore and discover in the self-guided tour of Cadbury World: see the 4D Chocolate Adventure Cinema with its motion seats, go through the Beanmobile on a magical journey, discover and learn about the Aztecs and the discovery of Cocoa for our Chocolates a 1.000 years back and how Spanish brought it to Europe, and my favourite of all: Learn about John Cadbury and how his family had a vision for their business to expand and how they helped and constructed a whole village (Bournville) for their workers.
Mr Cadbury’s Parrot will star in an egg-stra special Easter show, whilst Freddo will take to the stage in a brand new performance from the spring. Everyone’s favourite frog will make a thrilling return in the Spooktacular Freddo Show for Halloween.
So make sure you book your ticket and why not join in the Character Breakfast, and get a splendid fun morning getting strength from your breakfast so you can then enter Cadbury World. Don’t forget to take pictures with your favourite character and have fun!
Sea Life Birmingham
And no city could be visited without thinking about nature and animals. So why not visit the Sea Life and have fun and learn a bit more, while experiencing a 4D cinema and maybe touch a real Starfish.
Visit National Sea Life Centre, Birmingham on the 9th and 10th of February and take part in the Immersive in-tank trail, explore a variety of sharks and help Professor Finn find the missing Play-doh sharks’ teeth to become a Jawsome Shark Ranger!
For more information and bookings see online: https://www.visitsealife.com/birmingham/
Legoland Discovery Centre Birmingham
Have kids? Don’t have kids but you are a Lego aficionado? I got you! LEGOLAND® Discovery Centre Birmingham is situated in a wonderful place and full of things to do and with new activities.
LEGOLAND® Discovery Centre Birmingham is hosting the ultimate celebration of the new THE LEGO® MOVIE™ 2!
Join Emmet, Wyldstyle and the gang down in Bricksburg this Half Term for exclusive building activities, out-of-this-world character experiences, interactive photo opportunities and more! It’s going to be AWESOME!
Event highlights include:
- Meet Emmet and Wyldstyle
- Explore MINILAND to help Emmet find his friends
- Get creative with brand new build stations and challenges
It’s worth booking in advance to guarantee entry at https://birmingham.legolanddiscoverycentre.co.uk/
Places to Eat
Birmingham is known for being the best place outside the Middle East, to eat a good and authentic Curry. You can find takeaways or restaurants that will deliver the great taste from India to Pakistan, Bangladesh to many more countries in which are richer for the variety and flavours… Watch out for the spiciness! Guaranteed you will not be disappointed.
A place I can recommend, because we go there often, is Adils in Sparkhill, and they are open since 1977 and one of the best family business restaurant.
Looking for another Triangle to eat? In this little town, Moseley is a Bohemian place with several restaurants and can be reached easily by bus. With lots of historic Pubs you can find restaurants from other parts of the world, Cuban, Spanish, Indian, and why not a Fish and Chip shop? Take a look at the Dark Horse restaurant or the Fighting Cocks.
Worth to check it. Make sure you know when the farmers market is, which is normally situated in the Triangle of Moseley on the Last Saturday of the Month.
Care for a good Grill, Barbecue or some Petiscos? This Argentinian, Brazilian and Portuguese mixture in this brand new restaurant, made it excellent to open palates for good grilled food and a different type of meal. Located on the prestigious Colmore Row, Fazenda Birmingham is the latest addition to the flourishing restaurant scene in the heart of the financial district.
Fazenda has the perfect Churrasco (a mix of grilled meats) cooked to perfection, full of flavour and for us, as a family that has this background, is the place to chill out and eat “food that reminds us Home”.
The Salad Bar is an absolute delight, with cured meats and good cheese, plus don’t forget you Black Beans with Farofa (Feijao Preto) and white rice to accompany your Churrasco. Are you a Vegetarian, Vegan or Pescetarian? Don’t worry, they have a menu suited for you. Should I start with the desserts? Difficult…very Difficult to pick one! So pick the Brazilian sweet treats, which is a bit of every dessert they have… I die for a good “Quindim”!
Pair the delicious food with some excellent wines, cocktails or mocktails. My favourite is the Red Argentinian Malbec.
The staff is super friendly and can explain anything that you don’t know and give the best advice.
Plan your visit and see the menus on Fazenda Online, super worth the visit to this restaurant.
Looking for something more Asian? Chinese, Thai or Japanese? Then China Town is your place.
In the Chinese Quarter you can find from cafes to restaurants, Bakery and Cake shops to supermarkets, this is a place to come for a visit, eat fresh full of flavour food and have a fun experience day. From Chinese to Japanese, Korean and Thai, you can find a bit of everything.
Near the Chinese Quarter centre, you have Hippodrome Theatre and one of the best UK Ballet/Dance School, and also the eldest sweet shop in Birmingham, still with the same decor from the 1920’s – almost 100 years old!
Pubs: The Old Crown
You can find Pubs in Birmingham, family or not, it’s your choice. But what about the oldest Pub in Birmingham? Is one of my favourite places to go, either for the outside building or for the interior, or the wonderful garden on the back.
The Old Crown is Birmingham’s oldest secular building and has existed since 1368. Having stood the test of time during the English civil war, the pub now stands proudly in the heart of Digbeth, Birmingham’s thriving Creative Quarter near the Custard Factory. It acts as a central hub to the Digbeth community and is a landmark for our city.
Some say is haunted, and it even appeared in a known Ghost Hunting show. Besides that, make sure you grab your pint and some chips and have a great catch up with friends.
I cannot say how many Festivals exactly exists in Birmingham. Every time I get our someone tells me about something new, so the options are endless.
From The BBC Goodfood shows in the NEC, to Foodies Festival on the great Cannon Hill Park (the biggest park in Birmingham centre), or to Moseley Folk Festival, they are endless options for every person likings. From Music, to Dance, to Art to a Good cause, make sure you search and have fun.
Birmingham has a lot to offer. From Shows and Entertainment, to Festivals during the whole year, Places to see and visit and one of the best cities to Eat, make sure you plan your visit and have a wonderful family or a lovely getaway.
The spending money was gifted by Hotels.com, but all views are my own.