City Guide: Birmingham
Birmingham, situated in the West Midlands, is the second largest city of the UK and has gained a prominent role in UK history during the Industrial Revolution.
The many museums today still hint at its important role in British manufacturing history as it was here where the industrial steam engine was invented. Nowadays the city gleams as an international commercial centre and an important hub for transport, retail, events and conferences. The many cultural institutions, the great architecture and the somewhat Venice alike looking channels and bridges create a very charming atmosphere.
Despite the city being the second largest the most important sights are reachable easily by foot. We arrived at Birmingham New Street station, a major hub in the British rail network, and were somewhat surprised by the size of the station. Overall it seemed to be quite new, but also very busy.
Gas Street Basin
The Gas Street Basin is a canal basin with lots of small bridges and a variety of cafes, bars and restaurants alongside it.
It is worth visiting both during the day and night as it is a very lovely area to stroll around and the lighting during the night is very charming. If you enjoy touristy stuff you can also book on one of the small boats to do a tour around the canals.
Library of Birmingham
At first sight the library of Birmingham doesn’t really seem to fit into the city. Its special, modern design directly catches your attention while passing it. And it comes as no surprise that the extremely large library has already won several awards.
The golden and black design looks somewhat exquisite and definitely like a great place to learn, discover and meet others.
Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery
The Museum & Art Gallery was first opened in 1885 and is located in a rather beautiful, old building. It displays a variety of galleries for everyone to explore.
Unfortunately, part of the building and its surrounding were under construction during our visit so we couldn’t take the most beautiful pictures. Overall the city seems to have had a lot of investment in different projects at the moment, so it will be interesting to return to the city in a few years.
Birmingham Victoria Square
In the city centre of Birmingham you can find Victoria Square with the Town Hall and the Council House. Both buildings are absolutely gorgeous as you can see for yourself.
Due to its central location you can easily access both the Cathedral and the Bull Ring from here. Moreover, the Jewellery Quarter is just a short walk away.
Birmingham Jewellery Quarter
The Jewellery Quarter in Birmingham is one of the major hubs for its business and can be easily reached by walking or by taking the Midland Metro.
The quarter covers about one square kilometre with a sheer amount of different jewellery shops (around 700 ones). There is also a nice clock tower and old, red brick houses showcasing the charm of the historic village.
Birmingham Cathedral also known as St. Philip’s Cathedral, isn’t really a very spectacular cathedral to look at. It appears quite nice, but doesn’t seem to be any special in comparison to other cathedrals we have seen before. Nonetheless, you should check out the area around as there is the Grand Hotel opposite of the Cathedral and it is situated on Colmore Row, one of Birmingham’s most prestigious streets in the business district.
Although the Grand Hotel, which was originally opened in 1879, is currently closed due to crumbling stonework, it is set to open up again in 2018 and looks rather beautiful.
Birmingham Bull Ring Shopping Centre
Apart from its beautiful city centre and its prime location in the British rail network, Birmingham also has a lot to offer for shopaholics. The Bull Ring Shopping Centre consists of two main buildings and holds about 160 different stores.
Being one of the biggest city centre shopping malls in Europe, the somehow strangely designed shopping centre attracts millions of visitors each year and is the perfect hideaway whenever the rainy English weather strikes again.
However, if you don’t particularly like shopping (like Moritz) then you should try to check out one of the museums instead. You can choose from a wide variety including Thinktank Birmingham Science Museum, The Jewellery Quarter Museum, Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery (as mentioned above), Aston Hall, Cadbury World and many others.
Digbeth used to be one of the most industrialised parts of the city and it still looks like it today.
The area looks rather dodgy, but is also a nice spot for everyone interested to see the more artistic side of the city as there is a lot of graffiti around.
Overall impressions of Birmingham
Overall we really liked the city. The interplay of modern architecture with historical elements was very interesting to see. Although we didn’t spend much time at the shopping centre, it was also quite impressive and definitely drew in a lot of people at the weekend. Sadly, some of the beautiful buildings were hidden behind construction sites, but the city will surely shine even more once these are completed.