Balti, brummies and Bourneville
irmingham is slap bang in the middle of England - the beating heart of the country. And with a traceable history going back over 10,000 years, there’s plenty to uncover. The industrial revolution created unheard-of wealth in the city, and the resulting Georgian and Victorian architecture mixes perfectly with modern masterpieces to create a vibrant, brilliant city.
Arts and Culture
On the one hand the area spawned Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath, UB40 and Duran Duran. On the other, it's perfect for those who like to stroke their chins in academic appreciation of the arts. Catch the next musical movement at one of the smaller venues such as The Glee Club , The Sunflower Lounge or the brilliantly-named Actress and Bishop pub. Or if you prefer established acts, see some of the world’s biggest bands at the NIA (National Indoor Arena), the NEC (National Exhibition Centre), The LG Arena , the HMV Institute or the O2 Academy . And if the thought of a mosh pit leaves you in cold sweats, perhaps the Birmingham Royal Ballet , the Birmingham Symphony Orchestra , or the Birmingham Museum and Arts Gallery might be more suitable?
Must See Attractions
Must-see architectural gems include Aston Hall - a Jacobean mansion with parkland - and the National Trust’s Back to Backs housing, a museum of authentic terraced housing untouched from the 1800s. Fans of J R R Tolkein might like to visit Sarehole Mill , reputedly the inspiration for Hobbiton in the Lord of the Rings trilogy, while lovers of authentic hot food, should hit the city’s famous Balti Triangle , home to the award-winning restaurant: Lasan .
Birmingham’s Bullring is the strange-sounding shopping area, its name derived from a cattle market (or ‘Bull Ring’) built back in 1166. Today you’re more likely to find herds of fashionistas milling around the area, near to another jewel in the city’s architectural crown: the award-winning Selfridges building.
Taking kids to a city with the chocolate heaven that is Cadbury World is a sure-fire winner. And when the inevitable sugar rush kicks in, head to the Thinktank - a modern science museum with interactive displays of everything from Steam Engines to animal intestines: disgusting enough to entertain all inquisitive nippers. The famous Lunar Society, a band of 18th century philosophers, intellectuals and engineers would no doubt approve of Thinktank’s incredible Digital Planetarium, where a trip through the constellations will amaze even the most introspective of kids. Add in the possibility of going to Alton Towers , and the chance of being the coolest parents in the world is there for the taking.
Premier League lovers have Aston Villa , Birmingham City and West Bromwich Albion to take their rattles to, as well as the world famous Edgbaston Cricket Ground - home to Warwickshire. And let's not forget that the Belfry Golf Course is the spiritual home of the Ryder Cup too. For those who prefer the hands-on approach, the incredible Cannock Chase mountain bike trails are world-class, and have bike hire facilities to match.
If you can only make one festival, make sure it’s the Birmingham Food Fest , where local restaurants and producers vie for culinary awards and use the weekend to showcase their best wares. Past events have seen demonstrations by celebrity chefs, and the city’s vibrant Balti industry uses the event to full effect. Never had a Balti curry? Here’s your chance to atone for that sin.
Psst... Handy Hints
With all the comforts of home, Birmingham’s serviced apartments are a great alternative to a traditional hotel stay.
Guided Tolkien tours of all the Tolkien-related sites around Birmingham allow you to have a wonderful day seeing where Tolkien dreamt up The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings for yourself.
Take a Pavement Trail to explore the Quarter’s fascinating blend of old and new. Unique in Europe, it’s home to a huge number of jewellery businesses operating in historic surroundings, which date back over 250 years.
The iconic Selfridges building with the famous bronze bull.The Bullring