The best things to do in Birmingham
Birmingham has slowly become one of the UK’s must visit destinations.
Birmingham has long been one of the UK’s most underrated cities, with London and Manchester often taking the crown. Behind the scenes, Birmingham has slowly become one of the country’s must visit destinations, with brand new attractions, restaurants and shops across the city centre following the success of the 2022 Commonwealth Games, which has put Birmingham firmly on traveller’s radars. Far from being the industrial hub it was historically known as, the city is home to rich cultures and flavours, a buzzing live music scene and beautiful outdoor spaces.
The Bullring is Birmingham’s iconic shopping centre and one of the most famous attractions in the city. A sculpture of a metal bull stands guard outside, which has become an important mascot for the city. The Bullring houses many of Britain’s most famous outlets, including Selfridges department store, luxury brands like Breitling and high street staples such as Zara and H&M. The Bullring is directly connected to the famous Birmingham New Street Station, meaning it’s the perfect introduction to the city and an excellent place to explore on a rainy day.
The Balti Triangle
London has Brick Lane, Manchester has the Curry Mile, but Birmingham’s Balti Triangle may eclipse them both. The city is a melting pot of cultures, and many south Asian communities have made their way here, bringing delicious, wide-ranging cuisines. From award-winning curry houses to small, family run eateries, tasting a Birmingham curry is a rite of passage when visiting the city. There are so many curry houses here that even the locals haven’t tried them all, but make time to try at least one on a visit to the city. The best in the area are Asha’s, which recently shot to fame following a visit from Tom Cruise, Shababs, popular with locals and famous British chefs The Hairy Bikers, or Azims, one of Birmingham’s oldest curry houses.
Brindley Place & The Canals
Did you know that Birmingham has more miles of canals than Venice? The newly developed Brindley Place district offers lively canal-side bars and restaurants, however simply walking along the water’s edge is enough to appreciate the beauty of this neighbourhood. The canals can be explored on foot or by waterbus, covering 35 miles of the city and taking visitors through historic districts, parkland and the busy city centre.
A popular way to get acquainted with Birmingham is via a walking tour along the canals, which passes many of the city centre’s most famous landmarks or on a boat trip to see the city from the water. Points of interest along the way include Gas Street Basin, the Utilita Arena and The Mailbox, which is home to many of the city’s most popular restaurants and bars.
Live music at Birmingham Arena
Birmingham’s Utilita Arena is the city’s main music and performance venue, hosting world renowned artists such as Celine Dion, Cirque du Soleil and Elton John. Performances occur every weekend and many week nights, and experiencing a show here is a fun way to spend an evening in Birmingham.
One of the many venues recently used to host the 2022 Commonwealth Games, the city is already in the running to host the Eurovision Song Contest 2023, having previously held it at the Utilita Arena in 1998. With the huge success of the Games, Birmingham is a popular choice for hosting the contest having spent millions developing the city centre with new attractions, hotels and restaurants for visitors. Both this arena and the nearby Resorts World Arena have the capacity to hold the expected Eurovision attendees, and are close to both New Street Station and Birmingham Airport, which receives thousands of direct flights from Europe.
Birmingham Christmas Market
Birmingham’s Frankfurt Christmas Market is known across the UK as the best in the country. The market is not only the biggest outside of Germany and Austria, but hosts stalls and vendors directly from Germany offering authentic food and drinks. The market stretches from Victoria Square towards the train station, with live music, glühwein, bratwurst and sweet shops lining the streets. There is also often a funfair, with a huge Ferris wheel and ice rink outside Birmingham Library which is popular for its spectacular views across the city from the top floor. The midlands often see freezing temperatures, and the thousands of visitors to the market arrive from across England wrapped up in scarves and gloves to enjoy the atmosphere.
Street Art in Digbeth
Digbeth is a newly popular neighbourhood of Birmingham, filled with independent restaurants, cafes and shops, many of which are vegan or sustainable. The area is also home to some of the best street art in the city, with huge murals adorning the sides of buildings and portraits around each corner. New artwork is created here every day, which you’ll find in doorways, on old factories and even on the pavement, so it’s worth taking a stroll through the area to admire the talent of the independent creators who live here. There are also plenty of fun activities and delicious food options, such as Roxy Ballroom bowling alley, Birdies and Zumhof Biergarten.
Facts about Birmingham
- Many European destinations offer direct flights to Birmingham Airport, from where it is a short train ride into the city.
- From London, regular trains run from Euston Station to Birmingham New Street, taking around 1.5-2 hours.
- The city of Birmingham has a population of 1.14 million people, making it the second largest city in the United Kingdom.
- Birmingham holds many accolades within the UK, including producing 40% of the country’s jewellery and having the largest public library in Europe.
- The city was considered England’s centre for industry and manufacturing during the Industrial Revolution and many of the factories and businesses survive to this day.
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