A City Guide to Birmingham, England
Birmingham has undergone a major rejuvenation over the last decade and the “concrete jungle,” has been replaced with shimmering high-rises, stylish bars and attractive cafes. England´s second largest city is often overlooked by visitors in favour of the grandeur of London, but with plenty of cultural values stored in its locker, Birmingham has much more to offer than it is given credit for.
Not many people realise Birmingham was the inspiration for Lord of the Rings, as author JRR Tolkien lived in the area.
A visit to Sarehole Mill cuts an imposing figure on the pretty landscape and makes quite an impression. The towering brick chimney is one of two watermills in the region that is still standing.
And talking of attractions making an impression, The Museum of the Jewellery Quarter was voted the third best visitors attraction in Europe by Trip Advisor reviewers in 2010, right up there with London´s National Gallery and the Pantheon in Rome. The immense jewellery quarter complex contains more than 200 buildings exhibiting artwork, building trails and over 100 jewellery specialists which account for 40 percent of the jewellery made in the UK. There is also an old cemetery and some chilling catacombs.
Birmingham is a bustling city, but you don´t have to go far out the city centre to find peace and quiet. There are several places within easy reaching distance that transport you into an entirely different world altogether. The Birmingham Botanical Gardens in Edgbaston offers 15-acres of exotic plant and flowers to discover, whilst Cannon Hill Park is arguably the city´s most attractive open space offering five glorious acres of woodland with a boating lake and meadows filled with wild flowers. There is also the Birmingham Nature Centre where you will be entertained by Meer cats, otters and red pandas.
For a unique experience why not head to Electric Cinema and treat yourself to some popcorn whilst you watch a film. That may not sound like such a unique experience, but if I were to tell you that this is the oldest working cinema in the UK and shows thought-provoking independently made films rather than over-rated Hollywood trash, it´s an experience you will probably only have once. And whilst you are there take a swig of the potent Parisian absinthe from a traditional fountain. You´ll probably never do that again either!
Nightlife in Birmingham
Birmingham also has a throbbing nightlife with a host of packed pubs and pulsating nightclubs, but it´s proudest boast is its thriving live music indie scene which has flourished as much as the re-generated architecture. Famed as the “birthplace of heavy metal,” Birmingham has been home to numerous famous singers including Ozzy Osbourne, Judas Priest, together with Led Zeppelin duo Robert Page and John Bonham. Scores of venues have popped up in recent years featuring local and national bands playing fresh, new and innovative sounds that is reviving and rivalling the city´s exciting music scene of the 60´s and 70´s.
Most tourist attractions in Birmingham are at the heart of the city centre and within easy-walking distance, but to save your legs from tiring there is a great network of buses and local train lines connecting attractions for your convenience. Visitors could also hire a rental car to visit regional attractions such as Shakespeare’s Stratford Upon Avon, the Black Country Museum, Ironbridge (the birthplace of the Industrial Revolution) and more.
To see the city from a different perspective you can even take a barge. Birmingham is only 1 hour 25 minutes by train from London, so if you are visiting England and want to see more than the capital, Birmingham gives you plenty of reasons to visit.