BirminghamEngland does not just mean London: if you are looking for a new destination which is also far from the usual European capitals, Birmingham is just what you need.
A jewel of the industrial revolution, today Birmingham has reinvented itself to offer inhabitants and tourists a city that can be enjoyed from every point of view. Let's find out what to do and see there.
England doesn't just mean London: if you're looking for a new destination far from the glories of the usual European capitals, Birmingham is just the place for you. The proverbial British atmosphere will not fail to thrill fans of Anglo-Saxon culture who, in Birmingham, will find plenty to interest them. Because Birmingham is not only the second-largest city in the UK in terms of population but also a concentration of history.
Birmingham is today a busy city: first a flourishing market town, then the cradle of the industrial revolution, Brum (as it is called by its inhabitants) is today a city enjoyable from end to end. After freeing itself from its exclusively industrial past and undergoing radical urban redevelopment, Birmingham has found a new identity: the city reflects its beauty in the numerous canals flowing through its urban fabric and, at the same time, invites tourists to discover its attractions and places of interest which, trust me, are numerous.
Tour of Birmingham: from Victoria Square to St Philip’s CathedralThis tour of Birmingham starts from Victoria Square, the main square of the city and a place around which there are pleasant pedestrian areas, perfect for enjoying the atmosphere of the city without haste. Around this spacious square, there are many Victorian buildings that will not fail to impress you. First take in the Corinthian colonnade of Birmingham Town Hall, the venue of the Birmingham Triennial Music Festival and now the city's concert and assembly hall, and then turn your attention to the impressive Council House, built-in neo-Renaissance style to house the offices of the city council.
And a visit to this part of the city is enough to understand that the buildings in Birmingham are quite recent: in fact, although the city was founded in the Middle Ages, very little remains from this period. Indeed, the main cathedral, which you will find a little further along Colmore Row, is a triumph of Baroque architecture: St. Philip's Cathedral, famous above all for its stained glass windows, is a corner of peace in the middle of the bustling city. It's definitely worth a visit.
Workmen's Birmingham: from the Jewellery Quarter to Back to Back housesBirmingham still preserves much of its working-class past: the characteristic red-brick buildings tell the story of the industrial past of a city which, not surprisingly, was known as the "workshop of the world". This tour of Birmingham's industrial past starts from the Jewellery Quarter, located north of Victoria Square. It is a true national treasure and an area where you will find a unique atmosphere. Here, at the beginning of the 1900s, there were more than 30,000 people involved in the manufacture and machining of jewelry: walking through the streets of the district, full of shops and workshops, will give visitors an opportunity to enjoy the glories of the past and visit one of the most beautiful and characteristic industrial sites in Europe, now transformed into an urban village that exudes charm from every brick.
To learn more about the history of this wonderful neighborhood we recommend a visit to the Museum of the Jewellery Quarter which, in addition to being one of the largest independent museums in the United Kingdom, tells the story of Smith & Pepper, a jewelry factory that made the fortune of the neighborhood.
If, then, you want to enjoy the true atmosphere of industrial times, our advice is to visit Birmingham Back to Backs, for a guided tour of the city's old workers' houses. Now restored and brought back to new life, they allow you to take a step back into the past accompanied by local guides who, in addition to showing you the buildings, can tell you the stories of the many workers who lived there from 1840 to 1970.
Birmingham's museums: what to visit in the cityBirmingham is also a perfect destination for lovers of art and culture in general: there is no lack of museums in the city. In addition to those closely linked to the industrial past of the city, there are many that celebrate art in all its forms.
An example is the Ikon Gallery, devoted entirely to contemporary art and housed in a beautiful Victorian building, this gallery is a temple to visual arts. Even the singing lift in the building, designed by Martin Creed, is a popular attraction for visitors to visit and experience from the first to the last... floor!
Continue your tour of Birmingham's museums to discover the Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery which, in over 40 rooms, houses 500,000 works of art that, taken together, cover seven centuries of history. Admission is free, so you have to take advantage of it.
If, on the other hand, you are a science lover, don't miss the Thinktank, Birmingham Science Museum, perfect if you are traveling with children: here the pleasure of discovery is the norm and little ones will appreciate the opportunity to touch scientific and technological artifacts with their own hands.
Those with a sweet tooth, on the other hand, will have to take advantage of one of the most popular attractions in the city, a cross between a museum and a mystical experience. This is Cadbury World, one of the largest chocolate factories in the world: you can get a close look at the process by which chocolate is prepared and, once you have learned the basics, create your own personal praline.
What to do in Birmingham: a visit to the Botanical Gardens and a tour of the canalsThe main attractions of Birmingham also include a corner of greenery: the city's botanical gardens, although a little way from the city center (that is about 2 km) offers visitors the chance to enjoy a beautiful green paradise away from the chaos. Founded over 200 years ago, it is home to many plants, including beautiful sub-tropical orchids. Don't miss the butterfly house, a really wonderful place.
If, on the other hand, you want to observe the city from a different angle, we suggest you take a tour of the canals of Birmingham: from the water, the perspective is magnificent and the views that will appear before your eyes will not disappoint you. Book your tour on Sherborne Wharf, and discover the city from its characteristic narrowboats.
Shopping in Birmingham: the Bullring
But the things to see in Birmingham don't end here: it would be extremely reductive to try to describe all the attractions of the city in a single article: because from street art to the most beautiful buildings, from the most characteristic streets to the most picturesque cafés, Birmingham is a city that needs to be experienced first hand. Keep our tour in mind but let yourself be carried away by the city's atmosphere to fully grasp its essence. All we can do is wish you a pleasant stay.
What to eat in Birmingham: typical English cuisineBefore leaving for Birmingham, let's dedicate a small paragraph to the typical dishes of the city. Here English food is the main ingredient and roasts play a starring role. That's why, when planning a trip to the city, you cannot help but try the classic Sunday Roast, to be accompanied by sauces and vegetables.
But to try the real local cuisine, we suggest you to go to the inns and many pubs in the city: here, in addition to sampling the local beers, you will have the opportunity to work out the real secrets of the city's dishes. Don't miss the Old Crown, the oldest pub in town, which dates back as far as 1450.
To enter Great Britain, citizens of EU member states, Norward, Lichtenstein, Iceland, Switzerland and the British Overseas Territories do not need to apply for a visa. An identity card valid for border crossing or a passport is all you’ll need. Citizens of another ten countries don’t need a visa for visits of less than six months: USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, Singapore, South Korea, South Africa, Hong Kong and Malaysia. Before you leave, it’s best to check that your identification document isn’t damaged. Even minimal damage could lead to delays and even result in you being turned back at the border.
We also advise that anybody in possession of an identity card renewed with an extension stamp checks that the UK recognises its validity before travelling. Children under the age of 15 must carry their own individual document (identity card or passport). For more information, please head to the British Government’s website: www.gov.uk/check-uk-visa
When is the best time to visit Birmingham? We recommend that you book your trip in summer, mainly between June and August. Although there is never a shortage of rain, you will have a better chance of encountering the sun and, as a result, of visiting Birmingham in all its splendour: the temperatures, in fact, are around 20°C.