A weekend in Birmingham
If you, like many others, have always thought of Birmingham as an industrial place with not much to offer, you want to stop and read this. I bet you that by the end of this, you’ll be looking at train tickets to the city that brought you Cadbury’s chocolate (yeah, that’s right!).
The most fascinating thing about this vibrant, multicultural city is that it has something to offer for everyone: whether you’re a fashionista, a foodie or you just like looking at museums, Birmingham has it all. Do you accept the challenge?
When exploring a new city, the best thing to do is find out more about its history. If you’re curious like me you’re going to love the Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery. This free-entrance museum not only hosts evidence from ancient Egypt and Roman times, but it also traces the history of Birmingham until the modern days. Kids will enjoy it as well as adults, because it’s mostly interactive: you can watch and listen to people’s stories about Birmingham.
Another place you can’t miss visiting if you’re in Birmingham is the new library, initiated by Nobel prize winner Malala Yousafzai. What’s so special about a library? Well, this is no ordinary one. First of all, it has modern escalators to move across the nine floors. Then there’s a secret garden, which is closed on rainy days, and a glass lift that goes all the way to the rooftop, so you can get a view of the entire city. There is always an exhibition on the ground floor, so check out what’s on before you go in.
If you’re a food lover, here’s a fun fact: the famous curry dish Balti was born in Birmingham! If you’re going to eat out, make it curry and avoid food chains that you can find in any other English town. Birmingham also has a lot of independent coffee shops that are worth visiting: Caffeine magazine set out a list of the best coffee places in town -let me tell you, they make chain coffee shops hide in shame.
Shopaholics’ jaws will drop as soon as they come out of the station and find themselves in front of the Bullring, the glamourous shopping centre. But Birmingham has more to offer: just off the hustle and bustle of the Bullring (which, by the way, you want to avoid on a Saturday afternoon if you don’t like crowds and queues) a ten -minute walk will take you to the Custard Factory. Once a factory for Bird’s instant custard, it has now been converted into a shopping centre, with little quirky independent shops that sell a variety of items, from cruelty-free makeup to vintage makeovers, antiques and corsets. On the way, you may want to stop in COW, a vintage shop that sells unique pieces for reasonable prices, all in fairly good conditions.
If you have a few days to spend in the area, I suggest you don’t miss out on Selly Oak. Just off Birmingham city centre, a few bus stops down, this little town is the home of Cadbury’s factory. If you love chocolate, you can spend the day in Cadbury world and find out more about the place that inspired Roald Dahl’s famous story. After visiting Cadbury world, it’s worth taking a walk around Bourneville, the little town that used to house all of Cadbury’s workers. The town is now owned by the Cadbury Trust and has a few independent shops that you cannot miss. Tickets from £11.
Last but not least, Birmingham around Christmas time is magical: its streets become home to the Frankfurt Christmas Market, which is the largest outdoor Christmas market in Britain. Over the past 13 years, the market attracted thousands of visitors and is still the event every Brummy is looking forward to. From 13 November to 22 December.
Pictures: Clara Sbraccia