Birmingham isn’t usually associated with being a city break destination, but the UK’s second city has been making a name for itself in recent years. In fact, Birmingham was named as the UK’s fastest growing tourist destination with a total of 1.1 million tourists arriving in 2015, making it the fourth most visited place in the UK.
So what has caused travellers to flock to the West Midlands? Quality shopping, a vibrant arts and culture scene and some of the best restaurants in the country have seen the number of tourists from other areas of the UK increase substantially. It’s not only Brits that are heading to Birmingham either. The recent expansion of Birmingham airport coupled with co-ordinated campaigns to target foreign tourists from emerging markets such as India and China has seen the number of international visitors to the city soar.
We think Birmingham is a great city break destination – here’s a few things we think sets the city apart from the rest.
Birmingham is fast developing a reputation as a location for top class restaurants serving a varied range of culinary experiences. The city had the most Michelin starred restaurants outside of London, with Carters of Mosely, Adam’s, Purnell’s, Simpsons and Turners available for the foodies.
However, it’s not only ‘posh nosh’ that Birmingham specialises in! If Asian and Indian cuisine is your thing, then a visit to the famous ‘Balti Triangle’ is a must. The Balti was brought to Birmingham in the 1970s by the large Asian community, with many family-run restaurants renowned throughout the UK for authentic Asian and Indian cuisine.
With more and more Birmingham restaurants earning national acclaim and new ones delivering a variety of innovative and exciting cuisine, there’s something in Birmingham to suit any taste.
When it comes to the range of shopping experience in Birmingham, you really are spoilt for choice; from massive modern shopping malls to small independent retailers and boutiques. Whether it’s high end brands or fantastic bargains you’re after, you’ll find it in one of the premier shopping destinations in the UK.
Looking to find all your favourite high street brands and more? Then look no further than the Bullring shopping centre which is one of the largest shopping centres in the UK and located in the heart of Birmingham’s city centre. One of the most distinctive landmarks on the city’s skyline, you’ll find over 160 shops inside the Bullring, including the iconic Selfridges department store, offering you an unrivalled shopping experience.
After something a bit more unique? Whilst Birmingham is undoubtedly a modern city, it certainly hasn’t forgotten its proud Victorian heritage. Nowhere is this more evident than the Great Western Arcade – a sophisticated, elegant shopping parade that was built in 1876. Independent boutiques, niche specialists and a handful of high street stores mean that you’re sure to find a unique array of offerings.
Alternatively, cater to your quirky side by taking a walk to the Custard Factory, located in Birmingham’s creative quarter. This iconic building is home to 30 independent shops and it used to house the factory where Alfred Bird manufactured his instant custard! These independent shops located in the beautifully restored building include everything from vintage wares to modern independent fashion labels.
In recent years, the variety and quality of the arts and cultural offering of Birmingham has increased considerably as part of the city’s regeneration as a whole. Art galleries, interesting museums as well as a vibrant music scene mean the city holds its own alongside the more established cultural centres of the UK.
If you’re an art lover, there’s plenty for you in Birmingham. The Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery is home to the largest collection of pre-Raphaelite artwork in the world as well as many other historic collections. A visit to the Ikon Gallery is a must, too. This renovated Victorian building was formerly a boarding school, and now houses an impressive collection of contemporary art created by artists from all over the world. From photography, sculpture and painting to film and mixed media, these striking projects are a sight to behold and there’s a variety of tours and workshops operating throughout the day.
When it comes to music, Birmingham offers a real choice with an eclectic range of styles. As you would expect from the city that produced bands such as Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath and Duran Duran, the biggest bands in the world regularly visit the city on UK-wide tours due to fantastic venues such as the Barclaycard Arena and the Genting Arena. There’s also a vibrant scene for up and coming bands, with venues such as Hare and Hound and the Midlands Arts Centre showcasing the next generation.
However, it’s theatre and ballet where Birmingham brings a truly unique offering. Based at the Hippodrome and recently celebrating 25 years, the Birmingham Royal Ballet is the UK’s premier touring ballet company performing a range of classic work as well as new ground breaking pieces. Birmingham also has an established classical music scene with the world established Birmingham Symphony Orchestra playing out of the iconic Symphony Hall and offering a distinctive program.
As the city continues its regeneration, it is clear that Birmingham is one of the up and coming UK city break destinations. We have hotels close to Birmingham in Dudley, Walsall and Solihull with excellent transport links to the city centre. So why not book your Birmingham break and experience Birmingham for yourself?