City of Birmingham

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Birmingham

Birmingham (map), in the West Midlands, approximately 100 miles (160 km) from Central London, is Britain’s second-largest city. Known in the Victorian era as the “City of a Thousand Trades” and the “Workshop of the World“.

Since the 1990s, Birmingham has been undergoing a radical change and many of the post war buildings have been replaced. The majority of the city centre is now pedestrianised, and the canals cleaned up to make for attractive walkways.

The very central point of Birmingham is Victoria Square (map). The main railway hub is New Street station (map), next to the huge Bullring (map) shopping centre.

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Core City Centre (map) – extends northwestwards of the New Street station, inside the confines of the A38 and includes much of the surviving pre-war historic buildings of Birmingham, a number of important institutions and the historically prime addresses such as New Street or Colmore Row.

Southside – the part southeast of New Street station retains a more traditional ambiance with small buildings along narrow streets. Parts of it are occupied by Birmingham’s Gay Village (map) and Chinese Quarter (map).

Jewellery Quarter (map) – true to its name, workshops in the quarter still produce 40% of the UK’s jewellery. As such, it retained its 19th-century appearance lost by other industrial parts of Birmingham and became a tourist attraction itself.

Moseley (map) is a suburb. Much of Moseley Village dates from Victorian times and is a conservation area.

For a place with a strong industrial heritage, Birmingham does not have the large range of historical attractions you may expect, however, this is offset by the arts being extremely well-represented.

+ Birmingham Museums Trust

Aston Hall (map). Restored Jacobean mansion built between 1618 and 1635, containing period rooms and artwork. Cannon damage from the English Civil War is still visible. The Hall was visited by Arthur Conan Doyle and Washington Irving, inspiring the latter’s ‘Bracebridge Hall’.

Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery (map). Large museum with some local history, several temporary exhibitions and large permanent collection including an extensive collection of Pre-Raphaelite paintings. Home to part of the stunning Anglo-Saxon hoard, the largest hoard of Anglo-Saxon gold metal work discovered in the UK in 2009.

Sarehole Mill (map). Built in 1765, Sarehole Mill is a fine example of one of more than fifty water mills that existed in Birmingham at one time. Matthew Boulton used the Mill for making buttons and for metal rolling until he moved his operations to Soho in 1761.

Royal Birmingham Society of Artists (map). Independent art gallery; frequent temporary exhibitions and works for sale.

Museum of the Jewellery Quarter (map). Jewellery workshop abandoned in working condition, later reopened as a museum. Visits are by tour, lasting approximately one hour. Worth seeing, especially in the context of the wider, still working commercial Jewellery Quarter.

Birmingham Cathedral (St Philip’s Cathedral, map). Church of England cathedral, built between 1709 and 1715 and the centre of the Diocese of Birmingham. Grade 1 listed building in the UK, designed as a parish church in the Baroque style. Contains four spectacular pre-Raphaelite stained glass windows.

St Martin in the Bull Ring (map). Martin is the parish church of Birmingham, or “The Cathedral of the Bull Ring”, as some would say. The first church was probably Norman, but was rebuilt in the 13th century.

Farmer’s Market (Moseley, map). 4th Saturday of every month. There is a selection of farm produce, but many stalls selling all manner of local foodstuffs (pies, jam, deli foods, etc.). It was a finalist in the best farmer’s market in the UK competition.

Broad Street (map), the No 1 party street of Birmingham, has a large range of clubs, bars and pubs. This is a good location for a decent English Friday night.

Public transport

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Bus, train and Metro all come under the authority of Network West Midlands | TFWM (Part of Centro, the PTE of Birmingham and surrounding area), their website is the best source for all information required on public transport in the region.

TRAVELINE – Provides online travel planner services for all public transportation across Great Britain. They also have separate planners dedicated to specific regions.

+ Getting around Birmingham (visitbirmingham.com) • Transport information (birmingham.gov.uk) • Getting around Britain (visitbritain.com).

 BUS >   All areas of Birmingham are well-served by bus routes, operated almost exclusively by National Express West Midlands (NXWM) with some competition from smaller providers, notably Diamond Buses.

National Express | UK Stop finder

 RAIL >   Birmingham is a major hub of Britain’s rail network. Allow plenty of time to find your train at New Street station as it is huge and very confusing.

The essential source for rail travel information in Great Britain is the National Rail website. It includes an extremely useful journey planner, ticket prices and detailed information about every railway station in the country. (*Rail travel in Great Britain).

 AIRPORTS >   airportguides.co.uk. The most important airports are London HeathrowLondon Gatwick and Manchester Airport. All three have multiple terminals and are collectively served by a vast range of airlines and flights from the four corners of the map.

 WATERWAYS >   There are many ferry routes into the UK from continental Europe. (*Ferry routes to Great Britain)

Bicycles may be taken on car ferries and on Eurotunnel shuttle trains. Eurostar allows folding bikes on all its trains, and offers a more restricted service for other bikes, but has quite strict and specific rules that are worth reading up on before you travel.

Birmingham City Council produces an excellent cycling and walking map of the area. You can pick one up from any local library, tourist information office, leisure centre or bike shop. (onyourbike.com)

Useful links

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