This week we’re heading to the Midlands, to the UK’s second city…Birmingham.
Nestled in the heart of England, Birmingham is a city of vibrant contrasts. Known for its rich industrial heritage and cutting-edge innovations, the 'City of a Thousand Trades' has evolved into a dynamic, multicultural metropolis. From exploring historic canals and stately Victorian architecture to experiencing a thriving arts scene and savouring diverse culinary delights, Birmingham offers an array of cultural experiences.
What you need to know…
🚆 Travel time: Due to its location in the heart of England, Birmingham is a great city to travel to. There’s great links with the motorway network, and you’re only 90 mins on the train from London and Manchester, or 2 hours from Cardiff. There’s also a great international airport.
🌡️ Weather: Today, 10°c and foggy
🚲 Getting around: The city centre of Birmingham can be explored by foot, but if you’re planning on heading further afield, there’s a great bike rental scheme (which also includes e-bikes and scooters), as well as local trains and buses connecting to key attractions and venues.
😋 Must try dishes: There’s a great selection of different cuisines to savour while in Birmingham. If you’re looking for some authentic Brummie grub then here’s a few things to try. First up, Faggots. Originally designed as a cheap filling meal for factory workers, the dish comprises meat wrapped in a coat of breadcrumbs and onions and is usually served in a deep dish with peas and gravy. For something a bit spicier, try a Birmingham Balti. While there’s contention over the origins of this dish, local legend states the Balti was created in Birmingham. For a true local experience head to the so-called Balti Triangle, a row of balti houses clustered along Ladypool Road, Stoney Lane and Stratford Road. Finally another local creation - the pork scratching. Originating in the Black Country where factory workers used every part of the pig.
💬 Key phrases & slang:
Ta-ra a bit (See you later)
Ee-yar (Here you are)
Cack-handed (Doing something in a clumsy way)
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What to do?
Visit the inspiration behind LOTR’s Shire…
🐂 Shop till you drop at the Bullring Shopping Centre, a retail paradise for fashion enthusiasts. With a wide range of shops, from high street to luxury brands, you'll find everything you desire. The diverse dining options, including delectable street food, make it a rewarding shopping expedition. For the ultimate tourist experience, make sure to get a photo by the bull!
🍫 Satisfy your sweet tooth at Cadbury World, a chocolate lover's paradise. Dive into the history of chocolate, witness the chocolate-making process, and indulge in tastings. You can even create your own chocolate. An unforgettable experience for all ages.
🐠 Delve into the depths of the ocean at the National Sea Life Centre. Stroll through an underwater tunnel surrounded by graceful sea creatures. Interactive touch pools and educational displays provide insights into marine life. A perfect family outing and a treat for marine enthusiasts.
💍 Celebrate Birmingham's legacy of craftsmanship in the Jewellery Quarter. Wander through intricate workshops and galleries, where artisans create stunning pieces. The Quarter's historical charm and contemporary designs make it a haven for jewellery connoisseurs and art lovers.
📚 The Birmingham Library, with its striking modern architecture, is a haven for book lovers. It boasts a vast collection of books, serene reading areas, and outdoor terraces offering stunning views of the city skyline. It's the perfect place to immerse yourself in literature.
🏭 The Black Country Living Museum unravels the industrial heritage of the West Midlands. As you step inside, you'll find yourself transported back in time to a meticulously recreated historic village, complete with cobblestone streets, authentic shops, and working industrial buildings. This immersive experience offers everything from live demonstrations of chain making and glass blowing to the opportunity to venture into a recreated coal mine. Don't forget to try the traditional fish and chips during your visit
🖊️ When you think of Birmingham, you probably don’t think of pens, but take a trip to the captivating Pen Museum where you’ll learn all about Birmingham's rich history in pen manufacturing. Here, you'll witness the intricate art of pen nib making, guided by experts who breathe life into the city's pen-making legacy. A must for history buffs and those curious about Birmingham's industrial past. The guides shared stories of local pen manufacturers, and I even had the chance to try my hand at making a pen nib. It’s a unique and immersive experience for history enthusiasts.
🌽 Sticking with the history theme, transport yourself to a bygone era at Sarehole Mill Museum, an idyllic water mill nestled in the city. With its operational machinery and Tolkien-inspired gardens, it's a serene escape for both literature lovers and nature enthusiasts. J.R.R. Tolkien found inspiration here for the Shire in "The Lord of the Rings."
👮 Prepare for an eerie journey through Birmingham's criminal history at the Lock Up. Once a police holding facility, this museum offers a spine-tingling encounter with stories of crime and punishment. Walking through the dimly lit cells and hearing about notorious inmates will give you goosebumps. A must-visit for those with a taste for the macabre.
⛳ If you haven’t already guessed from some of the previous editions, I’m a sucker for a round of mini-golf. Located in the bull-ring, Treetop golf takes mini-golf to new heights. The courses wind through the treetops, offering a fun and challenging adventure for friends and families alike. The lush greenery and chattering animals (look out for the frogs and toucans) make it a unique experience for both golf enthusiasts and outdoor lovers.
🚣♀️ Next up, experience tranquillity in the heart of the city with paddleboarding on Edgbaston Reservoir. As you glide across the clear waters, you'll be surrounded by the soothing embrace of nature. An ideal activity for those seeking a peaceful connection with the outdoors.
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Where to stay?
Stay in the hotel once host to Winston Churchill and Charlie Chaplin
Ideally positioned in Birmingham’s central district, The Grand Hotel stands as a testament to the city's rich heritage. The rooms here are luxuriously appointed, with plush furnishings, artful décor, and state-of-the-art amenities - which makes it no surprise when you learn that the hotel was formerly host to the likes of Winston Churchill and Charlie Chaplin. Why stay here? Beyond its stunning architecture, its proximity to local landmarks and attractions is unbeatable. The in-house bar is also a noteworthy mention, with its curated cocktail menu and refined ambiance, offering an ideal spot for a relaxing evening.
With a name that truly captures its essence, Staying Cool delivers a contemporary urban retreat. Guests are treated to expansive apartments, all designed with a modern aesthetic featuring floor-to-ceiling windows, fully-equipped kitchens, and lounge areas perfect for unwinding.
Why stay here? This space is tailor-made for those who cherish both style and functionality. And the panoramic views of Birmingham from the upper floors? Simply breath-taking.
Tucked within a beautifully restored historic building, Hotel Du Vin combines old-world charm with modern luxuries. The rooms radiate understated elegance, outfitted with quality linens, spacious baths, and intricate detailing. The highlight, undoubtedly, is their gourmet bistro, which serves a diverse range of dishes made from locally-sourced ingredients.
Why stay here? Culinary enthusiasts will revel in the delectable food and extensive wine selection, making dining here an experience in itself.
Upgrade to premium to get access to 2 more suggested hotels (a stylish budget option, and a boutique guesthouse with great food), as well as the inside scoop on the best cafés, bars and restaurants in Birmingham.
Next week, dive into the sizzling heart of South Florida as we whisk you away to Miami! From its sun-kissed beaches to its pulsating nightlife, discover the Magic City in all its glory. Whether you're yearning for a taste of its vibrant Latin culture or looking to indulge in its luxurious oceanfront resorts, Miami promises a world of adventure. Get ready to explore its hidden gems, mouth-watering cuisine, and iconic art deco architecture. Stay tuned and let Miami's rhythm captivate your traveller's soul! If you’ve got any tips you think we should feature next week then please let me know.