What used to be a byword for bad town planning, Birmingham now has a completely revitalized look with gleaming glass buildings and pinches of modernism gracing its town centre. Brum, as the locals affectionately call it, or Birmingham (as the rest of the world knows it) has actually got some pretty cool things going on. Choose from cool cocktail bars, contemporary art galleries and old-school cinemas while staying in luxury city apartments. Here Birmingham local explains more about her favourite things to do…
Go old-school at the Electric Cinema
The Electric Cinema should be first on your list. The city’s oldest working cinema is a great evening option whether you’re with friends or your other half. Where else do you have the chance to watch a film surrounded by gorgeous retro fabulous décor, while sitting comfortably on a fine leather sofa and slowly sipping a cocktail? If you go there just once, I promise you will be utterly hooked!
Head to the jewellery quarter
Jewellery Quarter is perhaps THE best place in town for some unique local shopping. More shops than you can imagine, with very affordable prices and genuine handcrafted gold and silver jewellery, watches and more. Expect beautiful jewellery and very friendly service from both notable retail outlets and small artisan shops. Also make sure you include a trip to the interesting Jewellery Quarter Museum.
Stay overnight and head to The Rainbow
The city has some of the best nightlife in the Midlands if you’re staying over in a hotel or even luxury apartments in Birmingham then you should definitely try out some of the nightlife. My favourite is the The Rainbow which is a place which has a unique blend of counterculture and sense of relaxation at the same time. It’s a funky, cozy venue with etched-glass windows, battered bench tables and a covered courtyard all housed in a roomy warehouse. It hosts an eclectic range of music, bands and cutting edge DJs on a regular basis.
Get your contemporary art fix at the Ikon Gallery
It started in a small kiosk in Birmingham’s Bullring and has grown into a superb attraction for all contemporary art enthusiasts. The Ikon Gallery, conveniently housed in the impressive neo-gothic school in Oozells Street, features temporary exhibitions representing various forms of media. The gallery’s off-site programme also aims to develop dynamic relationships between art, artists and audiences outside of the gallery.
Shop at Selfridges
Selfridges at Bullring is every shopper’s dream come true. Housed in an iconic four storey futuristic building, you can find the most sought-after brands ranging from high street labels to designer brands such as Reese and L K Bennett. You’ll find something for everyone – men, women, children and your home. Just make sure you don’t miss the fabulous Food Hall.
Go behind the scenes on the BBC Tour
The BBC is arguably the UK’s most loved TV broadcaster and BBC Birmingham (which still hosts a number of popular shows), not only gives you the chance to take a peek behind the scenes, but also provides you with some TV based entertainment. You can learn what it takes to get the programmes from script to screen and even create your own radio drama complete with sound effects and music. Definitely a must see for all TV fans.
Get creative at The Custard Factory
The most creative quarter of Birmingham is The Custard Factory. It has become the new emerging neighbourhood with gorgeous sculptures, fountains and green spaces, making it a peaceful oasis in an otherwise busy city. Attracting creative, art, and media types you should expect independent retailers, theatres, cafes, vintage shops, art galleries, TV studios and some great social hangouts in this very cool part of town.
Eat at Bodega
One of my favourite places to eat out is Bodega, a South American bar-canteen that brings homemade cuisine to the city centre of Birmingham. It’s a vibrant, happy place with a huge selection of food, a cool cocktail list, a great selection of fine South American wines and regional beers and a soundtrack of soul and Latin classics. Bodega will win you over for sure.
Go for cocktails at Ginger’s Bar
Ginger’s Bar is a chic cocktail bar that definitely has some Manhattan-like vibes going on. The ambience, glamorous décor and outlandish drinks menu combined with the handsomely dressed bartenders equals a mesmerising experience. If you add a popcorn-infused cobra libre cocktail to the whole picture, then you really will have the perfect night out!
Get your groove on at the Yardbird Jazz Club
Having been inspired by many years of visiting great Jazz venues around the world, the bar’s founders decided to set up Birmingham’s very own answer to Ronnie Scotts. The result is a very cool, intimate bar which plays host to funky-jazz mic nights and cool niche acts all housed in a fab setting.
Where to Stay
Being such a large city Birmingham has a huge range of places to stay from some excellent cost saving options to the very luxurious. Choose from guest houses, large city hotels or even serviced apartments (pictured above) which are a great option if you’re looking to stay more than a few nights.
If you want to stay close to the centre of the action and near the theatre then either opt for one of the city centre hotels or try serviced apartments in Birmingham. Comfort Zone offer a good selection located very near the Hippodrome city centre only a short walking distance from the Bull Ring Shopping Centre, New Street Station, Arcadian and Hippodrome Theatre and all the apartments come fully serviced.
Written by travel writer and Birmingham local Gail Williams