birmingham canals

Visiting Birmingham, the Second Largest UK City

Birmingham is the second-largest city in the United Kingdom and has a population of more than one million. With many cutting-edge redevelopments, combined with historic, heritage architecture, Birmingham has become a stylish city.

Creatively, Birmingham is elusive. Unlike many cities, it does not have an identifiable cultural DNA. It has never asserted itself as a centre of radical art or music. Local creatives offer various reasons why. Some take a quiet pride in that anonymity. This “city of a thousand trades” has always been sprawling and granular. It is highly diverse socially and culturally, a city where the best restaurants or music venues are often found in the suburbs – if you are willing to travel. Which not everyone is.

How to get to Birmingham

As Birmingham is centrally located in the UK it’s really easy to get there from pretty much everywhere. Birmingham is incredibly easy to reach. Right in the centre of England, it’s well-connected by road, rail and air.

Birmingham by Air

If you’re an international visitor, you’re likely to be flying into Birmingham Airport. Birmingham Airport is a global travel hub — yet only 10 minutes from the city centre. With great transport links and a wide business and leisure route network, it’s the perfect gateway to the Birmingham region and beyond. To get from the airport to your hotel do what many travellers to England opt for — arrange a Birmingham airport taxi transfer.

Birmingham by Road

All roads lead to Birmingham — well almost. It’s certainly an easy place to drive to no matter where you’re coming from. Set at the heart of the UK motorway network, it’s linked by the M5, M6, M40 and M42 while the A34 and A38 further add to your options and the M1 is less than 30 minutes away. The M6 Toll Road adds another choice (while also helping to keep through traffic away from city centre at peak times). If you don’t care for driving yourself, then once again a chauffeur service such as Cars Exec is perfect — while many people use them for airport transfers, they will gladly arrange rides to and from just about anywhere in England.

Birmingham by Rail

There are three city centre rail stations providing fast and frequent connections to both local and national destinations. Birmingham New Street Station is at the hub of the National Rail network with fast and frequent services to London’s Euston station and many other major towns and cities across the UK. Birmingham International Station sits right alongside Birmingham Airport and the National Exhibition Centre; providing a ten-minute direct link to the city centre for air passengers. West Midland Trains operate two railway brands for and to the Midlands, the North West and London — West Midlands Railway and London Northwestern Railway.

Where to stay in Birmingham

During my recent trip to Birmingham I stayed at the AC Hotel Birmingham. This is affordable luxury at its finest and is exactly what I love. It’s in the perfect location as it’s walking distance from the train station and next to the Mailbox, Birmingham’s upmarket shopping development next to the waterfront. There are loads of restaurants, bars and cafes around here too and, if you’re lucky, you’ll get a lovely view over the canal below.

birmingham jewellery quarter

Quirky and Fun Places in Birmingham

Birmingham has loads of weird and wonderful activities and places to visit to make your trip a fun one. From a world famous chocolate factory to the largest Christmas Market outside of Germany, this city has plenty to keep you occupied.

Cadbury World is a chocoholics dream. Located in Bournville at the Victorian chocolate factory you will be loaded up with a handful of chocolate bars as you make your way around exhibits, games and even a mini ride. We are big fans of the 4D film experience. Book your slot early to avoid the crowds and don’t forget to try the Cadbury Afternoon Tea in the cafe afterwards. That’s if you can handle any more chocolate.

For a spot of culture and social history head to the Back to Backs, a National Trust site featuring the last Victorian ‘back-to-back‘ houses in Birmingham. You will be taken on a guided tour from 1875 to 1945 learning how people lived in these tiny communal courtyard houses.

Did you know that Birmingham has more canals than Venice? Of course, not quite so pretty but they’re working on it. You can catch a slow boat ride from Brindleyplace leaving throughout the day. Or take a leisurely walk along the canal to the Jewellery Quarter.

The Jewellery Quarter is Europe’s largest concentration of jewellery businesses. It produces around 45% of the UK’s jewellery and is home to the world’s largest Assay Office hallmarking 12 million items a year. The Jewellery Quarter has also shed a little of it’s industrial past to become quite the hipster spot of recent times. Head down for tasty coffee, cool bars and maybe, if you’re feeling fancy check out the Pen Museum. Or not, just stick to the cocktails on St. Paul’s Square instead (try the swanky St. Paul’s House bar).