Not to be confused with Birmingham Alabama. People have. Such as the cyclist who thought the Velo was in America. He still came though and discovered our lovely city has so much to offer.
And there was once a leaflet printed, featuring the skyline of this American city for the skyline of Birmingham UK.
I digress, but you get my point. Mistakes have been made.
According to one USA so called expert Anglo blogger (who shall not be named) all there is to do in Brum is shop. They are wrong. There is so much more than shopping to do in the city I am proud to call home.
Recently I have done a bit of staycationing in Birmingham and these are my three reasons why you must visit Birmingham, England, now.
1. The architecture
Birmingham has some amazing architecture. And have demolished some controversial buildings too. Like Doctor Who Birmingham has a habit of regenerating itself every so often. And what it replaces the old with is not always a popular choice.
Which is why the city is in the midst of rebuilding Paradise right now. The Old Brutalist Library has been demolished (which caused some controversy) and the area is currently a construction site.
Unfortunately this is right in front of the New Library and the Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery. But don’t let this put you off. Look up and this is just some of what you will find.
2. The arts
I have already mentioned Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery, housed in one of the most beautiful buildings in the city. It is worth visiting just for the building. However do make time to see The Staffordshire Hoard and the Pre-Raphaelite paintings, which are part of the largest public Pre-Raphaelite collection in the world. On my last visit I went to see Coming Out, a major exhibition that explores themes of gender, sexuality and identity in art. It is on until 18 April 2018.
There is always something new to see here. I had no idea what was exhibitions were on, but popped in anyway. And got to see the Thomas Bock exhibition. Thomas was a Birmingham born Tasmanian artist, having been transported there as a convict. His portraits of Tasmanian Aboriginal people are usually to be seen in The British Museum. However, I particularly liked this colour chart and the landscapes of Tasmania. More information about the Ikon can be found here.
Located in International Convention Centre, home to Symphony Hall. This gallery is a short walk via Brindley Place from The Ikon. I stopped off to admire artwork by Ronnie Wood and Bob Dylan. Castle Galleries is the only gallery in the UK to sell their work. I was, however, particularly taken with the cityscapes of Paul Kenton and am putting them on the ‘if I win the lottery ‘list.
The Electric Cinema
I love The Electric Cinema. With sofas where you can get drinks and food delivered to, this is a real treat. The world’s oldest working cinema. As well as showing new releases it also show films that you won’t see at the local Odeon. It is a real experience, and doesn’t cost much more than your average multiscreen chain.
Once tucked away amongst seedy bars and Chinese takeaways, in a dark dingy street, the revamping of New Street Station and the Grand Central Development has meant that the area is now light and bright and being gentrified. I think this is a good thing. The Old Rep is in the same row of buildings and the lapdancing club will, I hope, close down soon. We will see.
Home to The Royal Ballet, this theatre continues to host top musicals, dance and panto. I went a few years ago to see Blood Brothers which was brilliant. This week I got to see Beautiful based on the life of Carole King. Spectacular. If you are coming to Birmingham, check what is on. If you can only get the cheap seats at the back, don’t worry. That is all I had and the view was excellent.
3. The food
There are more Michelin starred restaurants in Birmingham than any other British city, outside of London. Two of the finalists of MasterChef The Professionals 2017 work in Birmingham restaurants.
And if Michelin starred eateries are not your thing, here is where Chef Brad Carter (of Michelin starred Carters of Moseley) eats and drinks on his days off. Kebab, burgers and curry are featured.
With so many choices, from curry and burgers to posh nosh at one of our many restaurants in the Michelin Guide, you won’t go hungry.
This is where I have recently visited.
The Original Patty Men
I made a long overdue visit to the patty pimps and purveyors of filth that are The Original Patty Men. Once a regular pop up street food provider at Digbeth Diner they have been in the railway arches behind Moor Street Station for xx years now. And it is absolutely shameful I have not eaten their burgers before. Go. Probably the best burger I have ever had.
I feel so torn now because I also love the dripping filthy goodness that is The Meat Shack. You can find them next to The Hippodrome, one of our many lovely theatres, and home to The Birmingham Royal Ballet. I ate there just before Christmas and it was good.
Which is the best? Go try them both and let me know.
China town has a lot of choices. I did not know where to go so I asked my Twitter followers for recommendations. I wanted lunch in the Chinese Quarter before attending a matinée (to see Beautiful: The Carole King Musical) at The Hippodrome theatre. I wanted to eat authentic and affordable food.
Recommendations from local food writer Paul Fulford were Dzehou Braised Chicken, Min Min or Hometown China. Another friend suggested Chung Ying as well as Cafe Soya and Full to the Brum suggested Look In. Spoiled for choice.
All of these are less than a five minute walk from The Hippodrome, making them perfect pre or post theatre food choices. They are also near to the Bull Ring shopping centre and markets, so if you want something different to same same chain food, go to the Chinese Quarter.
Cafe Soya, at £7.95 for a set lunch was very good. Three recommendations from friends made it the winner this time. I will check out the others soon.
So why do you need to visit Birmingham now?
Don’t just take my word for it. It is not just me that loves Brum. And while ten years ago I would not have been Brum’s greatest fan, it has changed considerably in the past few years putting it up there with some of the top cities to visit. Photographer Verity Milligan reflects here on how much Birmingham has changed since she returned six years ago.
With The Commonwealth Games coming to us in 2022, the time is now to come and see the city now before the world finds out just what a great city Birmingham is.
If you still don’t think Birmingham is your kind of town, see what Telly Savalas had to say about it back in 1981. I did say it had changed right?
To summarise, what can Birmingham offer the visitor?
dirty filthy burgers
the Balti Triangle
The Bull Ring and Grand Central for shopping
great indie coffee shops: try Yorks by the tram stop, 200 degrees opposite the cathedral and many others
More than three reasons to visit Birmingham then….
P.S Beautiful was amazing.