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Tourist city guide to Birmingham

Posted on | October 12, 2011 | Comments Off on Tourist city guide to Birmingham

Article by Ms Leisha Greenfield

Birmingham’s history stretches back to the sixth century, but is currently Europe’s newest city. The second largest city in England, Birmingham is home to more than a million people and continues to expand on its success.The city has much to offer visitors seeking quiet evenings out, lively nightlife, breathtaking history and cultural entertainment, and is located close enough to picturesque countryside to offer the best of city and rural life.Birmingham has been dubbed ‘the shopping capital’ of the country, and with over 1000 retailers in the city centre alone, this title is certainly deserved. There are more than a dozen shopping centres in the city, demonstrating the city’s continued growth and power to attract visitors.HistoryBirmingham’s history is documented back to the sixth century, when a supply of water, coal and iron were discovered in the area. Birmingham developed rapidly, and was already regarded as one of the important manufacturing areas in England by the start of the Industrial Revolution.Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery is home to an incredible collection of art works and artefacts, documenting 400,000 years of history. The city’s other museums include Blakesley Hall, a converted sixteenth century manor house.Other important historical buildings include Weoley Castle, a thirteenth century manor house; The Old Crown, a fifteenth century pub; the thirteenth century St Martin’s Church; and the Grade I listed nineteenth century Town Hall.Art GalleriesBirmingham Museum and Art Gallery is home to the largest collection of Pre-Raphaelite works in the world, as well as fine and applied art works by the Old Masters and Impressionists. A free bus links the gallery to the city centre.Birmingham’s arts and media quarter is named after the factories that once occupied the five-acre site: The Custard Factory. As well as numerous other media companies, creative enterprises and cafes, The Custard Factory is home to a number of small art galleries showcasing a variety of works.The Ikon Gallery is a unique collection of multimedia art works, comprising sound, film, photography and art installations.TheatresOf Birmingham’s twelve theatres, Birmingham Hippodrome is the largest and the theatre with the greatest regular attendance of any theatre outside of London. Large-scale productions, including drama, comedy and dance, are regularly staged here.The Alexandra Theatre is based in an impressive Victorian building, and stages a variety of large-scale productions. The theatre has been particularly praised for its musicals and concerts.The Old Rep Theatre is located on the same street, and presents small-scale performances. Other small venues include The Crescent Theatre, Birmingham Library Theatre, and Midlands Art Centre.RestaurantsBrasserie Blanc is one of eleven restaurants recommended in Good Food Guide, and serves traditional French cuisine in stylish surroundings with seating for 160 people. Jessica’s serves French-influenced modern British dishes, and has a Michelin star and AA recommendation.Birmingham is famous for it’s curry houses and has been dubbed ‘the capital of balti’, owing to its array of Balti houses and Indian restaurants, and one corner of the city centre is known as ‘the Balti Triangle’. Al Faisals is a popular Kashmiri restaurant in the Balti Triangle, with seating for 600 people. The Diwan restaurant is another highly regarded establishment in the area.Good Food Guide also recommends the Cantonese, AA rosette holding, Chung Ying Garden. The menu comprises 400 dishes, and there is seating for 400 people.Pubs/BarsBirmingham CAMRA recommends 16 pubs in the city, and voted The Wellington ‘Pub of the Year’ in 2005 and 2006 for its selection of 2500 different ales.The Old Inn is a fourteenth century, Grade II listed pub, located in the city centre and reputed to have once been owned by King Henry VIII.Popular cocktail bars include The Living Room, with a relaxed and yet prestigious ambience and live music, and Zinc Bar, with waitress service and a DJ area downstairs.The S’oak is a pre-club bar; offering pub quizzes, live acoustic and jazz nights and all the pay-per-view football matches. Located close to the university campus, this bar is very popular with students.NightclubsSubway City comprises 7 rooms, 5 bars, 3 dancefloors and a snack bar, and presents the best in underground dance music. The club is open seven days a week, and licensed until 8am on Saturdays.Air nightclub is regarded as one of the most technologically advanced in the country, presents trance, techno, hard dance and house, and regularly hosts Godskitchen. The club comprises 3 rooms, with a total capacity of 1650.Carling Academy is the city’s most successful alternative club and music venue, presenting music from break beats and hip-hop to Northern Soul and indie. The club hosts Subculture on Saturdays, the rock night voted second best in the country by Kerrang! readers.Birmingham has a vibrant gay party scene, and The Nightingale is one of the most popular venues. The club is open six nights a week, with a varied programme of music, comedy and karaoke.ShoppingEurope’s largest city centre shopping development is the Bullring in Birmingham. The centre comprises more than 150 shops and 25 restaurants over three floors. The Selfridges building that stands at the centre, beside the medieval St Martin’s Church, has won an award for its impressive design.The shopping development also comprises markets of 235 stalls and units. Other markets in the city include the Open Market, the Rag Market, the Indoor Market, the Antiques Market and the Farmers Market.Star City is a shopping and entertainment development, comprising a 37-screen cinema, the UK’s largest casino, a Megabowl, 3000 free parking spaces and hundreds of shops and retail outlets.SportsOf the city’s forty leisure centres, Wyndley Leisure Centre is the largest. The centre comprises a 33-metre pool, a teaching pool and a range of diving boards, as well as a 400-metre athletics track, squash and badminton courts, and more. The centre is currently closed for refurbishment and will reopen in June 2007.The Ackers is a 70-acre outdoor activities centre, offering snowboarding, climbing, canoeing and archery, alongside a variety of courses and special events for companies, individuals and families. Many use the centre for sponsored abseiling.Birmingham is home to half a dozen golf courses, managed by Birmingham Golf Link Circuit.Harborne Church Farm is the largest; a notoriously difficult 9-hole course, with a shop, cafe and parking for 50. Boldmere Golf Course comprises 18 holes, but makes for a much more relaxing game.