A weekend break in Birmingham
By David Elliot
Traditionally known as an Industrialist City, Birmingham has undergone a smart and successful transformation, regenerating the City Centre to its former glory and beyond. This culturally diverse City, commonly referred to as ‘The City of a Thousand Trades’, boasts a rich culture and history and is one of the most cosmopolitan cities in the UK. Somewhat relegated to second class status since the end of the Industrial Revolution,
Birmingham looks poised to reclaim its rightful place as a major hub with the HS2 rapid rail link to London soon to be up and running. With so much to see and do in this beautiful City, Birmingham makes the perfect destination for a short or long break whatever the weather.
Birmingham has some really first rate theatres, many of them a direct legacy of the old Music Hall days. Birmingham’s most famous theatre is The Birmingham Hippodrome. Home to the famous Birmingham Royal Ballet, this venue attracts thousands of visitors every week. Located in the Chinese Quarter at the heart of Birmingham, the Hippodrome is surrounded by restaurants and other entertainment venues, making for a great evening out on the town. It stages a very wide variety of different acts, including a series of summer performances of current West End hits from London. The tickets for these particular shows are pretty hot and there’s always a rush to get hold of them well in advance.
- Opening times: Mon-Sat 10.00-8.00
- Location: Hurst Street, Southside, Birmingham B5 4TB
- Website: http://www.birminghamhippodrome.com/
The Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery is located in Chamberlain Square right in the middle of Birmingham. It is home to impressively varied permanent exhibitions which are free to view, although other special exhibitions have an entry charge. The building itself, a fine example of late Victorian Gothic revival, is a joy to experience, and a full day can be happily spent in wandering around the metalwork, jewellery, ceramics, fine art and archaeology displays.
There are also some good interactive displays on the history of Birmingham and its hinterland, with an emphasis on its rise to prominence during the Industrial Revolution in the late 18th century. Funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund and supported by the Arts Council England, these galleries are a proud introduction of Birmingham’s rich history.
- Opening times: Mon-Thu 10.00am-5.00pm, Fri 10.30am-5.00pm, Sat 10.00am-5.00pm, Sun 12.30-5.00pm
- Location: Chamberlain Square, Birmingham B3 3DH
- Ticket Price: Free (Some events may charge)
- Website: http://www.bmag.org.uk/
Birmingham has a proud musical heritage and is home to several world-class music venues. For classical music fans, a trip to the Symphony Hall will ensure an evening of pure delight. Exquisite in its design and convenient in its location in the centre of the city, an evening at the Symphony Hall is just the ticket for rounding off a perfect day in the great city.
- Opening times: Mon-Sat 10.00am-6.00pm, Sun 12.00pm-4.00pm
- Location: Broad Street, Birmingham B1 2EA
- Website: http://www.thsh.co.uk/
For smaller music venues, look no further than the Carling Academy or the O2 Academy, where the often blasé dictum that less is more actually seems to work. However, if a superstar is coming to town they will play at one of two venues, either the NIA or the NEC. The NEC is situated in the City Centre, perfectly situated close to famous bars and the canals of which have so effectively transformed the gloomy old industrial landscape in recent years. Famous musical sons of the city include such luminaries as The Electric Light Orchestra, Duran Duran, Roy Wood and Ozzy Osbourne, and Birmingham is literally bursting at the seams with live music venues.
Birmingham is famously home to the Balti Triangle. This is a bustling part of the city dominated by Indian restaurants and takeaways and constitutes an important element of the Tornado Recovery Programme which has transformed the formerly rundown cityscape over the past few decades of intensive redevelopment. You’d have to fly to Mumbai to find better Indian cuisine than this, but that’s not necessary because everyone knows that the best curries in the world are now being created and served up in Birmingham. But with more than 700 restaurants in the city there’s plenty else to choose from a rich and varied menu that also offers such perennial favourites as good old fish ‘n’ chips.
Book your flight to Birmingham today to discover a whole new cultural diversity in this stunningly revamped City.