With a silent ‘h’, called Brum by the locals, Birmingham is enjoying a resurgence as a great shopping and cultural destination. England’s second largest city, behind London, Birmingham’s industrial past spawned the city’s historic canal network, which has more miles of canals than Venice or Amsterdam, though only 114 miles remain as navigable water. The City Centre has been highly pedestrianized and offers many walkways along the canals for viewing a juxtaposition of history and modernity.
Rich in history, Birmingham offers an eclectic mix of old and new to stimulate your senses. With waterfront restaurants and old-time pubs, you can experience as slow or as fast a pace as you desire while truly experiencing all that Britain has to offer.
Must see: For an entertaining (and delicious) history of chocolate, a visit to Cadbury World, with its factory shop and 3D interactive theater, is a must. For a different kind of history, the Black Country Living Museum is a living, breathing town that makes you feel as though you’ve stepped back in time.
Lodging: Macdonald Burlington Hotel–With modern amenities in a historic exterior appearance, this hotel offers spacious, luxurious accommodations and is right in the middle of the City Centre, making it a breeze to explore the city.
Cuisine: Birmingham has all the worldly cuisine expected of a larger metropolis. For a five- or nine- course British-style tasting extravaganza, try the Michelin-starred Adam’s on Bennetts Hill.
Ground Transportation: After landing in your private jet, there are plenty of options for getting around–it’s easy to hail a hackney carriage (taxi or cab) or hire a private vehicle. However, avoid unmarked ground transportation posing as legitimate taxi service, and to try to book ahead, especially on Friday and Saturday nights, when clubbers are heading home en masse.
Packing Tips: Birmingham has a moderate climate, not known for extremes, with July and August being the hottest months.
Recommended Books: Although born in South Africa, J. R. R. Tolkien spent a good deal of his childhood in Birmingham, and the influence can be seen in many of his writings. The nearby Moseley Bog likely provided inspiration for some of the settings in The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings.
Currency: The British pound is the local currency.
Calling Code England: 44
Best Travel Dates: The city offers an array of outdoor festivals throughout the summer. April through October promises mild weather, and tourists flock to the city in July and August, so if heat and crowds don’t agree with you, skip the midsummer season.