A weekend in Birmingham

Ready to spend a weekend in Birmingham (UK)? I’ve lived in Birmingham for almost four years and grew to love it. Now that I’ve moved back to Belgium I still have many friends over there and try to go back as often as I can.

I often get asked if Birmingham is a nice place to live/visit and what I would recommend seeing there. That’s what I’m dedicating this blog post to, so buckle up for a bit of Brummie-love!

Food

When it comes to eating out in Birmingham there is something for everyone. My personal favourites:

Dinner

You cannot go to Birmingham without having a proper curry. I like going to Tamatanga because it is close to New Street Station and has decent prices, including a great day-time deal. Other nice places for Indian (street)food are Mowgli in Grand Central, The Indian Streatery in the centre and the Indian Brewery by Snow Hill Station.

Turtle Bay is a favourite for drinks and Carribean food. It gets superbusy on Friday and Saturday nights, so opt for a Carribean Sunday lunch if you prefer a quieter atmosphere.

For some great Italian food you should head to La Galleria in the city centre. I’ve been twice and the food is delicious. But most memorable from my last visit was the staff, they went above and beyond to make sure we had a nice time!

Lunch/ quick meals

When you get a craving for pie (aka most days for me) then head for Pieminister. The pies are served quickly, maybe a bit too quickly, but nothing beats a good pie when you need one.

When you want all the options in one spot head over to Brindleyplace. I used to work just around the corner, so often found myself having lunch with colleagues at Wagamama, Carluccio’s, Coast to Coast, Zizzi or Yorks.

Five Guys: an American chain with at least three branches now in Birmingham. But when I moved to Birmingham there were none, and we witnessed the glory of one opening in the Bullring. Since then going to Five Guys became a tradition with my friends and I have never looked back.

Breakfast/brunch

When in Harborne The Plough is a good shout for brunch, lunch or dinner (tried them all out, obviously). They used to do a special on certain days when you could get 2-4-1 deals so plan your visit wisely!

Cherry Reds does some nice breakfast options (pancakes!) and makes for a good place being so close to New Street Station.

We tried out Saint Kitchen in the Jewellery Quarter for breakfast on our last visit. Lovely staff and great service, great food and within 15min after opening the place was full!

Cake

Birmingham has lots to offer for those with a sweet tooth (like me). One place that opened up in the last months I was there was Medicine Bakery. They had this pop-up on their doorstep with the most amazing bakes on display (the brownies!) while they were still renovating the upstairs part, and later on opened up the café. It’s on New Street so very convenient if you need a sugar top-up during shopping.

Markets

Digbeth Dining Club: If I remember correctly it used to take place only once a month during summer, but now you can make your way to Lower Trinity Street all year round on Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays for the most amazing street food.

Last but not least: it’s not always about eating out. In fact, we used to cook at home most of the time and to get ingredients we would head to the markets. For veggies, meat and fish there was great choice for great prices and I really miss the insane amounts of food we stored in our freezer after our Saturday market haul.

Drinks

For a good cocktail I used to go to Island Bar. I took part in the cocktail masterclass there for a friend’s birthday (on a Monday night) and threw my goodbye party there. Other great places for cocktails are The Lost and Found, Be At One (go early or book if you want a table) and The Botanist. All conveniently located at stumbling distance from Birmingham New Street.

On my most recent visit to Brum I checked out the Alchemist in Brindley Place. The Alchemist had been on my list to try out for a while and it did not disappoint! Staff were very helpful and the cocktails were both impressive and delish!

I cannot deny my Belgian roots and when in need of a decent (Belgian) beer I usually opted for Cherry Reds, The Post Office Vaults or Brewdog (try the flights of beer if they still do them).

A little gem that I did not visit enough is Loki Wines. You go, top up a card and then pick and choose whichever of the wines you would like to taste. They are on display in these machines, so you pop your card in, choose the amount you’d like and the cost for it is deducted from your card while your glass fills up. A-ma-zing.

Night out

This will probably make me sound very old, but I didn’t really go out that much in Brum (neither in Belgium, but still). However, when I did these are two of the places I really liked:

The Jam House: great live music and awesome venue for your work Christmas party.

Bodega: sure, the food is nice. But the bar and parties downstairs are better.

Active

After all that eating and drinking you might welcome a few more ‘active’ suggestions:

I really liked going for walks in Cannon Hill Park and the surrounding area. It’s lush and green, and an ideal spot for a summery picnic.

Stepping things up a bit, I took part in the Birmingham Black Country Half Marathon in 2017. It’s a trail all the way along the canals from Wolverhampton to Birmingham. Not long ago I went that way by train and nostalgically reminisced about all the training and race day along those canals.

A different kind of ‘active’, but definitely one that got my adrenaline running, was going to Villa Park to watch AVFC beat Hull and draw against QPR in 2014. Back then they were still in the Premier League with my fellow-Belgian, Benteke, playing for them. Great fun and very interesting to go watch a football match in a different country.

Culture

I might not have gone out that much, but I did get a fair bit of culture in. When it comes to performances I went to see the BFG at the Repertory Theatre, The Wind in the Willows at The Old Rep and a Blues Opera at the Old Joint Stock.

I still feel extremely lucky to have seen The XX at the O2 Institute in Birmingham and some amazing performances by Tinie Tempah and Pharell Williams at Wireless Festival  in Perry Barr.

Never ever have I lived so close to so many movie theatres as in Birmingham: The Electric cinema, ODEON, Cineworld,… spoiled, that is what I call it.

Plenty of museums for a rainy day, such as the Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery and its wonderful Edwardian Tea Rooms. There is also the SEA LIFE Centre for a day out with family. If you’re feeling geeky, opt for the Pen museum, the Coffin Works or the Think Tank Birmingham Science Museum. The IKON Gallery does interesting opening nights for new exhibitions and has an amazing gift shop.

Two more that I would like to mention are the City of Colours Street Art Fesitval in Digbeth. I attended it in 2016 and if they do it again I really recommend you to go check it out! The second one is the Impact Hub, which unfortunately closed in 2019. They organised (and still organise) some pretty amazing activities of which I attended a few. Keep an eye on what they have coming up next I’d say!

Don’t forget to pop into the amazing Library of Birmingham, with views over the city from the top floor as well as the terraces. Take the elevator all the way up and then use the escalators to come down – I love the view of the different floors you get coming down this way.

Getting out of the city

Done your fair share of shopping, eating and drinking? Get out of the city for a day and enjoy one of the suggestions below!

Go for a walk in the Malvern Hills or the Lickey Hills. Fingers crossed for a clear day so you can enjoy the views from the top of the Malvern Hills. Time your visit to the Lickey Hills well and admire the seas of bluebells.

As a chocolate-loving Belgian a visit to Cadbury World couldn’t be avoided. Get ready for a sugar-infused day – maybe walk back from Bournville afterwards to compensate?

For a lovely bit of heritage you can go for a stroll in Stratford-upon-Avon, take the steam train from Kidderminster to Bridgnorth or enjoy the countryside walking from Warwick to Leamington Spa. Stratford gets busy but is lovely for a stroll in the sun, a picnic or to visit the Shakespeare houses. We were a bit unlucky with the weather but the heritage steam railway through the Severn Valley feels like going back in time. When one of my friends visited we walked through the countryside from Warwick to Leamington Spa, being rewarded with a much needed cuppa at Rosie’s, the cutest tearoom in Leamington.

North of the city you can go for great walks in Sutton Park or make a day trip to Lichfield. Everyone always talks about Lichfield Cathedral, but have you played crazy golf yet in Beacon Park? Now we’re talking.

Something my parents really enjoyed when they came to visit was our outing to the Black Country Living Museum. We visited the mine, the old chip shop, the pub and much more in this open air living museum, giving us an impression of life in the Blakc Country in the industrial era.

As a Tolkien fan a visit to Sarehole Mill and the surrounding area cannot be missed. There is also an annual Middel Earth Festival that I sadly never managed to attend. Next time perhaps?

Just writing this all up makes me want to book tickets to go visit Birmingham again! Have you been? Do you feel like something is really missing from my list? Let me know!

 

Considering more trips to/within the UK? Why not check out my blog posts about:

Or you can check out my collection of posts about weekend getaways, the Best of Belgium or longer trips.

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