Birmingham is a diverse city. Being the city at the the crossroads of England, and with a long, proud history of welcoming outsiders in, it has a multitude of things to do and see.
If you’re choosing a city break destination, Birmingham may well be your unassuming hero. Best known for its multi-cultural diversity, a buzzing nightlife, a playful arts and music scene – not to mention the 600 parks that surround the city and its iconic shopping centres.
With great train and airport connections, the best of Birmingham can be seen in just a 48-hour weekend city break, so buckle your seatbelts and let’s take you through a whistle stop tour of Birmingham in 48 hours.
Our suggestions have been designed to keep you in the city centre, walking by foot, but the city is well served by trams that can get you from A to B a little faster.
From shopping to sight-seeing, you won’t be left lacking for entertainment should you choose to visit the city.
Here are just some of the attractions Birmigham has to offer.
Head down Colmore Row to Birmingham Cathedral – a fine English Baroque parish church designed by Thomas Archer. Completed in 1725, it is one of the most beautiful historic buildings in the city centre.
Address: Colmore Row, Birmingham B3 2QB
Opening Hours: Monday to Friday: 7.30am to 5pm. Saturday: 8.30am to 5.00pm. Sunday 8.10am to 5pm
The Great Western Arcade
The Great Western Arcade is a Victorian shopping arcade situated within the heart of the city centre. Visit during the Christmas period and you’re in for a real treat; the decorations are simply stunning, giving a classic feel to this beautiful place. Featuring many independent retailers, spas and shops specialising in many different food areas it really is worth a visit on your trip.
Address: Colmore Row, Birmingham. B2 5HU
Opening Hours: 06:30am-10pm Monday-Saturday. Sundays 10:30am – 5:30pm
Evening Drinks: Jekyll & Hyde
Head to Jekyll & Hyde on Steelhouse Lane. They serve amazing cocktails and an array of exclusive gins. The food is also truly scrumptious!
Address: 28 Steelhouse Ln, City Centre, Birmingham B4 6BJ
Opening Hours: Tuesday-Thursday 12-11pm. Friday & Saturday 12pm-12am. Closed on Mondays
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Birmingham Repertory Theatre
In the evening, take the chance to see an evening show. The REP’s programme includes something for everyone, and tours several shows that highlight Birmingham as a city of contemporary culture nationwide.
Address: Broad St, Birmingham B1 2EP
Opening Hours: Contact the theatre directly
Birmingham’s retail reputation has been resurgent for the past decade now, and the Bullring shopping centre was (and still is) the driving force behind it. Housing tonnes of stores, that range from clothing and entertainment, to fast food and niche stores, you’ll find exactly what you need here.
There is also the adjoining, three storey high Selfridges store, complete with restaurants and a Krispy Kreme donut outlet.
Not that the shopping stops once you leave the Bullring. There is also the Pallasades shopping plaza, and the streets that lead to the centre, which include the likes of Primark, Waterstones, and Odeon Cinemas.
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For those looking for something more upmarket than the hustle and bustle of the Bullring, the Mailbox is the place for you. Shopping is just the start at this complex – it also boasts some of the cities best restaurants, and will soon see the first West Midlands branch of up-scale cinema chain Everyman.
It is also the home of BBC Birmingham, housing both the BBC WM radio service and BBC Midlands Today news programme (both of which are open for public viewing).
We’re sure you’ve all heard the old pub quiz fact – Birmingham has more canals than Venice. But it’s true, and you can see the miles and miles of open waterways for yourself with a canal tour.
Offering a peaceful yet quirky tour of the city, that offer a different perspective on life in the old industrial city, it’s something you are likely to remember for a long time.
Now, if you don’t fancy wandering around on your own for the rest of the day, Birmingham Tours provides guided tours every Saturday and Sunday from the end of April until the end of September 2017. Jump on board at the corner of Colmore Row or Waterloo Street (next to the Council House in Victoria Square) at 10.30am, 12.30pm and 2.30pm and use the bus as a hop-on, hop-off service, by request.
A second well known fact about Birmingham is that it is the home of Cadbury’s chocolate. Those wishing to take a look behind the doors of the famous Bournville factory (or chocoholics looking for their next treat!) can explore Cadbury World, a tour that takes in both the in-operation factory, and purpose built exhibitions and attractions. It’s a great all the family, though those looking to stick to New Year’s Resolutions may want to steer clear!
Sea Life Centre
Another famous tourist attraction of Birmingham is the National Sea Life Centre. Opened in 2006, it houses hundreds of different species, from octopus and crabs to tropical fish and stingrays.
It’s newest addition, opened in 2014, is an icy installation housing a colony of Gentoo penguins, which compliments the already impressive ocean tank walk through tunnel, with it’s sea turtles and hammerhead sharks.
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Thinktank Birmingham Science Museum
Want a more educational day out? The Thinktank Birmingham is an ideal family day trip. Far from being a stuffy old museum with exhibitions behind glass, the Thinktank includes a planetarium, a science garden, and over 20 interactive exhibits about the history of Birmingham and it’s manufacturing heritage.
When it comes to entertainment, there is nothing that Star City can’t provide. Built on derelict industrial land in 2000, it has broken many records in it’s 15 years of being open. At one point, the 25 screen Vue cinema was the biggest in Europe, and today has one of the most diverse screening schedules, showing the best from both Hollywood and Bollywood.
Elsewhere, it has a 22 lane bowling alley, England’s first 36 hole indoor mini golf course, a laser tag arena, indoor climbing, and places to eat from up and down the scale, from KFC and Nandos to fine dining experiences like Shere Khan and Piccante.
Don’t think Birmingham doesn’t cater to just families though. The city’s nightlife is as vibrant and varied as the people who live there, and nowhere is this more apparent than on the world famous Broad Street.
Lined top to bottom with nightclubs, bars and restaurants, it’s a fantastic night out, only a stones throw away from New Street train station.
Not that clubbing is all it offers – at one end, there is the Cineworld cinema, with it’s giant IMAX screen, and at the other there is Symphony Hall and the ICC (International Convention Centre), which puts on great shows year round.
Barclaycard Arena, Genting Arena, and the NEC
Speaking of shows, some of the countries best arenas and convention centres can be found in the city. The newly refurbished Barclaycard Arena (formerly the NIA) sits in the heart of the city, surrounded by the famous canals of the city.
It’s sister arena, the Genting Arena (formerly the LG Arena & the NEC Arena) is part of the NEC (National Exhibition Centre) complex adjacent to Birmingham International Airport.
The NEC is one of the top 3 biggest convention centres in the world, and sits at No. 10 on the worldwide list of biggest buildings. The Genting Arena is also on a worldwide top 10 list, this time for busiest arenas, where it sits just behind Madison Square Garden in New York. It attracts the biggest and best in music, live shows and sports.
Start your day at the Ikon Gallery, a contemporary art gallery showcasing work by artists from around the world and a variety of media is represented, including sound, film, mixed media, photography, painting, sculpture and installation. If you need a refreshment head to the newly-opened Yorks Café that serves great coffee, as well as stone baked pizzas, and an inspired selection of mezze and salads.
Address: 1 Oozells Square, Brindleyplace, Birmingham, B1 2HS
Opening Hours: Tuesday – Sunday, 11am-5pm. Closed Mondays except Bank Holidays
Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery
This museum might just be the one that wins you over during your trip. Featuring beautiful collections of art, social history, archaeology and ethnography there really does seem to be something for everyone. It covers centuries of European history and culture, as well as being home to collections of international importance.
Address: Chamberlain Square, Birmingham B3 3DH
Opening Hours: Daily: 10-5
The Alchemist Restaurant
After all that sightseeing, you deserve a bit of a treat and The Alchemist will treat you well. A gothic style bar that makes full use of the historic features of the famous Grand Hotel with exposed brickwork and 18ft ceilings covered in a canopy of lights. Catering for food and cocktail enthusiasts alike, The Alchemist offers the discerning foodie an array of tasty dining experiences.
Address: The Grand, Colmore Row, Birmingham, B3 2DA
Opening Hours: Monday-Wednesday 9am-12am. Thursday-Friday 9am-1am. Saturday 10am-2am. Sunday 10am-11pm
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Arriving into Birmingham
Arrive by train into Birmingham New Street, or if you are coming by car, park at B4 Car Park on Weaman Street, located in between Snow Hill Railway Station and Birmingham Children’s Hospital.
Don’t forget, if you’re planning on visiting Birmingham over a weekend, you can take advantage of B4 Car Park’s free weekend parking offer which runs until the end of September 2017.
Have you been to Birmingham? What are your favourite things to do? Tell me in the comments section below!