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City Guide : Birmingham
Birmingham is the first city to have experienced the industrial revolution in the United Kingdom and therefore to have grown as a center for commerce. The emergence of the canal network, which is longer than the one in Venice, has also played an important role in this development. Birmingham is a city that has produced brands and people such as the legendary Spitfire war planes, “Mini” cars, “Cadbury” chocolates, Black Sabbath, JRR Tolkien, and Conan Doyle.
Downtown, which was largely destroyed during World War II, did not change much until 1990. After that, new buildings became prevalent with the radical changes that were taking place. A large part of the city was opened to pedestrians, canals were cleaned, and inviting walkways were made.
Birmingham is full of architectural structures, some of which were transformed into museums. The city not only offers shopping areas in addition to these architectural examples, but also natural areas with its parks located just outside downtown.
Aston Hall on Trinity Road is a must-see, even from the outside as it is closed until Summer 2009. The cannon damage on the building, which dates back to the era of James I, is still visible. “Aston Hall by Candlelight”, an event that is organized for New Year’s Celebrations once in two years- in other words in the years ending with even numbers- is worth seeing. If you are a fan of the Black Sabbath, and therefore Ozzy Osbourne, you can see the house where he was born in, at number 14 on Lodge Road.
Sarehole Mill is one of the mills among more than 50 of its kind in Birmingham. This mill, which was built in 1765, is also a famous touristic spot for being a place where the famous author J.R.R. Tolkien spent his time in as a child.
Soho House is the place where Matthew Boulton, one of the pioneers of industry/industrializaton, lived between 1766 and 1809. The location, where the members of the “Lunar Society” -including philosophers, scientists, and engineers- held meetings, is located on Soho Avenue in the suburb of Handsworth.
If you would like to see vehicles and industrial machines that you can touch and try; and events in which you can participate; you can visit the Thinktank Science Museum. IMAX movie theater is located in the same building as the museum; which is located in the Millenium Point complex on Curzon Street.
Birmingham Botanical Gardens is a place to visit in which you can find a rich collection of plants and also attend workshops and have a great time.
Cannon Hill Park is a spot for visits where you can play tennis, go bowling, and take advantage of the water facilities. There is an area in which you can enjoy a cup of tea surrounded by the trees, lakes, and flowers in the park; and also the Midlands Art Gallery is located here.
Nature Centre is the home of two red pandas, which are very hard to find. In this natural area located on Pershore Road as well; birds, deer, otters, and owls are among the animals you can see.
National Sea Life Centre is a large visit spot where you can see sea animals. Piranhas, turtles, sea horses, and rabbitfish are among the varieties of the centre. Shows on how the animals are fed attract a lot of attention.
IKON Gallery located at the end of Broad Street, which you can reach as you go west and south from downtown, is a modern art gallery. This little gallery also has a great cafe.
West Midlands Safari Park is approx 6 miles south-west of Birmingham near a town called Bewdley. You can go through the park using the 4 mile safari road. This road will take you through 600 animals from 30 different species. There are animals from every continent in the park. Reptiles are kept in a building within the park.
The park contains the largest pride of white lions in the United Kingdom as well as the largest herds of the common hippopotamus in Europe. In addition Ceetahs can be seen in the park since 2008. Some of the animals that can be seen in the park:
Monkeys, Ostriches, Lions, White Lions, Bengal Tiger, Giraffes, Deer, Reindeer, Wallaby, North Amerikan Wolf, Zebras, Addax, Seal, Amur leopard, Aye-aye, Bats.
Culture & EntertainmentVilla Park is the stadium with a 42 thousand people capacity where the city’s football team Aston Villa –winner of 7 F.A. and 7 league cups- holds its games. You can get to this excellent sports and entertainment complex by taking the number 7 bus from downtown or a train going to Witton.
St Martin Cathedral, also known as Bull Ring Cathedral for the shopping mall near it, is one of the oldest buildings. The cathedral, which is known to have undergone restoration in the 13th century, dates back further than that. A large portion of what is seen today was built in 1875.
St. Andrews Stadium belongs to Birmingham City Football Club. In order to reach this stadium with 21 thousand people capacity, you can use the rail system from Moor Street –right across from Bull Ring- heading to Bordesley Station.
Birmingham Cathedral, also known as St. Philip’s Cathedral, is another historical building that you must see. The building, with a Baroque style, was built between 1709 and 1715.
There is also a mosque in Birmingham, dating back to 1969. It is located at 180 Belgrave Middleway.
National Exhibition Centre (NEC) is a 200 thousand square meter complex with 21 halls, in which more than 180 exhibitions are held annually. NEC Arena, located within it, is used as a center for sports events and shows with its 12 thousand seating capacity.
Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery located downtown in Chamberlain Square is a place to go if you wish to see the local history. Barber Institute of Fine Arts located within the Birmingham University campus is an art gallery.
Food & DrinkThe city is known as the “balti” capital of England. As rumor has it, “balti” was invented here in 1977. However, balti is a Pakistani dish which is prepared by cooking various vegetables and meat with spices at a high heat. The word “balti” on the other hand stands for the bowl with two handles, in which the cooking is done. More than 50 restaurants, located on Ladypool Road and Stratford Road in the south part of the city, offer this dish.
It is possible to find “student” food due to the university in the city. Near Bristol Road, you can find Indian, Chinese, and Italian food. Fast foods such as kabob can be found anywhere in the city.
ShoppingBirmingham has also developed as a shopping area in the past years. Bull Ring, which was first constructed in 1960s and then enlarged in 2000 with the inclusion of the Selfridges chain stores, played an important part in this. In the area, which has become a center of attractions, some shopping centers are also located. Some of these are Pavillions, the Mailbox, and Pallasades located on the way to New Street Station.
The historical chocolate factory CadBury World is located in Bournville on the way to Linden. The greatest gift of the touristic tour in the factory is the free chocolate. Cadbury factory is the right place to buy chocolates for a relatively low price.
Always a pioneering city, Birmingham has been a leader and a pathbreaker in many areas. Advanced in both industry and trade, it has been home to famous people as well as famous trademarks. With its canals reminiscent of those of Venice and Amsterdam, it welcomes millions of visitors today. Indeed Birmingham's canals, lined with cafes and promenades, exceed those of Venice in sheer length. Opened in 1769 during the Industrial Revolution, the first canal linked the city to Wednesbury. The total length of the main canal and many small connecting canals was 278 kilometers in the 18th century, 182 kilometers of which are still in use today.
HOUSE OF THE CLAN OF BRUM
The inhabitants of this city, which hosted the G8 summit in 1998, speak their own idiosyncratic form of English, which you might find difficult to understand. The name means 'home of the clan of the leader named Brum' and natives are known as 'Brummies'.
Looking back at this big city's history, we see that it was a small settlement already in the 6th century. In 1538 only 1500 people lived Birmingham. Metal production rose to prominence in the city when swords and shields were supplied to the soldiers fighting on the republican front in the English Civil War that broke out in 1642. Birmingham has gone down in history as one of the leading cities in England and indeed in the world during the Industrial Revolution, experiencing a Golden Age from the 1840's to the 1970's. Situated on the Rea River with easy access to coal, iron and lumber, Birmingham became England's leading center of industrial production in the 20th century. Some of the factories that were closed down in the 1970's are coming back into use today for cultural and touristic purposes.
CITY OF FAMOUS MEN
Birmingham is also a city of famous people. James Watt invented the steam engine here. Not content with that, he also put his signature on the world's first photocopy machine. As the universal unit of power in an electrical circuit, used even in Turkish to indicate the strength of a light bulb, his family name has become a household word. The first X-ray was also taken in Birmingham by a man by the name of John Hall Edwards. And William Murdock, who worked alongside Boulton and Watt, was the first person to develop gas lighting. To follow these traces of the past, you can go to Soho House, a fashionable home where famous inventors of the time stayed and which is open to tourists today. Among Birmingham's famous native sons of the 20th century are Ozzy Osborne, Duran Duran and Black Sabbath. Lord of the Rings author John Ronald Reuel Tolkien also spent his childhood here. In addition to the famous people who grew up in Birmingham, the city is also home to the world-famous Cadbury's chocolates. Cadbury World at Bournville is a place where chocolate lovers can spend an enjoyable time while being briefed on the history of chocolate. The city also supports two fiercely rival soccer clubs, Aston Villa and Birmingham City.
RICH IN ARCHITECTURE
Victoria Square at the intersection of New Avenue, Paradise Avenue and Colmore Row, is the city center, taking its name from a statue of Queen Victoria erected here in 1901. The square was completely renovated in 1993 when Lady Diana presided over the reopening. Location of the Town Hall and Council House stand, the square also boasts one of Europe's biggest fountains, affectionately nicknamed 'Floozie in the Jacuzzi'. Birmingham is a city chock full of architectural delights, of which the Town Hall, built in the 1830's and surrounded by forty Corinthian-style columns, is just one. Immediately next to it, the Council House is a Renaissance-style structure built in the 1870's and dubbed by the city's residents 'Big Brum'. Meanwhile another of the city's important squares, the Centenary, is made up of 500,000 bricks, each one of which was laid separately by hand. Birmingham's St. Philip's Cathedral, which dates to the 18th century, boasts a magnificent Baroque bell tower, and its oldest church, St. Martin's, was built in the 13th century.
Housed in a lovely building in the Victorian architectural style, Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery claims the largest pre-Raphaelite collection in the world. In addition to outstanding works by artists of the French, Flemish and Italian Baroque, works of contemporary artists are also on exhibit here alongside pottery, objects of silver and archaeological artifacts. One of the city's leading educational institutions,the University of Birmingham boasts a charming campus with one of the world's finest small galleries, the Barber Institute of Fine Arts. Exhibited here are the works of masters such as Degas, Monet, Renoir and Turner.
THE WORLD'S FIRST EXHIBITION HALL
The first exhibition hall in the world was opened in Birmingham in 1850. In its place today stands the ICC, or International Conference Center, where over 400 conferences are held each year. Next to it is Symphony Hall, acknowledged by authorities in the field as one of the best in Europe. The Birmingham Hippodrome hosts the Royal Ballet, and its next door neighbor, the National Indoor Arena, is used for concerts and sports events. Birmingham is a city that sets great store by the arts, and its many theaters, cinemas, art galleries and museums have opened their arms to art lovers. Broad Street meanwhile is the scene of the city's nightlife, where The Arcadian and The Mailbox rival Broad Street. Birmingham is proud of having a very young population and of offering entertainment of all kinds oriented towards young people.
THE BULL RING
The Bull Ring, which celebrated its 800 anniversary in the year 2000, has been replaced today by the Bull Ring Shopping Center which consists of five separate sections and is visited by some 20 million people annually. The Farmer's Market meanwhile gives local farmers an opportunity to bring their produce fresh to the consumer. And the district known as the Jewellery Quarter, where 40% of England's jewelry is produced, is a place where you can personally witness the history of jewelry-making in the city and the high level of craftsmanship attained. Browsing through the approximately one hundred jewelry shops here is a pleasure all its own.
THE BALTI TRIANGLE
There are also many lovely spots to attract nature lovers in Birmingham. The National Sea Life Centre is a venue where you can see over 3,000 marine creatures as you wend your way between tunnels made of glass. Kings Heath and Cannon Hill are two parks where you can enjoy a pleasant stroll, and at Castle Bromwich Hall you will be impressed by the splendor of the gardens of this 18th century summer estate.
Birnimgham has a sizable population of immigrants from the Asian countries, which makes for an abundance of restaurants offering the seductive flavors of curry, cumin, coriander and ginger. You must try them! A range of alternatives is available to those who are eager to sample Pakistani cuisine in particular in the area known as the Balti Triangle. Literally meaning 'bucket', the 'balti' is a cooking pot with handles on the sides that has made it to Birmingham thanks to the many immigrants from Pakistan's Baltistan province. If you venture into this triangle that overlaps the districts of Sparkbrook, Balsal Heath and Moseley, you'll find yourself on an international tour as both the faces and the life style you encounter are transformed before your very eyes. Besides the many restaurants there are also shops selling clothing, jewelry and food items. And if it's Chinese you crave, you can make a stop at China Town.
Birmingham's day as 'the city of a thousand trades' may be a thing of the past now, but it continues to hold out a large number of surprises for visitors.
Ticket Sales Offices : Birmingham
|Birmingham Administration Office|
|Address||BIRMINGHAM INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT DIAMOND HOUSE, FIRST FLOOR, ROOM DH125B, B26 3QJ|
|Phone||Call Center: 0844 800 6666Lost Baggage: 0121 767 7771|
|Fax||+44 (0) 121 782 8000|
|Birmingham Ticket Sales Office|
|Address||BIRMINGHAM INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT TERMINAL 1, BIRMINGHAM B26 3QJ|
|Phone||Call Center: 0844 800 6666-Airport: 0044 (0) 121 782 8788|
|Fax||0044 (0) 121 782 8789|
Monday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday: 08:00 - 11:00 / 13:00 - 16:30
Birmingham : Airport Information
Address : Birmingham International Airport Birmingham. B26 3QJ United Kingdom Phone : +44 (0)844 576 6000
Birmingham : Airport Map Information
- Sat 17°C
- Sun 15°C
- Mon 11°C
|Monetary Unit||:||Pound Sterling (£)|
|Phone Code||:||00 44 121|