Forget everything you’ve heard about 1960s concrete blocks and industrial wastelands – England’s second largest city has shrugged off its seedy reputation and emerged as a gleaming phoenix packed with designer shopping streets, funky bars and heritage museums. A weekend away to Birmingham from Glasgow Airport is the perfect way to discover this lively, up-and-coming city.
Birmingham is the retail capital of the Midlands. With luxury department stores such as Selfridges (The Bullring) and Harvey Nichols (The Mailbox) as well as historic Jewellery Quarter and dozens of open-air markets, this is the perfect place to indulge your inner shopaholic. As well as visiting famous malls such as The Bullring, The Mailbox (7 Commercial Street) and deal-hunter’s favourite Pavilions (38 High Street), be sure to browse the independent shops housed in the beautiful old Custard Factory (Gibb Street) and admire the window displays in the Balti Triangle, just south of the city centre.
A melting pot of different cultures, nationalities and faiths, Birmingham boasts one of the most cosmopolitan culinary scenes in the UK. The city is perhaps most famous for its outstanding curries. Pick up a balti, the local speciality, at the gaudy but fabulous Shababs (163 Ladypool Road). In the Jewellery Quarter, 24 Carat Bistro (27 Warstone Lane) has a menu that takes inspiration from all corners of the globe, while Michelin-starred spots Simpsons (20 Highfield Road) and Turners (69 High Street) are the home of fine dining in the city.
Bright lights of Brum
After dark, give the mega clubs a wide berth and head instead to one of the quirky backstreet bars that Birmingham does so well. The Lost and Found (8 Bennetts Hill) bases its cocktails on the adventures of Victorian explorer Hettie G Watson, and its secret bar has become an exclusive locals’ retreat. Medieval-themed drinking den Bacchus Bar (Burlington Arcade) is an oasis of cool right in the heart of the city’s largest shopping district, while The Church (22 Great Hampton Street) puts a funky spin on the traditional gastropub model.