TRAVEL GUIDE: 48 hours in Birmingham
Birmingham is England's second city. Located right in the centre of the country, it has a unique industrial heritage but is also conveniently close to cultural hotspots such as Shakespeare's birthplace of Stratford-upon-Avon, Warwick Castle and The Cotswolds.
Top attractions in Birmingham include Cadbury World, the National Sea Life Centre, the Back to Back Houses, Thinktank — Birmingham’s Science Museum and the Museum of the Jewellery Quarter.
bmibaby (www.bmibaby.com) operates up to 13 flights a week from Belfast International to Birmingham Airport, with prices starting from just £9.99 one way, including taxes and charges. The low-cost airline offers a number of other benefits including reserved seating, online check-in (if travelling with hand luggage only) and group bookings online. Don’t miss the best deals on accommodation through bmibaby’s partnership with website Lastminute.com.The airport is 13km south-east of the city. Buses that link the Airport to central Birmingham leave every 20 to 30 minutes. The journey lasts approximately 15 minutes and costs just £1.50. You can take a train to Birmingham New Street Station which takes eight minutes or opt for the free air-rail monorail to the city centre. Expect to pay approximately £17 for a taxi.
Get a room
Birmingham has a fantastic range of accommodation from ornate, boutique options to low-cost and friendly hotels. To help you find somewhere that caters to your needs, use the visitor centre online service at www.visitbirmingham.com or call 0844 888 3883 for a range of quality and great value accommodation. Visit www.bmibaby.com to see great hotel deals from the website lastminute.com
Family Friendly Hotel
Crowne Plaza Hotel Birmingham is a fantastic choice for families situated right in the heart of Birmingham city centre. With shops and other attractions just a short walk away, the hotel has 312 spacious bedrooms with a variety of amenities including en suite facilities, air conditioning, in-room dining, satellite TV and refreshment making facilities. The hotel also features a range of flexible food and beverage options in its vibrant, contemporary B1 Bar and Restaurant which is very family friendly as kids eat free. Prices for a family room start from £75 per room (with two adults, two children sharing).
Hotel Du Vin (0121 2000600 ) is an ornate, early Victorian building in the old city centre, now part of the newly revitalised Jewellery Quarter — making it a perfect location if romance is on the cards for your visit. A stylish boutique hotel with a spa and gym, it offers something of a relaxing haven in the midst of the hustle and bustle.
Low Cost Option
Premier Inn (0871 5278000) has several hotels in the city along with other big name-savings chains like Ibis, Etap and Express by Holiday Inn. Strong favourites with students and gap year visitors are the city’s hostels, Birmingham Central Backpackers (0121 643 0033) in the Digbeth area near the Bullring and the Custard Factory and Hatters hostel in the Jewellery Quarter.
Catch a show at Birmingham’s Hippodrome. Handily situated in the city centre, the Hippodrome is a friendly theatre, presenting the very best in classic and contemporary theatre, musicals, comedy, children's theatre and much more. End your evening in Birmingham’s famous Balti Triangle which is home to around 50 Balti houses (www.baltitriangle.com). The vast majority of Balti houses are situated in the Sparkbrook, Balsall Heath, and Moseley areas of South Birmingham. Most are unlicensed with diners bringing their own wine, beers, etc. and there are several off-licences situated in the area. Diners can be sure of a welcome as warm as their famous baltis!
Saturday: Brunch Bite
Situated within the chic and cosmopolitan surroundings of Brindleyplace, Bank (0121 6334466) is a sleek eatery with a strong reputation for its fish but they also make breakfast and brunch their business. Choose from an omelette or salt cod fritters, to a full English breakfast or chargrilled tuna, steak from 11am on Saturday and Sunday. What’s more, Bank’s alfresco terrace area boasts superb views, making the brassiere the perfect setting for whiling away the hazy summer mornings.
Birmingham is a shopper’s paradise, with restored arcades, modern malls and markets, boutiques and high street stores. If designer gear is your thing, stop off at The Mailbox for a spot of exclusive retail therapy at up-market store Harvey Nichols. Don’t miss the Bullring in the heart of the city for a mix of boutique and high street shopping. With 140 shops and two department stores including Selfridges, it’s a mecca for fashionistas.
Tired of shopping? You don’t have to go too far for some truly tasty grub. Pop into Urban Pie in the Bullring for some generous, handmade, all-butter-pastry creations. From steak and mushroom to Thai chicken or seasonal vegetable, each pie is brimming with a yummy combination of fresh ingredients.
Something for the kids
Thinktank (www.thinktank.ac) offers an extraordinary, fun-packed day out for all the family. From steam engines to intestines, this exciting museum has over 200 hands-on displays on science and technology from the past, present and future. Or if you’re travelling with young kids, why not explore the city’s Sea Life Centre, where you can take an amazing voyage beneath the waves and see the UK’s first Hammerhead Sharks. A family ticket is £40, with £3 off each ticket this summer (0871 423 2110).
Visit Bourneville, a picture postcard town that’s just 15 minutes drive south-west from the city and the home to Cadburys chocolate and Cadbury World www.cadburyworld.co.uk — a must to pick up some choccie-themed souvenirs.
Sunday Morning: Get Your Rocks On, baby
Take an early morning walk on the outskirts of the city to Birmingham’s unique Jewellery Quarter www.the-quarter.com which is home to around 400 jewellery businesses. There are more than 100 specialist retailers selling handcrafted jewellery as well as clocks and watches — you can even commission your own design! But even if you’re not in the market for a bit of bling, a myriad other attractions make the Jewellery Quarter a must-visit including great bars, restaurants, parks and some very cool shops! It’s also home to one of the top three free attractions in the whole of Europe — the museum of the Jewellery Quarter.
Birmingham is home to a magnificent floating restaurant (www.away2dine.co.uk) which is modelled on the dinner boats of Paris! Enjoy a final trip through the picturesque canals with a three hour cruise of the city and a delicious Sunday roast dinner from £35 per person.