Complete travel guide to Birmingham, UK - Part 2. Transport, Accommodation, Eating and drinking, Shopping, tips and tricks
Why and when to visit Birmingham?
Birmingham is one of the fastest growing cities in the UK and it attracts more visitors every year. The city has its historical beauty and world-class venues, including the biggest number of Michelin starred restaurants outside of London. It’s located in the middle of the UK and this is the best place for connections to other cities, and it’s a chocolate lovers paradise by having the original Cadbury World factory in Bournville. Brummies are some of the friendliest people in the UK and the city overall is very inviting and has something for everybody.
The best time to visit Birmingham is from April to September. The weather is perfect most of the time, not too rainy like the autumn and sunny most of the time (because of global warming, the UK became a nice warm place). It is also good to visit, not only because of the weather, but the fact that the city comes to life. All the pubs around the canals put their tables outside waiting for customers, people enjoying drinking and eating outside, the city is full of beautiful flowers and it‘s full of events in nature like cycling and boat trips.
Another nice time to visit Birmingham is at Christmas time when the German Christmas market is taking over the city.
Check also the Part 1 of this guide for places to see in Birmingham here.
Regarding the transport in the city, it will only depend on the length of your stay. For travellers who stay for less than 5 days, I would definitely recommend common transport. Most of the things you will see are around the city centre in a walking distance, so for the others, taking the bus, tram or train is the most efficient way of getting around. With the bus, check West Midlands, everything is made easier by their app, where you can see exactly when the bus will come, where it takes you and also buy tickets (most of the time is actually correct!). For trips between the towns and villages, check the Trainline website or the National Express. If you stay longer, renting a car may be a solution, or getting an Uber. I find the taxis more expensive than Ubers and it also makes everything easier.
Best places to stay
I would definitely recommend staying around the city centre, especially if you’ re coming for a short visit. Taking the bus from places around the periphery of the city makes more than 30 minutes and if you go at the rush time, you can spend even more than 1 hour in a bus full of annoyed people. The top 3 hotels that I would personally recommend would be:
Hotel du Vin
All these hotels have something special and different about them. If you are on a budget or just prefer something cheaper, I would recommend:
These suggestions are all around the city centre. If you are flexible and want to know more check with the widget below and book a place that suits you:
Or maybe look for a cheap package deal with the Travel Supermarket:
Eating and drinking
Birmingham is the city with the biggest number of Michelin starred restaurants outside London. At this moment there are 7 restaurants: Adam’s; Purnell’s; Simpsons; Carters of Moseley; Peel’s; The Cross; Le Champignon Sauvage;
I think food it’s a matter of taste, so most of these places are my personal recommendations. If you come to the UK, you need to try their English breakfast, the afternoon tea, the fish and chips and the Sunday roast.
For the best English breakfast in the city I would recommend The High Field, Edgbaston and for a vegan breakfast, Wayland’s Yard.
For the afternoon tea, an amazing place that knows how to properly do it is Harvey Nichols in the Mailbox and for vegans who want to enjoy some tea/coffee and cakes, a great place is 3 Three’s in the city centre.
For lunch/ dinner depending on your preference in food you can have one my favourite Japanese cuisine at Wagamama, try some world food at Giraffe, enjoy a great lunch with a view on the canals at Pitcher and Piano, if you are craving some junk food you need to try the Handmade Burgers, they have amazing vegan burgers, if you want to try food from Brazil, Mexico, Argentina, Peru and beyond, you need to try Las Iguanas, they do great desserts as well, or if you feel like having some Italian food try Bella Italia. These are just some examples of the great cuisine that the city has. There is a big variety of Indian, Chinese, Spanish, Italian, Caribbean food and so on, vegan and vegetarian friendly.
If you are in the mood for some coffee, you need to try the classic British coffee at Costa. For the best view try Starbucks in the Bullring, in the city centre.
To go out to drink the best area is Broad Street, where you can find tens of pubs aligned for people to pop in and enjoy. One of my favourite places is the Gin Vault, situated on the side of the canal, it’s a very cosy and nice place, with a menu full of possibilities, especially for Gin lovers.
The biggest shopping centre is the Bullring, but also as a part of the shopping experience, the Selfridges, the New Street and the Grand Central, it is easy to find shops everywhere in this area. Now the biggest Primark in the world opened just near the Bullring, so even better, that’s a heaven for shoppers. The only problem is that it’s always crowded, from people going to work, people travelling in the Grand Central, shopping and having lunch, this place is always full and may not be a pleasure to keep waiting in lines for trying something on or paying. Around the city centre, there are some great arcades with shops and the Mailbox, another place with good shops and pubs.
Another big shopping centre where you find all the good shops is INTU in Merry Hill, a little outside of Birmingham, but for me, it is great because it’s not crowded, not noisy and the road there is a pleasure.
Tips and tricks:
· Don’t forget your umbrella! It is the UK after all.
· Get a bus pass, it will save you a lot of money.
· Book tickets to attractions online beforehand, to avoid spending hours in cues.
· Always look on the right when you cross the street.
· Almost everywhere ask for tap water, it’s free.
· Make sure you don’t forget to get travel insurance. The prices are high in the UK for doctors and hospitals.
· Say please, sorry and thank you. English people will say these three words even if they don’t actually mean it, but they feel offended if somebody else doesn’t use them.
· Smoke outside. Smoking is not permitted in closed spaces in the UK.
· Leave a tip if you are happy with the service; usually, 10% is just fine.
· Enjoy all the green spaces in the city.
If you are interested in some events coming up in the period you are here, check the Visit Birmingham website. And if you want to see recommendations for places to visit, check the Part 1 of the Travel Guide for Birmingham.
Bonus: Top 10 most instagrammable places in Birmingham