Birmingham's pubs and clubs are famously lively, the streets buzz with culture and commerce, and the grand old canals are lined with scenic cycle paths.
You can fill up on spicy Balti curry – an Indian dish created right here in the West Midlands – then head out for a night of theatre, comedy or live music. From international festivals to world-class shopping, "Brum" has a lot to shout about.
Birmingham: city layout
Many of Birmingham's Georgian and Victorian buildings can be taken in while strolling or cycling along the city's 35 miles of canals.
The striking Bullring shopping centre is a modern landmark on the site of an ancient marketplace. Great Charles Street Queensway is a testament to the fast-moving present, while the baroque St. Phillip's Cathedral and Victoria Square stand as proud reminders of the city's history.
In the centre of Birmingham, you can admire the city's stateliest buildings in and around Victoria Square. The former post office at Victoria Square House is a French Renaissance-style marvel. Birmingham Town Hall & Symphony Hall is open daily for tours and hosts regular classical concerts. Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery makes for a rewarding wander on a rainy afternoon.
The square is also home to one of the largest fountains in Europe, with water features designed by Dhurva Mistry. Anthony Gormley's Iron: Man sculpture is a tribute to Birmingham's industrial legacy. In December, crystal lamps light the plaza and the air fills with the aromas of marzipan and bratwurst during the Frankfurt Christmas Market and Craft Market.
The Cadbury World experience incorporates 3D video storytelling, interactive theatre, a kids' play area, and a fun exhibition on the humble cocoa bean.
The concierge recommends…
Central Birmingham hotels range from basic and business-friendly to boutique options with terrace views. Either way, you'll have easy access to buzzing bars, pubs and clubs, as well as the city's main culture hotspots.
Near Birmingham New Street Station is The Cube – a multi-story hub of offices, apartments, bars and restaurants with an in-house hotel. Designed by local architect Ken Shuttleworth, its gold and bronze geometric façade really stands out.
There are hotels around the Bullring to suit shoppers on a spending spree and budget-conscious bargain-hunters alike. A room in Snow Hill puts you close to Colmore Business District, with links to New Street for the airport train.
Migrants have come across the world to live in Birmingham, particularly from the Indian subcontinent. And they've brought their cultures and cuisines with them. Visitors to Brum can literally taste this diversity whenever they go out to eat.
The basic ingredients of the sizzling balti curry may originate in Pakistan, but the story goes that this popular dish was invented here in Birmingham. In the city's Balti Triangle, you'll find curry houses with their own variations on the recipe, and shops where you can buy the spices and balti pots to make your own at home.
The Chinese Quarter on the Southside is equally famous for its Far Eastern markets and menus.
If you'd like to taste the best of British cuisine, Purnell's in the city centre has earned a Michelin star for its innovative use of local ingredients. Other starred properties include Simpsons, a Georgian dining room in leafy Edgbaston, and adam's, owned by super-skilled chef Adam Stokes.
The Fine Food Market is well worth checking out in Victoria Square on alternate Wednesdays.
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The iconic Selfridges building, Piccadilly Arcade and the elegant Great Western Arcade are all clustered close together for shopping expeditions in the city centre.
The Bullring forms the main hub of Birmingham retail culture, with more than 150 shops – including the upmarket Harvey Nichols – and plenty of places to eat and drink. Local artists show their work at colourful stalls near the entrance.
The Jewellery Quarter near Hockley is lined with historic buildings, many of which have been home to gem sellers, cutters and polishers for over 200 years.
At Piccadilly Arcade in New Street you'll find beauty salons, fashion boutiques and gift shops under gorgeous hand-painted ceilings.
Birmingham's coolest places to shop
By day, Birmingham is one of the UK's most vibrant cultural centres, with museums in Georgian and Victorian buildings and cutting-edge spaces for modern art. By night, the city's fizzing energy is centred on the pubs, clubs and music venues of Broad Street.
Entry is free to Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery, where you can see the world's biggest collection of pre-Raphaelite paintings. Also free is the widely acclaimed Ikon gallery of contemporary art (except for special ticketed exhibitions). Right nearby is Birmingham Repertory Theatre, which hosts Shakespeare classics and fresh new plays.
Barclaycard Arena is a major national concert venue that has hosted top rock, pop and comedy acts from Brian Wilson and One Direction to the popular British funnyman Michael McIntyre.
Movie-lovers flock to Electric Cinema, an Art Deco picture house built in 1909, for regular screenings of classic and indie films. And Birmingham's legendary Broad Street is a long parade of entertainment options, from long-standing city pubs to the massive Gatecrasher nightclub.
The friendly, lively Birmingham Gay Village is based around Hurst Street and always makes for a fun night out.
The best live shows in Birmingham
Besides the big-city treats that Birmingham has to offer, you also have nature trails to wander down and parklands to picnic in. The lush countryside of the West Midlands begins at the edge of town.
The region gets a lot of rain, but you can always take shelter in the multiplex cinema or bowling alley at Broadway Plaza. And despite being right in the middle of England, more than 100 miles from the nearest coast, Birmingham is also home to the National Sea Life Centre, where kids can meet Gentoo penguins and 60 other species of aquatic creatures.
Children over eight can race go-karts around the tracks at Teamworks Karting or Grand Prix Karting. Littler ones can embark on a thrilling ascent at Creation Indoor Climbing Centre, where fully qualified instructors teach basic skills to kids as young as four.
The whole family can get to know the city at their own pace for free with a choice of self-guided Mystery Treasure Trails. Simply download the route and off you go.
Family Attractions - Tips