Birmingham is not somewhere I had ever really imagined going for a weekend away. Admittedly my only experience had really been changing trains at New Street Station, but it seemed large, overcrowded, noisy and the sort of place that I would usually try to avoid. However, it is a useful midway point between the north and south of the country, so a weekend in Birmingham was on the cards. A trip to Cadbury World was top of my list of things to do, but I hadn’t realised the abundance of other things that could easily fill a weekend.
One of the reasons I was convinced I wouldn’t be a fan of Birmingham is because I like quite small, walking cities where you can just wander round, take in the sights at your own pace and stumble across some really exciting new places on your own. I didn’t think you’d be able to do that in such a large city, however that’s exactly what we ended up doing.
A short evening walk after our dinner on the first evening and we came across the Town Hall, Museum & Art Gallery, and the Cathedral. Suddenly the buildings were much grander and the architecture more interesting than the tower blocks which we had previously seen.
The same sudden difference in surroundings was true of the following evening. I was eager to seek out the library as it is the largest library in Europe (!), then after a short walk we found ourselves in a beautifully lit area with canals. It was as if we were travelling between completely different cities rather than different areas of the same city! It might not have the continuing beauty of a place like Bath or York, but it was still interesting to walk around.
Until I researched Birmingham I hadn’t realised that it has the most Michelin-starred restaurants of any UK city outside of London, but this might be one of the reasons why Birmingham seems to have such a good food and drink scene. Whilst we didn’t try any of the Michelin-starred restaurants (perhaps another time…) we really enjoyed our meal at The Lost & Found, brunch at York’s cafe, and there were plenty of other places I saw that I would like to try at some point.
Somewhere we came across completely by chance and both thoroughly enjoyed was The Gin Vault. A small, independent bar just off a canal in the city centre, this is certainly somewhere I want to return if I find myself in Birmingham again. There was a choice of over 60 gins (they will email you a copy of the menu if you ask) as well as craft beers and wines. They also sold tapas which smelled and looked very good. It was busy, as most places are on a Saturday evening, so if we return I think we’d reserve a table so that we could get food as well and make more of a night of it.
Rather than going for the traditional gin and tonic, we both opted for gin-based cocktails which were quite expensive, but very nice. We were quite reluctant to return back to reality after discovering this fantastic place.
On our final day we only had limited time so decided to head to Thinktank, the Birmingham Science Museum. Although some areas were clearly aimed at young children, most of the museum was very hands-on and interactive making it a good place to come no matter what your age.
For the amount of time we had the tickets weren’t really worth the price, but if you are going to spend most of the day there then it is a good place to go. There were activities outdoors as well as inside, and a Planetarium on the top floor. Even if you aren’t much of a scientist the interactive activities should keep you entertained.
I didn’t fall in love with Birmingham on our weekend away, but I did discover a different side to the city and was disappointed when it was time to leave as there was still so much that I wanted to do! There were other museums we could have visited, I wouldn’t have minded seeing the National Trust Back to Backs, and we only briefly popped our heads into the Bullring which looked like a great shopping destination. Whilst I wouldn’t want to live there, I do think I will return to Birmingham in the future and explore some more.
Is there anywhere you’d recommend going next time I visit?