Those two words are not normally seen in the same sentence. Birmingham has long been the butt of jokes, and it has its fair share of ugly concrete buildings that the planners in the 60s thought would be a good idea. However, Birmingham has blossomed into a beautiful city worthy of a closer look.
The Bullring is perhaps what started off the turn-around. The architects that designed this were no less crazy than their earlier counterparts, and this time plumped for a very – ahem – unique design.
Apparently this is the second largest shopping mall in Europe – which is cool as it’s right in the city centre (as opposed to most large shopping malls which are out of town). There are 3 floors made up of the usual shops, but also a flagship store of Selfridges.
The latest addition to Birmingham’s eclectic collection of buildings is the new Library of Birmingham. Another strange design, which is marmite-like in its ability to divide opinion. I like it! It’s definitely worth going inside – I was really impressed (especially if you go up the escalators!) and the roof gardens are particularly lovely.
So what of the culture in Birmingham? Well, I’m pleased to report that there is some! 😉 There’s the museum and art gallery, which was fairly typical to most English cities – a few interesting exhibitions and some ancient artifacts and paintings. I was impressed by the lovely café in the museum however, with a classic glass ceiling.
The museum and art gallery is situated in Chamberlain Square, which is next to Victoria Square. This is also home to the town hall, which looks like the Parthenon in Athens to me (being a philistine who has never seen the Parthenon!)
Birmingham is in the process of being transformed as New Street station is being redeveloped. The new station will be called Grand Central Birmingham, which I found hilarious and pretentious until I thought about it and realised that THE Grand Central station in New York has the train tracks underneath it… as does Birmingham New Street. Most stations in England (London Euston, Manchester Piccadilly, Liverpool Lime Street, Bristol Temple Meads, Exeter St Davids etc etc) all have the tracks beside the station. So Birmingham New Street is pretty unique in this respect. Which probably explains the rather grandiose name. But who knows, Birmingham COULD be the next New York! 😉
Anyway, I am genuinely impressed by the new station so far as it can’t be easy to redevelop a massive building with a working train station underneath it! Plus what they have done so far is all shiny! It has mirrors attached to the outside of it which looks awesome. I can’t wait to see the finished product, which I think is due to open in 2015.
And on the same note, some of the unusual architecture is genuinely cool. The Cube (in the Mailbox) is also worthy of a mention. Slightly odd design, as it looks like a game of Tetrus, but 10 points for originality!
For entertainment, there are a lot of large concert venues like Symphony Hall, Town Hall, the NIA (National Indoor Arena), ICC (International Convention Centre), and NEC (National Exhibition Centre). Wow! That sounds like a lot of stuff! There’s also lots of theatres cinemas, and restaurants. For nights out, I enjoyed the bars and restaurants in Brindley Place and the Mailbox. There are also clubs in Broad Street, the Arcadian and Hurst Street. What more can a girl want?!
My preconceptions of Birmingham were that it would be grey, industrial, and dangerous… but no! Birmingham definitely exceeded my expectations and there is lots to see and do for a fun day out or a mini break. Definitely worth a visit to England’s second city!
We also hired a canal boat in Birmingham, but that’s another story for another day…:)
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