I had no idea what to expect when I arrived at the bus station for my Birmingham city break. I had previously been travelling through the city, but never had the time to explore it – before now. Being from Scandinavia, Birmingham is one of those cities that everyone knows the name of, but few choose to spend their holiday in. I was eager to find out what we are missing out on.
I made my way to my temporary home for two nights – the HATTERS HOSTELS BIRMINGHAM. A modern city hostel with a distinct urban feel and friendly welcoming staff. It is reached in just 15 minutes if you walk from downtown, so if you travel on a budget you can save money on public transport. As I arrived early for check-in I made use of the option to store my luggage and went out to take in the city sights.
Birmingham quickly struck me as a city of many big contrasts. One minute walk through a Victorian arcade and past the historic cathedral – and next minute you come by funky and spaceship-looking architecture of almost futuristic character. Like New Street Station and the Selfridge’s at the Bullring complex. You certainly won’t be bored while wandering through this cityscape.
As a big fan of street art my first aim was the former industrial area known as Digbeth. An area centred around the cultural hub of the Custard Factory. Here a bunch of creative businesses and shops have been set up in an around the former factory and this makes for a great place to explore – combined with many colourful murals and sculptures spread around the buildings and the surrounding car parks.
After my first night’s sleep in my dorm at the Hatters Hostel, my next mission in Birmingham included time travellling. Therefore I took off from the silver-shining New Street Station to go back in time. I did so by taking the train to the small town of Tipton, just 17 minutes north-west of the city centre. Here I found my way to the Black Country Living Museum, which is bringing to life the industrial era of this area, known as “The Black Country”.
Despite grey skies and a few showers, this turned out to be an excellent day out. I jumped on a classic red double-decker and a few minutes later I found myself visiting old houses, stores and workshops, with people dressed up in clothes to fit the era and welcoming visitors to take it all in. I saw a blacksmith forging a chain as sparks were flying, had a good old cup of tea at the pub, and went on a 30 minute guided tour down a coal mine – from where people were bringing up the black stuff that gave this area its nickname.
After four hours of entertainment I travelled “back to the future” the way I came and set my sight on Birmingham’s important canals. These are found near the Centenary Square where you can also visit the Symphony Hall, the International Convention Centre and not at least the city’s iconic library.
It’s a pleasure just to wander along these canals and look at the colourful narrow boats, and if you get hungry or crave a pint in the sun, the Brindley Place complex offers a wide range of restaurants and bars to meet your needs. It is also around here that you will find attractions like the National Sea Life Centre and the Ikon Gallery.
Birmingham is a basket full of many different fruits – it’s just to pick your favourites. And the Hatters Hostel Birmingham offers a great base for you to explore, whether you travel solo like me or as a group.
Find more accommodation in and around Birmingham on our Map of Central England and Shropshire