You’ll find Birmingham’s nightlife bubbling away around these inland waterways: bar after bar lines Broad Street, while Brindleyplace and New Street also offer a decent selection of watering holes.
Birmingham’s civic and business community has spent more than £7 billion transforming the city from a much-maligned industrial backwater into one of the UK’s premier weekend break destinations.
Everything from the city’s famous curry houses, to its burgeoning shopping sector and JRR Tolkien – who spent his formative years in and around the city – is on the agenda as Birmingham vies for its slice of Europe’s lucrative short-haul market.
Curry is synonymous with modern English cuisine and nowhere will you find a more satisfying curry than in Birmingham. The city’s Kashmiri community has cultivated a proud Balti heritage and is credited with perfecting the dish and exporting it to other regions of the UK. Within the area bordered by the suburbs of Sparkbrook, Balsall Heath and Moseley, you’ll find Birmingham’s now-famous Balti Triangle, a curry-lover’s heaven, with more flavours and better value for money than London’s Brick Lane could ever deliver.
Cricket at Edgbaston
Warwickshire’s showcase ground has hosted more than its share of wonderful cricket: start with Brian Lara’s record 501 runs for Warwickshire against Durham in 1994, and go from there. Small enough to be close to the action, yet big enough to play a leading role in some of the sport’s most memorable matches, Edgbaston is a worthy stop on any sports lover’s tour of England. If you haven’t got your Ashes ticket yet, either resign yourself to watching the action on the box or be prepared to shell out an inordinate amount of money for tour or scalpers’ tickets.
Following heavy investment in the retail sector in the late ’90s, Birmingham now boasts more than 800 shops and seven department stores. The best shopping can be found in and around the Bullring, a three-storey, £500 million building which houses 146 shops, including the department stores Selfridges and Debenhams. If you’ve got more money than sense, also check out the refurbished, designer-laden Mailbox shopping centre.
The Tolkien Trail
JRR Tolkien is said to have garnered much of his inspiration from childhood haunts around Birmingham, and the imagery he brought to life on his pages can be attributed to various places and buildings in the city. A self-guided Toklien Trail leaflet is available from www. beinbirmingham.com or tourist information centres. Alternatively, you can pay for a guided tour of all Tolkien sites. Details on 0121-444 4046 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
There isn’t a lot of budget accommodation in Birmingham, with most cheap rooms concentrated in downmarket hotels, B&Bs or guesthouses. See www.youth-hostels-in.com/birmingham-hostels.htm for a selection of the cheaper ones.
– LYNETTE EYB