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The home of the Balti curry is a multicultural marvel of food, culture and style. With more than 30 different cuisines served up, science taking centre stage and the uber-cool Bullring destination, Birmingham is truly a destination city.
Birmingham’s diners really love to eat and to eat well. Discover colourful food markets selling everything from traditional ingredients to exotic spices. Book a class at a cookery school or take a cocktail masterclass. There are even festivals dedicated to whisky. And of course you can really go to town at one of the city’s Michelin-starred restaurants.
But what Birmingham is really known for is its Balti - highly spiced dishes served in their steel cooking pots, which evolved from traditional recipes and were created by the Pakistani-Kashmiri community in the south east of the city. There are 50 restaurants and takeaways in the Balti Triangle. Or grab some delicious ingredients to make your own at one of the many market stalls.
If you love street food, then Birmingham has a great street food pop-up experience with guest chefs, music and entertainment. And it all happens on a Friday night - giving club kudos to the foodie scene. Sample dishes for as little as fiver and see culinary art in action.
Eat under Victorian arches, in Georgian grandeur or enjoy a waterside view at the city centre canal-side development. Taste the delights of a Michelin starred restaurant producing a new take on classic British dishes.
Top tip - try one of the weekday lunch menus at the Michelin-starred restaurants - it’s a great way to enjoy the very best in cooking at a reasonable price. There are plenty of places with a more neighbourhood vibe too.
So from baking competitions and guided food tours to wine tastings, this city can really justify the ‘Birmingyum’ moniker many are giving it.
Another item high up on the must-do list is shopping. There’s a huge choice of elegant arcades, contemporary malls, department stores and covered markets. The new Mailbox complex is being redeveloped and will launch in 2015 with a cinema, spas and a sky-lit atrium.
Follow in the footsteps of the Victorians in the Piccadilly Arcade and shop for jewellery and gifts. It’s still much the same as it would have been in the Victorian era. Did you know that 40% of the UK’s jewellery is still made in Birmingham? The Quarter dates back 250 years and you can see artisans at work whilst you browse.
The Bullring is the destination for the fashionistas. You can’t miss the extraordinary and iconic curvaceous, disc-covered exterior with oval holes for escalators and windows. Just a 10 minute walk from the Bullring is the Custard Factory. Now the place to go for independent specialist traders with beautiful ready-to-wear clothing, street fashions, retro styling and homeware, handmade goods and one-off delights. And if that’s not enough you’ll also find cafes, restaurants and a theatre.
While it would be easy to spend a day shopping, why not broaden your cultural horizons too. Geeks and non-geeks will love the Thinktank. This huge complex incorporates Birmingham’s Science Museum and Planetarium. See working steam engines. Try hands-on models that demonstrate scientific principles. Explore new technological advances in the stunning galleries and there’s even a science garden.
And if the garden is your passion, make sure you visit Birmingham’s Botanical Gardens. There are four glasshouses, 15 acres of lovely grounds, a playground for the kids and a tea room for a much needed cup of tea and slice of cake.
For quirky history, look no further than the truly unexpected Sarehole Mill. JRR Tolkien played here as a child in the late 19th century when it was still a working watermill. He described it as ‘a kind of lost paradise’ and it’s thought to be the inspiration for the mill at Hobbiton in Lord of the Rings.
Book lovers may never emerge from the brand new £189 million Library of Birmingham which houses local history archives, a gallery, a cinema and over a million books.
If you have artistic tendencies, head to the Barber Institute which is a beautiful art deco building in the grounds of the university that holds a remarkable collection of fine art. And the Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery is especially known for its pre-Raphaelite painting with the world’s largest collection by Edward Burne-Jones.
Festivals take place all year round in Birmingham. The Pride and St Patrick’s Day parades are amongst the UK’s largest and the Wireless Festival makes the most of the city’s connections to the rest of the UK and the world.
There really is something for everyone - from the Flatpack Festival of film to the Moseley Folk Festival to the International Jazz and Blues Festival and the International Dance Festival 2014. Book a break around one of these festivals and you can be sure it will be a memorable one.
After food, drink, shopping and culture, it’s time to head out after dark. The bar and club culture is lively and buzzing. Enjoy music and drinks and watching the world go by at one of the lovely bars with a central canal-side setting. Along Broad Street in the centre there are plenty of great bars for dancing, gigs and comedy. And the famous Birmingham Hippodrome - home to the Birmingham Royal Ballet - has a packed programme of West End plays, musicals, opera, dance, comedy and children’s theatre. To discover more than 1400 spot-on ideas for short breaks, just go to www.visitengland.com/morecities and be inspired. See you soon.