Boasting digital, creative and culinary brilliance, Birmingham really is Britain’s second city in more ways than one. Brum – a fond local nickname – somehow gets overlooked by visitors who often favour smaller Manchester, Edinburgh or Liverpool. And yet the capital of the Midlands is fabulously funky – with a thriving music scene and some truly great food – and deserves to be at the top of visit lists. Book your Birmingham hotel and visit these seven places that make the city groovy.
The Custard Factory and Fazeley Studios
A creative and digital hub, The Custard Factory is a great place to hang out with your laptop and do some work in a buzzy atmosphere or just chill out among its independent shops, cinema and bistro. Originally the location of the famous Birds custard factory in the once-derelict Digbeth area, a cluster of Victorian buildings have been restored and are now a magnet for the arty and hip. Check out:
- Craft beer bottle shop and tasting room, Clink Beer
- The independent Mockingbird Cinema and bistro
- Shops such as A H Contemporary Glass (retailing pieces by award-winning artist, designer and glass-maker Adam Hussain) and Family Fury, a sneaker/streetwear store and gallery that’s home to the British artist FILFURY.
A sister development to The Custard Factory, Fazeley Studios are a workspace for the digital age as well as a location for enjoying live music and events. Fazeley Social & Café serves breakfast, lunch and drinks until 6pm.
Ikon is an internationally acclaimed art gallery in central Birmingham, housed inside a neo-gothic school building. It exhibits new works of art, encourages public participation through debates and talks – and also does outreach and education work. With free entry, it features artists from all over the world working in paint, sculpture, film, sound, photography and installation: check out its current exhibitions and events.
A “destination for free-thinkers” situated in an old warehouse in artsy Digbeth, Centrala is a gallery, venue and café run by the Polish Expats Association. It runs a varied programme of events hat can include avant-garde music concerts, calligraphy workshops, visual arts exhibitions and films. There’s also a café selling traditional Polish food such as pierogi (dumplings), bigos (meat stew with spicy Polish sausage) and golabki (stuffed cabbage).
Big Brum Open Top Bus music tour
Birmingham is not just the home of heavy metal, it’s its birthplace too. Bands hailing from the city include Led Zeppelin, Judas Priest and Napalm Death; while other artists from Brum include Nick Drake, Robert Plant, Laura Mvula and The Streets. The Big Brum Open Top Bus tours musical spots across the city: stops include the home of Ozzy Osbourne and places where Black Sabbath hung out in their early days, Handsworth and the home of bhangra music, and the site of The Rum Runner, a nightclub where the newly formed Duran Duran rehearsed and played.
Digbeth Dining Club
If you’re a foodie who loves trying out something new, head over to the Digbeth Dining Club, which brings street food cooks together (along with live entertainment) every Friday and Saturday night from 4pm. Traders can include Original Patty Men (burgers), Buddha Belly (Thai), Becky’s Bhajis, Low ‘n’ Slow (slow-cooked meats) and The Jabberwocky (gourmet toasties) but vendors change every week. DDC began in 2012, has won multiple awards and completely changed the face of Birmingham’s food scene. You’ll find the club along Lower Trinity Street, beside the bar Spotlight.
Carters of Moseley
Did you know that Birmingham has more Michelin stars than any other British city outside London? One of the most-lauded restaurants in the city is Carters of Moseley. Located in the Moseley suburb, this cosy neighbourhood place has gained a Michelin Star under the leadership of chef owner Brad Carter, and his wife Holly Jackson brings warmth as front of house manager. The ethos is ‘simple, affordable, fun’ and the set lunch menus are exceptionally good value. Carter takes global influences and cooks with local seasonal produce, bringing a youthful energy to his dishes.
Loaf Cookery School offers hands-on cookery classes in the south Birmingham suburb of Stirchley. Classes include a seafood masterclass, a pork butchery and charcuterie day, knife skills and maintenance, Oriental cookery and macaron baking (flavours include salted butter caramel and lemon buttercream as well as savoury versions). They also run pop-up supper clubs focusing on a particular style or dish – so there’s taco Thursday, bao night and Thai as well as BBQ.