England’s second-largest city, Birmingham began as a seventh-century hamlet on the banks of the River Rea, later flourishing during the Industrial Revolution to become a hub for trade and industry and is still one of the country’s most thriving metropolises to this day.
Although the city suffered major damage during World War II, it was redeveloped in the decades that followed and the recent construction of attractive and modern public spaces such as Centenary Square and Millennium Place, as well as the pedestrianisation of much of Birmingham’s centre, have transformed the city and given it a new lease of life. In doing so, many visitors arrive on cheap flights to Birmingham each year.
Today’s Birmingham buzzes with nightlife and culture. The city hosts many international events and exhibitions and is home to the world class performing arts scene which includes the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra and Birmingham Royal Ballet, as well as offering shopping possibilities second only to the capital.
With a temperate climate typical of England, July and August are generally Birmingham’s warmest months and January and February the coolest. It is also one of the cities most prone to snow in the UK due to its relatively high elevation.
When to fly to Birmingham
Birmingham’s tourism industry is most active during the summer months, from May to September, as this is when weather warmest and sunniest.
The period from November to February, taking in the winter months, is the period when Birmingham sees least visitors due to the drop in temperature and increased potential for rain.
Getting around Birmingham
As Birmingham’s city centre is partially pedestrianised, most sites are easily reachable on foot. Having undergone considerable redevelopment, the paths alongside the city’s extensive canal network make excellent routes for pedestrians.
Waterbuses and taxis also exist along the canals, being somewhat slower than other modes of transport but are a novel and enjoyable option for a leisurely journey. National Express West Midlands and other companies offer public bus route, mostly radiating outward from the centre to the city’s margins, and rail services throughout the city are also available from central New Street, Snow Hill and Moor Street stations.
Birmingham insider information
- Aston Hall is a restored Jacobean mansion built between 1618 and 1635 and containing some rooms furnished in the style of the period as well as contemporary artworks. The sense of history here is palpable, and damage to the building from cannon fire when it was besieged the English Civil War is still visible even now.
- Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery explains local as well as natural history and contains an impressive collection of Pre-Raphaelite paintings in its sizeable permanent collection. Its inviting Georgian tearoom is a great place to stop for refreshments when you’ve finished perusing the wonders and delights on exhibition.
- Cadbury World in picturesque Bournville southwest of the city centre, is based in the famous manufacturer’s factory grounds and has exhibits detailing the history of the company and chocolate making through the ages, going right back to early South American cocoa concoctions enjoyed by the Aztecs.
- Sarehole Mill is a preserved 17th-century water mill of a type once prolific in Birmingham. It was used for grinding corn and later for rolling sheet metal and was a childhood haunt of author J.R.R. Tolkien, who lived near the mill at that time. The locale is even said to have provided inspiration for ‘The Shire’ and ‘Hobbiton’ in his books The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings.
- Soho House, with its Georgian interior and 18th-century garden, was home to pioneering industrialist Matthew Boulton between 1766 and 1809. The Lunar Society, of which Boulton was a founding member, met here, with a membership composed of other great scientists, engineers and thinkers such as Erasmus Darwin and James Watt.