Guest Blogger

Full to the Brum is an award-winning, Birmingham-based blog that charts the gastronomic adventures in and around Birmingham of Laura, who runs the blog. When she's not eating, photographing or writing about her dinner, Laura can often be found on her bicycle navigating the canals in the city or at the cinema.

Adventures in Birmingham

A weekend simply isn't enough time to discover all the great things Birmingham has to offer. Thankfully as it's almost slap-bang in the middle of the country, there are often regular trains to Birmingham from most major cities. And it's worth visiting regularly as there are often things to see all year round, including one of the largest St Patrick's Day celebrations in the world in March and the famous Christmas markets throughout December.

Let's go outside

Everyone in Birmingham is thoroughly bored of hearing our fellow countrymen express shock that Birmingham is not nearly as concrete as they expected. With more square miles of public open space than other similar-sized European cities, Birmingham has a lot of parks and amongst the ones worth visiting are the Winterbourne Gardens at the University of Birmingham. The city also boasts more canals than Venice; head along the Worcester and Birmingham canal from the city centre out to Bournville and reward yourself with some chocolate as you pass the famous Cadbury Factory. Or get on your bike - the Rea Valley / NCN5 route will take you through south Birmingham up to the source of the River Rea, the river on which Birmingham was founded.

Sport is a big thing for the city and whilst our football teams don't always live up to expectations, at least we can claim that Aston Villa's then director William McGregor set up the football league in 1888 - there's a statute to his memory at Villa Park. If the gentleman's game is more your speed, then the Edgbaston Stadium will be well familiar to you as it hosts international cricket matches.

Birmingham Museum

Fit for a foodie

Birmingham might have more Michelin-starred meals than any English city outside the capital, but if you're after something more adventurous then check out the avant-garde The Wilderness for both wacky and expertly created drinks and dinner.

If you don't want to spend a pretty penny on your dinner then the city's award-winning street food scene might whet your appetite. Anyone who's anyone will tell you Digbeth Dining Club offers up the best street food stalls and has nurtured many well-known names. If you're after the street food vibe but like to have a seat and somewhere to put your drink, then check out graduates like Original Patty Men, The Meatshack and Indian Streetery who all started out on the scene but now have permanent venues. Stirchley's Loaf also holds a number of pop-up food events, as well as a cookery schools where you can learn to cook authentic south-east Asian cuisines or learn the art of butchery, as well as bread - or just buy some in their bakery.

If you're after some gastronomy, then you'll be well served in Birmingham. Edgbaston has become a bit of a foodie paradise, and it's well worth planning to go for dinner around there. If you do, make sure you book in for some cocktails at The Edgbaston boutique hotel and bar, with its 1920s interior, nationally-recognised bartenders and the city's best afternoon tea. For a really unique cocktail experience, head to Smultronstalle, which does cocktail tasting menus, and 40 St Pauls has one of the best gin lists in the country. If the amber nectar of beer is more your cup of tea then check out the confusingly-named Cotteridge Wines and Stirchley Wines, regularly named two of the best bottle shops in the country. If you're in the city centre then Tilt or Clink are also worth calling into for a pint, particularly if it's some of local brewery Burning Soul's beer.

Be a culture-vulture

If you need to work up an appetite after all that food, then look no further than Birmingham's cultural offerings. The city has an unrivalled collection, more than anywhere else in the world, of pre-Raphaelite art; head to the Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery to see some of the best examples. Once you're done there, take a stroll over to the Library of Birmingham, an unusual building which has won a raft of architectural awards, but it's the magical escalators and outside gardens which have a great view of the city that are the real winners.

If theatre is more your thing, then Birmingham is home to the UK's most visited single auditorium theatre, the Birmingham Hippodrome and hosts many West End shows. If you prefer something smaller and more experimental, the Old Joint Stock in the business district has an intimate theatre which shows Edinburgh previews, or the fringe-professional producing Blue Orange Theatre. It's also worth keeping an eye out for what's happening at the mac in Cannon Hill Park and Impact Hub Birmingham for more socially-conscious art, talks and cinema.

Bull ring

Shopper's Paradise

Birmingham is the only city outside London with the big four department stores - Harvey Nichols, Selfridges, Debenhams and John Lewis, but with less distance between them means more energy to shop ‘til you drop. Book-ending the Bullring shopping centre, the iconic building covered in silver discs is home to Selfridges with Debenhams at the other end. The Bullring is right by Birmingham New Street station, so there’s no need to worry about parking if you hop on one of our trains.

If you're pushed for time then John Lewis sits in Grand Central, just above Birmingham New Street station, and is perfect for popping in to grab any last minute gifts before boarding the train home.

If you want something more one-of-a-kind then Birmingham's independent shops are scattered around the city; there are some in the Custard Factory in Digbeth, Provide clothing brand are well loved and the suburb of Kings Heath is an indie shoppers paradise, with the People Shop being well worth a visit. For more independent inspiration, then pick up an Independent Birmingham card, which will also get you discounts at some of the best places in the city.

Has that been enough to whet your appetite? Why not check out the latest train times and get yourself a ticket.

Birmingham Selfridges

Back to Birmingham

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