Birmingham: slap bang in the heart of England, the same distance from Land’s End in the South East and Berwick-upon-Tweed in the North; for centuries a cultural crossroads and the home of generations of settlers from every corner of the world.

It’s no surprise that modern Birmingham is a thriving hive that never sleeps, and it’s fast becoming the go-to place for Londoners seeking new nocturnal experiences. It’s a trip that’s made all the more possible byVirgin Trains, shuttling the capital’s foodies, theatregoers and music lovers between the first and second cities – even on a school night.

Let’s have a look at why.


Loosen your belt and open your mind

With generations of inhabitants bringing recipes from all over the world, Birmingham’s culinary scene is far too broad to fit in this article. Consider this your starter.

Dive in at Digbeth Dining Club

The street food scene has swept the UK, but if you’re looking for the ultimate taste sensation, head to Digbeth Dining Club, now open from Thursday to Sunday and guaranteed to satisfy every culinary desire. Choose from more than 40 independent kitchens with flavours from Asia, the Americas, Africa, the Middle East and Europe, and best of all, you and your picky mates can all choose different cuisines then meet up in the seating areas to enjoy them.

Make a Point of Visiting the Balti Triangle

It is said that the balti – a Pakistani style of one-pan cooking tailored to British tastes – was pioneered right here in the 1970s. Now a whole quarter has sprung up in its honour, while the dish itself spread around the nation.


It’s fair to say the balti craze peaked in the 90s, but now the Triangle plays host to a more eclectic selection of cuisines, with Turkish, Moroccan, Caribbean and Indian tastes being catered for, but you can of course still get an excellent balti in its founding area.


Many locals (and Tripadvisor) agree that Shababs is now the people’s favourite, but the original, Adil’s, is still going strong. With six “authentic” balti restaurants to choose from, the debate is never finished!



Local and Michelin Stars

If you’re looking to tick another Michelin-starred restaurant off your list, you’ve got options: Carters of Moseley, Adam’s, Purnell’s and Simpsons have won a star each, giving Birmingham the highest concentration outside London.


But local epicureans have their own boundary-pushing favourites: The Wilderness, Lasan, Waters, Opheem, Peel’s at Hampton Manor, Folium and Tattu always feature in local recommendations lists – and some of these are tipped for stars of their own.

Dancing and Drinking

Relaxed, friendly and just as comfortable looking backwards as forwards, the clubs and bars in Birmingham attract revellers from miles around. Here are some of the highlights for visitors.

Towpath Taverns

The canals in Birmingham run for 35 miles, which by our calculation makes 70 miles of canalside, along which you’ll find plenty of bars that are natural choices for cool summer drinks. Many are original 18th- and 19th-century buildings repurposed for 21st-century life, so expect bags of character. They’re perfect post-meal watering holes; you simply must squeeze in a glass of your favourite tipple before catching the last train home.


 


Try The Distillery, Pitcher & Piano, The Canal House or the cosy Canalside Café to get you going. Aluna offers extraordinary cocktails and food in a waterside setting. Locals often pop into one of these bars for a quickie after work but find themselves drawn in till closing time. Why not join them?

Be a Night Owl

The 1980s saw a resurgence of ska, reggae and mod music, spearheaded by Coventry’s 2 Tone Records and drawing heavily from the Birmingham underground scene. The Night Owl hosts ska, soul, R&B and Motown music to adoring fans – nostalgia never felt so current.


Get Experimental at Lab11

A local favourite, Lab11 keeps ’em coming by offering the freshest club anthems and down-to-earth fun on the dancefloor, lubricated by a reasonably priced bar and crowd-rousing DJs. You’ll definitely miss the last train home to London, mind you – so why not check into a hotel and really let yourself go?


Brums on Seats

Birmingham’s list of actors, comedians, musicians and artists have won BAFTAs and Golden Globes, topped the charts, made us laugh and highered our brows for decades. If the arts are your thing, a night out in Brum will soon develop into a habit.


Whether it’s a musical show or stand-up at the New Alexandra Theatre, some Classical passion at the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra or a visit to the UK’s oldest working movie house, the Electric Cinema, you’re guaranteed a cultured evening out, especially if it’s combined with a meal and a drink.

A Versa for your Vice

Night trains slip both ways, of course, and Brummies are also taking advantage to sample London’s after-dark delights in their thousands. Just remember to wave at the Londoners when you pass at Milton Keynes in the small hours!


Back to Birmingham

Related posts:

Be bound for glory

An Insider's guide to Birmingham

Peaky Blinders

By order of the Peaky Blinders

Edinburgh Foodie Guide

The new Railcard for 26-30 year olds