With a reputation for being industrial and gray, Birmingham may not be one of the most beautiful cities in the United Kingdom but it is certainly one of the most vibrant. Behind its rough facade there are hidden corners full of charm and much to do. So here are 5 things to see and do in Birmingham in a day.
Birmingham is the second largest city in England and brims with culture and dynamism. It may not be as pretty as London or Edinburgh, but it has attractions that make it perfect for a weekend getaway. In a single day you can soak up the best of Birmingham and the second can be spent exploring the region, which is full of castles and beautiful natural sites.
This somewhat gray city has a history of more than 1,500 years but retains relatively little of its past. The Industrial Revolution transformed it profoundly in the 18th and 19th centuries. As if that were not enough, due to its powerful industry during World War II it suffered enough bombings from Nazi aviation, which left its historic center full of wounds that in the 50s and 60s became buildings without any grace or charm. Maybe that’s why Birmingham does not have an architectural uniformity or a definite style. Perhaps that’s why it has earned the reputation of being one of the less graceful cities of the United Kingdom. But the creation in recent years of incredible modern buildings is turning the tables.
Where to sleep in Birmingham
There are a lot of hotels, hostels and bed and breakfasts in Birmingham that are sure to suit your tastes and your budget. As this guide aims to show you all the important places to see in Birmingham within a day, it only makes sense that you want to get as much out of this beautiful city as possible within a short period of time. In that case, Day Use Hotels Birmingham are the perfect option, as they are great for both leisure and business and you can rent them for a few hours, instead of nightly.
Whether you like shopping or not, the Bullring shopping center is one of the almost mandatory visits in Birmingham. Modern as it can be, it was inaugurated in 2004 and is beautiful from an architectural point of view. Do not miss the building that houses the Selfridges department store. It is one of the first examples of a movement in which the structures have organic forms similar to those of amoebas.
Downtown streets with Victorian buildings
Among the impersonal architecture of the last half of the 20th century, in the center of Birmingham there are beautiful buildings with a long history. Coinciding with the period of greatest splendor (and wealth) of this English city, in the eighteenth, nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, incredibly beautiful structures were erected. The best way to discover these buildings is to walk around. The reward will be a feast of Georgian sumptuousness, Victorian preciousness, neo-gothic, Arts and Crafts, Edwardian style and even the Art Deco retailer. Look at the details, look up and let yourself be surprised, because not everything in Birmingham is gray and industrial.
The Cathedral of San Felipe is one of the most outstanding religious buildings in Birmingham. Consecrated in 1715, it belongs to the Church of England and is the seat of the Bishop of Birmingham. It is Baroque and its architect was Thomas Archer. But this is not the highlight. If you like art you have to enter to admire the stained glass windows of the great pre-Raphaelite artist Edward Burne-Jones, originally from this city. Its stained glass windows portray aspects of the Bible and are true masterpieces. If you want to see them, in the center is the one that represents the Ascension, while the Nativity and the Annunciation are in the northeast and the Crucifixion in the southeast. Notice that in the window of the Nativity the ox does not appear because the person who ordered the stained glass did not want “The Nativity of Our Lord to look like a cattle fair”. The window to the west represents the Last Judgment and was commissioned in memory of Bishop Bowlby of Coventry, who had been rector of the Cathedral of San Felipe.
Victoria Square and its surroundings
Majestic as few others, Victoria Square is a large pedestrian plaza in the center of Birmingham. It houses the beautiful City Hall building, the controversial fountain “The River” that the locals have renamed “The Floozie in the Jacuzzie” and a sculpture dedicated to Queen Victoria. Next to it is the Chamberlain Square, which highlights the controversial building of the Central Library of Birmingham, the Chamberlain Memorial dedicated to the popular namesake mayor of the city, and the Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery.
Not to be confused with the Central Library of Birmingham, the Birmingham Library is housed in a building wonder. In golden, blue and black tones and crowned by a circular tower of the color of gold, it is a marvel of architecture that leaves no one indifferent. It’s a public library, but it almost seems more like a temple to literature. It opened in September 2013 and is the largest in the United Kingdom, the largest cultural space and the largest regional bookstore in Europe. To cross its doors is to travel towards the future in the hands of Mecanoo and engineer Buro Happold, who are the ones who devised it and made it a reality. The building is also sustainable and uses renewable energy. If you are a fan of the work of William Shakespeare, do not miss it, because they have one of the two most important collections in the world of the bard of Stratford-upon-Avon.