Visit Birmingham: A Chicagoans Guide to Brum

Visit Birmingham: A Chicagoans Guide to Brum
The Library of Birmingham/ Image Courtesy of Hayes Davidson

Before you wonder what Brum means, that’s the nickname for Birmingham. It is also the name of a radio controlled car following his adventures in a children’s television series set in the city. But enough about that here. This is a guide to the city center of Birmingham and why I feel Chicagoans… that’s you guys, should give Birmingham a chance when planning for your next vacation.

I think I’ve pretty much established the Sister City relationship in previous blogs. So that’s a starting reason to be interested in your sister, Birmingham. But I don’t think the councils on each side have done much more than that. So, that’s where I’ll pick up from. So read on about Birmingham as a destination to visit, which has also been given the thumbs up in a tourist feature found in the New York Times.


In recent years and right now, Birmingham’s architecture has stepped up. The futuristic design of the Selfridges building located in the Bullring is definitely one to see. Part of the Bullring shopping center, construction of the building was completed in 2003, at a cost of around $91 million by today’s currency. The Selfridges building is curved and wrapped with 15 million metallic discs. During the night it lights up blue but has also changed its color to green.

The Library of Birmingham saw its completion last month. Replacing Birmingham Central Library, its architecture is part of the redevelopment of Birmingham. It is situated at Centenary Square on Broad Street and will become the UK’s largest public library. Keeping in with Selfridges building’s visually striking design, the Library of Birmingham itself looks futuristic with what I can describe at best, individual circles of blue and gold decorating its façade. It’s something you’ll have to see with your own eyes. Furthermore, if you decide to visit Birmingham in September when it officially opens its doors, you’ll be just in time for the Discovery festival! On the 3rd of September it will launch a four month Discovery Festival that will bring together the city’s cultures and communities with music, drama, lectures, photography and performances showcasing the library.


Bullring shopping center itself is a major commercial area of the city. In fact it’s been important since the Middle Ages. Boasting major stores from DKNY, Hugo Boss, Tommy Hilfiger and Selfridges and restaurants and cafes from Starbucks, Costa, and Jamie’s Italian (belonging to celebrity chef Jamie Oliver), it truly is a hub for retail and eating out. The Bullring is one of Europe’s largest city centre shopping centers. It was the busiest in the UK at one point attracting over 30 million visitors from all over the world including New York.

At one point where the canal wharves lay, this was the location for the Royal Mail’s sorting office. Now, stands The Mailbox (named after its sorting office roots). It is Birmingham’s most stylish shopping and lifestyle destination with designer shops such as Harvey Nichols, Jaeger and Emporio Armani. If the appeal of designer retail outlets is not enough to sway you, The Mailbox is also home to some of Birmingham’s most luxury bars and restaurants. Eat at Bar Estilo, if you want that authentic taste of the Mediterranean or the Côte Brasserie for a break from shopping.

Luxury apartments are found around The Mailbox and it houses BBC Birmingham.

The Mailbox at night, Birmingham

The Mailbox at night, Birmingham/ Image courtesy of


City of Culture

For theater goers used to the Chicago Theater, they can find their kicks at the Birmingham Repertory Theater, also known as Birmingham Rep. Or you can check out the busiest single theater in the UK by visiting the Birmingham Hippodrome in the Chinese Quarter. Birmingham also houses the Symphony Hall, a 2,262 seat concert venue. Its insides are modeled after Musikverein in Vienna, Austria and Concertgebouw in Amsterdam, Netherlands.

Fun Activities/Night Life

National Sea Life center is great for kids to see in the Westside district of Birmingham which houses aquarium life from sea turtles, blacktip reef sharks, giant pacific octopus and otters amongst others.

Another family attraction to check out would be the science museum Thinktank located in the Eastside of Birmingham at the Millennium Point. Educational and fun, the Thinktank contains exhibitions dedicated to the future with topics such as nanotechnology and emotive robots. There is also a digital planetarium where the night sky is projected onto a domed screen above viewers. Children will also enjoy the 72ft wide Giant Screen to watch their favorite movies at the cinema.

Birmingham also has a thriving nightlife found on Broad Street in the Westside district and The Arcadian in the Southside. Broad Street also has the Birmingham Walk of Stars similar to Hollywood’s Walk of Fame in Los Angeles, where stars such Ozzy Osbourne and Tony Iommi of heavy metal rock band Black Sabbath and international bhangra star Malkit Singh have been honored.


Hotels range from 4 Star Hyatt Regency on Broad Street, Radisson Blu at Holloway Circus, and The Ramada at The Mailbox, whilst more budget orientated hotels such as Premier Inn and Travelodge are also available.

Hopefully you’ll find this guide to Brum useful and will help you consider Birmingham as your next holidaying destination. If you arrive in time for Christmas, you can experience the annual German Markets.

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