The story of popular culture bringing new tourists into a city is nothing new. Game of Thrones brought thousands of travelers to Dubrovnik to experience King’s Landing, and Harry Potter fans still travel up to the highlands of Scotland to see the Hogwart’s Express shoot across the Glenfinnan Viaduct. The unprecedented success of BBC drama Peaky Blinders, however, has placed Birmingham in the spotlight, with a new crowd excitedly leaving Grand Central station to see what the home of Thomas Shelby has to offer.
Birmingham is a city of enterprise, multi-culturalism, and general busyness. The ‘Second City’s’ 1 million residents enjoy a place that doesn’t seem to stop, with the noise of cars and trains and people rushing across the streets to their next thing to get done. To help the inhabitants, Birmingham has created a hub for nightlife, hospitality, and shopping without losing the soul that makes this place unique.
That soul can be felt first by roaming through the canals. Cobbled pathways line the waters that sit between the red bricks of apartments and factories that fill the strolls with the noise of enterprise. The pathways bring you through the diverse corners of Birmingham, and aesthetically alone, to see the city float on the canals is a treat. Brindley Place is one corner that rises above the barges and is filled with cocktail bars and restaurants to enjoy a drink whilst taking in the view. At night, it’s even more pretty.
The high-street brands of pubs and retailers can’t be missed in Birmingham. In recent years there has been a mass revolt against larger conglomerates from independent businesses offering local products, with a bit of art and creativity thrown in. Towards the south of the city is Digbeth, an area known for art, music, and, more recently, incredible street food. Digbeth Dining Club opens from Thursday to Sunday, with unarguably the most delicious selection of global cuisine, served to the backdrop of live music and excitable voices. The open-air venue would be visited just before a short walk to The Old Crown, Birmingham’s oldest pub that kicks off a popular Peaky Blinders walking tour for fans of great beer and brilliant TV every weekend.
Looking to the skies rather than down at a plate, the sightseeing fan of modern architecture would be just as impressed with the skyline of the city as a burger fan would be in Digbeth. Birmingham has created some stunning buildings since the turn of the millennium, giving an edgy balance to the staples that have loomed gloriously for centuries. The Library of Birmingham stands like a golden Lego block pyramid, covered in metal circular frames as a homage to the industrial history of the city.
A 20-minute walk through the central streets, you’ll find The Bullring, a 4-level shopping mall that is impressive alone for its stores without the astounding exterior visuals. Over 15,000 silver discs are planted across a curved balloon of a building that reflects the sun and moon in equal sweetness. It is a true icon of Birmingham since its creation in 2003. In keeping with an almost spaceship-like design was the creation of Grand Central in 2018, the new train station with an entrance that looks at you with a single eye lined with mirrors, watching passers leave and arrive.
Speaking of leaving, in these parts, the summer is officially over by late September, with the winter coats being dusted off again for the colder seasons, which is where I think Birmingham charms the most. The Frankfurt Christmas Market is held every Winter in Victoria Square, with the city turning into Frankfurt for two months and filling the hearts with Christmas cheer. A giant Santa Claus, nearly 200 stalls, and a man singing carols in a somewhat questionable tone is the perfect way to enjoy Birmingham for all its brilliance and busyness in one night.
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