6 unexpected reasons to visit an underrated city like Birmingham

How many of you have ever considered visiting Birmingham, the UK’s second-biggest city? Birmingham’s reputation is not the best, making the city one of the most underrated locations in England. But why should you visit Birmingham? Let’s explore 6 good reasons why Birmingham should be added to your travel list. 

Where is Birmingham located?

Birmingham is located in the West Midlands region, in England, and is only 160 km away from London. Its proximity to London makes Birmingham one of the best locations for people commuting to London.

Interesting Fact: A train trip from Birmingham to London takes a little over 1h. Since the average commuting time in the UK is 58.4 minutes, a train journey from Birmingham to London is considered an average trip.

Understanding where Birmingham’s poor reputation comes from

Birmingham has never received the attention it deserves when it comes to both international and domestic tourism in the UK. That’s mainly because as a formal industrial city, Birmingham has grown to be known as a rather unappealing place to be.

This is unfortunate considering other formal industrial cities in the north of England benefit today from a better reputation and therefore receive more attention, get more media coverage and more visitors as a result of this.

With this in mind, this post seeks to make justice to one of the most underrated cities in England by presenting 6 reasons why everyone should consider visiting Birmingham.

1. Visit Birmingham, the 2nd biggest city in the UK!

This might come as a surprise to some of you, but population wise, Birmingham is the 2nd biggest city in the UK!

According to Wikipedia, Birmingham has roughly 1.1 million inhabitants within the city area, 2.9 million inhabitants within the urban area and 4.3 million inhabitants within the metropolitan area. This might sound like nothing compared to London, the biggest city in the UK, which has 9,787,426 inhabitants and more than 14,040,163 inhabitants living in the London Metropolitan area. 

Despite being a smaller city than London, Birmingham has so much to offer in terms of job opportunities and tourist attractions. I would argue that all these aspects make Birmingham such a fascinating place to visit.

One of Birmingham’s most famous residents is Malala and her family, the young Pakistani activist, now a student at the University of Oxford.

With such a cultural mix, I cannot recommend enough visiting the city of Birmingham. Birmingham is perfect for a 1-day visit or a few days city break trip. 

2. Visit Birmingham because the city has a modern vibe!

The second reason I recommend visiting Birmingham for is its modern vibe.

The city centre gathers both old and modern looking buildings. However, more eye-catching modern architecture seems to dominate the city’s landscape.

Most of the new architecture is in the Bullring area, aka the city centre. Some of the buildings I found the most interesting are: Selfridges or the Library of Birmingham. Birmingham should be on everyone’s travel list with a strong interest in modern building design and futuristic architecture. 

3. Visit Birmingham because it has a good nightlife!

Birmingham is home to 3 UK universities, meaning that a significant percentage of its long term residents are students. With such a large percentage of youth residing in the city, Birmingham is full of options for going out and having fun.

There are plenty of pubs, bars and restaurants to eat out in Birmingham. The most famous places for going out in Birmingham are the Chinese Quarter and the Broad Street. More restaurants can be found in the Bullring Shopping area (aka the city centre).

Because Birmingham is quite a walkable city, usually there is no need to grab a taxi to get back home. You can walk pretty much everywhere. Therefore I would argue that Birmingham has an advantage over London because it’s much more budget-friendly for going out.

4. The Brummie accent is too good to miss out!

The English language is more than the BBC accent we learn about in school. I realised how many accents the United Kingdom has, only after I visited the country multiple times.

Out of all the English accents I heard in the United Kingdom, I can say that my favourites are the Northern ones, including the Scottish accent. The Birmingham accent is particularly famous in the the UK and I can understand why.

Exploring regional accents in the UK can be a very interesting experience if you have a passion for languages and linguistics.

Below is a Youtube video dedicated to the Brummie accent. It summarises very well how people in Birmingham speak. 

5. Visit Birmingham because the city has more canals than Venice!

With over 100 miles of canals, people say that Birmingham has more miles of canal than Venice.

Independently of whether this is true or not, the canal system played a crucial role in the city’s development as it was the main way of transporting goods for quite a while.

Nowadays, the economic and transport function of the canal system is no longer the same. The canal system was rehabilitated to suit Birmingham’s current tourist strategy.

That’s how the canal system became one of the main tourist attractions in Birmingham. Tourists can enjoy a walk along the canal or book a boat trip.

Whatever you decide to do, you must not miss visiting Birmingham’s canal system. It is one of the main attractions in the city and one of the reasons why Birmingham is famous for nowadays.

6. Visit Birmingham because the city will host the Commonwealth Games in 2022!

Another good reason for visiting Birmingham is that the city will host the Commonwealth Games in 2022.

This means that during the summer of 2022, you will be able to attend any of the sports events taking place in Birmingham.

As a result of this event, the local authorities have invested massively lately, and Birmingham got an impressive facelift. The local authorities rehabilitated the buildings’ facades and roads. They have invested in deprived areas too.

Overall, Birmingham was massively invested into, meaning more activities and places to visit are now available throughout the city. With most of the city centre going through a major renovation process, Birmingham become an even more appealing tourist destination. 

In conclusion, is Birmingham worth visiting? I would say it is. Despite its rough past, this industrial city has grown today to become a vibrant, modern and progress-driven place. The Brummies (the residents of Birmingham) have all the reasons to be proud of their city. And visitors have more than one reason to stop by and visit Birmingham.

There are probably more than 6 reasons to visit this underrated English city. However, in my opinion these are the most relevant ones for now.

If you actually decide to visit Birmingham, I would like to suggest a walking tour of the city. This tour should not cost you a penny, unless you decide to visit a particular museum where you need to pay for the ticket. Although most museums in the UK have free entrance, I would advise to check on their website before visiting. 

With this in mind, let’s have a look at the most popular 5 areas in Birmingham visitors should know about if they plan a trip to the city.

5 Areas to check out when visiting Birmingham:

When it comes to discovering Birmingham on foot, there are 5 areas you should definitely check out:

Although they are not too far from each other, this could still be a solid day(s) of walking in the city. I find walking around cities to be the best way to visit a place. You do everything at your peace, there is no rush, and sometimes you even discover new hidden gems.

Birmingham is one of the best tourist-friendly cities, which offers plenty of entertaining activities no matter how long your stay is. You will always find something to do or interesting places to visit. With so much to do and see, these are my top 5 must-visit areas in Birmingham: 

  1. Victoria Square and Colmore Row street leading towards St. Philip’s Cathedral. What better introduction to Birmingham than the most famous square ( Victoria square) in the city. Continue walking on Colmore Row to visit the most beautiful Cathedral in Birmingham. When the weather is nice, people stop in the park for a quick meal break or a chat. This area is the heart of Birmingham, from where you can easily reach all the other points of interest listed below.

  1. The Bullring Area is the commercial area of Birmingham. The Bullring is full of shops such as Zara, Pandora, H&M or Primark. There is also a good variety of places to eat out, for example, Eats, Wagamama or Nandos. The Bullring area is well-known for shopping. For a more local atmosphere, don’t forget to check out the local market (opened on weekends usually). You can buy everything from vegetables to fruits and meats.

  1. The Jewellery Quarter, as the name suggests, is a neighbourhood in Birmingham mainly famous for its jewellery businesses. If you need to buy gifts, now you know where to head to when in Birmingham.

  1. The Canals Network are the city’s veins and spread across the city. The good news is that most of the canals have now been restored, meaning that you can take lovely walks along the water. Here you should make sure you check out the Birmingham Canal Old Line. Walk along the Birmingham City Centre Path and continue on the Gas street to return to the city centre.

5. The Magistrates Court area is mainly famous for its Victorian buildings (the famous red brick buildings) . A particularly famous street I recommend checking out here is the Coronation street. Although most of the city has been rebuilt following the Second World War, Birmingham still preserves some of the most exquisite Victorian architecture.

Therefore, visiting the Magistrates Court area is a must. The Magistrates Court area is a piece of architectural jewellery and a symbol of the UK’s colonial past. Continue walking down any of the adjacent streets to admire some of the most beautiful Victorian buildings in Birmingham (see picture below). Anyone with a passion for history and architecture should visit this side of the city.

*Tip: If interested in history, I would recommend venturing outside Birmingham for a day trip to the Black Country.

Historically, the Black Country encompasses the metropolitan boroughs of Dudley, Sandwell, Walsall and Wolverhampton. The area got nicknamed the Black Country due to the air pollution from the many thousands of foundries and coal factories that operated during the industrial boom in England. Nowadays, there is a museum in Dudley dedicated to the Black Country phenomenon.

These are the top 5 areas you should check out if you visit Birmingham. I hope this post convinced you that Birmingham should be added to your travel list.

Far from its glorious industrial past, Birmingham is nowadays a technology-driven hub. The city underwent a significant transformation process to adapt to today’s progress. With so much to visit, I consider Birmingham to be one of the best places for both a city break & longer holidays in the north of England.

If you’ve enjoyed this post on Birmingham, please have a look at the rest of my travels in the United Kingdom. The United Kingdom is a country I was fortunate to travel to several times, so keep an eye on future posts about it.

Have you ever been to Birmingham? If you’ve already been, what did you like the most about Birmingham? Let me know your thoughts about Birmingham in the comments section.

Please note that none of the photographs featured in this article is mine. Therefore, they are not subject to regular copyright rules.

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