When is the best time to visit?
Birmingham’s tourism industry is most active during the summer months, from May to September, as this is when weather warmest and sunniest. Flights to Birmingham tend to be a bit more expensive during this time, but it is possible to get a good deal.
Taking place in October and conducted by well-known international charity Oxfam and run entirely by volunteers, Oxjam aims to show visitors exciting new talent in some of the best venues in Birmingham. The festival has previously had a line-up of over 60 acts, performing in six venues. All proceeds go to Oxfam to help with their global humanitarian efforts.
Another event taking place in October is the Birmingham Black International Film festival. Enjoy premiers of innovative independent films, live arts, theatre productions and music events, at The Birmingham Black International Film festival. This event hopes to promote black cinema in the midlands region and throughout the rest of the UK. Events and screenings take place around the city.
The period from November to February, taking in the winter months, is the time when Birmingham sees least visitors due to the drop in temperature and increased chances of rain. Flights are usually cheaper during this period.
Birmingham was once the epicentre of Britain’s industrial revolution but is now in the midst of a regeneration that is making it a brilliant place for shopping, culture and fun.
Much of the city centre is pedestrianised and this combined with recent redevelopments, like the large Bullring shopping centre, make Birmingham a top retail destination. The Jewellery Quarter just north of the centre is home to many boutiques and specialist retailers and workshops, most notably for jewellery but also other luxury goods. Another famous export from Birmingham is Cadbury’s chocolate, and Cadbury World, the huge chocolate factory in Bournville, will delight the whole family with its tour of chocolate history and production; the free samples alone are worth the flights to Birmingham!
Birmingham is excellent for live music, with Black Sabbath and UB40 having cut their musical teeth here, and there is always something to see each night in areas like Digbeth with its popular venues. Other great nightlife areas outside of the centre include Moseley and Selly Oak. Watch out for dress codes though as they are common throughout the city.
With a temperate climate typical of England, July and August are generally Birmingham’s warmest months and January and February the coolest. It is also one of the city’s most prone to snow in the UK due to its relatively high elevation.
Getting around Birmingham
As Birmingham’s city centre is partially pedestrianised, most sites are easily reachable on foot. Having undergone considerable redevelopment, the paths alongside the city’s extensive canal network make excellent routes for pedestrians.
Waterbuses and taxis also exist along the canals, being somewhat slower than other modes of transport but are a novel and enjoyable option for a leisurely journey. National Express West Midlands and other companies offer public bus route, mostly radiating outward from the centre to the city’s margins, and rail services throughout the city are also available from central New Street, Snow Hill and Moor Street stations.
Birmingham insider information
- Aston Hall is a restored Jacobean mansion built between 1618 and 1635 and containing some rooms furnished in the style of the period as well as contemporary artworks. The sense of history here is palpable, and damage to the building from cannon fire when it was besieged the English Civil War is still visible even now.
- Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery explains local as well as natural history and contains an impressive collection of Pre-Raphaelite paintings in its sizeable permanent collection. Its inviting Georgian tearoom is a great place to stop for refreshments when you’ve finished perusing the wonders and delights on exhibition.
- Cadbury World in picturesque Bournville southwest of the city centre, is based in the famous manufacturer’s factory grounds and has exhibits detailing the history of the company and chocolate making through the ages, going right back to early South American cocoa concoctions enjoyed by the Aztecs.
- Sarehole Mill is a preserved 17th-century water mill of a type once prolific in Birmingham. It was used for grinding corn and later for rolling sheet metal and was a childhood haunt of author J.R.R. Tolkien, who lived near the mill at that time. The locale is even said to have provided inspiration for ‘The Shire’ and ‘Hobbiton’ in his books The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings.
- Soho House, with its Georgian interior and 18th-century garden, was home to pioneering industrialist Matthew Boulton between 1766 and 1809. The Lunar Society, of which Boulton was a founding member, met here, with a membership composed of other great scientists, engineers and thinkers such as Erasmus Darwin and James Watt.