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COMPARE BIRMINGHAM HOTELS

Birmingham England

Birmingham , in the West Midlands, is Britain's second city with the largest population after London.

Birmingham (the h is silent, and in the local dialect the g is hard, as in Birming-gam) was at the heart of the UK's industrial revolution, and its wealth was built upon the multitude of trades that were spawned. This led to a massive canal network, with more miles of canals than Venice (though they're very different types of canal).

Much of the city centre was destroyed during the Second World War, and the replacement buildings added little to the city. However, since the 1990s, Birmingham has been undergoing a radical change and many of the post war buildings have been replaced. The majority of the city centre is now pedestrianized, and the canals cleaned up to make for attractive walkways. Locals credit the City Council for the recent transformation, as the city retains its industrial heritage while now appearing modern and forward looking.

The city's notable associations are as diverse as HP Sauce, Tony Hancock, Cadbury's chocolate, The Lunar Society (whose members included James Watt and Matthew Boulton), Black Sabbath, the Spitfire and the Mini (car, not skirt).

Birmingham has many literary associations - not only JRR Tolkien, but also Washington Irving, who wrote Rip Van Winkle while lodging here with his sister's family, and Conan Doyle, who bought a violin in Sherlock Street while a medical student in Birmingham. The authors Jim Crace, Judith Cutler and David Lodge are also residents.

The nearby locations of Shropshire, Warwick, and Stratford-Upon-Avon provide more of the stereotypical images of "olde" England. However, Birmingham has many of its own tourist attractions, has an extremely lively night life, and the shopping is arguably now the best outside of London.

Birmingham doesn't have a reputation for being especially picturesque, but there is a lot of interesting architecture in the city centre that the shops and crowds sometimes obscure. For such a (relatively) large population centre, the countryside (in the form of country parks) is surprisingly close.

See

Museums and art galleries

For a place with a strong industrial heritage, Birmingham does not have the large range of historical attractions you may expect, however, this is offset by the arts being extremely well-represented.

  • Aston Hall, Trinity Rd, Aston (Train to Aston or Witton or #7 bus), +44 121 327 0062 (bmag_enquiries@birmingham.gov.uk), . closed until summer 2009 for a £10 million makeover, though the exterior can still be viewed. Restored Jacobean mansion built between 1618 and 1635, containing period rooms and artwork. Cannon damage from the English Civil War is still visible. The Hall was visited by Arthur Conan Doyle and Washington Irving, inspiring the latter's 'Bracebridge Hall'. Aston Hall by Candlelight is a popular Christmas event that takes place every two years (even numbers) where the whole grounds are lit by candles for 17th-century festivities (fee charged). Free entrance. (52.5066,1.8836) 
  • While you're in the area make your way down to 14 Lodge Road, birthplace of Ozzy Osbourne. This is a private house (so please respect the occupants' privacy) but a popular photo-spot for heavy metal fans. Lodge Road is about 1/2 a mile from Aston Hall and runs between Witton Road and Trinity Road. Most crime in Aston occurs after dark so you should be fairly safe during the day. You'll also experience the inspiration behind Black Sabbath's grim early lyrics!
  • Barber Institute of Fine Arts, University of Birmingham, Edgbaston B15 2TS (on the University of Birmingham campus, off Edgbaston Park Rd, train to University or #61, #62 or #63 bus), +44 121 414 7333 (info@barber.org.uk, fax: +44 121 414 3370), . M-Sa 10AM-5PM, Su noon-5PM. Small gallery with an excellent permanent collection, including many pre-Raphaelites. Good Britain Guide gallery of the year 2004. Free (donations welcome). (52.449,-1.927) 
  • Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery, Chamberlain Square B3 3DH (Central), +121 303 2834 (bmag_enquiries@birmingham.gov.uk), . M-Th Sa 10AM-5PM, F 10:30AM-5PM, Su 12:30PM-5PM.. Large museum with some local history, several temporary exhibitions and large permanent collection. Includes the Gas Hall and Waterhall Gallery of Modern Art. Free (donations welcome). (52.479,-1.903) 
  • Cadbury World, Linden Rd, Bournville B30 2LU (train to Bournville), +44 845 450 3599, Opening times vary enormously but tend to be daily 10AM-4PM in the spring, summer and autumn. Huge chocolate factory south of the city centre. Tour includes the history of chocolate and the Cadbury company, plus a brief look at some of the factory floor. Some free chocolate, plus relatively cheap mis-shapes in the shop. £12.50 (concessions £9.95, children £9.50. Combined train and entry tickets available). (52.428,-1.934) 
  • IKON Gallery, 1 Oozells Square, Brindleyplace B1 2HS (off Broad St), +44 121 248 0708 (marketing@ikon-gallery.co.uk, fax: +121 248 0709), . Tu-Su 11AM-6PM. Small gallery with two or three temporary modern and conceptual art installations. Excellent cafe (see below). Free (donations welcome). (52.477,-1.912) 
  • Sarehole Mill, Cole Bank Rd, Hall Green B13 OBD (#4, #5, #6 #11 buses), +44 121 777 6612 (contact@birmingham.gov.uk, fax: +44 121 236 1766), . Apr-Oct, T-Su 11:30AM-4PM (closed Mondays except Bank Holidays). Built in 1765, Sarehole Mill is a fine example of one of more than fifty water mills that existed in Birmingham at one time. Matthew Boulton used the Mill for making buttons and for metal rolling until he moved his operations to Soho in 1761. In the late 1890s Sarehole was the childhood haunt of Hobbit author J.R.R. Tolkien, and famously influenced 'The Shire' in The Lord of the Rings. Free entrance. (52.4344,-1.8561)
  • Soho House, Soho Ave, Handsworth, B18 5LB (Located off Soho Rd, Buses: 74, 78 and 79, Metro: Benson Road (there is a steep uphill walk to the house)), +44 121 554 9122 (contact@birmingham.gov.uk), . 8 Apr-29 Oct, Tu-Su 11:30AM-4PM (closed Mondays except Bank Holidays). The elegant home of industrial pioneer Matthew Boulton, who lived at the house from 1766 to 1809. Here, he met with some of the most important scientists, engineers and thinkers of his time - the Lunar Society. Free entrance. (52.5000,-1.9225) 
  • Thinktank, Millennium Point, Curzon St (directions), +44 121 202 2222 (ffindout@thinktank.ac),. Daily 10AM-5PM (last admission 4PM). Science museum with lots of hands-on activities, vehicles and industrial machines, however it must be noted that the activities all smell of their popularity. IMAX cinema (see Cinema section) in the same building. £6.95 (concessions £5, children £4.95. Family and IMAX combination tickets available).
All List of Birmingham Hotels

 


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