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What Is Birmingham Known for & Famous For

Whether you want to travel to Birmingham or even move there, you may not know all there’s to know about Birmingham’s many features. Birmingham is not all about football and Peaky Blinders and has much more to offer. So why should you put the ‘Venice of the North’ on your travel itinerary?

Birmingham is best known and famous for its manufacturing roots, which you can observe in the landmarks. On top of manufacturing, Birmingham is known for its network of canals, delicious dining, from street food to Michelin Star dining, and much more.

Birmingham may be in the middle of England, but it is far from the middle of the road when it comes to entertaining visitors. If roaring canals and delicious food sounds enticing, continue reading to learn more about those Birmingham classics. 

Green City

Anyone who’s been to Birmingham can vouch for the vast greenery. Birmingham has over 8,000 acres (3,237.5 hectares) of green land spanning over a quarter of the total area. In fact, Birmingham is one of the greenest areas of an already green UK!

Amid Birmingham’s 8,000 acres of greenery, from city parks to amazing botanical gardens and rolling golf courses, Birmingham has many offerings for nature lovers. Some of the most popular parks include:

The Middle of the UK

Birmingham has the distinction of being the middle-most city in England. Historically, being far from the maritime ports counted against the city’s early development, but the Industrial revolution put it firmly on the map.

Being centrally located has its perks in terms of mobility. Birmingham is at the crossing points of the National Railway and National Roadway System.

Football

As the second-largest city in England, Birmingham has multiple football clubs. The most famous football club in Birmingham is Birmingham City FC.

Here are three other professional football teams from Birmingham:

Peaky Blinders

If you’ve kept up with the Netflix series Peaky Blinders, you may be familiar with the Late 1800s Birmingham street gang. Don’t worry if you haven’t kept up with the hit TV show because I can give you a quick rundown!

The Peaky Blinders were a Birmingham street gang that operated in Birmingham for the late 1800s and early 1900s. The street gang gained political control until their decline in the early 1900s.

Peaky Blinder’s expansion garnered unwelcome attention from a more prominent gang, the Birmingham Boys. Eventually, the Birmingham Boys’ intimidation led the Peaky Blinders to withdraw from the gang landscape.

Birmingham Bull Ring

The Birmingham Bull Ring is the large shopping center that lives in the heart of Birmingham. Birmingham is also connected to Grand Central Station by a bridge, making the two combined the largest shopping center in the UK.

You’re wondering why they call this shopping center the Bull Ring. The Bull Ring has been a center of trade from as far back as medieval times and was once the location of the cruel sport of bull-baiting. The ring refers to the iron hoops to which they tied the bulls before allowing dogs to attack them. 

Canals

Birmingham certainly deserves the nickname “Venice of the North” as it has an extensive network of canals spanning the city. The wide range of canals makes up one of the most complex systems of canals worldwide. 

Birmingham has heaps of water taxis that can transport you throughout the intricate labyrinth of canals if you like to take to the water to get around.

The Youngest City in Europe

Birmingham is a lively city, with 40% of its population under 25. No other city in Europe contests Birmingham’s spot as the youngest city in Europe.

Birmingham’s status as Europe’s youngest city comes from its youth-friendly economic atmosphere. There’s a wide variety of job opportunities available to young people from Birmingham, resulting in a 46% graduate retention rate.

Home of Heavy Metal

If you’re a metalhead, you may already know that Birmingham is known for being the home of heavy metal music. Birmingham is somewhat of a metalhead capital as it has sprung some rock and metal legends. 

Led Zeppelin

Led Zeppelin is a heavy metal and hard rock band from Birmingham. The band has reached top billboard charts with multiple hit songs, including Stairway to Heaven, Whole Lotta Love, and Black Dog. Zeppelin’s iconic sound influenced generations of musicians and still commands a cult-like following. 

Black Sabbath

Formed in 1968, Black Sabbath is one of the most famous heavy metal bands. You may recognize the lyrics to some of their hit songs like Iron Man, Paranoid, and Children of the Grave. And of course, old Ozzy is still tottering on and famous now for the reality show called “The Osbournes.”

Judas Priest

The third Birmingham-based heavy metal band from the late 1960s is Judas Priest. This third Birmingham band is famous for hit songs like Breaking the Law, You Got Another Thing Comin’ and Turbo Lover. The success is phenomenal, with more than 40 million albums sold worldwide. 

Pre-Raphaelite Art

The Pre-Raphaelites were a group of artists from the Victorian Era. The defining factor of Pre-Raphaelite art is its focus on realism. Pre-Raphaelites believed that art should be as close to reality as possible, meaning they painted everything precisely as they saw in the real world.

Here are ten famous Pre-Raphaelite pieces of art:

  1. Ophelia
  2. The Lady of Shalott
  3. Proserpine 
  4. Lady Lilith 
  5. The Awakening Conscience 
  6. Beata Beatrix 
  7. Boreas
  8. Christ in the House of His Parents
  9. The Light of the World 
  10. Isabella

Pre-Raphaelite art is an interesting glimpse into the past because of the intention to paint as realistically as possible. If you want to check out some Pre-Raphaelite artwork, you can find galleries around the city of Birmingham.

Michelin Star Dining

If you’re a foodie, Birmingham has you covered! Home to multiple Michelin Star restaurants, you can dine at numerous top-level restaurants worldwide from one city. Birmingham has five Michelin Star restaurants, and the surrounding areas add to the total of world-recognized cuisine. 

Here are some Michelin Star restaurants in and around Birmingham:

  1. Peel’s Restaurant 
  2. Opheem 
  3. Simpsons Restaurant 
  4. The Royal Oak 
  5. Carters of Moseley 
  6. Purnell’s Restaurant
  7. Upstairs Restaurant 
  8. Salt Restaurant
  9. Adam’s Restaurant 
  10. The Cross at Kenilworth

Street Food

If Michelin Star dining isn’t your speed, Birmingham is also known for its variety of street food. Birmingham’s streets are home to vendors from cuisines worldwide, all housed in massive street food markets.

The Birmingham street food scene has boomed over the last few years, and it is now one of the best places in the UK to taste the street fare. From Indian to Italian and Japanese, Birmingham is host to some of the most innovative street chefs. 

You can enjoy a delicious craft beer while listening to live music for a laid-back night out of a quick bite for lunch while sightseeing. 

Digbeth Dining Club

You’ll undoubtedly come across dining clubs like the Digbeth Dining Club as you delve into your Birmingham street food. The Digbeth Dining Club is Birmingham’s most well-known dining club and among the largest in the UK.

If you want to learn more about the Digbeth Dining Club, feel free to poke around the Digbeth Dining Club website.

The Largest Library in Europe

If you’re a bookworm like me, you’ll be happy to know Birmingham is home to the most extensive library in Europe, The Library of Birmingham.

The most famous collection in this massive library is one of the largest Shakespeare collections worldwide, including the Shakespeare Memorial Room. The Library of Birmingham’s Shakespeare collection comprises over 43,000 books, including rare Shakespearean pieces.

If you’re not into Shakespeare, no worries; there are plenty of other massive collections at The Library of Birmingham.

A few other popular collections in the Library of Birmingham are:

Largest Open Space in Europe

Once you grab a book from The Library of Birmingham, you’ll need a shaded park bench to get reading. Thankfully, Birmingham is home to Sutton Park, which spans 2,400 acres. Sutton Park is the largest nature reserve in an urban area in Europe.

Sutton Park is home to several different marshes, lakes, wetlands, restaurants, and even a donkey sanctuary. Sutton Park is a must-see for any park lover finding themselves in Birmingham.

Birmingham Hippodrome

The Birmingham Hippodrome is a breathtaking theatre in Birmingham. In keeping with Birmingham’s industrial past, it’s interesting to note that the Birmingham Hippodrome was originally full of assembly rooms.

After only four years of service, they converted the assembly rooms into the theatre it is today, the Birmingham Hippodrome. Nowadays, you can feel good about seeing a show at the Birmingham Hippodrome since its sale to the Birmingham Theatre Company, which is a charity.

Grand Central New Street Station

If you’re a New Yorker, you might have a confused look as you discover the world’s second Grand Central Station. Grand Central New Station is a shopping center above the New Street Railway Station and connected to the Birmingham Bull by a bridge.

If you’re out of the loop, you might remember Grand Central Birmingham as the Pallasades Shopping Centre or maybe the Birmingham Shopping Centre, which were Grand Central New Station’s previous names.

Home of the Balti

Birmingham is home to the delicious curry variety, Balti. Balti butter chicken is the staple dish of Birmingham, and you can find fresh-cooked Balti at one of the many street vendors around Birmingham.

If you can’t make it to Birmingham but are eager to try Balti, you’re lucky because Balti has become a staple Indian dish, especially in the Western world. Therefore, you can find Bali listed on your local Indian restaurant menus.

In Addition to finding Balti locally, you can cook Balti for yourself! Cooking a new recipe like Balti is always a fun way to expand your culinary experience.

My favorite homemade Balti recipe is from food.com. You might find it intimidating if you’ve never cooked Indian food before. Don’t worry! This Balti Butter Chicken recipe from food.com is easy to prepare and comes out delicious every time.

The UK’s Largest German Christmas Market

Birmingham is home to many different cultures, including German. If you happen to be in Birmingham around the Christmas season, you can find a taste of German culture at the UK’s largest German Christmas market.

The massive German Christmas market is called Birmingham’s Frankfurt Christmas Market, and it takes place every winter. Organizer held the first Frankfurt Christmas Market in 2001.

Starting in 2001 with only 24 stalls, the Frankfurt Christmas Market has experienced steady growth year-over-year. There are almost ten times the original stalls over the 20 years since the first Birmingham Frankfurt Christmas Market, with over 200 stalls.

Cadbury World

If chocolate is more your speed, Birmingham has another perfect attraction for you, Cadbury World. Cadbury World is among the most fun-filled attractions in Birmingham, perfect for all ages.

In Cadbury World, you’ll take a tour through the process of Cadbury chocolate production. You’ll also get a glimpse into the history of Cadbury as a company.

Oh, I nearly forgot to mention that you’ll get free Cadbury chocolate bars throughout your tour! If that doesn’t get you out the door to Cadbury World tomorrow, I don’t know what will.

JRR Tolkien

The most exciting part of Birmingham for me is that it’s home to renowned author JRR Tolkien. Tolkien is an accomplished fantasy novel writer from Birmingham, most famous for writing the Lord of the Rings trilogy.

Tolkien lived in Birmingham in his youth, between the years of 1895 to 1911. In the 16 years Tolkien spent there, he lived in nine different Southern Birmingham homes. Tolkien took great pride in calling himself a Birmingham man.

Diehard Lord of the Rings fans might know that Tolkien was inspired by the landscape of Birmingham and based Middle Earth on Birmingham because of his inspiration.

Over 100 years since Tolkien left Birmingham, Lord of the Rings fans flock to the region to complete the Tolkien Trail. The Tolkien Trail is a fan-made hiking trail in Southern Birmingham that seeks to retrace the steps of young JRR Tolkien.

Check out Visit Lancashire’s article for more info on the Tolkien Trail.

The Jewellery Quarter

The Jewellery Quarter is a Birmingham district located near the Birmingham city center. The Jewellery Quarter is among the oldest districts in Birmingham, which makes it a bustling attraction for tourists looking to experience the area’s history.

The Jewellery Quarter is best known for its high-quality jewelry vendors. However, if you’re not into jewelry shopping, you’ll still find plenty to do in the nearby bars, restaurants, and cafes.

Final Thoughts

Birmingham has something to offer everyone! From luscious greenery to gang history to the largest library in Europe, anyone can find something to please. 

Additionally, Birmingham has something to offer year-round. Stop by Birmingham in the winter, and you can experience the awe-inspiring Frankfurt Christmas Market. Additionally, you could come to Birmingham to walk the Tolkien Trail in the summer. 

Birmingham has something for every taste, and you should definitely consider adding old ‘Brum’ to your travel plans.  

Sources