Day 2.  Exploring Birmingham 

After a leisurely breakfast we were ready for a morning of sightseeing in Birmingham’s city centre.  Our first stop was to the Great Western Arcade, an elegant Victorian shopping arcade built in 1876 over the Great Western Railway line.  The arcade has two entrances, one on Temple Row and the other on Colmore Row, the Temple Row end being very ornate.  It’s now home to a selection of boutiques and small independent retailers and features a clock which strikes a set of five exposed bells on the quarter of each hour.

Great Western Arcade, Birmingham
Great Western Arcade, Birmingham

Leaving the arcade at its Colmore Row exit we strolled the short distance to St. Philip’s Cathedral which was constructed in a Baroque style in 1715 as the parish church of Birmingham, not becoming Birmingham’s cathedral until 1905.  It is England’s third smallest cathedral which is surprising as Birmingham is actually England’s second city.  What the cathedral lacks in size it certainly makes up for in elegance with its beautiful stained glass windows and oak panelled galleries.  Volunteers were on hand to answer our questions and we very much enjoyed our short visit.

St. Philip's Cathedral, Birmingham
St. Philip’s Cathedral, Birmingham
St. Philip's Cathedral, Birmingham
Interior of St. Philip’s Cathedral, Birmingham

On leaving the cathedral we continued towards Victoria Square where Birmingham City Council House dominates the square.  This is the home of the city council whilst next door lies the Town Hall which is used as a concert venue.  In nearby Chamberlain Square we visited the Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery, a Victorian baroque masterpiece which was completed in 1885.  The building was designed as a museum with the basement Water and Gas Halls being set aside for local people to come along and pay their utility bills.  These halls retain their original names and are now used to host temporary exhibitions.  The museum has free admittance and features numerous galleries on the history of Birmingham, taking visitors back in time from the city’s medieval beginnings to its more recent expansion.  The galleries were all very interesting but the highlight for me was the industrial gallery with its examples of old machinery.

Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery
Industrial Gallery, Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery

Moving on to Centenary Square we were interested to take a look inside the Library of Birmingham which opened in September 2013 at a cost of £188m and is now the largest public library in the U.K.  Designed by the Dutch architect Francine Houben it is said to resemble a gift box.

Library of Birmingham
Library of Birmingham

The library features two outdoor terraces, the Discovery Terrace on the third floor includes beds of fruit, vegetables and herbs to help promote healthy eating and encourage gardening whilst the Secret Garden on the seventh floor terrace has landscaped flowerbeds with wooden patio seating to enjoy the far reaching views over the city.

The Secret Garden, Library of Birmingham
The Secret Garden, Library of Birmingham

On the top floor is the Shakespeare Memorial Room, which was interestingly designed for the first central library in 1882.  After being dismantled in 1974 when the original building was demolished it was put into storage until it was refitted into its present location.  The room has been restored to its former glory and contains Britain’s most important Shakespeare collection.

Shakespeare Memorial Room, Library of Birmingham
Shakespeare Memorial Room, Library of Birmingham

After a late lunch in Grand Central we decided to take a trip out to the University of Birmingham by train, the journey taking around ten minutes.  Birmingham’s the only university in the U.K. to have its own railway station known as University Station.  Local trains operated by London Midland run from Birmingham New Street at frequent intervals to the edge of the university campus.

Joseph Chamberlain Memorial Clock, University of Birmingham
The Joseph Chamberlain Memorial Clock, University of Birmingham

The campus is attractively landscaped and at its centre stands the Joseph Chamberlain Memorial Clock Tower, affectionately known as ‘Old Joe’.  Overlooking Chancellor’s Court, it is one of the tallest free standing clock towers in the world standing 110 metres tall.  Built in 1900 it was named after the university’s first chancellor.

Lapworth Museum of Geology, University of Birmingham
The Lapworth Museum of Geology

One of the reasons we wished to visit the university campus was to take a look in the Lapworth Museum of Geology.  This museum holds an extensive collection of fossils, minerals and rocks dating back to 1880 and is one of the oldest specialist geological museums in the U.K.  The museum re-opened in 2016 after a complete refurbishment and in addition to rocks and fossils there are zoological specimens and galleries providing insights into how the Earth formed and changed through time.  Admission is free and we found the galleries to be very interesting with exhibits catering for both adults and children.

Lapworth Museum of Geology, University of Birmingham
Inside the Lapworth Museum of Geology

Leaving the museum we continued our walk through the campus to the Vale village student accommodation overlooking an attractive lakeside setting.  Returning to the station we strolled along the canal towpath of the Worcester and Birmingham canal where we noticed that the university even had its own landing stage.

Worcester & Birmingham Canal, University of Birmingham
The Worcester & Birmingham Canal

Returning to the hotel for a short rest we then enjoyed fish and chips in the Dragon Inn and had planned a late evening stroll but it began raining heavily so instead we went back to our hotel for the night.

J.D. Wetherspoon, Dragon Inn, Birmingham
Dinner at the Dragon Inn, Birmingham

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66 thoughts on “Day 2.  Exploring Birmingham 

  1. The old style Victorian shopping arcades are so much prettier than the current shopping malls. We also enjoyed this style in New Zealand and Australia. Good to see cities putting money into their libraries. Hope your week is going well Marion. Allan

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I prefer the Victorian shopping arcades to huge soulless malls too Allan. The Birmingham library is quite unusual with its gift box exterior yet incorporating historic rooms. Thanks for taking the time to read and comment. Warm and sunny days here so we’ve been able to eat dinner out on the patio since Sunday which has been nice.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. The gift box look must be nice. Did not see a photo of that in your post. +30 here for the last 2 days and I have been helping my son with yardwork and construction, so quite sapping. Cooler for the weekend. Cheers.

        Liked by 1 person

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  7. Great set of posts about Birmingham. Thank you for the information about the Lapworth Museum of Geology, I must include that on my travels at some point. If you visit Birmingham again a concert in Symphony Hall is worth attending, the acoustics are fantastic.

    I have a post with some pictures of some buildings in Birmingham – – including the new library against a blue sky which is a rare event 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  8. Lana

    If you get chance another time visit Winterbourne House & Garden a few minutes walk from the Uni (I work at the Uni). I have so many pics of it for an upcoming blog 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you Linda for your kind words. I liked the leafy area around the University. Birmingham Guam has a very good reputation for medicine with QE hospital on its doorstep. Our younger son visited Birmingham but then decided to study in Edinburgh – both excellent unis.


  9. Glad you introduced Birmingham to attract attention! I have lived there some years ago and I didn’t like to be frequently asked “what’s it like to live in B’ham?” with negative sense although I was enjoying my life there and liked the indoor market, canal walk near uni etc. very much. Thank you so much for sharing!!

    Liked by 4 people

      1. Yes, I enjoy reading about cities that I really don’t know that much about . When you tell Americans about Birmingham , we automatically assume that you’re referring to Birmingham , Alabama not the original Birmingham . Waiting to read about your newest day trip


  10. I really enjoyed reading about your day in Birmingham Marion, this is my kind of day with plenty packed in!! The library looks incredible, so different and how wonderful the Shakespeare room has been restored. The arcade is gorgeous too – shopping there sounds like fun.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I’m so pleased you enjoyed reading about our day in Birmingham. We both like to fit plenty in but with enough time that we don’t need to rush around. The Shakespeare room was a delight and we only found it when we went up to the Garden terrace, so it was a surprise. M.

      Liked by 1 person

  11. Hi,

    As I am from Birmingham it was very interesting to read about it from the perspective of a tourist. I think parts of Birmingham can be underappreciated but you seemed to go to very good places and I’m really enjoying your blog in general.

    Liked by 3 people

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