Meeting my son for a weekend away in the U.K. has usually resulted in trips to London or Edinburgh so for a change we decided to explore Britain’s second city, Birmingham. Strangely, Birmingham isn’t a city I am familiar with, in fact I’ve only ever visited three times and then only to attend courses and conferences with little or no time to look around.
Birmingham is located in the West Midlands, right in the middle of the country making it easily accessible from all parts. My rail journey from home took approximately three hours including one change onto a Cross Country train for the longer part of the journey. I’ve passed through Birmingham New Street station many times but as it is underground it never looked very appealing so I was quite interested to see what lay above.
After taking the escalator up from the dreary platform level I was transported into a glitzy modern shopping mall called Grand Central which includes a range of high quality shops, bars and restaurants. Grand Central has only been open since September 2015 and its design is impressive with large circular balconies overlooking the New Street station concourse. Noticing a branch of John Lewis I decided to take a look around and then proceeded to their top floor cafe for tea and cakes as I had some time to pass before my son was joining me. The cafe was surprisingly very quiet on this a Thursday afternoon but they had a good selection of cakes and pastries on offer to tempt me.
Feeling ready to move on, I studied my map to find the way to the Birmingham Central Bullring Travelodge where we were staying. It looked near to the station but not knowing which exit to leave from resulted in me walking slightly further to find it. Checking in was quick and I was soon in the room unpacking my weekend bag and ready to continue looking around the city centre.
A few steps from the hotel lies Birmingham City Markets, a collection of indoor and outdoor market stalls selling almost everything. I glanced in the enormous Bullring Rag Market and found it stocked with a mix of fashion, fabrics, haberdashery and household items. The Bullring Indoor Market is one of the UK’s largest fish markets and also sells meat, poultry, fruit and vegetables. It was a warm, sunny afternoon when I started my tour around the city, but all too soon dark clouds threatened followed by a heavy downpour sending me back indoors.
Between the markets and the Bullring shopping centre lies the Victorian church of St. Martin in the Bullring which contrasts beautifully with the contemporary modern buildings surrounding it. The Selfridges department store featured below has an exterior which was inspired by a Paco Rabanne sequinned dress and is made up of 15,000 spun aluminium discs.
Standing proudly outside the Bullring shopping centre is a six tonne bronze statue of a bull. It was created by Laurence Broderick and is officially known as The Guardian but is simply called The Bull. The sculpture measuring 2.2 metres is two and a half times the size of a real bull to produce more impact and was installed in 2003 resting on a hidden plinth below the paving.
The Bullring shopping mall is one of the busiest in Britain and consists of two main buildings, the East and West Malls which are bright and spacious with more than 160 stores and kiosks offering a wide selection of goods and services.
After enjoying some time shopping in the Bullring it was then time to meet my son at the nearby station and have a light supper ready for a full day’s city sightseeing the next day.
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