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Head to Birmingham, England's second city

Head to Birmingham, England's second city

When you think of England and travel, most people think of London, and this is of course no coincidence. The world-famous capital is full of attractions, and one can list for hours what one should not miss on a sightseeing tour. Meanwhile, the second largest city in the UK, Birmingham, also has many surprises in store, and on top of that, we've been able to get there by direct flight from Budapest for a few months now.

Birmingham is England's second largest and most dynamically developing city. With a population of 1,100,000 people, it is an ever-moving city, but it is not a typical tourist destination, which is exactly why it retains its unique characteristics.

In terms of sights, Birmingham is a less focused and tourist-filled experience than London. Of course, Birmingham also has its sights, but these can easily be covered in a few days. The city is vibrant, diverse, full of culture and entertainment, and filled with award-winning restaurants, shopping opportunities, family programs and international events and festivals throughout the year.

Victorian downtown

One of Birmingham's most famous streets is New Street, and at one end there is the City Hall Building, built in 1832, which is a shining example of Victorian architecture. It resembles a Roman church, and its impressive features include 40 ornate Corinthian columns made of marble. At the other end of New Street is Victoria Square, surrounded by Birmingham's most beautiful buildings. The square was called Tanakhshasa, and it got its current name in 1901, when a statue of Queen Victoria was placed here. The square became a busy traffic intersection in the 20th century, and plans had already been made to ban cars from here, which were successfully implemented, so Victoria Square is now exclusively pedestrian. The fountain here is one of the largest in Europe, and the square plays a central role in the city in many ways and is a lively stage for events.

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Photo: visitbirmingham.com

Many canals crisscross Birmingham, and in the city's heyday in the 18th century, more than 100 ships regularly passed through the city. Travelers still have the opportunity to get out on the water, walk through the canals, and enjoy the city from a completely different perspective.

The city's famous theater is the Hippodrome and Repertory Theatre. In the council building, it is worth seeing the picture gallery and weapons collection. It's also worth walking into the bizarre modern building of the Library of Birmingham, seeing the stunning bookshelves inside, and getting a glimpse of the city from the top floor.

Photo: Matej Kuczka

Also popular is the Bull Ring shopping center in Birmingham city centre, which admittedly isn't a very authentic sight, but it's worth the temptation to take a look around the huge building.

BBC Visitor Center is free

Nearby The Mailbox shopping center houses the local offices of the world's largest broadcaster, the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC). BBC Birmingham is open to tourists every day of the week: the history and present of television and radio broadcasting is on display in a completely free visitor centre. You can see the famous costumes and props up close, and you can also experience how talented we are as weather forecasters. If you want to delve deeper into the work of the BBC, you can pay for an hour-and-a-half tour, which must be booked online in advance.

Photo: Matej Kuczka

Nice jewelry area

Birmingham gained a reputation as the engine house of the English Industrial Revolution, leading to it being referred to as the “Workshop of the World”. Traces of that day can still be discovered in the Jewelery Quarter, one kilometer from the city centre, where hundreds of jewelery shops and workshops operate.

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Photo: Matej Kuczka

None of the jewelers are members of large franchise networks, everyone creates handcrafted products, and those lucky enough to get a glimpse into each shop's back workshop, where rings and necklaces are polished using traditional methods. The Jewelery District also has its own museum, which takes you through the history of jewelery making. Moreover, you not only meet tourists here, most of them come with the specific intention of purchasing, as the jewelry is said to be much cheaper and, moreover, more unique compared to other parts of the world. If someone is interested in the rich history of the area and wants to go behind the scenes, you can find great tours organized by Alternative Tours.

Photo: Matej Kuczka

Another important museum in the Jewelry District is worth a visit if you are already there. In the Pen Museum, the history of pen making is displayed, and the visitor can make his own pen, talk with workers in old pen factories, and admire the artwork made from pens.

Photo: Matej Kuczka

The Jewelery District is also a good place to be the center of our accommodation in Birmingham, as we can quickly access remote parts of the city as a transport hub, there are plenty of attractions in the area, and the prices are not exorbitant either. We recommend the recently completed Bloc Hotel, which offers 30 affordable designer apartments, with special interior design and friendly staff in the middle of the Jewelry District.

Photo: Block Hotel

Let's swim in chocolate

South of Birmingham, Bournville is home to one of the world's best chocolate brands, Cadbury. John Cadbury was the first to create solid chocolate, and since then the brand's success has been uninterrupted. Cadbury World is a real entertainment complex that attracts more than 500,000 visitors every year. In one part of the all-day program, the family can experience amusement-like rides, but in the complex next to the factory, you can also participate in interactive chocolate displays, taste the chocolate, look at the factory behind the glass walls, and finally buy Cadbury products at a discount.

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Photo: Matej Kuczka

Half an hour from Shakespeare's birthplace

True, this is no longer Birmingham, but just 22 kilometers from the city lies Stratford-upon-Avon, the birthplace of William Shakespeare. The small town is a popular tourist destination: about three million tourists visit it every year, mainly to visit scenes from the life of the greatest English playwright. Shakespeare's birthplace is a real haven: it's been a tourist attraction for 250 years, and you can even visit it from the inside. The house is furnished with period furniture, volunteers dressed in period clothing guide visitors, and impromptu mini-plays are performed in the garden.

Photo: Matej Kuczka

In addition to Shakespeare's birthplace, several other buildings managed by the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust can be visited, such as Anne Hathaway's House or Mary Arden's Farm, filled with animals and family programs. The banks of the River Avon, which runs through Stratford-upon-Avon, are the best possible location for a relaxing stroll in England's Centenary region.

Photo: Matej Kuczka

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