Birmingham City Guide
While you are here
Reviews and recommendations of local venues, attractions and customs of major cities by CASE members.
Today's guide is Laura Bainbridge, formerly Regular Giving Manager, University of Birmingham
Birmingham is where the world meets, and is the largest city outside London, with a population of just over one million. The city has more miles of canals than Venice (36miles) and over 8,000 acres of parks and open space, Birmingham is also one of the greenest cities in the UK.
Fun fact- Birmingham has more Michelin-starred restaurants than any other UK city outside London, with Purnells, Simpsons, Turners, Adam's, & Carters flying the flag for the city’s fine dining.
Interesting or unusual event venues (top three or four)
Named as the UK’s most popular conference and events destination outside London by the British Meetings and Events Industry Survey 2015/16, Birmingham boasts some fabulous quirky venues so take a look at the following;
Fazeley Studios and The Custard Factory- The perfect blend of period charm and chic urban style: Vaulted Ceilings, Period Features, Unique Character, Vibrant Area, Flexible Spaces, Stunning Decor, Creative Urban Vibe.
The Thinktank- offers versatile spaces, dramatic architecture and fascinating exhibits which all come together to provide this unique city centre venue. Thinktank is Birmingham’s science museum and provides a range of spaces for conferences and events. It’s the only venue in the Midlands where delegates can enjoy their canapés either under the wings of Spitfire and Hurricane fighter planes.
Symphony Hall – celebrated its 20th birthday in 2011, and has received public and critical acclaim worldwide. Home to City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, with its world class acoustics and stunning auditorium it is considered to be not only the UK’s finest concert hall but also one of the best in the world. One of the bigger venues, the hall can seat over 2,260 delegates and can also hold receptions and banquets.
Favorite hotels (top three or four)
University accommodation is located just five minutes from the historic redbrick buildings and glorious green spaces of the University of Birmingham campus, offering 65 en-suite bedrooms with all the facilities you need for a restful stay, just two miles away from the vibrant city centre. http://www.venuebirmingham.com/accommodation/
If budget is no problem, Malmaison is situated in the iconic Mailbox, a short walk from the main train station. It is perfect for stylish city breaks or business trips, Malmaison epitomises style, elegance and sophistication – a real oasis of luxury in the heart of the City. https://www.malmaison.com/locations/birmingham/
There are of course Travelodge and Premier Inns also available both in the city centre and near to the airport.
Best times to visit
Birmingham comes alive every winter with the arrival Frankfurt Christmas Market, together with the neighbouring Christmas Craft Market. With over 120 stalls there is something for everyone. It is the largest authentic German Christmas market outside of Germany or Austria and it offers a large range of traditional goods and tempting food and drink.
Easiest way to get around
Birmingham is easy to get to, and easy to get around once you are here. A compact city centre means it is easy to walk between locations. Alternatively there is a large bus network and apps are available to assist with navigation- you will need to have the right change, as no change can be given. A daysaver ticket is always a good option if you have multiple destinations to go to throughout the day. Black Cab taxis can be flagged down anywhere in the city or can be found waiting at designated taxi ranks in the city centre such as Broad Street, New Street, Corporation Street.
Standard Western practice is acceptable as far as business cards and dress are concerned. There are many cultures and nationalities in Birmingham: if you are greeting a woman in a headscarf or veil, perhaps place a hand to your chest rather than extending for a handshake.
Gift suggestions for hosts
It is not seen as necessary to bring gifts to the host, but it is widely practiced, branded items from your home institution are always welcome. Gifts that are representative of your own country's culture or history or that you would be happy to receive. The city is incredibly diverse, so you may want to avoid gifting alcohol if you are concerned about etiquette.
Final words of advice, welcome
Birmingham has much to offer including brilliant options on the University campus. Why not visit the Barber Institute of Fine Arts with its paintings by Monet, Rubens and Van Gogh; its stunning coin gallery; as well as exhibitions, lectures and workshops. You may prefer to while away the spare hours at Winterbourne House and Garden – an Edwardian Arts and Crafts family home, restored to its former glory, nestled within 7 acres of beautiful botanical gardens. You could even take in a show– The Bramall is the ideal spot to enjoy an evening of comedy, music or dance. Finally, pop into the Lapworth Museum - home to one of the UK’s most outstanding geological collections. Recently it been shortlisted for Art Fund Museum of the Year 2017, the world’s largest and most prestigious prize for museums.