Promoted as ‘the global city with a local heart’, Birmingham is centrally located in the West Midlands and is commonly acknowledged as the UK’s second city. It’s a dynamic, vibrant and cosmopolitan destination; popular among visitors of all ages and with wide-ranging interests.
It’s no coincidence that Birmingham was recently named as the UK’s most popular conference and events destination outside London by the British Meetings and Events Industry Survey 2012/13 – probably on account of all the extra curricular activities on offer in the city once the working day is done.
Birmingham’s incredible range of world-class cultural and sporting venues, state-of-the-art business facilities and top-flight visitor attractions make it hard to beat. There’s a fantastic range of accommodation to suit all budgets, as well as entertainment and shopping opportunities. If you’re travelling to the city for the conference, it’s well worth considering booking for an extra day or two – and may be even bringing family members with you.
In Birmingham city centre, everything is close by. Within one square mile, you could discover more than 500,000 works of art, Michelin-starred dining establishments, top-class theatre productions, world-renowned cultural venues, designer shopping in the iconic Mailbox and Bull Ring developments and of course, the city’s famous canals. At the centre of these, you’ll find a wide range of bustling bars and restaurants to suit all ages and tastes around Gas Street Basin. You can also take a range of short and longer canal boat trips to experience views of the city and all it offers from the water’s edge.
It’s a fact that Birmingham has more miles of canal than Venice, and the Birmingham Canal Navigation is the world’s largest canal system. Known in its manufacturing hey day as ‘the city of a thousand trades’, Birmingham is justifiably proud of its distinctive industrial heritage, during which the canals played no small part. Nowadays, cutting-edge modern architecture sits happily alongside historic buildings to create endless interest as you walk down many of the city centre’s pedestrianised streets.
You can happily spend a few hours wandering around the city’s impressive art galleries, museums and the Jewellery Quarter. The latter is home to around 400 jewellery businesses and has undergone significant regeneration in recent years. Today, there are more than 100 specialist retailers in this area, selling handcrafted jewellery, clocks and watches. Some 40% of all UK jewellery originates from Birmingham’s Jewellery Quarter.
When you start to feel hungry, you’ll be spoilt for choice by Birmingham’s 200-plus restaurants within the city centre. These offer cuisine spanning 25 countries around the world. There are also three Michelin-starred restaurants – more than in any other English city outside of London. And don’t forget that Birmingham is the home of the Balti. This spicy, aromatic Kashmiri dish served in a traditional Balti bowl (also made locally) can be enjoyed in over 100 specialist Balti houses across Birmingham, attracting over 20,000 diners per week.
In terms of evening entertainment, there’s an equally impressive offering. Maybe a show at the Birmingham Hippodrome – the UK’s busiest theatre outside of London’s West End, which welcomes audiences averaging almost 500,000 per year. Or a performance at the globally acclaimed Symphony Hall, where Birmingham is home to its own symphony orchestra, ballet company, opera company and school of acting. Perhaps just a quiet evening with friends and colleagues in a traditional English pub is what suits. Of course, there are plenty of impressive bars and clubs to catch the eye if that’s more your style.
If your schedule allows for it, why not take in some top-flight sporting events too? You’ll find both tennis and cricket in legendary venues in Edgbaston, Premier League football at Aston Villa’s ground and world-class athletics, as well as other leading sports events, at the National Indoor Arena. In fact, Birmingham has staged more World and European Championships than any other UK city.
Younger visitors will love trips to the National Sea Life Centre, Birmingham’s flagship science and technology venue Millennium Point (also home to the 72ft wide Giant Screen Cinema), the city’s many parks and of course, the world-renowned Cadbury chocolate factory. There’s no time to get bored!