AD | Even though I only live an hour away from Birmingham (on a good journey), it’s not somewhere I’ve explored much of, besides its music venues and shopping streets. And of course their well known Christmas markets. So I was interested to see what other tourist attractions the city had to offer, but with only 24 hours in Birmingham, I knew we had to use our time wisely.
We decided to travel to Birmingham by coach but it’s also easily accessible by car or other means of public transportation. Birmingham Airport is directly connected to the rail station by a free ‘Air-Rail Link’ monorail system, making it ideal for international visitors. So, if you’re looking to stay in the city, then a Birmingham airport hotel * may be the perfect option for you.
Spending 24 hours in Birmingham
We arrived at Birmingham coach station mid-afternoon, our first stop? The Bullring shopping centre, which is one of the largest in the UK. So, if you love shopping, it’s the place to be. With everything from high street shops and restaurants to events and live displays.
We were lucky enough to see two Chinese New Year performances in the Bullring shopping centre, a dragon dance, and geishas, which were both very impressive. The bull outside of The Bullring was also decorated in Chinese colours of red and yellow which I thought was a great touch.
Although The Bullring may be the largest shopping area in Birmingham, there are many other shopping streets to consider, like the High Steet which is home to the world’s largest Primark store, or Birmingham’s jewellery quarter.
There is also a walkway from the Bullring to Grand Central Station, where you’ll find yet more high street shops and a large food court. As well as the train station itself, of course.
Holy Moly Macaroni
Instead of going to one of our old favourites (like Zizzi or Five Guys) we wanted to see what other bars and restaurants Birmingham had to offer. Which is when we stumbled upon a quirky restaurant, Holy Moly, in Grand Central Station. We had a quick look at their menu outside and went in as soon as I read vegan mac n cheese!
Holy Moly describes itself as the ‘home of soul food’ and had a very urban vibe to it. Everyone was seated close together which gave it a cosy atmosphere and made it feel busier than it was. There were many different seating options available from benches to booths and high tables. We (or rather our waitress) choose a high table for us which was a little difficult for me to hop up too! Aaron laughed as I crawled on to my chair.
Aaron tucked into the ‘Not so holy burger’, which was a chicken burger served with fries. With the option of either a bagel or brioche bun (he chose the bagel) and said it was delicious. I, on the other hand, tucked into ‘The Real MacCoy’, a vegan “Mac No Cheese” dish which I had with sweet potato fries. The dish itself was served with a tomato-based sauce instead of cheese which I very much enjoyed. I’d certainly come here again the next time I’m in Birmingham.
Pinball at Tilt
A short walk from the train station we stumbled upon signs for ‘Tilt’, a bar showcasing craft beers and offering pinball machines!… We had concert tickets booked that evening but couldn’t resist going in to enjoy a few games beforehand.
The venue was smaller than we expected and could have done with an upgrade. There was paint peeling off the walls and the same-sex toilets didn’t feel clean. But the pinball machines more than made up for it!
We had a lot of fun playing on the machines they had there and I was shocked at how many different varieties there were. It was an easy distraction from the look of the place, to be honest. Craft beer, coffee, and pinball machines? What’s not to love? It would make a great date night idea, although I’d recommend using the loos somewhere else!
Boasting three large music venues, Arena Birmingham and the 02 Academy in the city centre and the NEC nearby, Birmingham is one of the best cities to take in some live music. And I’ve been lucky enough to see a few of my favourite artists here in the past, including Busted, McBusted and Fall Out Boy.
As I mentioned earlier in this post, Aaron and I had tickets booked for a concert that evening, a Slipknot concert to be exact; and with Birmingham being the birthplace of heavy metal music, it seemed fitting we saw a metal band here. For those that aren’t aware the metal genre was largely pioneered by Birmingham’s own ‘Black Sabbath’ in the 70s. The band even has one of the canal bridges named after them.
The concert was perfect. Slipknot played all of our favourite songs bar one and we’re both very happy we got to see one of our favourite bands live.
It was Aaron’s first large gig and although he loved every minute of it, he decided that the drinks are expensive and not worth having. You either end up wanting to use the toilet a lot (for a number one) or your 2-pint cup of beer will end up flat by the time you get to the bottom of it. He couldn’t resist getting a tour t-shirt though.
Drinks at Coyote Ugly
While we were walking back to our hotel we stumbled upon part of Birmingham’s nightlife areas. But there was one red neon sign that caught my up – Coyote Ugly – which is based on one of my favourite movies. I had to pop in for a drink and to see how it lived up to the movie; it didn’t disappoint.
The bar had American themed decor and encouraged its female guests to have a dance on the bar, in true Coyote Ugly style. They even played ‘Can’t Fight the Moonlight’ which is the theme song. Honestly, if we had longer than 24 hours in Birmingham I may well have stayed all night!
Sea Life Centre
The following morning we decided to visit the Sea Life Centre which is home to over 60 displays including jellyfish, sharks, a giant octopus and Gentoo penguins. We had a 2 for 1 ticket which I’ve saved from a packet of cereal but you can also look at discounted tickets online.
Although it was smaller than I expected, we had a lovely morning exploring the Sea Life Centre. My favourite displays were Gentoo penguins and glass walkthrough. Which included a glass bridge so you could see the marine creatures all around you. We looked out for the sea turtle but couldn’t find it.
As we were leaving, the staff informed us the sea turtle was in their quarantine area (but didn’t say why) and offered us 2 free return tickets to make up for it. Which was a nice touch, and gives us another excuse to return to Birmingham.
Canal Path Walk
Birmingham was the hub of the canal network in the industrial age and there are still over 100 miles of canal in the area. Which is more than Venice! You can even use the canal network to travel to Birmingham yourself if you choose to.
We walked the canal path from Broad Street to the Mailbox shopping unit, which is home to BBC Birmingham. Tours of the BBC centre are available daily and include a photo opportunity with Birmingham’s own ‘Peaky Blinders’.
Along our canal walk, we saw a variety of cafes and bars, pretty narrowboats, and boat tours. The canals are some of the prettiest areas in Birmingham, I just wish we had more than 24 hours to explore.
There are a few other sights and attractions we would love to have explored, but time ran out on us. We quickly discovered that a day is simply not enough time to explore everything Birmingham has to offer.
Here are some of the attractions on our agenda for our next visit;
- The Tolkien Trail.
- Birmingham Botanical Gardens.
- ThinkTank – Birmingham Science Museum.
- Library of Birmingham.
- BBC Birmingham tour
What about you? How would you spend 24 hours in Birmingham?
* This post is in collaboration with Hotels.com. I was gifted, spending money for my trip, all views are my own.