With the bulbous Bullring shopping center and the cylindrical Rotunda forming one of the UK’s more curious skylines, Birmingham’s city center is certainly unique on first impressions. And as modern trams glide across gleaming new squares, the city has undergone profound and positive changes in recent years.
However, it is in the Birmingham neighborhoods where the real magic has happened. From the fantastic gastronomy of Harborne to the lush green parks of Kings Heath and beyond, there’s plenty to explore when you venture out of town. Here’s a closer look at Birmingham’s best neighborhoods.
Best for History and Heritage
Walking past the bustling outdoor bars of Ludgate Hill to leafy St Pauls Square – Birmingham’s only Georgian square – is one of the city’s best introductions to first-time visitors, but that’s only part of the Jewelery Quarter’s appeal. This historic quarter was and still is the beating heart of the British jewelery industry and many of the old workhouses still line its charming streets, alongside shop windows full of twinkling diamond rings often viewed by couples on weekends.
With its immaculately preserved workshops and live demonstrations, the Museum of the Jewelery Quarter is a fascinating time capsule into Birmingham’s heritage. Other quirky museums include the Pen Museum (yes, really!) and the nearby Coffin Works, a celebration of Victorian Birmingham’s fascination with funeral decorations.
Also don’t miss the excellent bars and restaurants in the area, including the low-lit Japanese cocktail bar Ikigai, the cheerful microbrewery Rock & Roll Brewhouse and the darkly enigmatic fine-dining restaurant The Wilderness.
Best for bohemian brunches
Whether you think it’s full of hippies or hipsters, Moseley may be mentioned more than any other Birmingham neighborhood, but those who live there don’t mind. The laid-back community atmosphere of Moseley Village has been part of its character for generations, and the colorful pubs, cafes, bistros and restaurants have lasting appeal.
And from the tantalizing Middle Eastern aromas of Damascena and Tabule Kitchen to hearty stalwarts like De Maines and Maison Mayci, there are endless brunch options on the lively streets of Moseley. And as night falls, quality recent additions like the French bistro Le Petit Bois, the vegetarian pizza slice kings Peacer and the sublime Peruvian restaurant Chakana give every reason to stay.
Set aside time between meals to visit some of the attractions near Moseley. The eighteenth-century Sarehole Mill and the magical woodlands of Moseley Bog are both said to have inspired JRR Tolkien, while the Midland Arts Center (MAC) has been an artistic institution since the early 1960s.
The best for nightlife and street art
Beneath the hulking coal-grey railway arches, Digbeth’s industrial-chic seems almost tailor-made to show off Birmingham’s exceptional street art and was even featured in Stephen SEELberg’s Ready Player One† Just a short stroll from the city centre, the striking graffiti and glittering criss-cross lights of Floodgate Street make Digbeth Birmingham’s most distinctive neighbourhood.
The Custard Factory’s independent shops, cafes and bars draw crowds of revelers throughout the day, but it’s at night when Digbeth really comes alive. From rare Belgian beers at Roberto’s Bar and Tasting Club to neon cocktails at Birdie’s, there’s an array of choices in a conveniently compact area.
Dance the night away to beats under the arches at Mama Roux’s, while DJs at the Night Owl spin everything from funk and reggae to soul and indie. And if that wasn’t enough, you can dance and play games like bowling and basketball at Roxy Ball Room.
Best for parks, pints and independent boutiques
Just south of Moseley and along the winding Alcester Road is Kings Heath, a lively shopping area around the High Street. From establishments like legendary record store Polar Bear Records to modern day favorites like handmade gift shop ENKI, Kings Heath has long functioned as a welcoming neighborhood platform for independent businesses and boutiques.
The pedestrian-friendly York Road is the neighborhood’s thriving epicenter, instantly recognizable by the imposing presence of the Victorian pub and concert venue The Hare and Hounds (UB40 played their first-ever gig here in 1979). Enjoy a rotating cast of street food and craft beer at The Juke, natural wines at the breezy Grace + James and outdoor wood-fired pizza at POLI.
If you need a rural escape, nearby Highbury Park is a quiet and underrated park, full of winding paths past lazy weeping willows, small serene ponds and dense green forest.
Best for craft beer?
With its beautiful old pubs and casual modern taprooms, Stirchley is the vibrant hub of Birmingham’s craft beer scene. So much so that it even has its own “beer mile” for intrepid beer aficionados to gleefully enjoy as they amble down the understated Pershore Road and its various tributaries.
The light and airy Attic Brew Co is conveniently located just across Mary Vale Road from Bournville Station, while Glasshouse’s canal-side location is secluded and offers plenty of space to drink at the outdoor tables in the summer. In the winter months, the cozy confines of Cork & Cage and Wildcat are ideal places to sample their sour, stouts and hazy bleach.
In a past life Stirchley was perhaps best known for its proximity to the famous chocolate paradise of Cadbury World and it remains a popular spot to this day, especially for a family day out.
The best for foodies
No city in the UK outside of London has more Michelin stars than Birmingham and the city has become a gastronomic hotspot due to the creativity and passion of its chefs. And while the leafy Harborne neighborhood doesn’t have any stars (yet), it’s arguably the city’s best spot for consistently high-quality dining experiences.
Proudly dressed in white at the top of the High Street, The Plow’s delicious paprika-smoked chicken Cubano’s go above and beyond what you’d normally expect from a pub menu, while further afield The Cods Scallops sets a new high bar for fish and chips, especially when they come with freshly shelled oysters.
The succulent, slow-cooked ox cheek is one of the many highlights in delicious Italian Tropea, while the relaxed fine dining and imaginative combinations of drinks at Harborne Kitchen make for arguably the best quality food in town.