Itchy's Short Break in Birmingham
There's actually quite a lot to do in the Midlands...
STOP PRESS! Itchy has a confession to make: Birmingham surpassed our expectations. We must eat our words... it was great. It turns out that Birmingham is full of things to do and places to visit. (Shock! Horror!) So we've attempted to round up our top five attractions. Here we go...
Not only is this the oldest working cinema in the UK, but it has sofas (YES SOFAS!) at the back of the standard seating, providing a cosy atmosphere, perfect for dates. The best bit is that you can order drinks and snacks to your sofa by sending just a simple text… bliss. Itchy feels we must warn you that there is no popcorn (yup, you heard right) but fear not, cinemagoers, there are plenty of other snacks (maybe even SUPERIOR snacks) including chocolate raisins, tortilla chips, pretzels and freshly baked cakes. Oh and don’t forget the posh ice cream (Itchy sampled the White Chocolate and Raspberry, daaaarling.)
Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery
Time for a spot of culture? Pop to the Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery. We would honestly visit this incredible building even if it didn't contain an extensive collection of paintings, artefacts and touring exhibitions. Itchy was lucky enough to catch the Da Vinci exhibition at BMAG - blimey, he was a talented chap - but there’s loads of other stuff to see, including Buddhist statues, the world's largest collection of Pre-Raphaelite works (normally portraying wistful ginger ladies) and the Staffordshire Hoard (which is apparently the largest collection of Anglo-Saxon gold and silver metalwork ever found, anywhere in the world).
We decided to go along with extremely low expectations of the amount of chocolate on offer at Cadbury World, just because we really didn't want to be disappointed. (Previously, in our minds, it was going to be just like Willy Wonka's factory and we were going to be drowning in a chocolate fountain within minutes...) We're happy to announce that you do in fact get quite a bit of the good old brown stuff, including a cup of melted chocolate with additional confectionary of your choice. (We went for puffed rice, obv.) You also get to learn not only about how chocolate is made, but how it is marketed and a bit about the history of Cadbury as a brand. (There's also a REALLY SLOW ride, in a tiny car on fixed tracks, which we likened to being on some sort of chocolate-overdose-trip... worth it just for the silly photo.) NB This is a short train journey from central Brum, in a quaint area called Bourneville (yup, like the chocolate), where literally everything is painted purple.
Birmingham Back to Backs
You know what? We didn't know what they were either. Turns out Back-to-Backs are a type of housing that used to be very popular in the UK. This is the last remaining example of it in Birmingham. The houses have been restored to as they would have been from the 1840s - 1970s. We had a tour around this "stunning piece of social history" from a lovely chap called Robert, who clearly practised in the mirror. It was surprisingly interesting - just don't go if you're tall/claustrophobic. It's tiny. We couldn't quite believe how many people had squeezed into those bedrooms over the years. If nothing else, go for the sweet shop. The world just doesn't have enough old fashioned sweets, in our humble opinion.
Birmingham Royal Ballet at Birmingham Hippodrome
Get dressed up and watch some people prancing about - we recommend it. Not only did we feel very posh in our stalls seats, but we had the sense to pre-order some wine from the bar for the interval. Cue smugness. (Also we were relieved to find that we could take it back in again after the interval, or that would have been a very expensive 30 seconds.) Itchy caught Hobson's Choice but the company perform a range of shows throughout the year... and boy, do they do it with style.
So, there are our highlights. There's clearly far more to see in the area, from the Jewellery Quarter to the ridiculously extensive selection of shops on offer... but we're saving that for next time..
While you're exploring Birmingham, you're likely to get peckish. (We certainly did!) Check out our top five food and drink picks in the area and you'll never go hungry again.*
Itchy stayed at the Radisson Blu - perfectly positioned in the centre of town, meaning that nothing was too far away. We took advantage of the breakfast in bed, huge bed and amazing panoramic views from our very high up, glass-walled room. (Glass-walled aka a REALLY BIG WINDOW...) We'd recommend it if you want to be bang in the middle of the action.
* Oh, wait. No. That's a bit of a big promise. How about... you'll probably not get that hungry... in Birmingham... again? Yeah.