A Guide to Birmingham for Chinese Visitors
Our concierge team has put together a guide especially for independent Chinese travellers visiting Birmingham in England.
Birmingham is the UK’s second-largest city and it has a wealth of history and culture on offer. Our Rotunda serviced apartments are in a superb location in the city centre, so you can make the most of this vibrant city with top-class culture, food, shopping and sport on hand. Step off the tourist trail and discover this fascinating English city with its rich history.
At Staying Cool we offer a bespoke welcome pack for our Chinese guests. Once you’ve checked in and rested from your journey, it’s time to explore with plenty of recommendations for where to stop for food and drinks.
STRETCH YOUR LEGS
Turn left out of the main door at the Rotunda and walk along New Street, which is lined with shops. After just a couple of minutes’ walk, you’ll come out into the elegant Victoria Square. It’s surrounded by grand buildings from the 18th and 19th century. Victoria Square is often used for cultural events and festivals. Stalls for Birmingham’s Frankfurt Christmas Market fill the square each winter and run all the way back down to our apartments.
At the top of the square, you’ll find BMAG (Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery). This outstanding piece of Victorian architecture displays treasures such as the Anglo-Saxon Staffordshire Hoard. It also has the largest collection of art created by the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood. Entrance to BMAG is free and we recommend its historic Edwardian Tearooms for a traditional afternoon tea.
THE LIBRARY OF BIRMINGHAM
Just a couple of minutes’ walk from BMAG is The Library of Birmingham in Centenary Square. This is one of the city’s most photographed buildings with its ultra-modern exterior clad in metal hoops. Take escalators up through the building to admire the equally-stunning interior.
Not far from the library lies The Mailbox development. If you love to shop, then don’t miss the Harvey Nichols department store for high-end European clothes and beauty brands.
After The Mailbox, take a canal-side walk and work up an appetite. For a fun dining experience, track down Rodizio Rico at The Cube on Commercial Street. This restaurant celebrates Brazilian food and music. If you’d prefer Indian cuisine, the renowned Itihass restaurant is found on Fleet Street, which takes you back towards the Victorian heart of the city. Check out our blog The Good Food Guide: Birmingham Restaurants for more suggestions.
Walk for a few minutes through the city centre to Birmingham Cathedral at Colmore Row. This rare example of English Baroque architecture was begun in 1715. St Philip’s is a beautiful old building surrounded by lawns, which makes it the perfect spot for a summer picnic.
Not picnic weather? Purnell’s, a Michelin-starred restaurant, is close to the cathedral on Cornwall Street. For something more casual, try Asha’s for excellent Indian cuisine or the Damascena Coffee House on Temple Row for tempting Middle Eastern food and drinks. You can find out more about the Michelin-starred dining options available in the city in our Michelin Starred Restaurants Birmingham blog.
THE JEWELLERY QUARTER
If you’ve done enough walking, why not hop on a tram to take you a couple of stops to Birmingham’s Jewellery Quarter? As the name suggests, this is a wonderful place to admire or buy jewellery. The trade has been established here for hundreds of years and there are over 100 independent jewellers here. There’s an enormous choice on offer or you can commission a unique piece here. If you’d like to learn more about the history of the area, visit The Museum of the Jewellery Quarter, an extraordinary time capsule with live demonstrations at the jeweller’s bench.
In recent years, the Jewellery Quarter has also flourished as a location for cafes, bars and restaurants, such as The Wilderness, a Staying Cool favourite found on Warstone Lane. The Jamhouse combines live music with good food and the chance to let loose and dance!
Is football an obsession? If so, Birmingham is an amazing place to indulge your passion. Premier League teams Birmingham City and Aston Villa have their stadiums here. You can travel to Wolves’ home of Wolverhampton in under half an hour by train from Birmingham city centre and The Hawthorns train station for West Brom is just ten minutes by train.
If football holds isn’t your thing, then perhaps a little shopping is in order? Our serviced apartments are found in the Rotunda building, which is right next to the Bullring shopping centre. This striking, modern development contains over 200 shops. Many of our Chinese guests really appreciate being so close to the great shops that Birmingham has on offer.
The Selfridges & Co department store dominates the Bullring. Its space-age exterior skin wrapped over curved walls is hugely photogenic. Inside, you’ll find a superb beauty hall with iconic European brands such as Chanel, Dior, Guerlain and LANCÔME. Designer clothing and accessories are also on offer from brands such as Balenciaga, Gucci, Cartier, Burberry and Vivienne Westwood. Louis Vuitton has its own standalone shop at the Bullring.
If you want a quick bite to eat, the food court in the basement of Selfridges offers lots of choice ranging from burgers at Ed’s Easy Diner to Yo! Sushi.
Once you’ve explored the Bullring head back to your Rotunda apartment. It’s perfectly located for shopping then dropping your bags off before…more shopping. You’ll find Zara, an excellent mid-end women’s clothing brand from Spain just to the right of our main door. Head down New Street for Watches of Switzerland, which offers Rolex, Piguet, Breitling and more. One of our favourite places to grab a bite to eat close to the Rotunda is Medicine Bakery and Kitchen. It’s hidden away on New Street in a beautiful Victorian building that used to house the Royal Birmingham Society of Artists. Visit our Dining Out section of our Guest Guide for more recommendations on places to drink and dine.
If you are looking for funky, unique items then check out the Shopping In Birmingham website. Birmingham is a very creative city and this website has details of all of the city’s shops including independents.
There’s so much to do in the centre of Birmingham that 48 hours doesn’t really do justice to the city. Love contemporary art? IKON gallery is found in an old red-brick building but what’s inside is strictly cutting edge.
Love science? ThinkTank is the city’s museum of science (and especially good for children). Love the ocean? Take a look at the National SeaLife Centre.
Would you like to see a show while you are in the UK? The Birmingham Hippodrome sells more tickets than any other in the UK, including those in London. It’s the perfect place to enjoy a musical with West End productions touring from London – recent hits include Matilda, Miss Saigon and Les Miserables.
CHINESE QUARTER BIRMINGHAM
Chinese emigrants have been living in Birmingham for many years. You’ll find Birmingham’s Chinese Quarter close to the Hippodrome theatre in the Southside District of the city. Thousands of people celebrate Chinese New Year here each year, but it is popular year-round for its Chinese shops and restaurants.
Perhaps you would like to go further afield for your last morning in Birmingham? The University of Birmingham lies in a leafy suburb called Edgbaston. The university has its own train station, which can be reached in just seven minutes from Birmingham’s main train station, New Street. The central university buildings are very fine and dominated by ‘Old Joe’, the world’s tallest free-standing clock tower – a Birmingham icon.
You’ll also find the Barber Institute of Fine Arts here. The collection is outstanding, with pieces from world-greats such as Van Gogh, Monet, Renoir and Gaugin.
South of the city centre lies Bournville Village, which has a very interesting history. Bournville is a model village created by the chocolate-making Cadbury family around 1900. The Cadbury factory was relocated here and the family decided to build homes for their workers. Bournville was designed to keep people happy, healthy and fit. As a result, this area has lots of green spaces and the houses – built in the Arts and Crafts style – still look wonderful.
As we’re talking chocolate, how about a visit to Cadbury World in Bournville Village? It’s one of Birmingham’s most popular destinations with different chocolate zones and the world’s biggest Cadbury shop.
TOP TRIP FOR CHINESE VISITORS TO THE UK?
An alternative trip is taking the train to Bicester Village, a high-end discount shopping outlet. This is one of the most popular UK destinations for Chinese travellers. From Birmingham Moor Street you can catch a direct train to Bicester Village and then take a short journey on a shuttle bus. There you’ll find iconic British brands such as Alexander McQueen, Anya Hindmarch, Barbour and Paul Smith plus many more – all at reduced prices.
WHERE TO STAY IN BIRMINGHAM
We hope that you’ve enjoyed our guide to 48 hours in Birmingham for Chinese visitors. Our serviced apartments are in an excellent location just a couple of minutes’ walk from Birmingham’s New Street and Moor Street train stations. The apartments range from two-bedroom penthouses to studios and rates start at just £99 per night for two people. We love to welcome Chinese travellers to Birmingham. We hope that you’ll choose us to be part of your trip.