Guide to Southside: Birmingham’s Chinatown and the Gay Village
One of the best things about Staying Cool at Rotunda? Some of Birmingham’s best cultural attractions are just a heartbeat away. Today we’re taking a peek at Southside.
Take a short walk from our Rotunda apartments and penthouses and you’ll discover one of the most colourful and diverse areas of the city which is famed for its nightlife and world class culture.
Southside District is home to top class theatres, Birmingham’s Gay Village and Chinatown.
You can also see some of the hottest music acts at the O2 Academy, which has recently hosted performances from the likes of Rag ‘n’ Bone Man and Ellie Goulding, alongside emerging artists and club nights.
You might find it hard to choose where to eat, drink and dance thanks to the number of bars, restaurants and clubs in Southside, which runs from New Street station, along Bristol Street and around the new Smithfield Markets quarter and Hurst Street.
The Arcadian in Hurst Street, with its mix of bars, restaurants and shops, is a great place to start exploring.
Southside has a truly international flavour with restaurants offering food from around the world.
But it’s best known as the home of Chinatown, which has been serving up the finest Asian cuisines since the Rotunda first graced Birmingham’s skyline in the 1960s.
The city’s iconic Gay Village, which is based around Hurst Street, is also central to Southside’s vibrant atmosphere and thriving nightlife with many of its buzzing bars and clubs hosting cabaret and drag evenings.
Each year it’s at the heart of Birmingham’s hugely popular annual Pride festival which attracts around 70,000 visitors.
There are so many great places to visit in Southside you’re spoilt for choice. But here’s our guide to Southside to get you started.
The Beatles, Judy Garland and Frank Sinatra are just some of the famous names who’ve graced Birmingham Hippodrome’s stage.
Today audiences flock to the theatre to see hit musicals and West End shows like Hairspray and Mamma Mia! along with comedy from the likes of Jimmy Carr and Romesh Ranganathan.
The Hippodrome’s also home to Birmingham’s renowned Royal Ballet, currently directed by Latin American dance superstar Carlos Acosta.
Don’t miss the panto too. This year Jason Donovan is set to star in Goldilocks & The Three Bears from December 18 until January 30.
You’ll find everything you need to know about upcoming shows in the Whats On section of the Hippodrome’s website.
This Japanese sushi restaurant in Bristol Street, which sources fresh ingredients from around the world, must be doing something right.
Food critic Jay Rayner gave it a rave review within a month of its opening declaring it an “utter delight”. Not bad for a man whose job makes him hard to please.
Gaijin Sushi offers a dining experience with a difference too. You are invited to sit with its chef and ask questions while watching a masterclass in how to create sushi.
Birmingham Back to Backs
Next door to the Hippodrome is a historic gem. Step back in time and enjoy a glimpse into the lives and homes of ordinary people who helped make the city extraordinary with a guided tour of Birmingham’s Back to Backs.
These small houses on Hurst Street are the last surviving example in the region of 19th century homes literally built back to back around a communal courtyard.
The National Trust runs pre-bookable guided tours. With fires burning in the grates and sounds and smells from the past it’s easy to imagine the likes of George Saunders, who was the last person to leave Court 15, hard at work in his tailor’s shop.
The Glee Club
If you’re up for a laugh then head over to the first purpose built comedy club outside of London.
The Glee has played host to comedy greats including Peter Kay, Jo Brand, John Bishop and Michael McIntyre along with Brum’s very own home-grown funnyman Joe Lycett.
You can enjoy a side-order of burgers, pizzas and curries with most shows.
Just try not to laugh too hard while eating your chocolate churros.
Discover whats on and buy your tickets here.
The Nightingale Club
The Nightingale Club at the heart of the Gay Village in Kent Street is a Birmingham institution.
It’s the city’s oldest and largest LGBTQ+ venue. With its own talented drag performers, three floors of music, five bars and past performances from the likes of pop icons Alexandra Burke and German techno trio Cascada, it’s a fabulous night out.
Chung Ying Cantonese
This award-winning and family run restaurant at the heart of Chinatown has been wowing customers for more than 40 years.
It’s even credited as being the catalyst for the creation of Birmingham’s Chinese quarter.
With an extensive menu featuring dim sum made freshly on site and other classic Cantonese dishes you won’t be short of choice. There are plenty of vegetarian and vegan options too.
Chung Ying is in Ladywell Walk, just a stone’s throw from The Hippodrome and Arcadian Centre making it the perfect place for a meal before heading to the theatre or out for drinks.
Quarter Horse Coffee
Birmingham’s first independent coffee house and roastery is also on Bristol Street.
The flavour of its coffee is so good it’s where we source the blends you’ll find in our apartments.
Quarter Horse makes single origin coffees and blends from high quality beans ethically sourced from around the world.
You might catch a glimpse of it being roasted while visiting. You might also enjoy the aroma of baking bread which is made daily on the premises, including cinnamon buns, breakfast baps and vegan breads for breakfast and brunch.
If you fancy making your own coffee at home you can pick up everything you need.
Quarter Horse also offers a subscription service so you’ll never run out of your favourite drink in the morning again.
Or how about signing up for a masterclass with its most experienced barista?
Pop into the colourful Caffe Chino in the Arcadian for bubble teas, coffee, pretty gelato flower ice creams, Chinese buns and a range of savoury snacks.
If you’ve got kids – they’ll thank you for it.
With a menu full of unusual and innovative flavours and treats like good old fashioned candy floss they’ll be spoilt for choice.
Caffe Chino’s renowned for making luxury bespoke cakes too.
Did you enjoy our Guide to Southside? Fancy exploring more of Birmingham? Check out our Guides to Digbeth and The Jewellery Quarter.