Catch a flight to Birmingham, England’s unexpected gem
Once a sooty industrial centre, Birmingham has become England’s most surprising new tourist attraction. Its cultural offerings and burgeoning food scene now rival London’s.
One of only two working water mills in Birmingham, Sarehole Mill attracts history buffs and JRR Tolkien fans alike. The beloved author spent part of his childhood here, describing it as “a kind of lost paradise.” It’s said that the mill and nearby Moseley Bog provided inspiration for the Shire, home to Bilbo and Frodo in The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit.
For less fictional rings, travellers head to the Jewellery Quarter, one of the city’s most vibrant districts. Dating back more than 250 years, it produces 40% of the jewellery manufactured in the UK, and is the site of Birmingham’s last remaining Georgian square.
Hometown to Ozzy Osbourne, Led Zeppelin’s Robert Plant and John Bonham, and Judas Priest, Birmingham is the birthplace of heavy metal.
The city’s more recent musical successes include its symphony orchestra, brought to international fame in the ’80s and ’90s by conductor Simon Rattle.
These days, music lovers keep their fingers on the pulse of the Birmingham scene upstairs at the Bull’s Head Pub, where the hottest new acts debut.
With more Michelin-starred restaurants than any other city in England outside of London, Birmingham offers travellers their pick of places to eat well. Purnell’s is a favourite thanks to its unusual food combinations, including its signature Egg Yolk, Smoked Haddock Foam milk and Cornflakes.
Fine dining abounds in Birmingham, but its heart and soul belong to the Balti, a Kashmiri curry imported and adapted by the city’s South Asian communities. Foodies in the know make their way down Ladypool Road in the so-called Balti Triangle for the best of this new British classic.