Birmingham has been on my list of Christmas destinations for a couple of years now, and this was the year I managed to make a November getaway to the city.
Generally speaking, Birmingham tends not to be a very pretty city. Just like many people find Belfast or Derry.
In my case, I didn’t go in with unreasonable expectations of the city. There is hardly much information about it – in fact, I got to know its market thanks to the family I stayed with as an au pair – and my goal there was to enjoy the Christmas market – considered one of the most beautiful in the UK.
🗺 Things to do and see in Birmingham in a day
While it’s true that my trip lasted two days; one of them I spent almost entirely getting to the city, relaxing at the Hyatt Regency Birmingham spa and wandering around the Christmas market at night.
So I’ll show you the places to see in one day in Birmingham 👇
🚶♀Wander around the city centre
Unfortunately for me, and for those visiting Birmingham between 2018 and 2020, half of the city – and much of the city centre – is under construction. This means that certain places, such as the square where the Museum and Art Gallery is located, lose much of their charm. But overall, the city has its appeal.
🛳 Venture into the canal area
Birmingham is a city of canals. In fact, it has more kilometres of canals than Venice itself.
This is one of the most beautiful areas of the city. It is notable for its contrasting colours, where red brick buildings intermingle with charming little white-fronted shops.
The most famous area to start your canal walk is Sheborne Wharf. Gas Street is also a great option. It’s one of my favourite sights in the city, and it’s where the Worcester and Birmingham canals meet.
If you come in the summer, you can enjoy a few pints in one of the terraces located in this area.
But if you’re looking for a flashier option, the traditional boats are always the main alternative.
📚 Fall in love with its library
Any literature lover would go crazy to have one like this closer to home.
It’s a real sanctuary for book lovers. Admission is free, so remember to be respectful and don’t make too much noise inside.
The structure of the building is a real gem. With its unique style, it stands out from the surrounding buildings with its striking gold, black and blue tones. At night it is illuminated, which makes it an even more eye-catching place.
It is considered to be the largest public library in the UK, and one of the country’s most visited tourist attractions.
🛍 Go shopping in Bullring
Another of Birmingham’s iconic landmarks is the Bullring Shopping Centre.
It’s the city’s shopping area; where being tempted can be all too easy. So put your card away and get your camera out, it’s a very photogenic place!
The architecture of the buildings is impressive. The one that stands out the most is the building that houses Selfridges department store.
In fact, the building you’ll see below is an example of bloblitecture, an architectural movement that seeks to transform buildings into amoeba-like structures. Another of the best-known examples of this style is the Metropol – or the so-called mushrooms – in Seville.
The sunset from here is out of this world.
I told you to get your camera out, this building is the most photogenic thing you’ll find in the city.
The emblem of this place is its bronze bull in the main square.
Bullring is a place of contrasts, where buildings as novel as the one above coexist with one of the oldest churches in the city, St Martin’s. It’s an ideal place to take refuge.
It’s a great place to get out of the rain, grab a bite to eat or stroll around at Christmas time. Just make sure it’s not at the weekend – or at least not at a busy time.
At Christmas, they put up a giant tree by the church, and igloos in the odd pub.
Christmas markets are the ideal place to get caught up in the excitement of the season. Happiness vibrates in the atmosphere, the gifts are carefully prepared and anyone can feel like a child again at them.
And I’m not just saying that, there were more adults than children on the merry-go-round.
They’re also the place to find your Christmas decorations – if you’re the type to put up your Christmas tree.
Or where you can find an excuse to try all the sweets (and chocolate) that your body demands.
The date I chose to come to Birmingham couldn’t have been worse.
Just that week was the opening of the market, and, as you can imagine, on Saturday night – the day we arrived in the city – there was no room for a pin in the market.
I didn’t really enjoy it that day, so I decided to give it a try in the morning. And it was a wonderful idea.
There were hardly any people, except for us and a group of Chinese tourists. And, although it doesn’t have the same charm as in the evening, I was able to enjoy and stop at each of the stalls, see them in detail and take some souvenirs home with me.