• Five things to do in Birmingham (SBP – 24th September 2006)

    An article of mine from the Agenda section of today’s Sunday Business Post:

    In a nutshell: Once the industrial heart of England, Birmingham has managed to reinvent itself in recent years as a stylish and vibrant second city with much more to offer than you might first think.

    Recently moving away from its reputation as a concrete jungle, the city boasts a unique mixture of architecture and cultures spanning the centuries and the globe.

    Climate: Similar to Ireland. The city has recently seen an increase in small tornadoes, although these are rare.

    When to visit: During September, when Birmingham City Council holds its ArtsFest which features free dance, music and film exhibitions and shows at theatres, concert halls and open-air stages dotted across the city.

    How to get there: Aer Lingus (www.aerlingus.com) and Ryanair (www.ryanair.com) both have multiple flights to Birmingham from Dublin; Aer Lingus flies to the city from Cork airport every other day.

    Birmingham airport is linked by train to the city centre.

    Currency: Sterling; €1 = 0.67p.

    Useful sites: www.beinbirmingham.com

    1. Be bullish

    A prime example of the redevelopment work going on in the city is the Bullring shopping centre. Built on the site of an old market complex, the centre features countless high-end retailers including Selfridges, which is the city’s fashion epicentre. The traditional markets are not gone, however, as behind the centre is the Old Bullring, which opens on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays and hosts a wide array of small stalls.

    2. Overdose on chocolate

    A short trek outside the city centre is the original Cadbury factory in Bournville. Now a major attraction, the Cadbury World tour allows visitors to wander around at their own pace or as part of a guided tour through the history of the famous sweetmaker. The tour lets visitors taste fresh chocolate and acquaint themselves with the taste of cocoa, from which the chocolate is made.

    3. Let the day drift by

    If you are looking for an alternative way to see the city’s sights, you could do a lot worse than take a trip through its many canals.

    There are plenty left, mainly linking the city to the Black Country.

    Today, they tend to be used by tourists and residential boats.

    4.The Brummy Balti

    Due to its strong multicultural population, Birmingham became the source of a unique curry-style dish called Balti in the 1970s.

    The Balti Triangle in Birmingham has more than 50 ‘Balti houses’. This huge selection means you can be as adventurous as you want, although it is worth remembering that Balti houses do not have drinks licences, so bringing your own is welcomed.

    5. Get a rush

    Built on the site of an old mansion by the same name in the 1980s, Alton Towers, which is situated just north of Birmingham, is arguably England’s best-known amusement park. There are countless rides and shows on during the day with plenty to offer any age group.

    Day tickets cost about €35 for adults and €24 for kids. A family pass is also available. Special internet rates are sometimes available on the park’s website (www.altontowers.com).