Taking in England’s “Second City”  

Anyone who travels to England from a foreign country usually has just one destination in mind, London. Now that is perfectly understandable as, from a point of honesty, London is without question the best city on the British Isles. Actually, London is the greatest city on the earth. However, if you have a sustained amount of time and want to see what other cities Britain has on offer, then you should take a trip up the M40 to England’s Second City (Birmingham).

If you are without a car, do not worry. Trains to the city are easy. You should find trains running throughout the day from London Euston train station to Birmingham New Street. Also, from New Street you can practically get to every city in England directly, which is perfect if you were hoping to see more of the country.

So why Birmingham?

Well, it is one of the most culturally diverse cities in the UK. There is a strong Asian influence within the city as well as a fairly sizeable Irish community. It is written that Birmingham’s St Patrick’s Day parade is the third largest in the world after New York and Dublin.

For those that do go to Birmingham, here are just some of the places that you should try and visit.

The Belfry

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Located just outside the city is one of the most famous golf courses in Britain. The Belfry has hosted more Ryder Cup matches than any other course in the world. One of the most notable competitions in recent history was the 2001 Ryder Cup, which was held in 2002 following the September 11 attacks.

Whether you were planning on playing on one of the three immaculate courses or just watching the pros go to work, you will undoubtedly have fun. The Belfry offers you the chance to follow in the footsteps of Tiger Woods. Hopefully you will be able to evoke memories of perennial golf betting favourite Tiger Woods, rather than the post extra-marital activity scandal Woods.

The Balti Triangle

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As previously mentioned, Birmingham has a large Asian minority in the city, giving the city a very unique feel. With a large Asian community, you would expect to find some decent curry in the city. And you are exactly right.

A Balti is a curry that was invented in Birmingham and is delicious. For anyone who likes curry, a trip to the Balti Triangle will be like taking a trip to your culinary paradise. This triangle is packed with a seemingly endless amount of curry houses, some of which are no more than people’s front room.

Curry has always been a no-nonsense affair. There is no pretence, just bold flavours and that is exactly what the Balti Triangle is. It’s no-frills and cheap and cheerful, but at the same time they serve the best curry outside of Asia. And if you needed even more of an incentive, most of the restaurants operate a bring your own beer service. That is something that will change your world and most definitely your state of consciousness.

Cadbury World

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Everyone in the world should be familiar with the chocolaty goodness of Cadbury. If you haven’t tasted a Dairy Milk before, you really haven’t lived. To showcase just how popular Cadbury chocolate is, look at the current frenzy in America to stock up on it following Hershey’s lawsuit to block imported Cadbury chocolate.

What Birmingham would look like if it hadn’t been for John and Benjamin Cadbury makes for much interest. The two ploughed so much money into the city and even made their own model village, Bournville, so their workers could be closer to the factory.

Cadbury World is that factory and today it is open to the public. Here you can see the whole process from bean to bar. Not only do you get educated in the picking and the transportation process of the cocoa beans, but you also get to see how it is made, packaged, advertised and much more. Unsurprisingly the factory has the largest Cadbury shop in the whole world, and yes, before you ask, you do get given copious amounts of free confectionary.

The Bullring

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For those hoping to get some shopping done then a trip to the Bullring is needed. This shopping complex is one of the more attractive shopping centres in the world. The exterior cladding of the Selfridges building – one of just four Selfridges in the UK – is instantly recognisable.

Unlike nearly every other shopping centre in the world, the Bullring actually has a rich history. Just adjacent to the Bullring is the Birmingham market, and it was here on the two combined sites that market traders first started making a living back in the 12th Century.

While the history may be nice, the shops are even better. Victoria’s Secret, Armani, Apple, Bose, Versace and Debenhams are just some of the stores located there.

The Canals

DSC04587by  House of Hall 

One of the first things outsiders get told by Brummies – Birmingham natives – is that Birmingham has had more miles of canal than Venice. It is a fact that takes some getting your head around, but it is true. Birmingham has 35 miles of canal, most of which are navigable. Venice has 26 miles.

When the sun is out, walking around the canals makes for a fantastic afternoon. By going down to the towpath you can effectively leave the city behind and take solace in the tranquillity of the canals. What is really great about the canals, however, is they literally take you right into the very heart of the city and are littered with various pubs and restaurants.

Rainbow

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For those that like to go out and party whenever they go to a new city then a trip to the Rainbow nightclub in Digbeth is where you want to be. The nightclub is included in the 2014 DJMag Top 100 Clubs in the world.

Since opening in 2004, Rainbow has gone on to become one of the best-loved clubs in Britain. With a tendency for cutting edge house music, it is very much the dance music hub of the Midlands. Not only does it attract big names but it also promotes new, undiscovered talent. The nights put on by local promotion Shadow City attract vast numbers of young club goers from around the country and are normally sell-out gigs.

There is so much to see in this superb city, even more so if you head there in five years’ time. Birmingham is currently undergoing yet another redevelopment scheme and, with a budget of £500 million to play with, expect the city to get even better. There are murmurs circulating around the city that the council are looking for a notable piece of artwork – drawing inspiration from Chicago’s Cloud Gate – and have a kitty of £10 million set aside to make it happen.

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