Moving to Birmingham
Even just a decade ago, talk of a move to Birmingham would probably have been met with looks of surprise and sympathy. England’s second city was hit hard by the blitz and rebuilt a mostly grey concrete urban landscape. Situated in the centre of the country, and without a river or coastline to give it a particular geographic identity, Birmingham found it hard to shake an undeserved reputation as characterless and utilitarian for many years.
All Brummies are eager to educate any skeptics on their favourite facts about their city however – it has over 500 parks, the most of any European city; the canal system is bigger than Venice’s; and there’s more Michelin starred restaurants here than anywhere else in the country outside London. So, you better take the next turning off the Spaghetti Junction and find out more. There’s really no excuse.
The housing market in Birmingham has a lot of variety. There’s no denying that the city has a lot of inequality and this difference between richer and poorer areas is reflected in the average house price of £170,000. However, it’s worth mentioning that the more popular neighbourhoods for families and young professionals such as Moseley and Harborne, actually have average prices closer to £240,000. These areas are popular with renters too, but many stay close to the city centre for easy access to work and nightlife. A modern 1 bed flat costs around £650 per month.
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As the second city, Birmingham has many cultural institutions that are internationally recognised and acclaimed. The City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra plays regular concerts and the Symphony Hall and Town Hall, the two main venues for mostly classical programmes. The Royal Ballet has its home at the Hippodrome and the Opera Company is well known for avant-garde performances in unusual derelict spaces.
You can explore Birmingham’s art collections throughout the city, the largest being Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery in the central square, and the smaller Ikon Gallery is best for contemporary art. The Barber Gallery is a hidden gem on the campus of University of Birmingham, it’s a great place to spend a peaceful couple of hours. The Midland Art Centre(MAC) is a favourite for families and can get very busy at school holidays and weekends. It has a varied programme and a lovely setting in Cannon Hill Park.
Edgbaston Cricket Ground is on the north side of Cannon Hill Park, and when visitors pack the venue for test matches and one day internationals there’s a buzz throughout the city. The same is true of derby days for the rival football teams of Aston Villa and Birmingham City.
The Bullring shopping centre , with its eye-catching design is hard to miss. It sits at one end of New Street, the main pedestrianised shopping street, making it easy to navigate up towards the new Grand Central shopping complex at New Street train station, and onwards to the Mailbox for more high-end shops.
If all of that wasn’t enough to have you feeling confident about your Christmas shopping every year, the whole city centre is taken over by the traditional Frankfurt Christmas market every winter. There’s no need to take a flight to get your seasonal fix of gluwein and bratwurst as this is the largest market of its kind outside of Germany and Austria.
Birmingham has long been flying the flag for modern British cooking. Two more restaurants gained Michelin stars here in as many years, taking the city’s total number of restaurants with this accolade to an impressive five. Another type of British cooking that is celebrated all over the city is the curry. The Balti was invented in Birmingham and there are plenty of places to try out the dish in the area to the east of the city centre, known as theBalti Triangle . Ask the locals for recommendations of the best curry houses. You’ll get a different answer every time, but you’ll never be disappointed.
Once you’ve lined your stomach, it’s time to sample the city’s nightlife. The Arcadian is a popular area of bars that will please most tastes, and in Digbeth there’s an edgier, more independent vibe fitting to its surroundings of warehouses and creative studios.
If independent is your thing, head on over to the Sunflower Lounge before ending the evening in Snobs for dirt cheap drinks. Cocktail bars are popping up in new spaces in the city centre at quite a rate. Colmore Row in particular has quickly transformed from a forgettable business area to a trendy nightspot.
Like most university cities, it’s the student population that keeps the bars and clubs so well patronised. But when this group aren’t imbibing, you can find them at any of the five universities here. University of Birmingham is a traditional Red Brick, outside the city centre in Edgbaston. The campus is beautiful, the centerpiece being Old Joe, the tallest freestanding clock tower in the world. Just across the road from the campus is King Edward’s School, one of the best fee-paying schools in the country. The University has also recently opened a secondary school of its own, the first of its kind, a free school focusing of excellence in teaching.
Education is one of the main industries in the city, along with public administration and health. There are two large conference centres in Birmingham which dominate the UK’s exhibitions and conference trade. Other industries like textiles and motor manufacturing have come and gone over the years, but one that has stood the test of time is jewellery. There are hundreds of independent makers still based in the city’s Jewellery Quarter, an area well worth a visit too.
Birmingham is an expansive place, full of contradictions, you might feel like you have to work hard to get to know it. This city and its people have been through many changes over the years, now it’s blossoming and feels more welcoming to new arrivals than ever.