Birmingham 10 Interesting Facts

10 surprising facts about Birmingham in England


Birmingham, Britain’s second-largest city, was known in the Victorian period as the ‘workshop of the world’ but more recently has become a magnet for short-break visitors.

You’ll discover a vibrant city full of culture, shopping, dining, architecture and history. If you’re looking for something a little different, however, we’ve put together a few interesting facts about Birmingham that may surprise you.

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1. Inspiration for the Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit

Game of Thrones Swords
Swords

It is a little-known fact that J. R. Tolkien grew up in and around Birmingham from the age of four and it was the city landscape and surrounding countryside that provided some of the inspiration for sagas such as The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit.

‘The Shire’, home to the Hobbits was inspired by the fields and mill at Sarehole, a village now absorbed into Birmingham’s suburbs.

Still clearly visible today are Perrott’s Folly and the Waterworks Tower in Edgbaston along with the University of Birmingham’s illuminated clock tower. Their inspiration can be seen in The Lord of the Rings.


2. The City has more open space than Paris

Another surprising fact is how green Birmingham is. With more than 600 parks covering 8,000 acres, Birmingham is one of the UK’s greenest cities and has more open space than Paris.

Sutton Park, one of the largest urban parks in Europe, is a National Nature Reserve where visitors can enjoy heathland, marshes, woodland and lakes along with fishing, cycling, bird-watching and golf.


3. Birmingham Bullring – home to markets since the 12th century

Selfridges building at the Bullring shopping centre
Selfridges building at the Bullring shopping centre

The futuristic architecture of the Birmingham Bullring was unveiled in 1999 and is one of the largest shopping centres in Europe and the third most popular place to shop in the UK.

The site has been home to both indoor and outdoor markets since the 12th century.

When work started on the present building many surprising archaeological discoveries were made, some of which can be viewed in the fascinating Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery, located at Chamberlain Square in the center of the city.


4. Full of surprising and interesting foodie facts

For lovers of gastronomy, Birmingham is full of surprising and interesting foodie facts. Apart from London, Birmingham is home to more Michelin-starred restaurants than anywhere else in the UK.

These sit alongside over 100 Balti houses, many of which are found in the city’s ‘Balti Triangle’. Household culinary names like Cadbury, Bourneville, HP, Typhoo and Bird’s all started life in the city.


5. Richest man in the late 18th-century

If you think Bill Gates is rich, then you’ll be impressed by industrialist Matthew Boulton.

At his pioneering peak, his personal fortune was equivalent to twice that of Microsoft’s Bill Gates. In the late 18th-century, he lived in the elegant Soho House where he hosted meetings of the Lunar Society.


6. More canals than Venice

Birmingham Canal in the city centre
Birmingham Canal

On the subject of canals, with nearly 35 miles of them, Birmingham actually has more than Venice in Italy.

Pick up a boat from the romantically named Gas Street Basin and take a city tour.

Cruising the canals soothes away the stresses of daily life while giving you a different perspective on the city.

Enjoy views of the restored industrial mills, workshops and warehouses or admire some stunning modern architecture, like the Cube.


7. Tradition of English stained glass

Although many visitors, pop into Birmingham Cathedral not many realise that its stained glass windows were designed by Edward Burne-Jones, a prominent member of the 19th-century Pre-Raphaelite.

Burne-Jones revitalised the tradition of English stained glass and a blue plaque commemorates his Birmingham birthplace at Bennetts Hill. You can view the world’s largest collection of Pre-Raphaelite paintings in the Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery.


8. Arrive leisurely by narrow boat

With its central location, Birmingham is within 4-hours of 90% of the rest of the United Kingdom, meaning paying a visit couldn’t be easier. Birmingham Airport sees a full schedule of flights while the city is a major rail hub.

The M42, M6 and M5 provide fast road links in all directions but some visitors choose to arrive leisurely by narrow boat. They make use of the Worcester & Birmingham and Grand Union canals, mooring up in the city centre.


9. Home to a vibrant metal scene

If heavy metal is more your cup of tea, then you’ll be happy to hear that it has a Birmingham connection.

Black Sabbath, Led Zeppelin and Judas Priest all played their first gigs in the city and today, Birmingham is still home to a vibrant metal scene played out in venues such as the Tunnel Club and Scruffy Murphy’s.


10. Britain’s busiest theatre

Theatre curtain UK
Theatre

With its modern exterior and contrasting neo-classical auditorium, the Birmingham Hippodrome puts on a year-round extravaganza of pantomime, dance, theatre and musicals, staging many big West End shows as they go on tour.

With a seating capacity of nearly 2,000 and almost 6,000 ticket sales a year it has the distinction of being Britain’s busiest theatre.