Birmingham Budget Guide
Birmingham is a vibrant metropolitan city, situated on the River Rea. It is Britain’s second largest city after London, with a population exceeding 1 million. Birmingham has undergone reconstruction and regeneration on a grand-scale in recent years. It now boasts a state-of-the-art library, beautifully restored Victorian buildings, top quality shopping centre above the transformed New Street Railway Station and a new tram-line route through the city centre. The striking Bullring and Mailbox shopping malls and the eye-catching Selfridges building ‘bubblewrapped’ façade have all added to the success of the Big City Plan.
Visit Birmingham and be amazed by the quantity and quality of attractions on offer. Walk along picturesque canals and waterside attractions, visit world-class museums and art galleries, tour round the Cadbury World and try the numerous cafes and restaurants, cool bars and artisan breweries. ‘Brum’, as the locals call it, is simply buzzing. Follow our tips for making the most of your visit to this great city on a limited budget.
How to get there
Birmingham is the second biggest city in England and is located just down the M40 motorway from London, a mere couple of hours drive from the United Kingdom’s capital, London! And like all major cities within the United Kingdom, there are multiple ways which one can travel into this city, whether it be by road, river, air, etc. And whilst some are very costly, there are other methods which are very cheap while some others are free! And within this guide, we will be looking at just some of these methods.
Well with regards to getting into Birmingham, there are various coach companies which can enable you to travel cheaply into this city. MegaBus is just one coach company which enables one to travel into and out of Birmingham, with fares beginning at just £1. Yet even if you didn’t fancy driving, you can also access Birmingham by Lift Share. With Lift Share, you agree in advance to travel to a certain destination by seeing if any drivers are heading in that direction and if they are willing to car share with you. If they are than you can catch a lift with them into Birmingham.
If however you happen to be travelling into Birmingham in a couple of months from now and are travelling from a great distance (perhaps somewhere else in Europe) than you may wish to travel by aeroplane, straight to Birmingham Airport, which is just a short distance from the actual city centre. Obviously the further out you book your flight, the cheaper it will be; and with lots of low-cost flight providers around (from Whizz Air to EasyJet, you certainly have a wide range of options).
Best Places to go
Yet on arriving into Birmingham, where are the best places to go? And where are the places to avoid? Well like many cities, there are certainly no go areas in Birmingham which as a tourist, you would probably not want to visit unless you are going with some specific aim. The reason for this is because these areas are high-crime areas; where muggings, assaults, etc. are a regular occurrence. Such areas include Handsworth and Lozell to name but a few. Yet having said that, there are nicer, more tranquil areas which you may wish to visit, such as Northfield or Lickey Hills country park in Birmingham.
As well as there being more pleasant and less pleasant areas to visit, there are areas designed specifically for tourism. One highly desirable tourist spot is Cadbury’s World, the home (and theme park) for Cadbury’s chocolate. There is enough entertainment at this location to keep the whole family amused for the day – and it is cheap to enter.
Birmingham New Street
Another tourist location is the Birmingham New Street which happens to be one of the UK’s largest high streets, with hundreds of different retail shops set up near and around the station. Also, connected to this shopping centre is the Bullring, a massive indoor shopping centre, containing a cinema, etc.
Visit the stunning Library of Birmingham
Opened in 2013, designed by Francine Houben, the Library of Birmingham is a great showcase for contemporary architecture. On the outside it looks like glittering stack of gift-wrapped presents and the spiralling interior features a subterranean amphitheatre and viewing decks.
Take the glass elevator to the 7th floor and take in panoramic views over Birmingham from the ‘secret garden’. You will find archive resources, rare book collections, gallery spaces, gift shop, over 160 computers and a great cafe. Kids love the labyrinthine layout and the colourful inspiring paintings, plus access is completely free.
Cadbury World for all the family
Look out for 2-for-1 offers for this great attraction and other good value promotions such as family tickets. You can easily spend the whole day here as there is so much to see and do. Learn how your favourite chocolate bars and confectionery are made and uncover the history of Cadbury chocolate. Kids of all ages will love playing in the chocolate rain and sampling a delicious pot of melted Cadbury Dairy Milk after adding their own favourite topping.
The 4D cinema experience, complete with motion seats, takes you on a Chocolate Adventure that features Cadbury’s most popular characters. There are lots of amazing zones including the origins of the cocoa bean where the Aztec Jungle is recreated. Allow plenty of time to make the most of your visit and have a thoroughly enjoyable day.
BBC Visitor Centre and Blue Room – not to be missed
The BBC Birmingham Mailbox is a fabulous freebie and offers visitors a rare opportunity to glimpse behind the scenes. Go on an exciting guided tour to experience the world of TV, radio and online broadcasting at the BBC. The tour guides are full of insider stories that will surprise and amaze and tell you how production teams can work right up to the last minute before a TV or radio show goes live. Not to be missed as no two tours or visits are the same!
Visiting the BBC Blue Room is a must and lets you see tomorrow’s BBC, today. There is also a free interactive exhibition and the latest BBC 360⁰ videos on show. Plus there are fabulous collections of costums and props from BBC TV Shows, old and new. You can have your photo taken alongside Doctor Who’s Tardis and other memorabilia from the show or sit behind the Strictly Come Dancing desk. In the ‘Be on TV’ area you can have fun presenting a weather report or the news.
Internationally acclaimed Ikon contemporary art gallery
Birmingham’s Ikon Gallery is housed in a impressive neo-gothic Grade II listed building and is a celebration of contemporary art in all its forms including painting, sound, mixed media, photography, sculpture, film and installation. Prepare yourself to be thrilled, outraged and/or bemused, by the exciting and perplexing conceptual art on display.
With regularly changing exhibits and events, access to the whole building is free of charge. A great hit with children is the singing lift designed by Turner Prize winner Martin Creed. The gallery also runs free Family Saturdays, stay as long as you like and enjoy creating your own masterpiece! The gallery’s Café Opus provides a relaxed setting for a tasty lunch, a delicious afternoon tea or an evening meal.
Green Spaces abound in the city
Take time out for a gentle stroll round some of Birmingham’s green parks and gardens. Cannon Hill Park in Moseley is full of lush trees and well-kept flower beds, as well as having tennis courts, childrens mini fun-fair, boating lake and mini-golf course. The Birmingham Botanical Gardens and Glasshouses, located in Edgbaston, are a 15 acre delightful oasis of nature at its best.
Eat well for less in Birmingham
You can eat like a king or queen without breaking the bank in the city, from breakfast through to dinner and choose from an amazingly diverse range of cuisines. One such example is Jyotis, a fantastic Gujarati veggie restaurant serving delicacies such as patra, a mouth watering speciality of stuffed, rolled colocassia leaves and mogo chips. Great food at even greater prices.
On Friday nights don’t miss the Digbeth Dining Club under the arches of Lower Trinity Street. Since 2012 it has attracted a diverse range of street food vendors who serve amazing selections of dishes. Birmingham has shellfish restaurants, South Asian cafes and even Ethiopian cuisine at the Jewellery Quarter restaurant. All pocket friendly for the adventurous foodie.
When it comes to staying over at Birmingham, near the city centre are a large amount of cheap budget hotels within which you can stay in, from a Travelodge to a Premier Inn. And with good public transport links within and around the city, you’d certainly be able to get anywhere you want very quickly!
If you happen to also get hold of a Swift Travel card, you would also be able to pay in advance for a days’ worth of travel on the trains, buses, etc. Essentially you can see the whole city and on a budget!