When most people think of Birmingham I'm sure their first thoughts are the Bullring or Spaghetti Junction but there is far more to the city than this and it pays to sometimes head away from the popular shopping areas to see what else there is to discover.
It has often been said that Birmingham has more canals than Venice as we do have an extensive canal network. A walk through Centenary Square to the bottom of Broad Street will bring you to Gas Street Basin and Brindley Place. Filled with a fantastic array of bars and restaurants where you can enjoy a canalside drink or why not walk the towpaths and find a new way to see the city. If you want to get closer to the water there are narrow boat cruises that really allow you to see whole new side to the city.
2. The Library of Birmingham
I know what you are all thinking how can such a large building be a hidden gem, well it can be as it is situated away from the main shopping areas of Birmingham. An imposing and unusual building with secret roof terraces it makes a great place to escape from the hustle and bustle of the city. Pack a picnic and enjoy the views from one of the two garden terraces across the skyline of the city.
3. The Great Western Arcade
Situated a stones throw from Snow Hill Station this arcade of shops is home to a fantastic selection of independent stores and always has the most pretty Christmas tree during the festive season. It is well worth a walk from Corporation Street and it feels like you have stepped back in time as you walk through and admire the architecture.
4. Museum and Art Gallery
Home to the Staffordshire Hoard, a beautiful collection of Pre-Raphaelite paintings and even some Egyptian mummies there is so much to see. A fantastic place for visitors of all ages there is plenty to captivate and inspire enquiring minds and entry is free. (My eight year old son loves it here). Once you are full to the brim with art there is a beautiful Edwardian tea room serving delicious food and drink.
5.Jakes Coffee Box
Nestled on a side street off Colmore Row in the heart of Birmingham's business district is a a coffee shop with a difference. The difference being it isn't actually a shop but an old red telephone box! Jake took the opportunity to acquire a disused telephone box and turn it into a coffee shop- the smallest one in Birmingham. Popular with commuters it is well worth stopping by for a re-fuel whilst pounding the streets of Birmingham!
6. The Oasis
The Oasis has been a long standing part of Birmingham's history and thankfully has survived all of the changes to the city over the years.I used to shop here in my student days! Hidden away off Corporation Street it is well worth seeking out. A rabbit warren of shops and stalls once you enter through the doors be prepared to get lost in the maze of floors that smell of patchouli oil. Vintage clothing, retro games, collectables, tattoo artists and more all nestle within and offer a truly alternative and unique shopping experience.
7. Indoor and Rag Markets
Thankfully despite all the changes to the city over the years the markets have remained and are a busy and very thriving area. Situated just behind the Bullring you can visit, the outdoor, indoor and Rag Markets. There is very little you can't buy here and a walk round on a Saturday afternoon can be really entertaining as the stall holders all shout over each other! There is everything from exotic fruits and vegetables, fish of every variety to snouts and trotters!
8. China Town
A short walk from the markets and you will find yourself in the Chinese Quarter and home to the Arcadian which at night comes alive with bars and restaurants. Filled with beautiful cafes and the most amazing Chinese Supermarket this an area not to be missed. If you visit during Chinese New Year you can watch the festivities including dancing dragons.
There you go those are my personal hidden gems of Birmingham make sure to check them out next time you visit, and also see how the city has evolved on the Travelodge blog.
*This post was written in conjunction with Travelodge but all words, pictures and opinions are my own.