Last year I spent a lot of time in Birmingham. Whilst down there I was shown around a lot of really cool, interesting places that I thought I would share with you. My visits mostly were over the weekends and included food, drink, culture and a beautiful park known as Lickey Hills.
I will start my post with a place that to me resembled the character of the Northern quarter in Manchester. With quirky pop ups shops, festivals and events - The Custard Factory is a must see. If not for the shopping definitely for the street art. The place is a canvas for colourful illustrative graffiti that brings the dull brickwork to life. I have included just a few of my favourite pieces i have found but I wouldn't want to ruin the experience so will leave you to discover them for yourselves. Inside of The Custard Factory you will find brightly coloured buildings not a million miles away from Balamory, with strings of lights flowing between them. There is also a massive looming sculpture of a tree like figure, anyone who has seen Guardians of the Galaxy might be reminded of a certain someone.
My first visit included a pop up vinyl shop, I'm an avid collector of vinyl and anything retro so I couldn't resist a little browse. The next time I went down they had left so I will note that if you see something you want get it, some of the places might not be stopping around for long. Next I discovered a craft beer shop called 'Clink' these guys have an amazing selection including limited edition bottles. Here in Knutsford we have one called 'Dexter and Jones', I am sucker for craft beer not just the flavours but the bottles.
My designer background makes me a little obsessed with packaging especially when its something so creative. I have been know to make the 200 mile round trip to pick myself up a couple of bottles! An American alternative metal band called Deftones released a beer with Belching Beaver Brewery in San Diego. I spent ages trying to get a bottle for the guy I was seeing at the time (they're his favourite band), but sourcing them in the UK was a nightmare. Then earlier this year they posted on Instagram that some had arrived in store, so I messaged them to reserve me a couple of bottles and drove over. They didn't disappoint! I drank one before seeing the band live in Manchester not long ago, it was delicious, and the other is proudly on display in my flat!
My last trip I stopped by the most recent addition was a bicycle themed cafe that I have forgotten the name of. Inside they sold tons of art and nerdy items including movie prints, mugs and other collectables. The cakes and coffees are top notch, quick service as well as a relaxed atmosphere and a pick and mix of tables and chairs gives the place a charming appearance. If you are looking for good food and drink though I would recommend 'The Mockingbird' it serves craft beers, wine, spirits and offers delightful bistro food. They hold a lot of events because it also has a 101 seat cinema. I really want to attend one of the classic film screenings, or movie marathons they have, in the past I have missed a couple of opportunities. I'm considering a trip over summer maybe early August, better keep an eye on tickets!
Our second stop is further out, Lickey Hills is one of Birmingham’s most varied and treasured parks. It covers 524 acres and is located just 10 miles south west of Birmingham. The place is perfect for an afternoon run, jog, walk with the kids, dogs or even a romantic stroll. I've been here several times and I'm such a nature lover that I could happily walk around for hours. Take a picnic with you on a summer day and just get lost, there are plenty of kids play areas but for the more adult of you I would recommend just going a little off path and heading deeper into the woodland.
Heading up these hills gives you some incredible views and a clear shot over all of Birmingham. Having been taken up here on late nights, it's a pretty beautiful sight when the city is all lit up. Very romantic and peaceful. You really can't beat hideaways like this, I love Delamere forest for the same reason and trips to the Lake District or Wales so it is amazing to find one so close to the city.
My final stop is in Birmingham city centre, now the national gallery is stunning if thats your thing, stocked full of oil canvas paintings and chocked full of history. But if a more modern style is what you're into a great little find is the IKON gallery, they change it up every so often and you don't quite know what you will get. It is set over just a few floors usually holding 2 or 3 exhibits of work. Personally, any gallery to me is interesting because you can get such weird and wonderful pieces in modern art places. As you can see in the photos its quite a cold building with stone floors and walls, giving it an industrial feel.
Now there is plenty on offer in the way of food from all your mainstream restaurant chains to pubs and bars. Walk down the canal and you will find a buzzing nightlife especially on a Saturday afternoon. Take in all the boats floating on the water, passing some delightful pubs and theres a lovely little restaurant quarter over the bridge, I really need to return here and tick a few off my list! The Bullring shopping centre is perfect if you want to do some retail therapy, its massive but I prefer to avoid the big hustle and bustle of shopping centres for a more unique experience of the city.
If you plan on going for a weekend I hope the recommendations help, it's a pretty awesome place and I find with any city I have every been too just walking around and getting lost you usually find the best places. Hopefully my next visit will include some new hotspots to show you as I am planning on going to one of The Custard Factory's record festivals very soon!
🍑 A B Y
Aby, 24. Northerner.