Forget dark, satanic mills and concrete flyovers. England’s second city has come on leaps and bounds in the last two decades and, today, Birmingham stands as a vibrant, multicultural city renowned for its art, entertainment, eating and shopping scenes.

But don’t just take our word for it. Many Hollywood heavyweights including Steven Spielberg, have chosen to set their blockbusters in the city and it’s also been selected to host the 2022 Commonwealth Games.

The bottom line? Birmingham is buzzing, so here are six amazing Birmingham experiences you need to try once in your life.

Birmingham Bullring

Enjoy Birmingham’s beloved balti 

There are around 845 eateries in Birmingham, meaning the city is yours for the tasting. 

However, if you try just one dish, make it a balti over in the landmark Balti Triangle” area of the city where the legendary curry concept began.

Birmingham balti (a stir-fry curry) is made and served in one stainless steel bowl, and traditionally eaten with the fingers using naan bread, so ditch the cutlery, get stuck in and thank us later.

Birmingham Balti

Cruise the canals

With around 32 miles of canals, many of which were built in the 1760s during the Industrial Revolution to transport goods, Birmingham has more canals than Venice – who knew?

The canal paths, lined with lively bars and restaurants, are a great place for a stroll. Alternatively, board a boat and spend a relaxing afternoon cruising through Birmingham’s historic waterways.

Birmingham's Canal Network

Park life

Birmingham may have been built on the back of heavy industry but, perhaps surprisingly, a huge amount of the city has been given over to green space. 

In fact, Birmingham is one of the greenest cities in the country with more parks than any other equivalent sized European city and some six million trees, according to Birmingham City Council. 

Two of the most beautiful parks to check out include Kings Heath Park, the first urban park in the city to achieve Green Flag status, and a 200-year old, not-so-secret garden found in the suburb of Edgbaston: The Botanical Gardens.

Perfectly preserved in the garden’s four spectacular glasshouses is everything from tropical rainforests to desert landscape, while animal lovers should make note of the birdhouse which houses an impressive range of local and exotic birds.

Those keen to explore the outskirts of the city should escape on an hour’s adventure to West Midlands Safari Park where a world of lions, tigers and many other furry-friends await. Here you can take a self-guided journey through the re-created African plains to come face-to-face with ferocious felines or follow on an all-weather trail to track over 140 different species.

Fun In The Park Birmingham

Get lost in the library

Designed by Dutch architects Mecanoo, the futuristic Library of Birmingham is more than merely a library with its shimmering facade, sunken amphitheatre and rooftop gardens.

The £188m building, which opened in September 2013, is by far and away from Europe’s largest cultural space. 

It has 10 floors and houses one of the UK’s most important Shakespeare collections in the prominent golden rooftop rotunda.

Birmingham Library

Shop till you drop

The original Bullring – a 1960s concrete monstrosity that once ranked among the most hideous eyesores in the UK – was torn down in 2000 and the current incarnation, a gleaming £500m shopping centre complete with a glass roof, opened in 2003 to much fanfare.

Housing a range of over 140 different shops, the Bullring has its roots in the Middle Ages, where at the exact same location, the city’s first markets stood as a hotspot of commercial life to the city. The centre point of Bullring 2.0 is a £60m branch of Selfridges. Laid out over four floors, it has won eight awards to date.

If you’re more of an independent-shop hopper, head to Birmingham’s celebrated Jewellery Quarter to discover where 40 per cent of British jewellery is made.

With over 100 independent specialist retailers and makers, you can get bespoke gifts commissioned on-site with huge savings on high street prices. Stroll through

galleries, restaurants and shops or explore the Museum of the Jewellery Quarter or alternatively, the Pen Museum marking the history of the city as the centre of the global pen manufacturing trade in the 19th century.

Birmingham Bullring Shopping Centre

Get a culture fix

Admire cutting edge art for free at the acclaimed Ikon Gallery or wander among a world-class collection of Pre Raphaelite works at the Museum and Art Gallery.

Then make a beeline for the Barber Institute of Fine Arts, that’s housed in one of Birmingham’s finest Art Deco buildings and boasts and an astonishing collection of artwork, before sampling a show at the Birmingham Rep theatre.

Bimingham Museum and Art Gallery

Choice Hotels in Birmingham